A summary of restoration work commencing in December 1983 and completed (in the main) in December 1984 now follows:
1) October 1983.
When Dacre Cottage was first inspected by the Regional Committee it was in a reasonable state of repair. However, a short time later a vandal attack left the cottage in danger of collapsing. A bricklayer, (Neil Castle), was approached for advice concerning the remaining brickwork. It was hoped there would be sufficient original bricks to form the outer course, using new bricks as the inner course, but this was not possible as there were not enough sound bricks left. However, the remaining sound bricks were used to rebuild the chimney, which was an addition to the original building.
NB. These bricks were of a later form and higher firing temperature. An experimental run of bricks carried out by New Zealand Brickmakers Ltd., found them to be of a similar size and colour, and these were purchased for use in the rebuilding of the walls.
2) December 1983
The roof was temporarily supported and braced, and the brick walls removed to three courses above the foundations, which consist of three layers of flat oval stones. These are of a sandstone type still to be found on the beach to the north of the cottage.
The new bricks were laid to match the original, i.e. two stretcher courses with cavity three high, and one header or tie course angled to outside, (a variety of “English Bond”), in an irregular mode in order to resemble the original craftsmanship. Photographs of the original walls were used as a reference.
A new 200mm x 25mm rough-sawn rimu plate was fitted to outriggers of soffit sprockets, with R 10 ragged ties, through into the last brick course, to prevent any uplift of roof by wind etc.
The original door frame was reused, and it will be noted that written in crayon or heavy pencil on the south brick side of the jamb, is “Mr. Jas. Dacre - Okura”.
A number of the 100mm x 75mm gauged kauri outriggers or soffit sprockets, were remade to replace those that were borer-ridden or rotten. These were made from Fiji kauri selected to match the grain pattern of those existing. No native kauri of these dimensions was available at the time. They are tusk-tenoned into mortices, in roof beams to match those existing.
The west and north sides of the roof were completely demolished because of borer or rot, and rebuilt using demolition native timber to match the existing dimensions, i.e. a 10mm x 75mm gauged centre rafter, with three 100mm x 50mm rough-sawn rafters on either side. The ridge boards were also replaced with 200mm x 25mm rough-sawn demolition native timber to match. The ventilation box frame at the apex of the roof was remade using 300mm x 50mm tan pine, tongue and groove jointed to match the original. New rafters were overlain with 25mm rough-sawn native timber to match the existing sarking.
As nail patterns were found on the sarking under the corrugated iron roofing, the original roof would have been made from wooden shingles. A complete kauri shingle and pieces of wooden shingles were found around and under the timber floor. The roof sarking was covered with a layer of 900mm wide strips of malthoid, before the imported hand-split cedar shakes were fitted. Shakes were more common in early homes, and at the time of work, local shingles were available only from tanalised pine, an unsuitable choice if rain water was being collected. It should be noted that the fixing of the cedar shakes proved to be a very lengthy exercise.
A pine roof vent was designed and made to replicate the style of the building, as no known illustration survives. It was made to fit a surviving hole in the roof structure. The south and west soffit boards were replaced, using 300mm x 12mm gauged kauri. An old metal beading plane was used to form bead joint against building. This was done to match the surviving boards.
A front door was made in the style similar to that which was found on site. It is made up of a tanalised frame (pine) with rimu inserts, faithfully replicating the original. There were traces of window frames on site but, however, no sashes. Maddrens Joinery made two arch top frames with two centre pivot arch top six panel sashes, (as per. design by John Stacpoole). Two second-hand sash stays were restored and fitted. When the wooden floor was lifted, a quarry tile floor (orange in colour and measuring 24mm x 240mm x 3mm was found beneath). It is thought by Jack Diamond that the tiles were imported from Australia. As some of the quarry tiles were missing and most in poor state, it was decided to overlay them with a similar material.
A 25 mm bed of plain sand was laid over the existing tiles. This was covered with a layer of polythene, and over the polythene is a bed of dry sand and cement, in which the new tiles are set. The floor was subsequently soaked with water to set the cement mix. It is noted that the same colour and size of the original tile has been seen by Robert Brown in a Singapore fortification of the same period.
A lean-to was built from rough-sawn demolition timber over the entrance door, the west elevation, for protection from the prevailing winds. An aerial photo dated 1939 shows the lean-to this end of the building. (Historical Air Photos: Aerial Map and Co. Hastings). Window shutters and a security door, doubling as a board and batten wall to the end of the lean-to, were fitted because of continual break-ins and vandalism during restoration
The inner brick walls were cement-bagged and painted with a diluted white latex paint, to closely resemble the original whitewash finish. A silicone solution was sprayed onto the seaward exterior wall in 1986 to reduce salt spray and damp penetration.
A hand pump was fitted to a three-metre bore to the north of the cottage, and a brick path laid from the cottage door to the pump. The pump, made in Czechoslavakia, was purchased from Graeme Crawe of Anawhata (and has subsequently been damaged by vandals)...The square water tank at the east end of the cottage was in use on site when the original inspection took place. An old-style galvanised gutter was fitted to the fascia to match the period of the building.
The book shelves are old mahogany spice chests, branded “Strait Settlements”. These were obtained from Dunninghams Spice Merchants. They had been sealed on all edges by bandage-like fabric, dipped in hot tar before being applied. Some bear “Nutmeg”, or similar brands, or still smell of their original contents. Boxes like these were frequently used for such storage purposes.
The bunks were purchased, and are reputedly from a central Canterbury homestead. The dining table was made from an assortment of donated pieces; the chairs were donated; the cast-iron bed was found in an old Waitakere house; the dresser unit was found in an old Waitakere house, and the gas cooker and bottle was donated by the Auckland Gas Company. (The gas supply must be turned off at the bottle each night before retiring to avoid a tragedy). A cast-iron stove was purchased and fitted in the fireplace. This has eliminated some of the down-draught problems with the chimney.
Insurance cover for the roof only, is by courtesy of Rodney County Council. The Regional Committee needs insurance cover for the furnishing contents inside Dacre Cottage.
Items to note and consider.
a) It was meant that as a project, the School of Architecture would supply a detailed set of plans and specifications. This should be followed up urgently.
b) Some system of borer control should be in use.
c). as noted earlier, insurance cover should be reviewed.
Items of historic interest.
No evidence was found during the work, or subsequent investigation, that the cottage was used as either a dairy or bakery or chapel.
A portion of a small cast iron fire box door found outside the building when the path was being laid could indicate that a small cast iron stove might have been installed at some time.
No trees or shrubs were originally present on the section or adjacent except the Norfolk pine and associated trees. Early during the restoration, boxthorn was thick along the front boundary, and there were isolated clumps landward. An analysis of early air photos was undertaken by survey (photogrammetery tutors at ATI, now Carrington Polytech). Their report suggests cowshed or pig shelter near the stream about 100 metres from the cottage, a stable or barn near the north corner of the present property around the cottage, the location of the latter house (with its washing on the line), gardens and a beach line which has changed considerably over the years.
Inventory of contents.
1) The ship's lantern was a gift from John Stacpoole as was the Pacific Island canoe paddle.
2) Dacre photos are from the Auckland Public Library photographic collection.
3) The photographic reproduction of a cattle droving water- colour, is a scene probably from Whangarei. From Takapuna and Weiti, cattle inspections were made in an official capacity by a Dacre son. Cattle were run on the early station and the background in the scene closely resembles parts of the Weiti Station. The original is in possession of Robert Brown.
4) An early print of Sydney Cove would be an appropriate acquisition, as Dacre Senior lived in Sydney for many years.