Convent on market

23:25, Mar 05 2014
Southland Times photo
Mark Godwin with some of his WWI gear including bandoliers, a marching compass, cap badges and a Princess Mary 1914 tin.

A Milton man is selling his historic home so he can further pursue his passion for military re-enactments, a passion that he hopes will take him to Turkey for next year's 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings.

Mark Godwin has lived in the former convent in Chaucer Street for the past two years but said the section was not big enough to train and stable a horse, as part of his Mounted Rifles activities, and renovation work on the six-bedroom house was time consuming.

He is committed to taking part in re-enactments and other World War I commemoration events that will take place across the country during the next four years, and that sparked his decision to sell. 

Southland Times photo
A former convent in Milton is up for sale.

Mr Godwin has been taking part in military re-enactments since 1986, mostly in his native England, including battles from the English Civil War, the 100 years war and the Lace Wars of the 18th century, but the upcoming World War I events will be his first ''modern'' war.

One that stood out in Mr Godwin's memory was the re-enactment of the battle of Windrush Valley in Oxfordshire in 1994.

The entire battle field caught alight and the flames swept through the neighbouring carpark causing spectators to flee.


It was caused when wadding from a musket or cannon ignited the dry field, he said. 

According to news stories at the time, at least 20 people were hurt and up to 50 cars burnt out.

The desire ''to get behind what life was like'' fuelled his passion for military history, but it was the looming anniversary of the Great War last year prompted him to join a Southland-based project to create some of the units that served at Gallipoli.  

The project aims to produce accurate replicas of the uniforms worn by these 1915 soldiers and the re-enactment group will be trained and drilled to the standards of that time.

Both of Mr Godwin's grandfathers, along with five of his great uncles served in WWI, his grandfather Norman Godwin lived until 1981, despite being shot in the head at Passchendaele.

Mr Godwin has entered the ballot to travel to Gallipoli for Anzac Day next year.

''But if I don't get a ticket, I'll look to go in my own right anyway ... and now I've discovered a Godwin in the New Zealand field artillery who appears to be a relative.''

It is perhaps no surprise that man with a passion for history was drawn to the former convent, built in the late 1800s and designed by Dunedin architect Francis Petre.

What did come as a surprise was the 5th Royal Irish Lancers cap badge Mr Godwin found in the roof space while carrying out renovations on the house.

''I was chucking out pieces of newspaper when one felt slightly heavier than the rest, I unwrapped the pages of a 1930s Otago Daily Times to find the cap badge'', he said.

''People have come up with all sorts of theories about how the badge ended up in a convent with nuns ... including unrequited love.''

The house, which has been rewired, replumbed and has a new kitchen still retained many of its original features, and Mr Godwin hoped it would be bought by someone who appreciated its long history.


Central Leader