Old Stone House

Situated at 30 Shalamar Drive, Old Stone House was built in 1870 by John Cracroft Wilson for his Indian and Anglo-Indian servants.

Old Stone House after restoration and landscaping
Old Stone House after restoration and landscaping. Contributor (ctb): Cracroft Community Centre. In copyright

John Cracroft Wilson, a magistrate at Moradabad, India, arrived in Lyttelton on 8 April 1854 aboard the Akbar. On leave from his position, he was seeking to establish a settlement for retiring civil servants of the British East India Company. With him he brought a selection of animals and plants, as well as seventeen Indian and Anglo-Indian servants.

Cracroft Wilson purchased three runs; Broadlands, High Peaks and Cracroft, and a 108 hectare property on the Port Hills which he named Cashmere after the Kashmir region in north India. When his leave expired he returned to India in December of that year. His return to New Zealand was delayed by the outbreak of the Indian Mutiny war in 1857. In 1859 he returned, along with more servants and his family, aboard the Armenian.

Originally the Indian servants and labourers who worked the Cashmere estate lived in huts that were built along what is now Shalamar Drive. Since these were inadequate, Cracroft Wilson constructed a new building to accommodate them in 1870. The house, therefore, was home to some of the early Muslim residents of Christchurch.

Designed in the manner of an English farmhouse, the house was built from stone that possibly came from the nearby quarry at Marley’s Hill. The house featured a ground floor, which provided a communal area for the families, and two upper floors for living quarters.

After the death of John Cracroft Wilson in 1881, the estate was inherited by his son, Frederick Cracroft Wilson. Frederick died in 1902, and the property passed to his son, also called John Cracroft Wilson. Following his death the property was inherited by John Frederick Cracroft Wilson.

Plaque for Indian settlers at Old Stone House
Plaque for Indian settlers at Old Stone House. Creator (cre): Simon Daisley, Contributor (ctb): Simon Daisley. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

As the original Cashmere estate became reduced in size, the need for servants and farm labourers decreased, and the building was often used for storage. From around 1919 it started to be used by the Student Christian Movement (SCM). This use, however, this was interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War, during which the building housed the Signals Section for the Combined Headquarters Southern Command.

John Frederick Cracroft Wilson gifted the building to the SCM in 1966 and the organisation started renovations. In July 1971 the building was damaged by fire which destroyed the roof and upper floor. Rather than demolish the remains, the Cracroft Community Centre was established in the following year with the aim of restoring the building. With support from Dame Ngaio Marsh, the building was reopened in 1979, after which it became a function centre.

Following the 2010-2011 Canterbury earthquakes the building was restored and earthquake strengthened. It reopened on 7 February 2018. As part of the reopening, a plaque was installed on the western façade of the house commemorating the original Indian and Anglo-Indian inhabitants of the building.