Cob Cottages in Timaru, N.Z.

Cob Cottages in Timaru are neglected

20 Avenue Road, Timaru 23 Dec. 2008. Photo taken by Margaret Todd.
The house has been coated with roughcast and the thickness of the walls is a give a way that the home was made of cob.

 They are, though most of us do not realise it, monuments.
St. Anne's Church, Pleasant Valley has been covered with wetherboards.

 Johannes Andersen, in Jubilee of South Canterbury records that by 1874 there were 350 cob or sod houses in South Canterbury, and this number rose to a peak of 598 four years later. Gradually, the number declined, and by 1911 only 145 remained. Before construction began, it was customary to dig a trench along the line of the outside walls and fill it with stones as a firm foundation for the clay mixture. Cob was rammed hard between the laths or put on in layers, each layer being allowed to dry before the next one was added, and trimmed evenly with a spade. Cob is a mixture of clay, chopped tussock and manure, common in the 1860s to 1880s. Available on site, cheap and durable. Timber was scarce and precut window sashes, door frames, doors and linings were transported to the building site from a service centre by bullock wagon.

This is becoming an urgent matter, as every month some irreplaceable token of a vanishing past is destroyed without trace or record.

One method to prepare the cob was to make a trench about 15 yards long and 2ft 6" wide down to the clay. The clay was then loosened up to a depth of about 6 to 8 inches, and a layer of tussock placed in it. Water was then poured in, and a horse was used to  walk up and down the trench to work the clay and tussock into a pug. When ready it was shovelled out of the trench and the wall was made .This was allowed to dry a few days and then another layer was added until the wall was 8ft to 1oft high. The walls were from 12 to 18 inches at the base, and slightly narrower towards the top. The inside walls were made smooth  and papered and the outside they were plastered with a mixture of sand and fresh cowdung. Reference: History of  Pareora West by B.E. Evans, page 8

22 February 2006 Timaru Herald
An open home at 20 Avenue Road on Sunday won't be the usual. The house isn't for sale, but its owners are hoping that opening the doors will create a feeling of ownership of the cottage in the community. The South Canterbury Historical Society acquired the property last year, finally attaining its goal of owning and preserving one of Timaru's original cob cottages. Society president Ray Bennett said that while the society owned the cottage, it hoped to foster a sense of ownership in the community, and an understanding of the society's efforts to turn the cottage from an eyesore into an asset. Squares have already been cut out of the wall linings to show the original cob construction underneath, and part of the wooden floor has been removed to show what the original packed earth floor would have looked like. Efforts to obtain some form of early cooking arrangement -- like a tripod -- for the fireplace in the front room haven't yet been successful, but an early coal range is now installed in one of the rear rooms. Donated by a local woman, the kitset coal range is dated about 1900, and was assembled and installed voluntarily by two local builders. Future plans include demolishing the lean- to at the rear of the cottage -- added to provide a kitchen and tiny bathroom -- and reinstating the traditional sailcloth ceilings. A competition to design an appropriate garden for the property is also being considered. Dating the cottage has proved difficult. The earliest available records of it are dated 1872, but Mr Bennett believes it would date back further, perhaps to around 1860. The cottage's original cob exterior was covered with weatherboards around the 1920s and in more recent times with a layer of roughcast. A veranda was also built. Mr Bennett said those additions had most likely preserved the cottage, and while not original, would probably remain in order to protect it from the elements.

It is tiny.Dec. 2009. 

Claire Haren 7 May 2005 Timaru Herald
An enthusiastic real estate salesperson would have to settle for adjectives like "cosy" and "compact". For all that, the South Canterbury Historical Society is delighted with its recently-acquired piece of real estate, because it's a chance to preserve a piece of Timaru's history. Reporter Claire Haren finds out what's so important about 20 Avenue Road. It's an unassuming little place. Finding number 20 Avenue Road isn't as easy as it sounds. Perched atop a narrow section measuring just eight strides across, it's possible to drive past without even noticing the small roughcast cottage. But the South Canterbury Historical Society hopes to change that, and has big plans for the property. There are already hints of their efforts -- a sparkling new white picket fence at the front is one of the most obvious, as is the filling in of a large excavation that was an attempt at a carport. The society has recently taken possession of No. 20 -- a gift from owners Barrie and Candy-Sue Sinclair, who bought the property for about $25,000 three years ago, hoping to be able to knock down the cottage and develop the land from their Regent Street home right through to the Avenue Road frontage. The Sinclairs wanted to demolish it, the neighbours wanted to demolish it -- the house in recent years had had a chequered history -- and so at first did the Timaru District Council. Mr Sinclair received an order to demolish it within 10 days, or face legal action. But the wheels of bureaucracy can sometimes turn swiftly, and on being advised of the cottage's age, and the possibility it might have some legal protection, the council did an about turn. "One day I had an order that I had to demolish it in 10 days or legal action would be taken. The next day, I was told legal action would be taken if I touched it." Negotiations with the historical society resulted in the Sinclairs donating the property, for the costs of subdivision. Society president Ray Bennett says it was a particularly generous gift and means the society has finally reached its goal of acquiring and preserving one of Timaru's original cob cottages. The cottage's original cob exterior was covered with weatherboards around the 1920s, and in more recent times with a layer of roughcast as well. Mr Bennett acknowledges that's not ideal from an historical point of view, but says the society's well aware those renovations are probably the only reason the house is still standing. Earlier efforts to acquire a cob cottage proved unsuccessful -- a number of years ago Miss Baker's cottage, in Baker's Lane, was offered, and there were plans afoot to move it to the Timaru Botanic Gardens. But, advice that it wouldn't survive the move saw it eventually demolished -- despite an order to the contrary. Now, with the Avenue Road cottage in hand, work is already under way to preserve and display aspects of traditional cob construction. Squares of wall have been cut out in order to show the laths and composition of the cob -- including the apparent traces of horse hair in the mix. Floorboards have been ripped up in one room, revealing the dirt floor underneath, and the use of bricks and stones as piles to support the wooden flooring that was eventually installed. Despite the cottage's age, run-down appearance and its tiny size, it has been described as a comfortable house to live in -- cool in summer and warm in winter. The walls are inches thick, estimated at about 18 inches (45cm) at the base, tapering up to the top. The front door opens immediately into the lounge, with a second room off to the right. This would have been the original cottage, and the society hopes to acquire some form of early cooking arrangement -- such as a tripod -- to sit in the fireplace. Squares of the interior and exterior walls have been cut away to show the cob and the widely-spaced laths which look like they've been cut out with an axe.
The next section of the house offers a further two rooms, and it's in one of these the floorboards have been removed to offer a glimpse of the dirt floor underneath and the brick and stone piles.

