Mitchells Cottage stands apart as an exceptional example of stone masonry. Built by Andrew Mitchell, a Central Otago gold miner, over a 20-year period from the 1880s, its near perfect condition is a testament to his meticulous craftsmanship, which he learnt back in his homeland of the Shetland Islands.
Mitchells Cottage is listed as a Category 1 historic building. It sits in a protected historic reserve in a landscape of schist rock tors against a backdrop of the Old Man mountain range. Since becoming protected in 1980, the cottage has been restored, in keeping with its era.
It is located in the Fruitlands district 27km north of Roxburgh and 13km south of Alexandra off SH8 on Symes Road.
The Fruitlands district was known as Bald Hill Flat during the gold rush because of a small round hill that lost its top to slicing. Its current name comes from a failed government initiative to launch fruit growing there after World War One.
During the peak of Central Otago gold mining operations the population of Bald Hill Flat rose to 200, but it gradually declined. Andrew Mitchell mined successfully with his brother John. He built the stone house for John and his wife, who had 10 children together.
Mitchells Cottage is a dry-rock dwelling; almost no mortar was used in its construction. It has two large rooms and three small ones, including a kitchen. Behind it is a row of buildings including a henhouse and sheepfolds that have been built into large schist tors. Nearby is another legacy of Andrew Mitchell’s skilled craftsmanship: a raised, hexagonal sundial more than one metre in diameter chipped out of a solid block of schist.
When not away mining on the Old Man Range, Andrew Mitchell resided in a neat iron cottage just below Mitchells Cottage.