By Jocelyn McIlraith [Chair of Paterson’s Cottage Charitable Trust]

Paterson’s Cottage is registered as a Category One building by New Zealand Historic Places’ Trust.


Paterson’s Cottage, [originally known as Paterson’s Accommodation House], is an historic building situated near the Waimate-Hakataramea Highway in South Canterbury and on the property of Glenmac. This building is an excellent example of an early cob building with its walls and chimney built of clay, (probably from the cliff at the mouth of the nearby Penticotico Stream), chopped up tussock and shingle.  A 1979 report prepared by the Ministry of Works stated that the cottage is of “lump construction” – quite different from other earth buildings because of the lumps being loaf size, and as the report states ‘were forced into intimate contact’. This method of construction caused considerable shrinkage during the drying out period.

The foundations of the building are local river stone. The roof, originally shingles, is now mostly corrugated iron although we have used wooden shingles [not cedar] on the northern facing roof.

The original cottage had two rooms. The main room, with an open fireplace on the west wall, had a loft which ran the whole length of the building. This would have been reached by ladder and used as sleeping quarters. Behind the main room, was a lean-to running the length of the building; historians state it would have been the kitchen area. A stable was situated about 50m from the cottage. Remnants of the stable foundations, again built of local river stones, can still be seen.

There is much debate about this cottage - about who built it, who lived in it and whether it was in fact an accommodation house.  Historical reports and documents are often vague and provide mixed messages.  There are no records giving the exact date of when the cottage was built.

For many years, the building was known as Paterson’s Accommodation House but after restoration carried out in 1980s/1990s the name was changed to Paterson’s Cottage by the New Zealand Historic Places’ Trust [NZHPT].  I believe it would have been more appropriate to have named it Le Cren Cottage as some documents suggestH J Le Cren built the cottage in 1872. Onedocument does suggest it was built by James Paterson in1883   and that James Paterson owned the Redcliff Hotel before purchasing the small title of land. However, doubt exists over much of that information as the 1893 Electoral Roll for Waitaki listed five James Patersons, all with different occupations.  However, we believe it was built about 1880.

 Henry John LeCren was the legal owner of the land 1st July 1872 to 12th Jan 1883. James Paterson purchased the property on 13th Jan 1883 and was the owner until 19 Dec 1893.  It is understood that James Paterson lived there with his wife, three sons, one daughter and a step son but there is no real evidence to verify this.

With the remains of the stables situated about 50m from the cottage, we understand they were used as a changing place for coaches between Waimate and Kurow.   The cottage may also have provided an overnight stop for drovers going up or down country.  In the 1882 - 1883 period,  the start of the freezing works brought stock movement and a need for holding paddocks overnight.

There was a wool wash nearby too so the cottage may have provided accommodation for workers but as already stated, we have no legal records to verify that.


WEEKLY PRESS photo : 1928- shows the condition of the building.

PRESERVATION and RESTORATION: Had it not been for the foresight of ROBERT McILRAITH, and initiative shown by each generation of the McIlraith family determined to see the cottage preserved,   the cottage may well have fallen into disrepair. 

Initial preservation of the cob cottage began between 1935 and 1936, when Robert McIlraith replaced the shingle roof with corrugated iron. In the late 1950s/early 60s, windows were put in the northernwall and doors on the north and southern walls by his son, Doug McIlraith. My husband, Peter, [third generation], can remember the wire netting in the window spaces when he was a child.

Peter said he understands that the stables were livery stables - so, travellers would have exchanged their horses after a day’s ride for another horse.

Extensive restoration work was carried out between 1970 and 1990.

Before that work, the floor of the cottage was just earth. Birds had nested in the building for generations and it had been used for many years to store hay. The rear lean-to wall was no longer standing with only sections of the eastern and western cob walls having survived. Some original beams of the loft were stored on the earthen floor in the cottage which were later used during the renovation process.

Major restoration work began from 1981 when, through encouragement and support from historian, the late Mr David Studholme, of Te Waimate, and the South Canterbury regional committee of the NZHPT, Peter and I wrote to the NZHPT and informed them we were interested in fully restoring the building back to its original condition. Over the following years, we were assisted byvolunteers as well asprofessional workers.


1980: Historic Building AA signs were placed on SH82

1981: Initially, cob work was carried out around the windows and door areas and the outside clay walls received a clay wash.  Wooden doors more in keeping with the historical nature of the cottage were installed.  Spouting was added to the roof. Considerable cob work was needed to repair cracks in walls and some of the chimney was rebuilt. 

1982: Birdproofing was carried out to deter further nesting under the eaves. This is a constant problem with our cob building.

1983: The north pitch of the roof was clad with wooden shingles. A permanent fence was built around the building using donated milled silver poplar logs;

1984: We received a $1200 grant from the NZHPT to build on the lean-to at the back of the main room and put in the loft again using the original beams.  However, we did not put the loft across the whole area; just across two thirds of that space. A wooden floor was also laid in the main room of the cottage. 

1984: NZHPT registered Paterson’s Cottage with a B classification.

1985: NZHPT provided a further $1200 for flooring the lean-to using local macrocarpa.

1985: The NZHPT provided a notice board out in front of the building. That notice board is still standing.  It reads:

This cob cottage is believed to have been built about 1880 from Penticotico clay and tussock. It was occupied by a farmer, James Paterson, and his family. Paterson sold liquor and provided casual accommodation. After his departure in 1893, casual workers continued to camp here. There was at one time a wool wash nearby in Penticotico Creek. The building has been restored by local supporters and NZHPT.

1985: I established Paterson’s Paddocks Handknits from home.

1985: Electricorp wired the cottage and put up a meter board for electricity.  

1985: Inside walls were painted white.

1985: The building was partially furnished by our family.

1990: The Paterson Family held a family reunion at the cottage in January 1990. 100 people attended. Upper Waitaki Branch WDFF catered for the event.

1990: I established a Craft shop in the cottage during the summer of 1990; building open to the public.

Since then, we have continued with regular maintenance work – fencing, cob work, further new doors, bird proofing.  A shingle path and tussock garden has also been established around the cottage.

2005: Paterson’s Cottage Charitable Trust was established with responsibility for maintenance, restoration and preservation of Paterson’s Cottage. There are five Trust members.

2006: The Trust held: Cob Cottage Christmas

2009: Major cob repair work was carried out. New macrocarpa doors were fitted and a donations slot added to the front door. This work was made possible because of grants from Transpower and Meridian Energy Ltd.

2009/2010: Further grants received from Meridian Energy and the Mid-South Canterbury Community Trust for further bird proofing as well as the building of the shingle path around the cottage and establishment of a tussock garden.

2011/2012: The Trust was approached by the film crew of Mr Pip for permission to spend 18 days constructing a set and a filming day. The set involved the adding of a temporary forge to the west end of the building, removing the fence and gate etc for filming purposes, making various modifications to suit the purpose of the movie.  Andy Scotland and Frank Sole replaced the fence and gate.

2012: New signage was attached to the gateway.

2013: Maintenance is ongoing to ensure the cottage is preserved – cob repair, bird proofing, etc.

2015: Trust members are designing new signage.


Over the years, many people have assisted in the restoration work. For fear of leaving out a name I won’t list those people but we do want them to know we are very grateful for all their assistance in ensuring Paterson’s Cottage is preserved for future generations.