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Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies, Volume 1, Issue 3, November 1983

Tophouse Hotel

page 34

Tophouse Hotel

The first Tophouse was built by Mr Morse and N. Cooper. In 1851 an hotel was built about one mile nearer Nelson, on a level terrace that overlooks the Wairau flats. This was a more convenient situation for travellers wishing to go south to Canterbury or to follow the Wairau to Marlborough. This building was of cob and thatched roof. It served the public for over thirty years. There was quite a bit of land cultivated around it– perhaps about twenty acres. There was an orchard and garden with a lot of gooseberry and currant bushes, several alderberry trees and two or three ornamental trees. The hotel was run by a man named Weisenhavern who is believed to have had an interest in the sheep run after Morse and Cooper and before W. Fowler took over. Although he was a rough old chap he kept a fairly good hotel. Eventually he sold to Nat Longley who owned it when it was burned down. As children we and others from the present Tophouse went over there to pick fruit and play around the old chimney which stood for perhaps twenty years.

The third Tophouse and second hotel opened for business in August 1889 and was built by Ned James and Snowball Smith under instructions from the owner, Nat Longley. (The telegraph station was already there). The hotel, of cob, had seven bedrooms, front room, dining room, kitchen with scullery and back verandah; a washhouse with bath and bakehouse was unattached and an outside lavatory. It was intended to build the walls two feet higher but due to weather and other circumstances this was not done. It had an iron roof and cob chimney with colonial oven which was used for years. Longley sold it about a year after the murder and suicide there to Arthur Franklyn (in 1896) who did not get on too well. My father, Arthur Tomlinson bought it in June 1898 but could not get down from Tarndale because of snow until August. A station cook, named Alf Grant looked after it for him. My father and mother and we three children arrived there after a trip by horseback and packhorses and made it our home for twenty years. We went to school in the home, a school teacher being employed. I had a brother and sister born there, two sisters were married there and my father died there in 1910. My mother carried on until 1919 when she sold to Mr and Mrs Jim Christie, he was a returned soldier. They sold to Mr and Mrs Jesse Baxter in 1921. About 1940 they sold to Ray and Ruth Clark who kept it until it was closed in 1960.

When my father purchased Tophouse there was 150 acres freehold, about half of which was in bush. Over the years this was chopped and about 20 acres were stumped and ploughed for oats. A 20 acre paddock was purchased. (It was a stock paddock which John Kerr had used when he owned Tarndale and drove stock up and down). My father also drew a section of 700 acres on the top side of the road, most of which was chopped and grassed. When we sold out the Hotel had a farm carrying 700 sheep, mostly ewes, about 30 cattle, several work horses for express and riding horses. A new stable and sheds had been built over the road (the old stables were below the new ones). The fir tree now growing at Tophouse gateway was planted by my school teacher aunt, Miss Annie Banks, in 1902. She brought it from her people's plantation in Pine Terrace, Loburn, North Canterbury.