This area is steeped in history. It is very fertile country, grapes, fruit trees, sheep and cattle all thrive here. Then it was in 1861 that gold was found in the Clutha River. The Dunstan gold rush brought thousands to find a fortune. Some did some didn’t, but the town swelled to a population of 4000. The tent city quickly developed into a solid town, corrugated iron and stone shops, houses, hotels, banks. The easily mined alluvial gold soon petered out and the diggers moved on to other sites chasing the illusive gold at the end of the rainbow. The town settled back into a farming community.
Then in 1977 the Muldoon government entered into its “think big” projects (Jack was directly involved with another think big scheme in the North Island, but that is another story, for another post)
They decided to build a dam on the Clutha River, to create a water source for a proposed aluminium smelter (the smelter never happened ). It created considerable controversy. It entailed flooding a beautiful,fertile valley and in that valley was the town of Cromwell. Between 1977 and 1989 a new town was built on higher ground for the workers and residents of “Old Cromwell” many of whom were bitterly opposed to the move. A number of the old historical buildings were moved into a historical precinct, and we had come to look at this.
The new Cromwell was a very sterile and characterless place. Neat tidy bungalows with neat tidy gardens and a shopping centre that was, well, neat and tidy. Where was the old, historic village? No signposts or the ubiquitous brown posts that show something worth seeing. I had almost given up when I saw a very small notice on the town notice board with an even small mud map…
We found it…
This precinct was not just a historical collection of buildings it was a living breathing craft and art village with very talented artists displaying and selling their work, from art , glasswork, sculptures, wrought iron work, bakery, craft and a very good coffee shop.