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History alive: Jan Morrison amidst the ruins of Cooper's Terrace which she uncovered 10 years ago

A former Arrowtowner’s rallying support to reconstruct a rare European goldmining settlement a stone’s throw from the township.

Jan Morrison, now retired in Tauranga, first uncovered the ruins of Cooper’s Terrace, dating back to the 1800s, 10 years ago.

That was after her memory had been jogged of playing in an old miner’s hut, below the Macetown-Arrow River Track, about a kilometre from Arrowtown, in the ’60s.

The settlement was famous for an ostentatious stone ‘folly’ nicknamed ‘the German castle’ – the entrance to a garden and hut belonging to miner and journalist John Augustus Miller.

Ornate: The original ‘German castle’ entranceway at Cooper’s Terrace, photographed about 1930 PICTURE: LAKES DISTRICT MUSEUM

A wall section’s among the ruins Morrison subsequently uncovered.

Morrison, who’s worked on many archaeological sites in Central America, holds the archaeological authority for Cooper’s Terrace, and did some initial clearance work.

She says its historical value is huge.

“It’s probably the last time we’re going to find an historical site of this significance so close to civilisation where tourists and locals alike can visit and learn about the stories of our history and how people used to live during those early goldmining days.”

She says it could also complement the Arrowtown Chinese Settlement – another restoration of a goldmining community.

Morrison’s asking locals how they feel about reconstructing Cooper’s Terrace, which would involve the garden wall and about three stone huts.

She estimates the project, including an archaeological dig, could take five years and cost between $50,000 and $100,000.

“I wouldn’t be getting any money out of it, I’d be doing this for Arrowtown.

“I’ve got the drive, I’ve got the passion, I’ve got the time, but I need everybody else to come onboard and put their backs behind it.”

Already in Morrison’s camp is Otago Goldfields Heritage Trust secretary Terry Davis.

“We’re really excited,” he says.

“We think it’s completely unique – as far as we know, there’s nothing else like this site in Otago or New Zealand.

“And when I talk about this site, I’m talking about the folly – the fact you have this cool old wall with a bloody great entranceway that looks look something out of a British landed gentry estate, just out of the back of old Arrowtown.

“We definitely think there’s a project there – it’s quite manageable.”

Davis says he’s floated with Morrison keeping a lot of the vegetation so that the re-constructed settlement would appear a bit hidden.

“We can help with grant applications, and we have done fundraising for other things in Arrowtown.”

He suggests there might be a local stonemason happy to donate their time to a community project.

Arrowtown-based Lakes District Museum director David Clarke commends Morrison’s passion for the project – his organisation put up an interpretation panel after her initial work.

He only questions how much a dig would recover as, anecdotally, he’s heard Arrowtown residents and cribbies helped themselves to stone for their gardens after the settlement was abandoned, and also raided scarce roofing iron.

Local Department of Conservation senior ranger Susie Geh says DoC’s “exploring the possibility of a community agreement with Jan for the first stage, which would be clearing the site to uncover the ruins and actually get an understanding of what there is onsite”.

“Beyond that, it’s really hard for us to say anything more because we just don’t know what’s there, and what the project might be.”

Geh adds that ownership of the land also needs clarifying.

Meanwhile, Morrison’s contact email is janmorrinz@gmail.com.

scoop@scene.co.nz