Orchard, Cottage and Cob

Stewart Town wasn’t formally named as such. It was an outpost of historic Bannockburn and close to the gold mining activity. David Stewart began the stone cottage in 1873. In the first photo you can see an isolated corner of cob wall that once was part of a cob wall extension to the cottage.

David with his miner buddy John Menzies (both Scots) had already built a small water race and a large storage dam. David had arrived with the first gold miners so he’d likely have been in the area since late 1862 when there was a big gold discovery near Cromwell. The two bachelors lived in the cottage. Another bachelor friend mined with them and lived by the orchard, William Roy. David died 1883, John in 1894 and William lived till 1923.

A couple of families are mentioned but I don’t know if their time overlapped with David and John.. the Aitken and Lind families. The Aitkens had a sod wall garden enclosure. The orchard is a remnant and would’ve been bigger in the early 1900s and I’ve read “many other similar small orchards were scattered around the area.”

Most of this information is from:
Peter Petchey (April 2016) Heritage Assessment Bannockburn Sluicings Historic Reserve
Central Otago, New Zealand

~ these days the productive land around the sluicings reserve is mostly vineyards
~ second photo taken by Nigel

Multiple old orchard trees with green foliage growing in sparsely grassy area with blue sky background and a few clouds. Old stone cottage ruin in the centre, and an isolated separate corner of cob wall that had been part of a cottage extension.

Multiple old orchard trees with green foliage growing in sparsely grassy area with blue sky background and a few clouds. Old ruin of stone cottage to far right of photo.

The light dots below the window cavity are an interesting visual addition caused by holes in the recycled roofing iron that protects the ruin from further deterioration.

Orchard tree viewed through the window cavity of the stone cottage ruin, photo taken from inside the cottage. Very thick stone wall. Light coming through the modern corrugated iron roof nail holes (recycled iron) makes visible dots of light on the stone.

Photo taken from inside the ruin of the stone cottage, looking through the west-facing open doorway, across a grassy field and sloping hillside to a distant mountain that still has remnants of snow on top. Cloudy blue sky.

Text by Liz, photos by Liz and Nigel; Exploring Colour (2022)

13 thoughts on “Orchard, Cottage and Cob

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    1. I guess they looked out on that same mountain! Hill slopes would’ve been covered in tawny tussock grasses, grey shrubland and the wickedly sharp speargrass plants (‘wild spaniard’).

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        1. One thing that interests me from the early days is that all these old gold areas had their schools and often a library. Learning was important to them. Other things that have stood out for me is that horse racing and community picnics seem to have been activities that go way back. And cricket. Oh.. and the old towns always seem to have an old ‘Athenaeum’ building somewhere. It wasn’t *all* about the hotels, grog shanties and billiards halls!

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          1. That is interesting, and I certainly wouldn’t have come up with horse racing as a potential activity. But it is another way to separate the hard workers from their earnings. If it had been all about the vices the towns/communities probably wouldn’t have lasted as long as they did 🙃.

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    1. Well yes I agree Linda. It was particularly hard for the women but hard (and dangerous) for everybody. Death was close, that’s always struck me. Their life was lived in community and survival depended on relationships. Their stories are pretty amazing. BTW I’m sure you’d know this but many Otago miners had eventually arrived here with prior experience from the Californian and Australian gold fields.

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