in the heart of Central Otago
Alexandra and Clyde owe their settlement to the discovery of gold from
the Clutha River by the two prospectors, Horatio Hartley and Christopher
Reilly in 1862. The goldfields monument in the Cromwell Gorge commemorated
their spectacular find which precipitated the Dunstan Goldrush and enticed
thousands of miners into the area. At one point the population of Clyde
rose to 4 000, when it was known as The Dunstan. It's population is now
Clyde was initially established as the administrative centre of the
Dunstan Goldfields, so much so that for many years Alexandra was bypassed
even by the coach route which, on the Clyde/Roxburgh run, ran through the
Earnscleugh/Conroys Gully on the far side of the Clutha River.
To overcome this, Alexandra's first Borough Council made strenuous efforts
to have the Clutha bridged at Alexandra to replace the expensive, erratic
and often dangerous punt. Great was the jubilation when the first bridge
opened in 1882. The very first method of crossing the river was a packing
case on a cable.
The Clutha River
The Clutha extends south from its source in Lake Wanaka to enter the
Pacific Ocean at Port Molyneux on the East Coast. The Clutha is some 16km
shorter than the Waikato River's 354km but with an average discharge of
almost twice the volume.
The name Clutha is taken from the Gaelic for Clyde in Scotland. In pre-eruopean
times the Murihiki Maoris (the Southern South Island) used several route-ways
through Central Otago, including the Clutha River to carry their precious
nephrite and greenstone from the Haast on the West Coast.
The Clutha and many of its tributaries were rich sources of gold. Miners
first began mining the river in the 1860's. At the turn of the century
there were no fewer than 187 dredges on the river working its bed from
Lake Wanaka to the sea. Mountainous piles of tailings are much in evidence
of this activity.
After four hectic years following Hartley and Reilly's find, the easily-won
alluvial gold was gone and with it much of Alexandra and Clyde's population.
The gold boom laid the town's infrastructure with buildings, the commercial
and servicing core being established.
The Clyde Power Station is New Zealand's third largest hydro power station, with a generation capacity of 400 megawatts. It is the largest concrete gravity dam and incorporates the latest "state of the art" technology. There are a million cubic metres of concrete in the dam, with
a further 200,000 in the powerhouse. Construction took place from 1977
to 1989. Lake fill was deferred, and stabilisation work still is being
carried out on the hillsides of the Cromwell Gorge.
Clyde has a number of beautiful stone buildings which reflect its historic
goldmining past. Particularly impressive are the old stone churches, the
hotel, Dunstan House and Oliver's Restaurant and Lodge.
Places to visit include the museum, the Herb Factory and the Clyde Cemetery.
A guide to a walk around the historical attractions of Clyde is available
from the noticeboard between the hotel and Dunstan House in the main street
of Clyde. Alternatively, it can be obtained from Oliver's Restaurant.
Take a walk around Clyde and see the many excellent examples of colonial architecture, including Dunstan Hotel (1903), Dunstan House (1900), both fine double storied stone buildings, the old Dunstan News office, now a holiday house, Tinkers Cottage, Dr Morice's home and hospital complex, Olivers courtyard, restaurant and lodge, and the Masonic Lodge (1869), an impressive stone building wiht Corinthian pillars, which later became the town hall. A walking guide is available from the museum which takes one on an historical walk around the town beginning at the entrance to the gorge where the first settlers pitched their tents.
OLIVERS RESTAURANT AND LODGE
From a Calico general store serving the miners of 1863 has evolved this historic estate steeped in a century of local colour. The stone walls enclose an extensive establishment including stables, coach sheds, stone store and a gracious home, still maintained in the original condition as a lodge for guests. The old store is an internationally acclaimed restaurant.
A stone wall, built originally in 1887 and restored in 1990, surrounds this ten acre (four hectare) cemetery where many pioneers, early settlers and goldminers who moulded the fabric of Central Otago's history are buried.
BRIAR HERB FACTORY, 20-22 Fache Street
Now part of the Clyde Museum Extension, for many years the herb factory processed thyme, as well as other herbs which grew well in Central Otago. The factory began operation in the 1930s and now houses not only the original herb processing machinery, but also a variety of exhibits illustrating early life in the district. The Clyde Historical Museums are open 2pm to 4pm Tuesday to Sunday, or by arrangement. Contact the caretaker (03) 4492938, or the secretary (03) 449 2092. Adjacent is the Clyde Stationary Engine Museum.
Both briar rose and thyme grow extensively throughout the district.
FERAUD'S WINERY, Young Lane.
French goldminer, Jean Desire Feraud, came to Central Otago during the Dunstan Goldrush in 1862. Coming from a French winemaking family, he quickly recognised the potential for grape growing in the area and planted the first of Central Otago's wine grapes in 1864. Over the next 20 years he made a variety of wines which won prizes in Sydney competitions. Feraud's winery still stands today and two of his deep blue, translucent wine bottles are housed at the Clyde Museum. The stone winery now houses an accountant's offices.