The Oratia Folk Museum

This building has been saved from demolition, moved and restored as a good, local example of a simple settler’s cottage. It is a focus for the collection of local histories, photographs, artefacts and records of the area relating to early timber milling, local nurseries, and the later growth of the orchards and the like.

The cottage is thought to have been built between 1855 and 1870 either by Mr Parker or Terence Donnelly and was situated on what was then the end of Parker Road, Oratia. Very little is known about Mr Parker except that he was an orchardist. He is said to have sold the cottage in the 1880s in order to venture to the Australian goldfields.

Terence Donnelly was an Irish weaver born in Youghal who joined the army to see the world and arrived in Australia from Dublin aboard a convict ship as a guard. He arrived in New Zealand in 1845 as part of the 58th British Regiment and saw action in the Land Wars. The 58th, who were mainly barracked around Auckland, soldiered on in New Zealand until 1857 and it was around this time that Mr Donnelly decided to put down his roots and farm on the banks of the “Orotea Stream”. In 1855 Donnelly bought 91 acres in Parker Road and another 81-acre block of land in Waiatarua. He lived and farmed in Oratia right up until his death on November 16th, 1889 aged 78 and left behind a middle-aged family of two sons and four daughters.

In the late1880’s, the Moorehead brothers, both bachelors, came to live in the cottage, and it subsequently passed on to their nieces.

The cottage is of kauri, felled and sawn near its former site and the ceilings of the two front rooms retain their original finish of kauri gum varnish. It was one of the first permanent buildings in Parker Road. It is a very well proportioned box with a very steep shingled roof. On either side of the front central door are double-hung multi-paned windows. Inside the cottage has two small rooms, one a bedroom, the other a parlour. It is said that on the occasion of a funeral, the coffin had to be taken out through the front window as the space to negotiate was so small. Across the back runs a long narrow room with a wood range and a table at one end, and a scullery at the other. A staircase leads from the scullery to the attic rooms.

The garden has been planted in accordance with Adele Stewart’s book, “My Simple New Zealand Life” and is surrounded by the picket fence from the demolished Avondale Hotel.