Cracroft House

Built c.1854, Cracroft House, situated at 151 Cashmere Road, was the original home of John Cracroft Wilson and his family.

The property at 151 Cashmere Road was originally part of the larger Cashmere Estate, which had been purchased by John Cracroft Wilson in 1854 after arriving in Lyttelton from India. On leave from his position as a civil servant with the British East India Company, the house was probably constructed prior to the return departure of both Wilson and his wife, Jane, to India in December 1854. Although the architect is unknown, the New Zealand Historic Places Trust registration report suggests that the original builders were possibly the Indian employees who had immigrated with Wilson.

The building conforms to the saltbox style of colonial architecture with a steeply pitched roof and a lean-to at the rear. The walls of the ground floor were made from adobe bricks which were then layered with plaster. The front façade of the ground floor originally featured two sets of French doors that opened into the two front rooms, and a central door that opened into a hallway. The ground floor consisted of four rooms, two on either side of the central hallway. At the rear, in the lean-to, was a kitchen. A staircase in the hallway led to the first floor.

The first floor consisted of four rooms, with two on either side of the landing. The exterior of the first floor consisted of rough sawn weatherboards at each of the gabled ends. The roof was originally thatch before being replaced by shingles and then iron. Three dormer windows were set in the northern face of the roof.

After the departure of John Cracroft Wilson and Jane, the estate was managed by his son, Frederick Cracroft Wilson. John Cracroft Wilson returned to Christchurch in 1859, accompanied by his wife and further Indian servants. He died in 1881, after which his estate was inherited by Frederick. When Frederick died in 1902, the property passed to his son, also called John Cracroft Wilson.

Prior to 1905 a bay window was added to the eastern façade of the ground floor. Also around this time the French doors on the north façade of the ground floor were replaced with sash windows.

In 1905, a much larger house, known as Cashmere House, was built at a different location on the estate for the Cracroft Wilson family. The original family house then became accommodation for the estate’s farming staff. One of the occupants was Alexander Hamilton, a ploughman, who lived in the house with his family from 1926 to 1940.

Following the death of John Cracroft Wilson in 1930 the property was inherited by his son, John Frederick Cracroft Wilson. During the Second World War the New Zealand military commandeered the Cashmere estate and the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force occupied the building.

In April 1945, John Frederick Cracroft Wilson and his wife, Barbara, presented the building to the Girl Guides Association for their use. It was at this time that the building became known as Cracroft House. The grounds and the house were officially transferred to the Girl Guides Association in 1958. The building became the provincial training centre for the guiding movement in Canterbury.

At some point, an addition was made to the southern façade of the first floor to accommodate washrooms. In 1989, an extension was made to the southern façade of the ground floor. Included in this extension were washrooms and a meeting room.

In 1991, the building was replastered with lime plaster. To strengthen the building, the first stage of seismic securing work was undertaken in 1993, with the second stage taking place in 1999. Despite this work, the building suffered damage in the Canterbury earthquakes and was demolished in August 2012.