A few articles ago now I talked about the original Waimate Court House and it’s relatively recent new life as the Waimate Museum. The large section on which it is situated is also home to several other buildings which have been shifted onto the site. These include the old Douglas school, Bremners Cottage, the old jail and police cells. These buildings house a diversity of displays depicting life and times of old Waimate and very charming they are too.
Unfortunately the facilities were all closed when I visited but I was quite taken with the tiny Bremners cottage. It is displayed amongst a simple cottage garden and fronted by the quintessential white picket fence.
The cottage was built of pit-sawn Totara using a system of mortise and tenon joints.
A mortise and tenon joint is a type of joint that connects two pieces of wood by slotting one piece into another. Woodworkers around the world have used it for thousands of years to join pieces of wood, mainly when the adjoining pieces connect at an angle of 90°. In its basic form, it is both simple and strong, very popular for pioneer cottages.
It has undergone a few alterations over the years including having the roof raised for a loft, having a lean to built on and then having a ceiling placed under the loft.
In 1864 Waimate ran alongside the vast Totara forests that remained in the area. This was referred to as Bushtown, some residents lived in the bush, some in comfortable cottages, others in temporary huts and it formed the nucleus of modern Waimate.
Bremners Cottage is a survivor of the infamous bush fire that destroyed vast areas of Waimate or Bushtown in 1878.
The 'big burn' began innocuously enough on 12th November 1878 with grass fires on Hunters Hills set by musterers. One was still burning three days later when a spring nor'-wester gale put in an untimely appearance. When the fires finally burned themselves out on 23rd November, after an eight-day rampage, they left part of Waimate township and much of the countryside around it a desolate, blackened ruin. The timber industry had been dealt a fatal blow and many families had to leave town because their homes and livelihoods were gone.
The Bushtown website has some fascinating pages of information and is well worth a look, found it really interesting and added another local place to my list to visit when opening hours connect with a free afternoon.