14 Godley Quay, Lyttelton, NZ
Lochranza’s builder was a Lyttelton shipwright, Malcolm James Miller, whose parents lived next door at “Dalcroy”. The house was named “Lochranza” after the village and castle at the northern end of the isle of Arran in Scotland – the Miller’s place of origin. Lochranza on Arran now has its own whisky distillery and so the house has a “house brand” – “Lochranza” whiskey.
Lochranza sits on part of Town Section 274, which was auctioned by the Canterbury Association on 1 July 1851. Captain Richard Westenra (later of Camla Station) was the successful bidder at 26 pounds. From Captain Westenra, the property passed briefly to his son, Arthur Westenra of Akaroa, who sold the land in 1873 to James Daniel Fergusson, the owner of the neighboring Dalcroy. The section then passed with Dalcroy to various owners in the 1870s and 1880s until Miller’s parents purchased it in 1889.
The date the house was built remains uncertain but it was some time between 1889 and 1895, most likely 1892. The Miller family’s business was shipbuilding and accordingly timber for the house was easily sourced. Kauri, Rimu and Australian Jarrah were all used in Lochranza’s construction. The house was built on stone piles. Tradition has it that Miller’s ship’s carpenters built the house, and the excellent joinery and the fact that the house remains very square and true for its age are testimony to the accuracy of that tradition. Ownership of the land continued (as with Dalcroy) in Miller’s mother’s name for some time and Miller did not undertake a formal subdivision until 1929.
After the house was built, Miller, who was then unmarried and no doubt had no immediate use for such a large house, rented the property to Captain Stewart Willis, the Lloyd’s surveyor for Lyttelton. The Willis tenancy lasted until about 1904, and Miller then moved into his Lochranza with his wife and young family. The Millers employed a nanny for their two young children, the nanny occupying the room now used as a dressing room. Another servant’s bedroom was apparently located where the downstairs laundry in now situated. This “lean-to” area also housed the kitchen and scullery, and was an area for the servants. Access to this area of the house was along the side of the house, partitioned off from the main entrance at an early date.
Malcolm James Miller became a prominent Lytteltonian and besides continuing his ship building business he was also chairman of Lyttelton Harbour Board, Mayor of Lyttelton in the early 1910s and owner of many other properties in Lyttelton. He also owned the well-known Canterbury yacht, the “Pastime” (now being restored), which had been built by his father in 1886. Miller’s shipyard had Captain Scott’s exploration ship “Discovery” in dock twice before Scott’s 1901 expedition to Antarctica.
Miller was a forward thinking fellow, and during his time on the Lyttelton Borough Council was the prime mover for the purchase of Diamond Harbour by the Council, and the reclamation of Naval Point. He was reputedly the owner of the second car in Lyttelton and to house his car he built the first garage in Lyttelton, which is still in use at Lochranza today.
Miller died in 1941 and his trustees sold the property in 1947. After the Miller tenure, the new family owners were engineer John Plimmer, his wife and children – descendents of the early Wellington family of that name. The widowed Mrs. Plimmer sold the property in 1976. Barry and Ruth Thackwell undertook the restoration of the house in the mid 1980s.
Lochranza is a house with notable architectural features and a very interesting history, reflected by its category 2 listing by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.