A crumbling mystery…

North and west elevations of the house.

Regarded as Christchurch’s oldest home, this two storey farm cottage was built in 1851-2 for Mr. Parkerson, a surgeon. It was built with 600 mm thick scoria stone blocks quarried from Lyttelton and roofed with Welsh slate.

Exposed wall structure in upstairs bedroom.

600 mm thick south wall of original stone cottage.

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Stonemason’s minor blunder hidden in the cupboard under the stairs.

The layout of this cottage is unusual, and some have suggested it was a common design back in Norfolk, England. Downstairs, the two rooms are orientated around central back-to-back stone fireplaces, with a chimney that runs up through the centre of the house, and there’s no central hall.

Central fireplace in the east downstairs main room.

Central fireplace in the west downstairs main room.

Oddly enough, this small cottage has two mirroring staircases at either end of the house, each leading to two small upstairs bedrooms. But perhaps the most bizarre aspect about this building is the absence of a connecting doorway to allow the occupants to access both ends of the house.

Staircase at east end of house.

Staircase at west end of house.

Upstairs main bedrooms once separated by a brick wall (which collapsed in the earthquakes).

Original casement windows in upstairs bedroom.

Exposed early split lath used to constructed a wall in the west downstairs main room.

The layout of this mid-19th century stone cottage presents us with whole new set of questions about the mysterious ways our ancestors lived, and will help us understand the development of Christchurch’s domestic architecture.

Francesca Bradley

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