Naseby's answer to Hollywood's Walk of Fame is a modest
offering, tucked down the side of a former church building.
The path of concrete paving stones next to The Church Mouse
on Foyle St is a relatively recent addition to the grounds of
the 106-year-old former Sacred Heart Catholic church.
The pavers record milestones in the life of the building and
also feature the names of a handful of visitors - some with
historic connections to the site, those who have celebrated
special family occasions, and others, like Northern Irish
actor James Nesbitt who brought a ''touch of Hollywood'' to
Naseby. Nesbitt played the role of dwarf Bofur in The
Hobbit and stayed in The Church Mouse for a week while
filming in the Rock and Pillar Range area in 2011. He praised
the accommodation and also had glowing praise for Otago, when
the Otago Daily Times talked to him at the world
premiere of the movie in Wellington on November 28,
describing the province as ''a great part of the country''.
''It's one of my enduring memories of this film.''
Co-owner of The Church Mouse, Phil Flanagan, of Naseby, said
it was '' a real thrill'' to host him.
''He said he loved the area and enjoyed the Central Otago
wine. Naseby got a good rap from the Hobbit crew's stay.
Everyone was warned not to pester them but they mixed in with
the local community. James Nesbitt asked to meet the owners
of the place he was staying and we met him at the pub.''
The Hobbit actor signed a concrete paving stone, adding ''A
happy dwarf '' under his name, to add to the path beside The
The paver joins those marking a christening, a wedding, and
visits by a cross-section of people staying in the
accommodation. One couple also notes a ghostly visitor -
recording ''a good presence at 3am'' on their paving stone.
They told Mr Flanagan and co-owner Susia Farrell they sensed
they had company but were not spooked by the encounter, as it
was a '' good presence''.
''There's that sense of history surrounding the building. The
feeling of serenity and peacefulness remains and people who
stay here often comment on that,'' Ms Farrell said.
The building was the third Catholic church in Naseby, after
the congregation outgrew the first two churches, built in
1867 and 1874. Prominent architect Francis Petre was
commissioned to design the new church and it was built by a
local contractor at a total cost of abut 550 and opened in
1906. Petre, a Catholic, was known for his Gothic-style
designs and his expertise was used for large city cathedrals,
as well as smaller local churches.
Catholic newspaper , the New Zealand Tablet, carried an
extensive report of the opening of the ''pretty new church.''
''In its buildings, Naseby presents a strange mingling of
decay and reconstruction, of pulling down and building up.
And the handsome Catholic church which opened on Sunday is
the latest and most emphatic earnest of the hopes of those
who `do not despair of the republic' - who believe that there
are good and better days in store for the dwindling township
that was a name to conjure with in the early days of Otago
mining '', the article said.
The newspaper said the Gothic-style church stood on a
''commanding site'' and praised the decorative effect and
cost-effectiveness of the stamped metal interior.
''This medium has been employed with such happy results in
the new edifice at Naseby that we confidently predict its
more extended use in the construction of churches ... in New
Zealand in the future.''
The local priest, Father McMullan, told those at the
dedication ceremony that due to their ''generous response'',
the church was opened free of debt, the Tablet reported.
A picket fence and ''handsome wrought-iron gate'' at the
entrance still adorn the grounds more than a century later.
The church was deconsecrated at a ceremony by the Bishop of
Dunedin, Colin Campbell, on March 8, 2009. The church was
part of the Ranfurly parish and over the years, worship
became focused on the Catholic church in Ranfurly and numbers
at Naseby services dwindled. A Naseby builder, Mr Flanagan,
was quick to make an offer when the building was offered for
''I guess you could say I have a passion for old buildings.
I'd already owned and worked on several, including the
Hartley Arms in Clyde, so was mad enough to offer to buy this
one,'' he said. Listed as a Category 2 building on the New
Zealand Historic Places Trust register, the church was seen
as representing 130 years of Catholic worship in the village.
''I had no intention of changing it in any fundamental way,
but wanted to ensure it stayed in Naseby and the building
wasn't bought and moved away,'' he said. He spent about six
months working on the building ''pretty much full-time''.
''There was lots of painting to be done, inside and out and
you can imagine how long that took, standing on a scaffolding
to reach it all. We decided on a grey and white colour scheme
and as we chipped away the layers, it had once been grey and
Although the couple thought it would make a good base for a
cafe, the zoning of the site made it more suitable for use as
''We had to find a use for it, and it just lent itself to
this, '' Mr Flanagan said. To become holiday accommodation,
it needed some serious work.
''There was no plumbing at all - an outside tap was the only
water on the place. But the single major thing it needed was
insulation to meet the modern building code.''
Heat pumps were installed and the place was rewired and
''Effectively it was like building a new house, except all
the original fixtures and fittings were still in place and
hadn't been messed with or altered, which was great.
''The original stained glass windows, the pressed tin walls
and heart rimu floors - they were all there.''
Redesigning the interior for accommodation was simple.
''Our motivation was to keep it as original as possible and
to make sure any alterations were not attached and could all
be taken out, to leave the building as it was, at some stage
in the future ...
I don't know if that would ever happen, but we didn't want to
make irreversible changes,'' he said. The church can
accommodate five people. A mezzanine floor was added to
create a bedroom upstairs, and another single bed was then
''tucked into the nook under the stairs.''
The former vestry has been converted into a bathroom with a
freestanding bath and hand-held shower, while a separate room
has twin beds. The kitchen lines part of one wall in the
open-plan living area, which also features a dining table and
two comfortable sofas near a television and stereo.
''I was looking for some comfortable chairs that weren't too
fussy because we liked the clean lines of the church and
didn't want to spoil it with too much clutter,'' Ms Farrell
said. The couple declined to say how much the conversion
''Let's just say it was a significant amount of money but it
was worth it, to end up with a quality product,'' Mr Flanagan
''It was a labour of love.''