Special new roof for settler cottage

00:00, Nov 30 2012

An early settler cottage in Mahana will soon be sporting a spruced up roof in a traditional thatch of reeds and rushes, all the way from South Africa.

Somerset Cottage was built about 1859 and has been restored over the past 23 years by descendants of the pioneers who once lived there, said secretary of the trust which now runs it, Paul Bensemann.

Work started this week to re-thatch the historic clay-walled cottage, west of the Woollaston Estates winery, and which has become a popular stopping point on the burgeoning cycle trail route.

The $20,000 project includes construction of a new sub-thatch wooden frame, and bringing the thatch material from South Africa.

Mr Bensemann, who has family ties with the cottage, said the project has been helped by a $12,642 grant from the Canterbury Community Trust. He said the grant paid for the thatch which had to be imported when it proved too difficult to find and source materials from New Zealand wetlands.

The thatching project is being done by Nelson-based professional thatcher Norbert Kleinschmidt, who is believed to be the only trained thatcher in New Zealand, Mr Bensemann said.


Mr Kleinschmidt installed the thatch on the cottage when it was last done in 1990.

"Although the old thatch lasted for two decades, it was a huge job finding material from the few remaining wetlands, and Norbert had to search the South Island for rushes.

"We decided it would be much easier to import thatch from South Africa, despite the expense."

The cottage was originally the home of Moutere settlers George and Cornelia Harvey. It had an attic for the couple's nine children.

"The Harveys already had four children and five more were born in the cottage," said Mr Bensemann whose grandparents bought the cottage in 1910.

The cottage at 314 George Harvey Rd is open free to visitors and school groups.

The Nelson Mail