When you wander around the
delightful Naseby village, it’s hard to believe it was once home to 4000
miners, 18 stores, 14 hotels, two butchers and a hospital.
Today, there are only 120
permanent residents. But don’t be fooled by Naseby on a quiet day. In the
height of summer, the crib (southern for “bach”) owners return and visitors
flock to the much-loved township, pushing the population above 4000.
Gold was discovered in the
Hogburn by a group of five, led by the Parker Brothers, in May 1863. Within
three months, 2000 miners had descended on the Mt Ida goldfield and the
Naseby township was born. Soon after, the first gold escort of 4300oz –
worth $5.6m in today’s terms – left for Dunedin. By Christmas, the
population had doubled to 4000 miners.
By 1878, there was a
hospital, three banks, police station, court house, town hall, three
churches, a fire brigade, council buildings, a lodge and numerous
businesses. It was intended that Naseby would become the centre of the
Maniototo. However, in 1898, the construction of the railway line 12km away
resulted in Ranfurly springing into existence and services gradually moving
away from Naseby.
At the time, the change
appeared to signal Naseby’s death knell. But, in fact, it transpired to be
the village’s making. Naseby became forgotten and out of sight for many
years. Combined with the extraordinary Central Otago climate – hot dry
summers and frosty white winters – much of the township’s historic buildings
and landmarks remained standing and delightfully original.
The first trees were planted
in 1899 and the forest remains a significant part of Naseby’s attraction.
The township is essentially tucked on the edge of the forest – adding to its
romantic quality and the feeling it is a well-kept secret.
The forest, the preserved
history, the climate: they all make Naseby the special place it is today.