An old No. 1 coal range -- with the hot water tap on the side -- is on the society's wish-list for this room. The existing coal range has been removed -- it was not original, and was in poor condition. At the back of the house is a tiny lean-to kitchen and bathroom -- thought to have been added on in the 1950s -- which may eventually be demolished. Outbuildings that would have housed the washhouse and toilet are no longer part of the property. Outside, the grounds are in need of work, and there are thoughts of holding a design competition for the garden, to create something that would be appropriate for the era of the cottage. Efforts are being made to find out what sort of plants would have been used. It's not proposed to furnish the cottage, but rather to make a feature of its construction, and preserve as much as possible as an example of how an early cob cottage was built. The man who made the cob to give his young wife a home in the developing Timaru was Samuel Barkley, and he was helped by at least one of the Deal boatmen, a group of six experienced boat handlers who had emigrated from England to Lyttelton, and were engaged in 1859 for work on Le Cren and Cain's landing service.

Efforts to accurately date the cottage have proved difficult. The first of many maps held by the council is dated 1875, when the Timaru borough extended westward only as far as Grey Road. It wasn't until 1898 that "the outskirts" were incorporated into the borough. Dates proffered range from 1840 to 1870, although Mr Bennett's personal view is the mid 1860s. Cob cottages were a popular form of accommodation in Timaru's early days, because they were easily and quickly constructed at a time when the owner did practically all the work himself. In his South Canterbury history, Record of Settlement, OA Gillespie says: Little timber was required for cob, only sufficient to hold the puddled clay in place until it dried, and for door posts, window frames and rafters. The cob itself was a mixture of clay and chopped-up tussock, to which water was added until it attained the consistency of thick porridge. This puddling process, as it is called, was usually done by walking a horse, and sometimes a bullock, up and down in a trench made for the purpose. When animals were not available, shovels were used -- and, occasionally, human feet. Laths, usually of manuka or split rickers, or even dried flax stalks, kept the cob in place, though a house could be erected without them by giving the walls a wide base, and tapering them slightly to the top.

Wise's NZ Post Office Directory 1930

Timaru Herald 14 August 2007
Police are treating as suspicious the fire that burnt out an historic two-roomed cob cottage on the outskirts of Timaru early Saturday. The former raceman's cottage was extensively damaged by the fire, with just the cob walls and fireplace remaining standing. The fire was discovered smouldering at about 7am on Saturday, but yesterday that the smoke staining indicated that the cottage had burnt at the time the wind was very strong -- about 1.30am Saturday. The wind would have fuelled the fire, as would have tinder-dry tongue-and-groove floor, walls and ceiling, doors and window frames and the roof trusses. All that remained was the bluestone foundations, chimney and cob walls. "It probably would have been gone in one, or 1½ hours."  Although the Adair Road cottage had no historic places registration or council listing it was considered a significant aspect of Timaru's heritage as the raceman's cottage for the town's first water supply, which saw water carried from the original Pareora dam through a series of races into the town. The roof has collapsed, and the future of the cottage is now unknown. Timaru's water supply, developed in the late 1870s and early 1880s, saw water fed from the original Pareora dam through a series of races and tunnels to a bluestone-lined reservoir above Centennial Park. The cottage, most likely built by the council of the day, provided accommodation for the raceman, the person responsible for the day- to-day operation and maintenance of the scheme.

10 September 2004 Timaru Herald
Ginger Smith might be hard-pressed to know whether she is running an open home or a museum tour tomorrow. Sure Mrs Smith will have placed the ads and put out the flags for the open home -- and she certainly will be dressed for the occasion. But there the similarity between the usual Saturday open home and the Hobbs Street cottage's open home will end. With its 30cm thick stone and plastered walls, Mrs Smith will tell you she's selling a rare piece of early Timaru history. And it looks as if she's right. Timaru district councillor and local historian Ray Bennett reckons there are only a handful of houses in Timaru that go back 130-plus years. The style of the "duck back" stone cottage suggests it was built in the late 1860s or early 1870s. Mr Bennett knows of a cob cottage in Timaru which was being lived in as far back as 1871/72 although it is suspected it could be several years older. Most cottages prior to 1870 were of timber construction. It was only after the fire which destroyed much of Timaru's inner city commercial area in 1868 that stone became a more popular building material. Of the homes of a similar era that are still standing, there are a few wooden cottages in William Street, while in Buchanan Street the oldest cottages are built of stone. As well as being one of the district's oldest homes, Mrs Smith suspects it is one of the very few that has been lived in continuously for 130 years or more. Its present owner has lived there for nine years. Clues to the age of the cottage are revealed in items that have been found in the cottage including handmade nails and an 1898 calendar made of tortoiseshell found behind a fireplace. With the little cottage and large section open for inspection tomorrow, Mrs Smith will do her bit to give potential buyers a taste of life in a previous era. She will greet visitors attired in period costume, and of course hospitality will not be overlooked. Her "guests" will be offered that age-old refreshment -- a cup of tea and a scone.

