Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

04 December 2009

N.Z. House & Cottage 11. The Cuddy, Waimate

I wrote and illustrated ‘New Zealand House and Cottage’. It was published in 1997. It’s a snapshot of some historic New Zealand homes - both grand and modest - as they were preserved at the end of the 20th century.
I have decided to share some of the entries from the book from time to time on this blog.


The Cuddy suffers somewhat from being so picturesque. It’s the stuff that calendars are made of, thatched, honeysuckled and charming in its old style garden. But its prettiness is a fortuitous side-effect and belies its pioneer beginnings when the need for shelter far outweighed artistic considerations.

The construction, typical of the period, is of the original vertical totara slab plugged with wattle and daub, but its brick chimney superseded one of clay and stake, and its roof, when I called at the end of 1996, had just been re-thatched in English style with rushes from a local swamp (in Maori, Waimate means ’stagnant water’) and was expected to last another thirty years.* Its first thatch was of snowgrass which was later replaced by others of corn straw.

The cottage was built in 1854 by the Studholme brothers, Michael, John and Paul who had arrived in Lyttelton from Cumberland three years before. It gets its name from a small cabin on a ship and probably reminded them of their voyage. Paul soon returned to England but his brothers lived in the Cuddy for six years while they developed the 98,000 acres (40,000ha) of Te Waimate Station.

When Michael first brought his wife, Effie, home she was dismayed by the accommodation and wrote:
‘We inspected the Cuddy…The floor was of beaten clay, which was worn into depressions here and there, so that in setting a chair there was trouble in arranging the legs so as to stand firmly… There were two small windows and one large sod fireplace: above the latter M’s guns, stockwhips etc. were arranged. A couple of stools cut from the round of a tree completed the furniture. Certainly there was no room for me there…’
Effie had brought a rose from Christchurch in her saddle bag and it was planted in the garden beside the Cuddy where its scions grow to this day: her side-saddle is still in the cottage in company with some contemporary pots, pans and furniture.

The one kilometre avenue from the main road to the cottage is lined with English oaks planted in 1864. It leads also to the site of the old homestead, destroyed by fire in 1928, and the five acres of gardens containing magnificent sequoias, cedars of Lebanon, red and white pines and Oregon firs.

*The Cuddy and Rhodes Cottage, both in South Canterbury, are the only two thatched buildings in the care of the Historic Places Trust.


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By Don Donovan