Introduction to Alexandra and Clyde

Alexandra Central Otago is a place for all seasons, since each season has its own special flavour. Nowhere is this more evident than in Alexandra. Here they celebrate the arrival of spring with New Zealand''s original Blossom Festival, and in summer welcome the crowds who come for a holiday in the Mediterranean sunshine amid hills fragrant with wild thyme. In Autumn the landscape is at its best as the willows and poplars turn gold and amber along riverbanks and roadsides. The extraordinary clarity of light and cool, blue days that winter brings are the ideal backdrop for sightseeing or outdoor activities.

Stay a while to taste fruit from trees planted by some of the earliest pioneers, or local wines - the produce of some of the region''s newer connoisseur settlers. Or leave people behind and head for hills on horseback, mountain bike or on one of the many walking tracks.

Clyde Upriver, Clyde represents a perfectly preserved pioneer town of the 1860''s. Buildings of stone, timber and cob are unchanged reminders of a heritage founded on gold that''s still reflected in the relaxed pace of life. Choose from visiting the local museums or gardens. Make the most of the many opportunities for water sports and recreation offered by nearby Lake Dunstan, or linger over local cuisine at the fine restaurants and cafes housed in buildings over 100 years old. Then, wherever you choose to lay your head at night - luxury lodge, motel, homestay or holiday park - your dreams are sure to be sweet.  Relax and enjoy.


CLYDE, an Historic Town set in the heart of Central Otago''s Goldfields Park, New Zealand

Nestled in the heart of Central Otago and the Goldfields Park, the Historic town has superb examples of colonial architecture built with schist stone from the surrounding hills and valleys. Little changed from the 1860''s when gold was first discovered in the mighty Molyneux river (now named Clutha), this caused 10, 000 miners to pour into this wild unknown country. When the gold was gone many of these miners turned back to their trades leaving us a legacy that no amount of re-construction or re-creation can replace.

Today a walk through Clyde takes you past timeless cottages, hotels, churches and the post office from an era when as the gold town, Dunstan, Clyde dominated the district. A visit to the Vincent county and Dunstan Goldfields Museum and the Museum extension will satisfy all those in search of the History of the area and it''s buildings with the fascinating stories of the goldfield pioneers.

Let us begin our walk at the entrance to the Gorge. Here sheltered from the severe winds by the Clyde Moraine the first settlers pitched their tents. 

A short distance along Sunderland Street on the right was the Dunstan News Office, the birthplace of the Goldfields Press. The first paper by the Dunstan News was printed and distributed on December 30, 1862. Quite a sizeable paper, it was printed by Messrs Higgins and Co. for Mr George Brodie, owner. A copy is to be found with the McNab collection at the Dunedin Public Library.

A permanent building of iron with wooden façade was built in 1864. The name of the paper altered to ''Dunstan Times''.

Owners and Editors changed frequently over the years. In 1900 Mr. H. E. Stevens, son of the local schoolmaster, with J. Hill, took possession. Hill pulled out within a short time in favour of Mr. S. A. Stevens. Stevens Brothers carried on with the sons of H. E. Stevens until 1948, when amalgamation of local papers took place, closing the Clyde office.

The building, now a holiday house, stands as a monument to some fine journalism of over 85 years.

(Taken from early Cyclopedia of New Zealand).

Mr. Albert Ernest Gye, formerly Secretary of the Clyde Sports Club, and Deputy-Captain of the Vincent County Cycling Club, was born in 1872, in Melbourne, where he received his earlier education. He arrived in Otago with his parents, who settled in Clyde, in 1880, served an apprenticeship of five years at the "Dunstan Times" office, and afterwards worked as a journeyman for eighteen months. After being for four months in the Government Printing Office, at Wellington, and for a similar period with Megan Whitcombe and Tombs, Mr. Gye returned to Clyde to take charge of the "Dunstan Times" as printer and publisher. He was one of the founders of the sports and cycling clubs, but afterwards left the district.

