A Bed and Breakfast
   in Paparoa 
on the Kauri coast

Letters from the PO

Letters from the Post Office

Saddlery Cottage circa 1880  (next door to the old post office)                                                                                                 Nov13

From the roadside Saddlery Cottage gives no hint of its varied past. Passerby’s see only the wide, curtained frontage, the cracked concrete and the shabby paintwork.  However, Saddlery Cottage has been both a home and a means of livelihood to many.

It is due to one young man’s initial misfortune that Paparoa was fortunate enough to have the shop at all.  His parents, Sally and Jim Birtles first moved to Paparoa in the 1870’s and struggled to make a living on their land. After several years the Birtle’s could no longer cope and returned to England.  Yet, by 1875 they were planning to return and it was while still in England that the saddler-to-be was born.  Edward Thomas was born on Oct 27th, 1875 in Liverpool.

On their return to Paparoa trouble returned again and Mrs. Birtle died, aged 29.  Edward Thomas (Eddie) then had to turn his hand to farming and household chores when not at Paparoa School.  At age 12 while cutting chaff, his bootlace caught in the horse-powered machinery.  Infection set in and first his foot was amputated, then most of his leg.  For him, school finished at Grade 6.  His father realised that farming was too hard for a one-legged boy.  He was sent to serve his apprenticeship with J. Wiseman and Sons and so began his career as a saddler and boot maker.  His aunt sent letters of support and wrote "I think you can get a cork foot for him...”.

 In 2013 we still dig up rejects of the saddlery and boot trade along with some rather delicate china.  I am sure that I can visualise him after closing up shop brewing the tea, then pouring it carefully into some precious blue and white tea cup.


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