Reilly Cottage, a Three Log Whare in the Kawhatau Valley
Built in 1894 by Cecil Charles Frodsham Reilly for his wife Sarah Ann and family when they moved from Timaru, along with 11 other families, to establish a small farming settlement after being successful in their ballot for the Kawhatau land (now known as Mangaweka). With no previous experience in the bush, Cecil Reilly arrived first and began the huge task of clearing the land, sowing grass and building a whare.
Sarah joined him a few months later with their seven children John, Fanny, Cecil, Katherine, Gretchen, Peter and Reginald with two more, Ellen and George born in the settlement.
The cottage was built with hand split Totara and had three rooms, the living area being in the middle. There was another building behind which housed the wash house – it is understood that the boys slept out there too. Approx 36 x 12 ft [that’s 11m x 3.5m] with a shingle roof, the walls were layered with newspaper and, in places, cotton fabric before a layer of wallpaper. It was occupied by their son Peter after his return from service during WW1 until his passing in 1963, and eventually had both power and later, a telephone line installed.
Sarah Ann Reilly Peter William Reilly
Moving to Kimbolton
When word reached those in the know of Rob Green, a woodworker living in Kimbolton, whose curiosity in original settlers’ huts led him to build a replica using all the remaining hand split timber he could preserve using only the basic tools of the time, he was contacted about a lonely surviving hut on a back country hillside with the thought that he was just the person who could save it. Rob was introduced to the landowners and with time being of the essence - as the state of the small slab hut unlikely to survive another snowfall - Rob accepted the challenge.
Rob’s preference would have been to preserve the hut where it was but with great reluctance, he dismantled it board by board numbering each piece as he worked. Rather sadly, it finally left that lovely, if not somewhat lonely hill overlooking those very river terraces of the Kawhatau river flats wherefrom it’s Totara was probably taken.
“Whilst I would not wish to make light of those early hardships and privations experienced by those original pioneer Reillys, one can only speculate on the inspiration gained from such a pristine and grand landscape that would have greeted them upon emerging from their simple slab cottage to a frosty and somewhat frozen Kawhatau Valley morning…. sadly, Reilly Cottage which was wrought from its surroundings and to experience over one hundred years in perfect harmony with its surroundings will look upon them no more.”
Using the numbered boards, Rob rebuilt the cottage on his property in Kimbolton where it was been appreciated and admired for many years.
Gifted to The Coach House
To further preserve the cottage, in 2023 Rob offered it to The Coach House and the decision was made to dismantle it again and relocate it to the Museum in Feilding. With the limited space available and the further deterioration of the original Totara, the cottage has undertaken a bit of a remodel. The team at the Coach House have reassembled the cottage and furnished the interior as it would have been originally, with many of the items coming from the Reilly family.