"Dunstan Times" (Stevens Brothers, proprietors), Sunderland Street, Clyde. This journal was founded in 1862 by Mr. G. Fache, who conducted it till 1895. The premises are on freehold land, and consist of a wooden building, which contains a Wharfedale printing press and a complete jobbing plant. The paper is a weekly publication of eight pages of seven columns, and has a wide circulation throughout Central Otago.


The little stone cottage, on the street next on the right, was built in the early 1860''s. It was the home of Mr. Rae, known locally as Tinker Rae. Here he set up in business displaying his wares, when not on the road.

Some years later a midwife had the cottage, living in the rear room and taking in single confinements in the front room.

At this time there were no maternity hospitals. With ample midwives in the town, confinements were in the home. Some women, however, did avail themselves of this service.


Next in a large section, in which the Tinkers cottage is situated, is the stone and part concrete home built by Dr. Morice in the early 1860''s. The stone house first built is now covered by corrugated iron.

Dr. Morice came to Dunstan, now Clyde, in 1863. He had no commitments, however he was so appalled seeing men suffering with frostbite, malnutrition and associated sicknesses that he set up a tent hospital complex around his dwelling. Here he tended to men he found on the mining claims, in tents or out on the streets, and took them in for treatment.

Dr. Morice was offered, and he accepted, the superintendency of the Grey Hospital in 1866 at a salary of 250.00 pounds ($500.00) per annum.


Mr. Hazlett was from the Bendigo (Australia) mining area, where he was deeply interested in mining. An early arrival on the mining scene, he decided to be a provider. He set up a butchers shop in a front room of his home, and later a small store in the corner of his section.

He was an excellent citizen, always to the fore for the betterment of the town. A keen Church man, Hospital Board member, and sports advocate, besides being elected Mayor of the town four times.

A great lover of horses, he had a very fine stable housed in stone buildings along the rear of his section, with a coach house across Miners Land on the river bank.

There is no doubt Mr. Hazlett was the instigator of the first race meeting in Central Otago, at Dunstan on December 31, 1862, and January 1, 1863.

Horses were drawn from Moutere, Galloway and Earnscleugh Stations. Venue was the South bank of Muttontown Gully.

Continuing, and on the right is a neat white roughcast building belonging to the early history of Clyde.


Possibly the first single storied stone hotel. Built in 1869, it has a very fine example of masonry under the rough cast. The interior, very badly planned, led to it being condemned as a public house.

James Parks, the Irish owner and host, was the housekeeper, cook, barman, etc. he wasn''t praised as a cook, nor for his menu. He specialised in egg dishes; eggs boiled, baked or scrambled for breakfast, dinner and tea, to use up the literally hundreds of eggs from his literally hundreds of hens running about the river bank. Sometimes a chicken or fowl.

However, he was a popular host, the Hotel was a popular drinking house, and catered for many boarders.

Later in the 1890''s, the place was taken over by another licensee, who made his ablutions in the stone horse trough, on the street in front, each morning.


Opposite the Hartley Arms. An impressive building of local stone, built in 1868-69. Very elegant with its Corinthian pillars supporting the portico, and windows of unusual design, it stands as a tribute for design and workmanship. Messrs Mason and Clayton, of Dunedin, designed it and it was built by J. Over at a cost of $800.00 pounds ($1600.00).

Originally designed as a Masonic Hall and Temple, building began as such, under the eye of Vincent Pyke, who was Provincial Grand Master.

Money ran out for the Masons, who were concerned. However, the townspeople came to the aid on the condition that the Hall would be regarded as a Town Hall.

In laying the foundation stone, Vincent Pyke did so with Masonic honours. In a cavity below the stone (foundation) was placed a bottle containing scrolls and copies of the day''s "Otago Daily Times" and "Dunstan Times", and also coins of the realm.

The bottle was sealed with the Grant Master''s ring and seal. The mortar was laid with a handsome silver trowel made by a local Silversmith (Barlow) and inscribed (see Museum). A ball was held in the evening to open the hall. Masons took it over in 1954. The Atheneaum was added in 1874.


