949 Highcliff Road, Otago Peninsula, Dunedin

  • Springfield, Otago Peninsula, Dunedin c.1971 The first New Zealand Co-Operative Cheese Factory, Otago 1871. Image courtesy of Tamiro Massey University CC Licence 3.0.
    Copyright: Massey University of New Zealand. Taken By: Unknown.
  • Springfield, Otago Peninsula, Dunedin. Image included in Field Record Form Collection.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand . Taken By: Lois Galer. Date: 1/05/1987.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 4715 Date Entered 27th July 1988


Extent of List Entry

Registration includes the land comprised in Lot 2, DP 338392 Otago Land District (CT 157897), and the structures and the associated fittings and fixtures in the complex known as Springfield thereon, including the house and associated outbuildings.

City/District Council

Dunedin City


Otago Region

Legal description

Lot 2 DP 338392 (CT 157897), Otago Land District

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The first New Zealand co-operative cheese factory was set up in this building, in the part now used as a barn and one end of the new kitchen. In August 1871 eight dairy farmers met at John Mathieson's house and formed the Otago Peninsula Cheese Factory Company, shares to be one pound and represent 10 quarts of milk. In the first season four tons of cheese were produced.

John Mathieson had been making cheese for some years previously at Grant Braes and, with the profits and his capital brought from Scotland in 1858, had bought by ballot the Springfield property in 1864. He paid Stewart Leckie 10 pounds to quarry out of the ground sufficient stone to build the house and byre, as well as to fill in the holes afterwards. Mr William Tait, stonemason, received 501 pounds for cutting the stone. When cheese making began in 1871 three enamelled cast iron tubs, each holding 40-50 pounds of curd, were set in the kitchen wing and a wooden vat holding a 100 gallons of milk was installed in the barn. The barn was also used as the curing room.

The methods of the company were businesslike and far-minded, serving as a good model for other co-operatives. In 1875 cheese making was shifted to a new brick and concrete factory at Pukehiki and the company re-formed as the New Peninsula Cheesemaking Company, eventually to become the province-wide Taieri and Peninsula Dairy Company. It is likely that this was the first cooperative dairy factory in the southern hemisphere, only those of Norway and Switzerland being earlier.

John Mathieson and subsequently his son James continued to farm the property until1917. Mr E Y Aitken bought from James, and his descendants have lived in the house ever since.

Architectural Significance:

This is a well-preserved, good quality, farm building of the 1860s, typical of the bluestone buildings erected by the farmers of moderate wealth around Dunedin.

Townscape/Landmark Significance:

A cairn on Highcliff Road directs visitors to a view of the building in a scenically attractive setting of the harbour and hills.


Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description


Probably John Mathieson for whom the house was built.

Significance of Architect/Engineer/Designer:

John Mathieson came from near Edinburgh and presumably copied the design from farmsteads known to him in Scotland.

Architectural Description (Style):

Vernacular Scottish cottage with simple gables and one bay window with a flat roof.


The house has been modernised inside and at least one of the windows enlarged. Aluminium window frames have replaced the wooden ones. Some new plaster ceilings have replaced the crumbling lathe and plaster ones. A large wooden bedroom extension was added in 1884 and removed about 1950. The stone exterior wall was expertly replaced to the original state.

Notable Features

Its association with the first diary co-operative.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1865 -

Construction Details

The walls are built from basalt quarried from the property, the window facings are Oamaru stone, and the interior woodwork is rimu and baltic pine bought from Larnach and Guthrie. The roof is covered with Welsh tiles. The house is built round an inner courtyard which is almost completely enclosed by the building.

Information Sources

Galer, 1981

L. Galer, Houses and Homes, Allied Press, Dunedin, 1981

Otago Daily Times

Otago Daily Times

R G Lister article, 31 Jan 1974.

Thornton, 1982

Geoffrey G. Thornton, New Zealand's Industrial Heritage, A.H. & A.W. Reed, Wellington, 1982

Other Information

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.