Back to the gold rush
By Bookabach staff with pictures courtesy of Lawrence Historic Cottage
Back in the gold rush of the 1860s, the Otago town of Lawrence had a bigger population than nearby Dunedin. These days, only a few hundred people live in Lawrence but visitors have a chance to delve into its history with a stay at Lawrence Historic Cottage, built during the gold rush.
The house is built from double brick – the cavity between the two layers of brick providing insulation against the province’s extreme temperatures.
“Once you get the coal range and log fire going, the internal set of bricks heat up and it self-insulates so it stays really warm. And in summer when it’s baking hot outside, the inside of the house stays cooler,” property manager Rob Davidson says.
Rob’s partner Sonia bought the house in 2010, and the pair is gradually restoring it to its former glory. That includes taking the interior walls back to the original exposed brick. At the moment, some walls have a curious half-plaster/half brick finish, an effect a previous owner apparently went for on the advice of an Auckland architect.
“A relative of his came and stayed and said, ‘This is all the trend in Auckland; you pull off half the plaster and leave the other half undone’,” Rob says.
He and Sonia are renovating with the expert advice of a builder, and with help from a brickie, who’s putting back in place bricks that have moved over the years. They’re also planning to replace things like the modern light fittings with something more in keeping with the cottage’s age.
“I was looking through antique shops yesterday for millers’ lamps,” Rob says. “They’re kerosene lamps that worked on a pulley system. They’d trim the wicks, fill with kerosene, then pull back up to ceiling.”
The risk of fire rules them out as an actual source of light, but as a decorative feature, like the ornate fire surrounds on bricked-over fireplaces in two of the rooms (there’s a working log fire in the lounge).
He and Sonia regularly travel up from Dunedin to work on the cottage, spending much of their time in the garden. The house is on a quarter-acre section, and the gardens have been tended well over the years, Rob says – planted with old-fashioned plants like granny bonnets and old-fashioned roses.
The old coal range in the kitchen still works, but there’s also a mini oven, portable hot plates and a microwave for those who don’t want to attempt cooking on coal.
There is also, some say, an inhabitant from an earlier time.
“A lady up the hill said she had a friend who used to live in the cottage and they had a funny feeling there was some entity here – a friendly ghost,” Rob says. He and Sonia are yet to encounter it, though.
The town will be celebrating Gabriel’s Gully Goldrush from Friday 18th to Monday 21st March 2011.