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Vallance cottage was built in 1896-97 by early settler William Vallance, a shepherd-goldminer from Scotland

William Vallance was born in New Cumnock, Ayrshire in 1864. He came to New Zealand in 1888 on the Tainui arriving in Dunedin. He wasted no time in setting out for Central Otago with a mate, settling first at Bald Hill Flat, now Fruitlands, 12 miles (about 20 kilometres) from Alexandra. Jean Hyland was born in Dunedin. They were married on the 5 May 1897 at the Falconers Hotel, Bald Hill. She was 21, he was 31. They raised eight children in the small cottage, which originally had only two rooms, although the Vallances added a further three rooms in 1909 to accommodate their expanding family, including a kitchen and bedroom.

It was built out of hand made, sun dried mud bricks. Once a common feature of the Central Otago landscape, earth buildings (mud brick, rammed earth or cob) are becoming a rarity amongst the surviving buildings of this distinct heritage and era. It is a very typical pioneer home of the gold rush period, providing an authentic, charming insight into the simple way that people lived and late nineteenth century domestic life. 

One of Vallance’s daughters lived in the cottage until the 1970s. It managed to survive into the present, against many odds. Saved from the bulldozers, the cottage was gifted to the community by the Vallance family in the mid-1990s and underwent a massive restoration effort by community groups, which includes the Vallance Cottage Working Group, made up of decedents, community members, and Council staff.

It can be found on Samson Street, which backs onto the Manuherekia River next to the Alexandra Holiday Camp.

It is open between September and April each year from 9am to 4pm. Entry is via donation (box beside information panel outside). Open days are advertised in local media, social media and on the Council’s website. The reserve is bookable for events.

Other features of the site:

  • Historic lilac collection donated by Beryl Lee
  • Rotary Trees for Babies

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Samson St


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