This early hand-coloured photograph from the Museum collection looks towards Ticehurst Road and the base of the Bridle Path with the old Lyttelton band rotunda clearly visible in the foreground. This structure was removed along with the houses directly behind it, during the construction of the road tunnel in the early 1960s. At the centre-left of the image is a small cottage with three dormer windows, an important surviving example of early colonial architecture and a significant landmark at the start of the climb to the Bridle Path.
Islay Cottage, as it became known, was built on land allocated to the Reverend Dudley, chaplain on the Cressy; one of the first four Canterbury Association ships to arrive in Ōhinehou Lyttelton in December 1850 as part of the organised emigration of settlers to establish a Church of England colony in Canterbury. In early 1851, Reverend Dudley sold a quarter acre of this land to Thomas Kent, a carpenter who had also arrived on the Cressy with his family. Thomas and his son Joseph built a gabled cottage with three dormer windows and straight run verandah with walls of pit sawn timber (possibly brought from England) and rammed earth (cob) on stone foundations.
Clearly a ‘spec’ build, Kent sold the new building to George Lockhart and Augustus White for £80 – a tidy profit on the £17 it has cost him to purchase the land from the Reverend Dudley! In 1857 the cottage again changed hands, bought by Dr John Seager Gundry who had been Surgeon-Superintendent on another Canterbury Association ship, the Steadfast. In his diaries, Gundry refers to the four and a half hour walk over the Bridle Path to Christchurch – as he lived in Christchurch, he may well have purchased the cottage for a base during his frequent trips to and from Lyttelton.
In 1870, Dr Gundry sold the cottage to Captain Hugh McLellan, a master mariner who was Lyttelton’s Piermaster, Wharfmaster and finally Harbourmaster in 1877. McLellan was responsible for naming the cottage after his original home on the Island of Islay in Argyllshire, Scotland. He married Sarah Plaisted, a young immigrant who had been orphaned by the death of her father shortly after her arrival onboard the Isabella Hercus in 1851.
Islay Cottage was an ideal vantage point for a man responsible for the movement of shipping in Whakaraupō Lyttelton Harbour. However, due to a reportedly fiery ‘Scottish’ personality, Captain McLellan was a somewhat contentious figure in the community and resigned as Harbourmaster in 1885, to be succeeded by Captain J W Clark. The cottage, however, continued to be home for his large family – ten children were raised within the small footprint of the building. With its steep staircase most resembling a ladder, leading to two small attic bedrooms, the children must have been lined up like sardines for sleeping!
The cottage remained in the hands of McLellan descendants for some years; first Edna (daughter of Captain McLellan) and her husband Walter Cattle, followed by their niece Flora Sneddon. In 1978 it was sold to Gloria Mitchell, and again in 2004 to Brenda Good, a descendant of Dr Gundry. With her husband Tony, they took on the mammoth task to save and repair the cottage post earthquakes. This largely unaltered example of mid-nineteenth century domestic European architecture was recognised by Heritage New Zealand with Category Two Historic Place status in December 1990. Beautifully presented and a real credit to the current owners, this delightful ringside seat of the harbour is available as boutique accommodation.