15 October 2007 Timaru Herald
Audrey Adams a retired social worker grew up in a cob cottage in Timaru, with the wash house lean-to on one side, with a wringer, twin tubs and a copper.

6 August 2003 Timaru Herald
Some relief is in sight for the heritage buildings that have posed a headache for the Timaru District Council. The council has decided to up the ante by putting $30,000 aside each year in the budget, for nine years, for heritage protection. In the past the council had funded the Timaru District Heritage Fund Trust committee a total of $50,000, over five years, but have decided to increase the amount it makes available. Next year there will be a bonus with the Heritage Trust receiving its $10,000 while the council will make also make $30,000 available to the various historical projects. The council has however decided that input is needed on the priorities in the district and resolved to set up a meeting with local heritage and historic groups and any other interested parties with a view to establishing a priority list for allocating funds for upgrades. The council will also consider the funding of heritage building maintenance at next years budget meeting. Several requests for funds have prompted the council to review the way they distribute money. St Marys Church restoration request for $150,000 over three years prompted Cr Dave Jack to ask for a list of all category one buildings in the district. Cr Jack was concerned that if a large sum was given to one organisation it may set a precedent for owners of other category one buildings to front up at the council expecting large sums of money. Also interest groups could make applications to the various council committees so some sort of equity was needed, he said.
    In 1998 the Timaru District Heritage Fund Trust Board was set up to administer a fund of money aimed at providing money for professional advice and planning. The trust, however, has struggled to fill the void with limited funds to distribute while they tried to build a capital base. Cr Tony Sleigh was still disappointed about the amount of money made available. "Even on a pro-rata basis we are well behind what Christchurch City Council spends." Category one buildings in the Timaru district include the Timaru Milling Company building, Mt Peel Station homestead, Peel Forest Station homestead, Kakahu lime kiln, Glenelg Stables (on Totara Valley Road), the former customhouse, Sacred Heart Basilica, Landing Service building, Gladstone Board of Works building (on Stafford St), St Marys Church, the Bluestone House (on Arthur St), Levels Cottage (on State Highway 8), Mt Peel Boundary Hut and the Timaru Boys High School Memorial Library. The Historic Places Trust register also has a heritage convenant on Keanes cob cottage at Pleasant Point.

7 April 2000 Timaru Herald
A recent survey of Birch Hill Station has shown the remains of three homestead sites including the foundations of a cob cottage which dates back to the 1860s. Well-preserved sheep yards were also found as well as an old rabbit fence dug well into the ground. The survey was conducted by Christchurch archaeologist Chris Jacomb and the Department of Conservation which plans to open the area as an historic walk, with information panels, in spring this year. Mr Jacomb has been researching the archaeological history of early pastoral farming in New Zealand. The farm, which is at the head of the Tasman Valley and the original pastoral site on conservation estate in the Canterbury area, revealed many features dating back to the 1860s. At that time the farm, now part of Mt Cook National Park, was run by Nicolo Radove, a European who made his mark on the Mackenzie Basin with his sheep chasing exploits. Rounding up his sheep would often leave him high up in the mountains in bad weather with worn shoes and no food. Birch Hill Station was one of the more remote stations in the country at that time. Sheep found it easier to climb the glacier than to ford the river, according to Department of Conservation historical heritage support officer Ian Hill.

25 April 1997 The Christchurch Press by John Keast
Charlie Hessell once lived in this humble cob home, Jordan's Cottage, near Pleasant Point. That was nearly 70 years ago. He goes there still, to tend the little garden, and to show visitors around. Mr Hessell, a retired builder, went to the cottage from Timaru as a boy to live with his sister. He stayed until he went to war. He remembers a tiny room in which he slept with a nephew, a big stove in what is now the fireplace, and running barefoot to Pleasant Point School in the frost. Six weeks of frosts. The two-room cottage is now under the care of the Historic Places Trust. It was restored in 1990, its thick walls of clay, manure, and horse hair refurbished. Various families have lived in its cramped confines - the Jordans, the Keanes, the Watsons. There are photographs of them on the walls.

Many of our old buildings have been the scenes of events which form a significant part of our short history, or have housed or been built by notable personalities, or merely show us the manner in which our pioneers lived and worked.

Timaru Herald, 8 February 1868, Page 2
The country north of the Temuka seems to have suffered a good deal from the floods, and in the township of Temuka not only has there been a considerable loss of property, but a sacrifice of three lives, making with the poor fellow drowned in the Makikihi a total loss of nine lives in the southern district through the floods, besides one by shipwreck.
    On Tuesday morning the poor old man's body was found in a dray near to Martin's house. It is supposed he got on to the dray to escape the rising flood and was drowned while there. The boy's body was recovered on Thursday afternoon washed down some distance from the dray. Every householder in the township has more or less suffered by the flood. In Clarkson and Turnbull's store it did a large amount of damage to goods, estimated at £300 worth. In Martin's store the amount of damage was far greater, as his store was more exposed to the action of the water. The lower part of Young's Hotel was under water, and Mr Rayner, the chemist, is also a sufferer. Mendelson's store, being raised on piles, nearly escaped the flood, there not being more than a few inches of water in the building. During Monday night the water brought a strange visitor to Mr Mendelson, as he found on Tuesday morning a dead sheep washed on to the top of the platform outside the store. Mr Williams has suffered very severely, the cob walls of his brewery having been completely washed away. Ths brewery is to all intents and purposes destroyed. The whole of it will have to be rebuilt before business can again be carried on, We hear bad reports from the farms about Temuka. The losses have been chiefly confined to damage to fences and to cob buildings, few of which remain standing. Mr Gosling has, we understand, suffered very heavily, his crops have been destroyed, and his house is almost a Complete wreck. Mr McBratney is another heavy loser in crops.