On the right we have a very fine double storied building, the first of its kind in Central. Built in 1900 for Mr. Harry Hast (of Brewery) and Lawrence and Mrs Alderdice (host) of Dunedin. It was constructed by Thos. Wilkinson, builder of St. Bathans; John Holloway, mason of Clyde; Albert Otago Fountain, professional staircase builder; and Hugh Naylor, apprentice carpenter.

Cobb and Co. coaches pulled in at the Dunstan either way from Cromwell to Dunedin each day. In cold weather, with frosty below zero temperatures, mine host would offer a Scotch for the men and hot tea for the ladies.

Near the middle of the century, the licence to the Hotel was lost. It was closed for a time, became a private house, then later a bed and breakfast accommodation house, Dunstan House.


Another double storied building of local stone and built by the very same craftsmen as the previous hotel, three years later in 1903.

A Mr. Pitches had this one built to replace a wooden one burned down in 1903; the Port Phillip, built in 1868.

This site is a place of note. The famous Buckingham family had their scantling and Calico Hotel, or Saloon, on it in December 1862 to early 1863, where they were joined by the infamous Captain Bully Hayes. Here he fell in love with Rosa Buckingham, reputed fine singer and entertainer. He married her in Arrow.

Buckinghams moved to Arrow when the gold strike was on there. Hayes went with them and the rest is Arrow''s story.

The stone building became the Commercial hotel. It remained the same in layout until 1957 when major improvements were done. Later again, in 1970, a large bar lounge was added.

In 1987 for the movie "Illustrious Energy" the lounge bar and bottle store were clad with stone from the Hotel Cromwell and mud blocks, made at Earnscleugh.


From a Calico general store serving the miners of 1863, has evolved this historic estate steeped in a century of local colour.

Originally the home of Mr. Benjamin Naylor J. P. who was born at Worksop, Nottinghamshire in 1830. He was brought up as a Blacksmith and worked at his trade until coming to the colonies in 1851. After ten years on the Victorian goldfields he came to Otago, in 1861, at the time of the Gabriels Gully ''rush. He was one of the first to arrive, in 1862, at the Dunstan, to which he brought goods and soon afterwards opened a general store with living accommodation attached. Eventually the land from the store to the corner (Naylor Street) was purchased and stables, coach sheds, a smoke house and a large timber and iron store was built, along with a gracious home, all built from stone. The home, complete with conservatory, servants room and a large underground food cellar, is apart form the alterations to the front of the house (in 1929), still maintained in original condition as a lodge for guests.

The walls surrounding the property were built from stones salvaged from the hotels demolished as the property was acquired. Mr. Naylor was also interested in farming and became owner of " Chester Mains" and "Matakanui" in 1875. While Clyde was a borough he was Mayor for four years.

Premier and Mrs Richard Seddon (King Dick) were often guests of the Naylor family.

In December 1977 the general store was re-opened as Olivers Restaurant. John Braine and Fleur Sullivan spent several months refurbishing the interior. In late 1981 the old timber and iron store found a new lease of life as a Banquet Hall. Throughout the restoration work many old treasures were found including the day books dating back to 1864.

Chester Mains Farm, Matakanui. This freehold is the property of Mr. B. Naylor, J. P., of Clyde, and is 1072 acres in extent. It is a dairy and agricultural farm, and has been occupied by the proprietor since 1874. During some seasons, a considerable area is devoted to crops, which yield very satisfactory returns. The owner is a large breeder of Clydesdale horses, and has spent considerable sums of money in the purchase of stud animals from the best bred stock. There is a registered dairy factory on the estate.


Around the corner we glimpse the Clutha River, known to the miners who respected and feared it, as "The Mighty Molyneux".

To the Maoris it was the Matau. Very powerful and treacherous yet beautiful, it claimed many lives and did untold damage while sculpturing the land. However, Otago can be very thankful for the great wealth it brought to the province.

In the 10km of river between Alexandra and Clyde, over 30 dredges once worked the Clutha with 20 more in the 6km between Roxburgh and Coal Creek. The four or five tonnes of lignite those dredges consumed daily came from mines just north of the town. This travelled down the river by boat, a voyage so dangerous that the crews wore lifejackets.

