Totara Estate stonework repairs underway

“A craftsman who worked on the great cathedrals in Europe could walk onto a job now and the tools would be virtually the same,” says Totara Estate stonemason, Allan Ward.

At Totara Estate and Clark’s Mill in ŇĆamaru, Allan Ward is the man behind the stonework, who keeps the buildings in good trim. He is currently working at Totara Estate repairing and replacing cracked and damaged limestone in the old men’s quarters.

Allan began working with stone aged 15, during his apprenticeship with Dunhouse Quarry, United Kingdom in the 1960s. He worked in the Orkney Islands, Germany, Canada and Scotland before emigrating to New Zealand in 1995.  

Stonemason Allan Ward with Totora Estate's slaughterhouse in the background

Allan notes that with stonework very little has changed in the tools or the techniques for centuries. “A craftsman who worked on the great cathedrals in Europe could walk onto a job now and the tools would be virtually the same,” he says.

Allan has a long history of keeping Totara Estate and Clark’s Mill in good repair. He repointed all of the Totara Estate buildings with traditional lime mortar in 2012 and gives Smokey Joes a traditional whitewash regularly. This year he repaired a stone garden wall at Clark’s Mill following the January floods.

Totara Property Lead Keren McKay is hugely grateful for Allan’s expertise. “In Allan’s case, years of experience on many types of stone, buildings ancient and modern, have given him an almost intuitive knowledge of how stone functions in a building and that knowledge should be valued and respected”.

Allan’s Scottish background has proved particularly suitable for Totara Estate, which was built by Scots emigres back in the 1860s. He understands the “rustic” fashion of the Victorian era in the way the stone has been worked.  

“Allan also comes along as an artisan craftsman to our events and has built a traditional drystone wall during his demonstrations.” explains Keren. 

Totara Estate is open to visit from September to May, as alert levels allow. Credit: Shellie Evans (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

As owners of some of New Zealand’s most significant heritage sites, Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga highly values heritage building specialists. “Never walk on a site and imagine the chap in the overalls covered in stone dust is an unskilled labourer!” says Keren. 

Totara Estate is recognised as a Tohu Whenuaone of Aotearoa New Zealand's best heritage experiences. 

- Rosemary Baird

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