Timaru Herald, 5 March 1891, Page 3
Captain Woolcombe said he could claim to be the oldest resident, for when he came to Timaru there was but one straw building and one sod hut. He was sent down by the Government to lay out the town, and very proud he was now of having been employed on that service. When he looked back to that time he felt astonished at the extraordinary work that had been done in making the place what it is now. He admitted that Timaru had gone back a little lately, but : there was no doubt in his mind that in a very I short time it would rise again and go ahead in renewed prosperity.

Timaru Herald, 27 July 1878, Page 2
Mrs Henry Cain, who breathed her last at her husband's residence, North-street, Timaru, yesterday morning. Captain and Mrs Cain first came to Timaru in 1857, or nearly 21 years ago, and have resided here ever since. The first house, with the exception of a sod hut belonging to the Messrs Rhodes, was built by Captain Cain, who has ever since been one of our best citizens.

Timaru Herald, 26 August 1874, Page 4
Ten pounds will go a long way towards putting up a sod hut; a cabin of outside slabs and refuse timber from the sawmills, or a serviceable tent with timber frame and sod chimney, sufficient to protect the inmates from the weather, and afford a temporary home at all events. There is, too, one great advantage the immigrants hampering themselves at first with only slender households, for they may very soon find it to their interest to change their place of abode, in order to secure higher wages or engage in more congenial occupations, and they will then appreciate the benefit of resembling the tortoise, in carrying their house upon their back. It will be time enough to settle down finally, and establish their lares and penates under a permanent roof, when they have had some experience of their new life, and have assumed the responsibilities of good colonists and true.

Timaru Herald, 5 October 1880, Page 2
We must all allow that up to this time farm servants, like their masters, have had a rough time of it. As a rule, our ambition as a community has been to acquire land and get rich in a hurry, not to make comfortable and happy homes. As in all young cosmopolitan communities, our farmers have had to make headway against many reverses, with only a limited, often very limited, amount of capital to start with, and to hold their own they have had to work and live hard, not only themselves, but all who have been in any way associated with them. I hold there are no harder worked class in the colony than small struggling farmers and croppers who take up land, either freehold or leasehold, with the object of cropping. A digger's tent is a much preferable domicile to the: small settler's damp sod hut. The miner's day work is generally done before sundown, but the work of a pioneer farmer is almost perpetual. Strangers coming to this district, on going into the country, are at once struck with the sparse appearance of our agricultural homesteads. It is nothing unusual to ride through several hundred acres of tilled land on either side of the road, even within a few miles of Timaru, and not meet with a single farm homestead. The cropper has been here, ploughed, sowed and departed, not to return until harvest, except it is to see that his fences are in order. While farming is carried on in this way, we must expect that many farm servants will be wanderers on the face of the earth in the interval between seed time and harvest. This state of things naturally tends to weaken the good feeling and kindly sympathy that should exist between master and man.

Timaru Herald, 18 December 1888, Page 4 FIRE IN BROWN STREET.
A COTTAGE DESTROYED. About 1.20 this morning an alarm of fire was given by the ringing of the bell at the police station, followed a few seconds later by the peals of the big bell at the town hall. The scene being a five-roomed cottage m Brown street, belonging to Mr Alex. White, coal merchant, the cottage stands on the northern side of the street named, next to Jersey Villa, and opposite to the brewery. A son of Mr White's, aged 16, had been sole occupant of the house, and so far as could be gleaned from him in his excited state, he had retired to rest in one of the back bedrooms, and had not been long in bed before he noticed that his room was on fire. He got up, dressed in a hurried manner, and rushed to the Royal Hotel where his parents live to give the alarm. How the fire started he does not know, but it is surmised that the lad left the candle alight, and that this in burning down set the room on fire. The cottage was built of cob with a shingle roof and at time the alarm was given the fire bad a very strong hold of the rear portion. The police and the brigade were promptly on the scene, but owing to one of the plugs bursting fully 25 minutes were lost before the full force of the water was got on the burning building. As a result of the delay the cottage was completely gutted, only two or three minor articles of furniture being got out. The place was well furnished ; there was not a penny of insurance on either it or its contents, and Mr White estimates his loss at over £200, a loss in which his son-in-law. Captain Morgan of the Royal, who had articles in the cottage, also shares. Jersey Villa, closely adjoining is occupied by Mr Powell and family, but little damage was done to it beyond charring the roof woodwork of a lean-to.

Timaru Herald, 20 March 1891, Page 3 FIRE.
About 3 50 p.m. yesterday the fire-bells rang out an alarm of fire, the scene being a 6 roomed wooden and iron cottage situate at the foot of North street. The cottage was occupied by Mr Thomas Smith, a miller at Belford Flour Mills. About 2.30 p.m. Mrs Smith and her family left the cottage for a walk, and before locking up she put the fire, which had been burning in the kitchen range, as she thought, out. Shortly after 3 p.m. fearful gale came along from the southward, and it is surmised that the wind blowing down the chimney scattered live embers on the floor, and thus set light to the kitchen. Mr Smith ran over from the flour mill opposite. The high wind caused the fire to make great headway, for when the brigade and the police arrived the building was in flames. At the start the brigade could get but little pressure of water to bear, the drain by the flour mill being so great, but once this supply was cut off, the flames were quickly got under. The house was the property of Mr Alexander Sinclair, formerly a contractor in Timaru, but now of Melbourne, and was insured by his father, acting as agent for his son, for £150 in the New Zealand office. The fire and water not only destroyed all his furniture, but his and the family's clothing as well, and what was very unfortunate, £l0 in single notes which were under a pillow in the front bedroom. He estimates his loss at £150. It was fortunate that the walls of the cottage were lined with cob ; for with ordinary wooden walls and the hold the fire had gained by the gale, there was every chance of it making a clean sweep of all the houses in Beach Road.

