Mitchell’s Cottage – Fruitlands, Central Otago
The stonefruit growing area of Fruitlands lies on State Highway 8 between Lawrence and Alexandra, but before any fruit was grown in the area men came here looking for gold.
Very quickly the diggers discovered Central Otago’s rigorous climate and the need for good shelter. Mitchell’s Cottage utilised the traditional building materials favoured by the diggers, some of whom came from the Shetland Islands. One such was John Mitchell, who had been a gold digger in the Shotover Valley near Queenstown before seeking his fortune here at Bald Hill Flat, as the area was once known. He first erected a corrugated iron cottage on the site, then over the following years he and his brother Andrew used skills learned from their stonemason father in the Shetland Islands to construct the present stone dwelling. The cottage foundation was once a massive rock tor which was quarried for building stone for the cottage and surrounding stone walls. John Mitchell and his wife Jessie raised 10 children, most of whom were brought up in this remote home.
In 1980 the cottage and its grounds were acquired as a historic reserve. The building has been restored in the style of the turn of the century.
In the foreground of the above image is a sun-dial platform chipped by John Mitchell from a solid block of schist.
Peeling, Faded & Abandoned
The town of Lawrence in Central Otago has a colourful history that stretches back to when gold was discovered in nearby Gabriel’s Gully by Gabriel Read in 1861. Today it is a small rural town on State Highway 8 from Dunedin to Queenstown.
Glimpses of glories past can be seen in the heritage buildings dotted around the town, from the two grand white churches on the ridge overlooking the main road, to the derelict old convent school opposite the Gothic-style St Patrick’s Catholic Church on Colonsay Street.
The old convent school is showing its age. Unpainted and unused for years, this old lady has a bent back and a tattered petticoat. There are plans to restore the building by its overseas owners, but in the meantime it broods over the town waiting to be returned to its former glory.
Other parts of the town are also a bit ragged at the edges, but the locals are proud of their heritage and the main street presents a pleasant view to motorists at they journey onward to their destinations. Lawrence boasts free broadband internet available to all visitors to entice them to stop to visit the local cafes and craft shops.