An important part of undertaking a heritage conservation project – in addition to a comprehensive study of the physical building – is compiling as much photographic and archive evidence as possible to piece together the building’s history and help inform decision making.
Since the Wyllie Cottage project got underway last year we’ve been poring through the museum’s archives and keeping a sharp eye out for photographs and documentation to complete the story of the cottage as best we can. We have been fortunate to find many photographs which show the building over the span of its life.
However, almost all of the photographs we have are of the exterior of the building, and are taken from the Stout Street road frontage. The interior and some of the details of the rear elevation of the building prior to the 1970s restoration remained a mystery.
Last week we were delighted to stumble upon a series of snapshots showing details of the interior in 1970 – a critical moment in the history of the cottage. The last tenant had left, the house stood empty apart from a few remaining pieces of furniture – overgrown, uninhabitable, derelict and on the verge of demolition.
Looking through these images, the then century old cottage was clearly in a dreadful state and all credit must go to the members of the Gisborne community who saw past this, recognised the heritage value of the cottage, fought and saved it from demolition. Some of these people are featured in the 25 March 1970 Gisborne Photo News, an article which, fortunately for us, contains a few more photographs of the interior.
Among the set of images found in the museum’s collection, we were also pleased to find a clear photograph of the rear window next to the back door (which we had not had to date) showing that it was a 6 over 6 pane sash window. Fortunately, this new piece of information has come in time to be able to amend the restoration plans and reinstate an accurate window.
Though these photographs only provide a glimpse of the interior, and in many ways are frustrating in terms of what they omit, with close study they give us much additional information about the interior of a house largely unaltered since the 1880s.
Eloise Wallace, director