Articles - Hamilton File - S.C. Museum
A sod cottage at 62 Arthur St, Timaru, was built 1858 by John William Roberts (former Deal Boatman). The cottage became the oldest occupied house in Timaru. It was demolished in March 1968.
The oldest house in Timaru (photo) Sod cottage.
NZ Free Lance14/01/1948 - It's a little bit of heaven to its owner
Weekly News24/04/1954 - Clay Cottage
06/12/1967 - Letter to National Historic Places Trust from J A Goodwin Town Clerk
13/12/1967 - Cob cottage purchase not favoured

Beehive Rd, Waitohi. Thomas Orr, who came from Scotland in 1873, lived in a little sod house on top of the terrace in this road. A colourful characer it was as a bee keeper that he was best known.

Campbell's Road, Kingsdown. James Campbell farmer, settled here in 1869, giving the property the name "Carrick". His wife, Rebecca was daughter of James Gibson, who came to Timaru in the "Strathallan" in 1859. "Carrick" homestead first a sod cottage, later a substantial cob-house built by William Hall-Jones and maintained in good condition. Robert Campbell (son) was living there in 1964.

Old chimneys

These two paintings below are by William Peake (1840-1882). The first one shows Michael Burke's hut at Raincliff in 1868. A 1860s replica mine's cottage  has an exterior semi-detached, slab-and-iron chimney narrowed towards the top so the fireplace  wouldn't smoke. The second is Peake's representation of the Mesopotamia Station homestead in 1868.  Often the material was available - exterior chimneys were built with river stones. The thatched roof Levels cottage had a semi-detached stone and daub chimney. The cuddy at Te Waimate has a chimney made from sun dried bricks which superseded one of clay and stake. Some cob cottages had chimneys - partly cob and partly brick. The old accommodation houses had chimneys with a crown but no chimney pot. The stone house at Hakateramea Downs with a false chimney and nearby there is a bach. Today many chimneys are not functional and would be a fire hazard if lit.

    Mesopotamia - 1868

Early huts on the shores of Lyttelton harbour were the temporary inverted V bark huts. Hewlings built the first hut in the Geraldine area out of totara slabs about 1856 with a rammed smooth dirt floor. The very early cottages didn't even have a chimney. Meals were prepared on a camp oven and later in an out building, the cook house. Chimneys were first built of wattle and daub (mud) or cob. A ditch was dug where the walls were to be placed and filled with stones to provide a firm foundation for cob cottages. Cob was a compound of cow manure, clay, straw, chopped tussock or bracken and sand mixed in a puddle by the hoofs of a horse or a bullock and the compound was rammed down between manuka boxing about 20 inches wide and each layer allowed to dry. The walls were then smoothed with a spade, plastered and sometimes whitewashed. The doors and windows were framed with manuka wood. St Anne's church (1863) is an example but the exterior walls have been covered with weatherboard.  A sob cottage was built of tuft pallets stacked one top of each other with walls plastered with damp clay and thatched with rushes and if these weren't available in the back blocks, flax or snowgrass was used. The thatched was attached to manuka sticks and there was always an overhang. Chimneys were built of sod inside the long stakes so the stakes would not burn. 

Canterbury Native Bush by Arthur F. Clark, 1926
 The Canterbury Provincial Government encouraged this class of dwelling by granting immigrants £10 towards the erection of a slab or sod cottage. A settlement south of Orari was called Sod Town. In 1858, 23% of the occupied dwellings in Canterbury were sods or cob and in addition some dwellings were canvas. By 1861 it was 22%. 1871 down to 17% due to a supply of timber from the West Coast and Southland and wooden and brick building superseded the earlier type. In South Canterbury due to the Otago gold fields, 1861-1864, the population grew rapidly and there was a lack of accommodation and again between 1874 and 1878 due the an energetic immigration policy so buildings of clay or sod were required to house the emigrants. In 1871 31% of the houses were sod or clay. In 1874 they represented 24% and by 1878 reduced to 17%. Cob houses lasted longer in Canterbury than other provinces mainly because this class of house was more easier to build on the on the Canterbury plain than the shingle plain of the North. Slab whares more likely to be found in the other provinces.

Timaru Herald, 6 August 1881, Page 2
Fire at Temuka. — A fire occurred at Sod Town, Temuka, on Thursday lost, by which a cottage belonging to a man named Thomas Haworth was partly destroyed. The building being of cob, the inmates succeeded in saving most of their furniture and clothes, though, in spite of their exertions, property to the value of about £25 was destroyed.

Timaru Herald, 7 September 1881, Page 2
Fire at Temuka — A three-roomed dwelling house, at Sod Town, near Temuka, the property of Mr Eli Pratley, was burnt down on Monday evening. None of the furniture or other effects were saved. It appears that Mr and Mrs Pratley had gone to Temuka leaving a girl eleven years of age and three children at home. The girl states that a lighted candle came in contact with the window curtains of the bedroom, and in a few minutes the whole place was in a blaze. Mr Pratley estimates his loss at £60, there being no insurance. On the adjoining section a brother of Mr Pratley resided, and his little boy, about ten years of ago, heard the screams of the children in the burning house. The little fellow at once ran to their assistance, forced open the bedroom window, entered the room, and took the youngest child out, the others escaping in the same time without injury. But for the little follows pluck and presence of mind, all probability the girl and the three children would have perished.

