On one of my travels through to Central Otago via the pigroot, I turned off State Highway 85 and took the Loop Road through St Bathans. This was a bit of a spontaneous decision but one I knew I wouldn’t regret as St Bathans is a lovely place that is as charming as it is delightful. Small, but quite wonderful.
So, it wasn’t long before I had purchased a coffee at the local hotel and had made my way to the nearby lake where I consumed my hot beverage in the tranquillity of having the whole lake to myself. Deciding I should see something new before leaving, I recalled the ruins of the former school were closer by, so I made up my mind to go exploring for a bit.
Having recently been advertised for sale, I wanted to explore the ruins before the new owner put up one of those annoying ‘private property, beware of the dog, trespassers will be prosecuted or shot!’ signs up. The school building was opened in April 1875 with the occasion being celebrated with a ‘Grand Ball’ and showing just how cold St Bathans can get in the winter; the forty or so children had to occasionally scratch out their lessons using frozen ink. Like many small communities in Otago, after the gold dried up, the miners left and with it the school roll dropped until the 1930’s when only a handful of children were left. Then, the building became damaged in an earthquake in 1943 when it was turned over to the local pest destruction board before ending up in private ownership.
I must have spent a good hour wandering round the site looking at what remains of what was once a key feature in a bustling gold mining town.