At Brewery Creek, 1.2km below Cromwell, Hartley and Reilly won 871h of gold and got a 2000 pound reward which the Otago Provincial Government offered for the discovery of a new goldfield. Dredges later did most of the mining here. All built locally, the dredges later switched from coal to electricity for power. They had names as strange as some of the gold claims: Monte Cristo, Riley''s Revival, Chicago and Royal Maori.

Next on the left is a stone cottage used as a bank and residence as a schoolteachers home and was later bought as accommodation for Cobb and Co. drivers. In 1987 it was converted to a gambling and opium den for the movie "Illustrious Energy".


Next we come to St Michael''s Anglican Church built of local stone in 1877. Vicar - Rev. Reeve.

Traditionally English in design, its interior woodwork was wrought by Charles Huston, grandfather of the Waldron family.

The ceiling is arch braced dark wood, the large East and West windows have tracery tops and the small windows, early English lancet.

The stone wall fronting the Church is older still, having surrounded an earlier wooden Church. The remaining three walls were of cob, which were absorbed by the earth.

POST OFFICE (Matau Street)

A very fine example of Masonry. Who would know that it was built in two parts more than 10 years apart?

The extension was necessary when Post Office mail boxes and a telephone exchange were installed. Seven telephones were installed in 1909. Mr. Gair of Cromwell was the Mason and had help from a Shetland Islander, name unknown.

The first Post Office was situated on the corner of the street. It was firstly of Calico then of corrugated iron and wood.

A fine stone house, compliments of the Post Office, is the Postmaster''s residence.

Vincent County Council chambers seat of the Vincent County Council 1877 to 1989. With the new Government amalgamation of local bodies this building now stands empty. An interesting book to read - One Hundred Years of the Vincent County, 1877-1977, by John H. Angus.

This area was the hub of the town from the 1860''s to the end of the century and was known as "The Camp".


Next door is the old Magistrates and Wardens Court House, now the Vincent County and Dunstan Goldfields Historical Museum.

It is stone, built in 1864 after the disastrous wind storm of 1863, which blew down the original Court House of Calico and scantling lined with paper. Besides a Court House it was the administration Headquarters of the Dunstan gold rush. Here Vincent Pyke as Commissioner of the Goldfields and Mayor Keddell had their offices.

The building became a Museum after some years of closure, 1966. Four years after the Centennial of the Dunstan, September 1962, when the Museum was established. A fine collection of exhibits from within the Vincent County is housed and cared for by voluntary workers. The Museum is opened every afternoon 2pm - 4pm Tuesday to Sunday.


A fine stone house stands next door to the Museum. It was built in the late 1860''s for the Sergeant of Police.

At the time there was a stone gaol in front to the left of this building and an office beside the residence.

From this point to within a playing field distance of the school was housed up to fifteen more mounted troopers who policed the goldfields, acted as escorts for the goldcoach en-route to Dunedin and escort to many V.I.P. visitors.


St. Dunstan''s Catholic Church built in 1903 by a local builder and mason (Thos. Wilkinson and John Holloway and associates) was to replace an earlier church, St Mary''s built in 1869. A devastating wind storm having destroyed the church, mass was heard in the old school (stone) in the main street till St Dunstan''s was built.

A fine example of early English Gothic, roofed with Marseilles tiles it stands out neatly in well groomed grounds. During 1989 St Dunstan''s was completely restored and rededicated on the 18th October 1989.


In Upper Fraser Street on the right a very neat and solid local stone house built by Mr. Albert Otago Fountain with J. Noone, Mason, in 1881. Mr. Naylor a cousin of Benjamin Naylor of Victoria Store came from overseas to Clyde to assist his cousin. Later he began business himself at the other end of town. The home has been retained by the family.


On the corner and opposite St Dunstan''s Catholic Church is St Mungo''s Union Church of the Clyde/Alexandra Parish.

The church was built in 1894 in wood, being roughcast in the 1950''s and redecorated inside.

This church was built by the Presbyterians of Clyde and District. In 1970 the Methodist Church joined the Presbyterian and a Union Church was born.