Remaining Sod and Cob buildings

Cob sheds (wash house, granary and store buildings, Edwin Butcher's Orchard, Fairview Rd, Lot 4 DP 81603
Sod wall, Fairview Rd, Lot 4 DP 80646
Burkes Pass Cob buildings are a feature of the valley and while nine are recorded, only one farm building and four cottages remain relatively intact. A fifth example, Anniss Cottage, is having major work done to protect and stabilize it. The cottage has had the roof put back over its old walls 94 years after it had been removed by the owners when they shifted to a larger balloted run. Mature exotic trees are a hallmark of Burkes Pass now but when the settlement was being established, the vegetation was largely tussock, Spaniard and matagouri. This lack of trees explains the use of clay by the settlers who were often of Scottish Highland or Irish extraction, using techniques they brought from ‘Home’ to create the solid cob cottages that remain. 10 Anniss children were raised in that cottage.

Alma Cottage, Burkes Pass‎
by Jane Laura Bachelor, Graham Bachelor - Adobe houses - 1991 - 60 pages. This 1870s cottage has a heritage covenant registered on the title which is the highest protection a building can get in NZ. Bachelor's are the third family that owned it. Hedley Green took over the cottage and farmlet from his mother in the late 1950s and owned it until 1984 when Graham and Jane bought it with two acres. Alma Cottage, the original farm buildings, and trees are protected by a heritage covenant and the cottage is registered with the Historic Places Trust and in the Mackenzie District Plan. The cottage is named after Alma Keefe. Bridget and James Keeffe built Alma Cottage soon after arriving in New Zealand from London in 1876. It was built from a mixture of clay, chopped tussock, and manure. The door at the end of the verandah led to a bedroom. Can you imagine going to swimming in the stream nearby, putting newspaper in the long drop in the yard "newspapering", and going to bed by candlelight. Jane and Graham Bachelor have owned the cottage since 1984. Each year the Mackenzie Council allocated $5000 to the Heritage Protection Fund. In 2017 the funding  grant of $2088 was used to help replace the roof. The existing roof had deteriorated with leaks which caused the ceiling lining to decay. Materials from birds' nests has accumulated beneath the roofing iron, which is a fire hazard and there are plans to insulate the roof. The interior walls of the cottage are white washed and wallpapers. The floor has patterned linoleum and rag rugs on the floors. There is a coal range for cooking and a fire place for heating.  A shower in an old tin bath tub.

James Keeffe, labourer died 10th August 1910 at Burkes Pass, aged 57. In November 1906 James was appointed pound keeper at Burkes Pass. Had three sons. Ages in 1910. In 1906 his wife Bridget Mary Keeffe died aged 51Y.
George James Keeffe of Burke's Pass, shepherd, 32. Died aged 56Y in 1934.
Alexander Bruce Smith Keeffe of Burke's Pass, 17. Died in 1971 aged 78Y
Edgar Joseph Keeffe of Burkes Pass, 22. Died at Gallipoli.
and six daughters:
Alice Annie Keeffe of Burkes Pass, Spinster 33. Died 1st Feb. 1918 at Timaru Hospital aged 43. Funeral Catholic Church, Timaru. Buried Burkes Pass Cemetery on 4th Feb.
Amy Mary Robertson, wife of John Robertson of Burke's Pass, Labourer, aged 28
Alma Mabel Kerr, wife of Murdoch Kerr of Fairlie, Labourer, aged 26. They married in 1904. Born in 1904 Murdoch Alfred Kerr and born in 1907 Charles John Kerr.
Katie Agnes Keeffe of Burkes Pass, Spinster, aged 24
Jane Elizabeth Keeffe of Burkes Pass, Spinster, aged 19
Grace Ellen Keeffe of Burkes Pass, aged 15.

Edgar Joseph "Joe" Keeffe (Service number 7/857) died 28 August 1915, aged 26, Dardanelles on the same date and in the same battle as Ringin Ballantyne. Born in 1888 to Bridget Mary and Edgar Keefe. Son of James and Bridget Mary KEEFFE, of Burkes Pass. His brother Alexander Bruce Smith KEEFFE also served in WWI. Brother George James and Alfred John Keeffe were both in the WWI Reserves. Alfred John Keeffe died aged 83Y in 1962. Who was his parents?

Contents in 1910.

The Stone House in Burkes Pass is an example of an early NZ concrete building, built in 1876 for The Mt Cook Road Board which later evolved into the Mackenzie County Council, later it was used as a residency for representatives on the Mackenzie Rabbit Board.

In the grounds of the Waimate museum are a cob cottage and a two-room cottage built of pit-sawn totara.
Paterson's Cottage SH 82, Hakataramea, a cob cottage built around 1880 on the north bank of the Penticotico River and State Highway 82. The James Paterson family occupied the cottage until 1893. Built from local tussock and clay.
Hakataramea Downs 'Steading", Moorland Settlement Rd, Hakataramea Valley - a single story cob and stone house built in 1860.
November 2008. Clifton Cottage built in 1882 for Edward Dark of Glentanner Station near Mt Cook, was a down-country residence at Hanging Rock, on the main route from Timaru to the Mackenzie Country. Built with 450mm walls of limestone, it remained unoccupied for quarter of a century until restoration was completed in June last year, turning it into a country cafe. Opihi means valley of good growth.

