Home and Garden
In a picturesque Marlborough valley, one man is restoring a cottage which has been in his family for five generations in what can truly be called a labour of love: Love for the house, for its history, but most of all for his late mum who started the project. Maike van der Heide takes a look.
From the outside, there is little clue that the neat white cottage with its deep, covered verandas, picket fence and quaint dormer windows holds a treasure trove of Marlborough history.
But one step into the narrow hallway of perfectly weathered tongue and groove rimu walls and ceilings, the cottage begins to reveal its story.
Built in 1889 by English settlers, it housed members of the same farming family for many years along with a larger homestead built in the early 20th century. The cottage was eventually downgraded to a hay shed, its rotten timber walls replaced with corrugated iron. Its interior began to slowly disintegrate as weather and borer moved in and the remnant of Marlborough's earliest settler days would have disappeared if Margaret Jones had not made the decision to save it, 35 years ago.
She collected items for many years to match the period in which the cottage was built and prepared for its restoration. It was lifted onto a truck and moved about 200m across the paddock to a site closer to modern amenities and out of the cold shadow of the hills.
She had it re-piled and, to fix the holes, sourced second-hand flooring from a wrecked house in Havelock. With her son, Lincoln, Margaret painstakingly chose wallpaper four years ago for the living room to complement the rest of the room's bare rimu. With the old open fireplace not being suitable for use any more, they found an authentic-looking electric fire which was surrounded by a wooden mantelpiece.
Sadly, Margaret died before she could see the cottage completely restored. Her death made Lincoln all the more determined to continue, as a tribute to her and to his forefathers.
Lincoln has a family tree so detailed that the paper it is printed on spans the length of the bed on which he rolls it out. Above the bed, in the corner of a piece of rimu timber that makes up part of the wall, are the pencilled signatures of some of those named on the family tree. The names are in cursive handwriting. Perhaps they were cheeky kids when they left their mark, perhaps they did it as adults to be found by future generations.
At the top of the tree are Evan Jones and Harriet Avis, born in 1838 and 1843 respectively, who had 15 children. Of those 11 survived, including James Jones. He had four children, and just one survived: Innes. He, in turn, had one daughter, Margaret, who became Lincoln's mother. Many of Harriet and Evan's other descendants remain in Marlborough, says Lincoln, and some have been pleased, even emotional, to see the cottage being restored.
And so Lincoln continues the painstaking job of uncovering more and more tongue and groove rimu walls and ceilings under layers of paint, wallpaper and even beeswax from long-gone bee hives.
He salvaged original timber from a downstairs bedroom to use upstairs, fixing damage caused by a farm worker whose solution for evicting a bee colony was taking to it with a chainsaw.
He used more of that timber to line the upstairs dormer windows, creating more space on the tight landing. The borer has mostly been eradicated, but bombing it remains an annual task.
Some modern conveniences have been allowed, to make living in the old cottage more comfortable, such as a dishwasher, heatpump, and insulation. A lean-to was built in the mid-90s to create space for a downstairs toilet and laundry on one side, while on the other side a garage and sleep-out were added.
A front bedroom, formerly used by Lincoln's great-grandmother Roberta as a receiving room for guests and serving tea, is lined with rimu which goes halfway up three walls and is met with modern plaster board. Roberta had a very narrow doorway providing her with access to the kitchen and fare for her guests. Lincoln has now covered that over and replaced it with a normal sized doorway to the hallway.
An electrician by trade, Lincoln rewired the building and sourced old light fittings wherever he could. Most were free to a good home from owners whose love for them was certainly not lost. He sourced brass switches that matched the period of the cottage and, determined to salvage as many original features as he can, Lincoln fixed the original lock from the front door.
Each and every detail has been carefully considered by Lincoln and close friends who are also dedicating spare hours to the project which, he says, will be Margaret's legacy.
- The Marlborough Express