Saving the ruins

Cargill's Castle Charitable Trust chairman Stephen de Graaf. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Cargill's Castle Charitable Trust chairman Stephen de Graaf. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Perched on the windswept cliffs above St Clair, Cargill's Castle has been part of the lives of generations of Dunedin people.

• Their house, their castle 

Some will recall dancing with American sailors at the cabaret or, more sedately, taking refreshments in the tearooms. In more recent years, children played in the grounds and on the stairs of the abandoned and deteriorating building, while others visited after dark for their own less innocent reasons.

So in 1997, with Cargill's Castle facing demolition, there were plenty of people interested in forming a trust to buy and preserve the remains of one of Dunedin's historic places. Some were prompted by nostalgia; others simply thought the castle was a worthy cause.

Protracted negotiations with then owner and still next-door neighbour Dave Collett concluded in 2001 with the Cargill's Castle Charitable Trust buying the ruins for $180,000.

Trust chairman Stephen de Graaf, who grew up in the neighbourhood, remembers playing in the castle as a child.

"It wasn't so open then. There were a lot of big trees around."

The site has been fenced and a report is being done on stabilising the ruins so public access can be granted, Mr de Graaf says. Fundraising to do the work will follow.

Interpretation plaques of the historical and cultural values of the castle and site are planned, and eventually, the grounds will be landscaped for use as a clifftop park, managed by the trust.

The trust is also working on the provision of a track from the ruins to Tunnel Beach, across what is mostly reserve land, to complement the already popular Tunnel Beach walk.

Mr de Graaf hopes the ruins will be open to the public within the next two years.

The next fundraising venture for the Cargill's Castle Charitable Trust is the annual Heritage Homes Open Day to be held on May 9.

The What's On guide in the ODT Inside Out section will list details nearer the time.


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