The Old Sod Whare on the Plains. Ashburton Guardian, 24 December 1900, Page 2

Longbeach Estate, Ashburton, Mid Canterbury. 1034 Lower Beach Road, Ashburton.
John Grigg, from Cornwall, arrived in Auckland in 1854 and farmed at Otahuhu for ten years before buying Longbeach, near Ashburton, in 1863.  Martha Maria Vercoe married John Grigg in 1855 in NZ. They were engaged in England. After he sold his farm in Cornwall be followed her out to NZ via Australia. He was impulsive, impetuous, generous and quick tempered. Longbeach was 2,315 acres freehold and bit by bit he purchased 30,000 acres leasehold, stretching from the Ashburton River in the north to the Hinds River in the south, and from the Pacific Ocean on the east to the north/south railway in the west and turned the bog into paddocks. The focus of the drainage plan was to open up the Hinds River which lost itself completely in the swamp and having got it running to lead drains into it. He built a brick kiln beside a clay pit on the farm and manufactured tile pipes to drain the swamp. By 1871 the whole 32,000 acres belong to Grigg and his partners.  He died at Longbeach in 1901 and his son J.C.N. Grigg took over. The sod cottage, the oldest building on the farmwas a stockman's cottage, and pre-dates John Grigg's arrival. He bought his wife, Miss Grigg (2), Master Grigg, and one horse down in the Phoebe which sailed from Manakau via Wellington and reached Lyttelton 6th January 1866, and settled them at what was later the homestead Avonbank while work was being done to drain the swamp and establish farmland and buildings. Ref. Macdonald Dictionary (20pgs). Children:
1856 Grigg Christie Hannah
1859 Grigg Mary Emmeline d. 1881 aged 22
1861 Grigg John Charles Nattle
1863 Grigg Annie Abbot m. Peregrine Robert Dearden in 1895
1865 Grigg Katherine Henrietta "Ettie"
1870 Grigg Mabel Lilian d. 1958 aged 88
1874 Grigg Edward Francis Joseph m. Dora Frances Cook in 1902. Edward d. 1954. Dora d. 1950.

Christiana Nattle GRIGG d. 1874 at Longbeach in NZ aged 44. She was deaf. A sister to John Grigg.

With help from the Historic Places Trust the sob cottage was repaired and the thatched roof replaced with a hipped corrugated iron roof c.2011. The photo is the back of the cottage which is tucked away in the corner of the beautiful garden which was showing signs of spring in August. 2019. Note the large rhododendron about to bloom. On the front side of the cob cottage there is a large wooden door and one set of double casement windows. A number of small stockman’s cottages were dotted around the Longbeach estate, this being the only one to have survived. This is a slightly unusual sod structure as it has double block walls with a cavity in between the blocks. This would have provided additional insulation. The wall blocks are large and cut in a rhomboid shape rather than square as this would have provided slightly more strength and stability. The chimney blocks are cut squarely and have not lasted as well as the walls.

The two storied brick cookhouse has been restored and now is a wedding venue with the lovely old chapel. Photos taken Aug. 2019.

Services at Longbeach began in the late sixties, and were held in the drawing room of the old wooden homestead. The private chapel on the estate of Mr John Grigg at Longbeach was actually the first Prebbleton Church, and it was removed on bullock drays to Longbeach in 1873. On May 25 of that year Bishop Harper opened the chapel for worship, and consecrated the burial ground around it. Standing as it does to-day almost in its original form, the Longbeach chapel must rank among the oldest church buildings in the Diocese. Hanging inside the church are tablets—Erected by the Longbeach employees in loving memory of John Grigg —  “who laboured for the common good. Large was his bounty, And his soul sincere.” Another for the son, the second owner. “John Charles Nattle Grigg” (1861-1926). “A man greatly beloved ; Who worked untiringly for the welfare of his Country and its People; Fearless for the Right. Kindly and Generous to all. He leaves to us the example of his unblemished life.” His grave is the first. The second headstone is for is Martha Maria Grigg (d. 19 Dec. 1884) mother to J.C.N. Grigg (1861-1926), aged 65yrs. The third grave is John Grigg  (l828-1901, aged 73yrs), husband of Martha. Ref. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand,

Alice Montgomerie Hutton married John Charles Nattle Grigg in 1891 at Church of St. Michael and All Angels, CHCH. Children:
1893 Grigg Christabel Nattle
1892 Grigg Marjorie Mabyn m. Guyon Kenneth Macdonald in 1915
1895 Grigg Gilbert Hutton m. Margaret Rosamond Teschemaker in 1925. Gilbert d. 1974.
1895 Grigg John Hutton m. Gonda Elizabeth Teschemaker in 1921. John d. 1974, Gonda d. 1983 and was b. 2 April 1899.
1897 Grigg Arthur Nattle m. Mary Victoria Cracroft Wilson in 1920. Arthur d. in 1945 aged 45. Mary d. 22 Dec. 1971, VAD nurse in WW1. M.P., OBE in 1946. Became Lady Polson in 1951.

In 1926 Longbeach passed to John Hutton Grigg who owned the property until 1973. Longbeach homestead was designed for John Hutton Grigg by the architectural firm of Helmore and Cotterill in 1937. The firm had also designed Four Peaks in 1925. Grigg was forced to sell land in the Depression but held onto half the station. More was sold to help re-settle returned soldiers after World War II. The homestead was completed in 1940 to replace the earlier homestead that had been destroyed by fire. It has an Arts and Crafts style of design with straight lines, lack of ornamentation, symmetrical, mixed materials, shingles, front porch beneath extension of main roof, deeply overhanging eaves, double hung windows. This homestead is constructed of double brick walls using burnt bricks from the previous homestead, in conjunction with red bricks made in Ashburton. There is a small second floor balcony to the eastern elevation, above a bay window. The roof is of Canadian cedar shingles with steeply pitched gables. One of the main requirements specified to the architects, was that this new homestead must harmonise with the already established lawns and trees. All window and door frames and shutters are painted a crisp white. There are five tall narrow chimneys of brick. The partnership between Heathcote Helmore (1894-1965) and Guy Cotterill (18971981) began in 1924. Based in Christchurch, both men had attended Christ's College in CHCH then travelled to England in 1920. On their way to England they stopped at New York, and due to a delay were able to travel to Yorktown, Virginia where they saw examples of American Colonial architecture.

