A humble reminder of the gold rush is being preserved for future generations.
Mrs Heron’s Cottage, on the west bank of Lake Roxburgh is the the sole survivor of the former Fourteen-Mile Beach mining community, which in the early years of goldmining was a hive of activity, as prospectors and mining companies searched for precious gold nuggets.
The work has been funded by Contact Energy, which has an agreement with Heritage New Zealand to work together to manage archaeological sites along the Clutha.
Contact Energy environmental adviser Daniel Druce, of Alexandra, said this work was part of a conservation management plan for the cottage that would ensure the site could be preserved for the public to enjoy.
The earliest part of the cottage dated from the 1860s, with a south bay added in the 1880s or ’90s, and a north bay added in about the depression era of the 1920s.
The cottage was home to Henry and Harriet Heron, who worked a gold mining claim at Fourteen-Mile Beach, which was below the cottage at the base of the gorge, Mr Druce said.
Other mining sites and dwellings at the site were now underwater, after the construction of Roxburgh Dam in the 50s and subsequent flooding of the gorge.
Work included clearing scrub and dirt from the rear of the cottage, which covered almost half the height of the walls, Mr Druce said.
Historic stonemason Keith Hinds, of St Bathans, said the cottage had lasted very well considering it was made with “very poor stonework in the Celtic style.”
He was making repairs using the same techniques as the original construction, repointing and stabilising the stonework exterior with a mud mix with lime putty “which is made from burnt lime, so we do it the old traditional way.”
Repairs to woodwork and the roof were also being undertaken.
Heritage builder Chris Naylor, of Clyde, said one find was uncovering stone paving at the front of the cottage, which had been hidden under dirt and scrub.
Heritage New Zealand senior archaeologist Dr Matthew Schmidt, of Dunedin, said the cottage would be left as a “managed ruin”.
The aim was to keep the weather out and repair elements like holes in the floor “so people don’t trip”, but not to fully restore.
“And that is the way people like those sort of sites, you can actually see the condition of it.”
As long as people knew the site was managed, they were respectful of it, he said.