Call to fix old sod cottage

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The walls are literally crumbling and the call has gone out for assistance to help keep the old sod cottage at Lovells Flat on State Highway 1 between Milton and Balclutha spick and span.

The South Otago Historical Society has looked after the mud cottage since the late 1960s when major work was undertaken to restore the long-abandoned cottage.

The walls and roof were in severe disrepair then. With the help of donations, society members and Lovells Flat locals renovated the building using the same materials and building techniques their forefathers had.

South Otago Historical Society member Ian Richardson said the society took over the upkeep and maintenance of this historic building 50 years ago and now it needs a hand fixing the walls again.

“It now needs to be repaired again, as the clay, sand and straw mixture used on the walls is beginning to crumble again and holes are starting to reappear,” he said.

“We want to keep it as natural as possible but it needs repairing now, so we have been asking local service groups if they can help out,” he added.

Mr Richardson’s father Charles had a lot to do with the early renovation of the cottage and now he continues his late father’s work looking after the grounds and amenities there.

Built in 1858 as a clay dwelling of two rooms by Hugh Murray for John McIntosh, it was referred to as an Auld Clay Bigganbecause of its basic Scottish design.

Initially used as a residence for Mr McIntosh, it soon became a retail store and small pub as its main function during that decade was as a stopping place for thirsty immigrant miners heading to the Tuapeka goldfields by bullock train or on foot.

Situated 12km southwest of Milton, it was later used as a post office, before becoming a school and then a Sunday school house.

In the 1870s it became a bakehouse and workers slept in the attic.

Reverting to a house in the 1880s, it remained as a dwelling for itinerant workers and weary travellers and swagmen right up until the World War 2 era, when it started becoming dilapidated and unoccupied.

Plans for its restoration were drawn up in 1968 and the work, undertaken with the aid of local sponsorship, allowed the site to be reopened for the public on May 28, 1970.

Mr Richardson said summer was the busiest time for visitors, who would take a break and see what life was like back in the 1860s.