The first homestead on the estate was built in 1864 in wood. The second home with brick walls two feet thick, two storied, 33 rooms, was destroyed by fire in 1937. As no cement had been used in the mortar and the bricks came away clean when taken out and reused for the third homestead built on the same exact site. There was no one in the house at the time of the outbreak, which was discovered at 3 p.m. by Mr T.  Brown, the station cook. He saw smoke issuing from an upper window. He sounded the fire alarm on the property, but when a number of employees arrived at the homestead, they found that the fire had a good hold in the top storey. They directed their efforts towards removal of the contents of the drawing room, saving some sporting trophies, a grand piano, a writing desk and a number of paintings. Mr and Mrs Grigg were on their way to the beach when they noticed smoke from the direction of their home and turned back. The fire centred about the middle of the main staircase. Bricks that were found to be faulty and unfit for use in the walls were used to make a crazy-paved courtyard in front of the house, and a low, angled wall around. This portion was designed by Mrs Grigg. Other bricks made a wide path round the house.

"The Big House" with a slate roof, surrounded by huge trees form the background with beautifully kept flower and vegetable gardens and orchard. The windows and doors were faced with stone, its walls were ivy clad. Destroyed by fire in November 1937.

Ashburton Guardian 24 June 1939 Page 3
Though subjected to terrific heat when the fire swept the building, the bricks for the most part appeared to be useable, and Mr Grigg decided that they should be used in the walls of the new homestead, as far as they would go. The shell of the old homestead was taken down carefully and the bricks were scraped and sorted. Those fit for further duty were used by the builders, and the intention was that the walls should later be covered with white cement. As the building took shape, however, Mr Grigg was taken with the appearance of the old bricks in the new setting, and he forbade that they should be covered over, so they remain in view. Their appearance fully justifies Mr Grigg’s decision. As the west wing of the homestead grew it was seen there would not be sufficient of the original bricks to carry it to the same height as the walls of the other portions of the mansion. Mr Grigg would not have any new bricks, however, so the remainder of the wing walls was made of dipped shingles, of the same material that covers the extensive roof.

Sod Fences

Timaru Herald, 6 July 1899, Page 3
Three residents of Pleasant Point extension, Messrs O'Neill, O'Rourke and O'Callaghan, waited on the Council to complain that their sections were flooded during rains in consequence of another occupier named Grace having erected a sod fence across the natural course of the water.

Sod fences bounded many of the early rural properties. The sod was cut at an angle, the same for house construction. The property owners were permitted to take them from Crown lands where such adjoined, also long roads. The sod was packed two or three feet high and then gorse seed was planted along the top. It was highly prized in those days. The young plants were purchased by the hundreds. The fence was 30 inches at the bottom and the width on top eleven inches and built of double sod, well packed and the middle with soil out of the ditch to the required height. Two inches of the best soil was placed on top so that the gorse seed could be sown every week as the wall was being constructed. The depth of the ditch on the outside wall was twenty inches and the width eighteen inches. Reference: Connie Rayne's book Sherwood Downs and Beyond pg 288.

Huts and outbuildings were sometimes made of sods instead of cob. The walls were made from top-soil not clay. Square sods were dug up and placed in position along the length of the wall. leaves of flax, split in half, were then laid on top of the sods to hold them together, and then another layer of sods. The walls were never high and they would not stand up to the weather like cob walls.  Reference: History of  Pareora West by B.E. Evans, page 8

Timaru Herald, 13 April 1870, Page 2 LEVELS PLAINS.
The whole plain from about half a mile beyond the race-course fence to the Opihi was under water, but fortunately there was not sufficient volume to form any strong currents. The house of Duncan Scott, near Gaffney's creek, had a narrow escape, as the water came within an inch or two of the door. Some barley lying m sacks at the back of the house was damaged, the lower bags being covered with water. Damage was also done to some potatoes in pits. The paddocks were all flooded, and some fencing was washed away. On the opposite side of the road a farmer named Gibson resides, but his land and stacks were fortunately saved from the flood by a very strong sod fence about four feet high which borders the road. The water rose just to the top of this fence, and m one or two places indeed a little flowed over, but nothing to do damage. Gibson, when he saw the flood coming, stopped his entrance gate with sacking, and then piled earth behind it, so that he had a strong fence all along the roadside. So great was the danger considered on Sunday that Mrs Gibson with her child left the house and went to the residence of a friend some miles further away on the plains. Mr Gaffney, who lives near the creek known by that name has again been a sufferer, the water having carried away a good deal of fencing.

Timaru Herald, 7 September 1874, Page 1
FENCING. TENDERS are INVITED for the ERECTION of Four Miles SOD WALL 27 inches high, 32 inches wide at bottomland 20 inches at top, and Alternative Tenders for the same work 36 inches high, 34 inches wide at bottom, and 20 inches at top. Tenders for part, or the whole of the work, to be sent by MONDAY, 7th Sept, to BROWN & GRAY, Ashwick.
    TENDERS for erecting 60 Chains SOD-WALL, 27 inches high, 32 inches wide at bottom, and 20 inches at top. Tenders to be sent by Sept. 10, to PARR, BROS. The Windmill.

Keane Rd

Timaru Herald, 9 May 1896, Page 3
On account of John Keane, junr., Pleasant Point, ON SATURDAY, MAY 16th. 88 ACRES, situated about 2 miles from Pleasant Point, sub-divided into 3 Paddocks. New Four- Roomed House. J. MUNDELL, Auctioneer.

J. M. Keane, poundkeeper at Pleasant Point in 1896
John Michael Keane, threshing mill owner at Pleasant Point 1909
James Keane, farm labourer, Pleasant Point 1917
James Keane, labourer, Pleasant Point1940
John Keane, farmer, Pleasant Point 1940

Limestone buildings were built by settlers who were more prosperous than immigrants.

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a "cloot" is a sod house