Along further stands a little white cottage with its iron lace of the Victorian era. In the 1870''s this house was the home of Mr. Charles Henry Wong Gye, who came to Clyde from the Bendigo goldfields to be the Chinese interpreter in the Dunstan, May 1871. The grounds were very spacious surrounded by a very handsome stone wall.


Opposite is a very old stone house, perhaps the earliest one built in the town. A Mr. Tyrell, clerk of the Court built it for his family in 1860.

It has had no structural alterations inside or out. Has been added to on left side at back. The roof and floors are original. It is a very much photographed cottage. Home of Mr. and Mrs W. Waldron.


Next is another stone house of about similar vintage built by Mr. Anthony Brough, the first solicitor to practice in Clyde. It was a show place in its early days set in very large section amidst trees and garden. Mr. Brough''s successor lived in it, F. W. Wilson, then his successor, Robert Gilkison. He it was who added two rooms built of stone to match for a nursery. It has always been lived in. Now the grounds are smaller.

Now turn right up Naylor Street past Olivers barn and follow the walkway through the Railway reserve to the museum extension - and Briar Herb Factory - the first herb factory in New Zealand. There is an extensive array housed here. There is also a resident caretaker, ask him about the display of stationary engines housed at the nearby Clyde Railway Station Building.

Museum Extension

As Briar Herbs Limited, the factory was registered as a Private Limited Liability Company in 1948, but herbs were processed for many years on the site prior to this date.

In the late 1930''s Mr. and Mrs Berbery, an English couple began processing on this site in a small way, along with collecting briar hips which were processed in Dunedin into rose hip syrup.

Mr. and Mrs Berbery were joined by another English woman, Miss Annie Radcliffe who some time later took over the business, expanding it considerably.

Mr. Warren Trainor joined Miss Radcliffe, the business grew, but had many ups and downs over the years. Processing was dusty work, exacting and did not appeal to people, consequently the turnover of staff was above average.

During this time the company was registered and Messrs Fletcher Humphreys and Co. Ltd. were appointed distributors and soon the Trade Mark of "Briar" became known throughout New Zealand, the Auckland district being the chief buyer.

In 1964 Mr. F. H. Brown, who was running the factory at that time, switched over to direct sales to wholesalers but with the lack of adequate staff and small machines the demand overtook the factory''s capacity to supply.

For many years, 40, 000lbs of green thyme were handled as well as quantities of sage, mint and other herbs. At the end of each season there was no carry over.

Thyme grew, and still grows wild over the hills and along the river banks round Clyde, Alexandra and Cromwell Gorge. When dried and cleaned it is as good a product as any in the world. Exports were contemplated, after enquiries had been received from the USA, Australia and Germany.

The green thyme was cut and brought to the factory by residents of the districts. Whole groups and families would picnic in the hills, cut thyme and spend a happy and profitable day doing just that.

Sage was grown on a cultivated block nearby, but it was found that water from a nearby hill could not be controlled and many thousands of plants were killed by a virus, which attacked their wet roots. Both sage and thyme are desert plants and die if their roots get too wet and remain so for a long time. The land was sold, supplies got from Algeria, Cyprus and England.

Thyme in Central Otago

Thyme, of the common or garden kind, has grown in Central Otago since it was introduced by gold diggers about a century ago.

Since then the plant has spread. A recent informal estimate is that it covers about 2000 hectares thickly and several times that area at lower densities.

Its distribution is confined to the valleys of the Clutha, Kawarau and Manuherikia rivers.

It is believed that New Zealand may be the only place where common thyme grows wild, beyond the mountains of Spain and other European countries bordering the Mediterranean where it originates.

Once you have experienced a walk over these hills and valleys through the thyme, you will never use or smell thyme again without remembering the wild and rugged beauty of this area.

Jean Desire Feraud commemorative plaque off State Highway 8 at Clyde Lookout.


A native of France, Jean Desire Feraud came to the Dunstan Goldfields early in 1863.

He went mining on the west bank of the Molyneux River (Clutha) a short distance below Alexandra. The spot now known as Frenchman''s Point was rich in places.

Mr. Feraud was fortunate in striking a rich deposit, becoming comparatively rich in a short time.