Where can you go in 10 minutes in the Moutere Valley without having to think about eating or drinking? Take time to stop by the wonderful 150 year old Somerset Farm Settlers Cottage on George Harvey Road.
This picturesque cottage has been lovingly restored by a trust since 1989, registered with the Historic Places Trust, and is maintained for us all by Eileen Harvey-Thawley & Graeme Thawley.
On 6 October 1856 George & Cornelia Harvey landed in Nelson on the barque Cresswell after 104 days at sea (from Somerset of course). During the first three years after their arrival they worked for Cornelia’s sister and her husband (Ann & Charles Best) on their Appelby farm. 130 years later when restoration of the house began, Appleby wheat still golden, and Appleby river stones were found in the cob walls and foundations.
The cottage is made from clay dug onsite mixed with native grasses, wheat straw, small stones, cow manure and water, blended by bullocks driving the mixer. Each day a half metre of every thick wall was constructed and then left to dry overnight. The cottage was finished in late 1859 and George & Cornelia moved in with their four children. Five more were born in the cottage.
George Harvey found work putting in new roads and one of his contracts was to “cut down the hill to the Waimeas”. The forestry area at the top of the Moutere Hill is still known as Cut Hill.
In 1910 the cottage and surrounding land was sold to E C Bensemann (and there is another wonderful story) and he found the cottage so cosy to live in that he named the district Mahana – the Maori name for warm.
Many of the current furnishings in the cottage have come from the original Harvey family. Take time to study these, and to peep into the children’s loft upstairs. Entry is free but when you visit Somerset Cottage and enjoy the sense of local history and the pretty cottage gardens, leave a donation at the gate to help Eileen and Graeme in their wonderful work to develop this museum to remind us all of some of the history of this valley.