History & heritage  |  10 Nov 2020

Local residents have stepped back in time, making the most of a rare opportunity to visit the historic Kapuatohe Dwelling and neighbouring cottage in Belfast.

The former local schoolmaster’s house and the workman’s cottage have both undergone extensive repairs and strengthening work following the 2010-11 earthquakes. Both the dwelling and cottage’s chimneys have been strengthened and repaired and cracking on the inside walls fixed.

In the cottage, the kitchen floor has been re-levelled and new vinyl and kitchen joinery installed.

They will soon become private residences, prompting the Waimāero/Fendalton-Waimairi-Harewood Community Board to host a special “open home” for local residents at Kapuatohe Reserve.

Christchurch City Councillor Aaron Keown says the buildings will have a new use while retaining their historical importance.

“By repairing these buildings, we are acting as property guardians and helping bring the past to life,” he says.

Board Chairperson David Cartwright says that the buildings provide a window to an important piece of Belfast history and the early development of the area.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to soak up the atmosphere and recognise the significance of the site’s connection to free, compulsory public schooling established in 1877 in New Zealand and as an early ara (pathway) for local Māori linking Kaiapoi and Banks Peninsula,” he says.

“Both protected buildings and the actual site have played important roles in our local history and, following the strengthening work, we can retain those heritage characteristics and connections so integral to the area.

“We have thrown open the doors for a few hours this week so that people can take a peek at their local history, and Council staff can answer heritage questions.”

Early principal Henry Wilson was the first to live in the Schoolmaster’s House with his family. The building continued to house school staff until 1972.

English architect Thomas Cane, who designed the Gothic Revival-style timber house, was also responsible for the Timeball Station in Lyttelton.

*Pictured above, Councillor Aaron Keown helps an elderly neighbour of Kapuatohe Dwelling into the restored building.