Buyers warned kiln building protected

The Hoffmann kiln chimney towers above the ground at the McSkimmings pottery factory in Benhar,...
The Hoffmann kiln chimney towers above the ground at the McSkimmings pottery factory in Benhar, near Balclutha. Photo by Rachel Taylor.
Prospective buyers of one of South Otago's most historic buildings are being warned any alterations to the Historic Places Trust (HPT)-protected edifice would need resource consent.

The Hoffmann kiln and two associated buildings at theMcSkimmings pottery factory in Benhar, near Balclutha, have been put up for sale by Wanganui-based owner Ross Mitchell-Anyon.

Mr Mitchell-Anyon is a potter and purchased the buildings in 2006 with vision of turning the kiln in to a museum/working art studio, with an artist residence in the old McSkimmings offices.

He had since realised living in Wanganui was just too far away to bring his vision to life and decided to sell.

"I love it dearly, and I hope someone who shares my vision takes it on," he said.

"It is a seriously undervalued piece of South Otago heritage."

Clutha District Council planning and environment manager Murray Brass said the factory's most recognisable building, the Hoffmann kiln, had a category one heritage listing.

While the other buildings were not covered by the HPT or the CDC district plan, anyone wishing to convert the kiln would need resource consent.

The kiln was built in about 1894 by Peter McSkimming and his son, also named Peter.

The family purchased the pottery and brick factory from John Nelson in the early 1890s.

The kiln was invented by Frederick Hoffmann, of Germany, in 1858 and contains a sequence of chambers that a fire was passed through one after the other.

Because the fire did not have to be extinguished before removing the fired bricks and moving on to the next chamber, efficiency and production were both increased.

In a classification committee report written for the NZ Historic Places Trust in 1990, Anne McEwan wrote: "The McSkimmings found the kiln's continuous firing process inconvenient, as it required someone to attend it on Sundays when the works were closed.

Consequently, they decided to abandon the kiln and convert it to serve as the works boiler house."

It remained as a boiler house until 1985, and was then used as a storage facility for about five years.

The main factory was destroyed by fire in 1990.

The architectural information listed in the classification report states the kiln is a two-storeyed rectangular building, vented by a rectangular chimney at the western end.

It is sheltered by a convex roof form, contains two rows of six barrel-vaulted firing chambers on either side of a central passage.

The bricks were laid in English garden wall bond, with a corrugated iron roof carried on timber trusses.

In the three weeks they had been on the market there had been quite a bit of interest in the buildings, a local real estate agent said.

John Spicer had held two open days at the factory, and had about half-a-dozen people turn up each time, he said.

While some people were just "having a nosey", there had also been some genuine interest.

"Someone was looking at converting the kiln in to a house, someone else was looking at turning it in to an art centre, and other people - I'm not too sure what they were looking at it for. There has been quite a range of interest in it."

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