Heritage buffs find 'gem' a new home

NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 05:00 07/06/2014
Marshland villa
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MOVING HOUSE: Simon Bayley and Alex Brown’s villa was moved to its new site near Courtenay in two pieces.

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A Canterbury couple have moved a 137-year-old Marshland house to Selwyn to restore it to its original condition.

Heritage buffs Simon Bayley and Alex Brown were looking for something different when they found the old Hillcrest House in need of repair.

"Christchurch would have driven past it every day, but it was hidden behind trees . . . so it was like finding a gem," Bayley said.

The house, built about 1877, was situated in the middle of the proposed Prestons subdivision, and the couple feared it would have been demolished if they had not been able to move it to their empty section near Courtenay in Selwyn.

"This house comes from a rural site; it wouldn't have looked right to put it somewhere in town."

They are restoring the house and making every effort to return it to its original look - right down to the trees they plan to plant outside.

"If you're going to do it, you do it right," Bayley said.

The two-storey house was not on the Historic Places Trust register, but was considered historically and socially significant by the Christchurch City Council for its association with early settler William Dunlop and his family.

They were later among the first residents to settle in the Marshland area when they bought the Hillcrest farm in 1877.

The "roomy villa" they built was considered to be a typical large colonial farmhouse - well-built and modestly ornamented - but it was "not entirely without pretension", given it featured a projecting bay, rusticated weatherboard cladding, a concave veranda with cast iron lacework, bracketed eaves and triple sash windows.

The building was considered unusual in that it had undergone "remarkably little modification" during its 137-year history.

The house was moved in two pieces by King House Removals late last year and Bayley and Brown hoped to move into it once the renovations were completed at the end of this year.

"We're restoring it all back to the original," Bayley said. "Alex and I are into our history. We didn't want to see this house just end up in a rubbish dump."

Bayley did not know how much the project would cost in total, saying the figures were "irrelevant".

"We could have built a house that didn't have the character. We just want something different."

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