Now what's a town with a name like Cromwell doing with streets with names like Antrim and Monaghan and Clare and Wicklow? Begorrah that's Irish, isn't it? To be sure it is, with names from both sides of the border and Cromwell the most hated name in Southern Ireland.
A Town Like Cromwell
According to local legend, the town was surveyed in 1862 by a North-of-Ireland surveyor, JA Connell, who didn't hit it off with the Southern Ireland miners working nearby. He threatened them with the curse of Ireland and, to pay them back for the hard time they had given him, he saw to it that the town was named Cromwell. He turned the screw a little bit further by naming the streets in the small area he surveyed after North-of-Ireland towns and counties.
But let us move on to the second survey carried out in 1875 by one James McKay. No Irishman was James but he seems to have had a great sense of fair play. Just to balance things up a little, he added the South-of-Ireland names to the map of the town. It was McKay who gave Neplusultra Street (literally Nothing-beyond-here Street) its name. Little did he know that just a little further north the river would yield a fortune in gold and that the barren sand would become a first class golf course.
Smartly dressed in an iron waistcoat and suffering from a bad case of warts, Oliver Cromwell, sometime Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland, occupies pride of place in Cromwell Service Centre Board Room.
For 30 years he has looked down his puritanical nose, safe in his gilt frame, as the citizens of Cromwell go their lawful ways. Recently however, Southland artist Peter Beadle took the time to examine the large oil painting and he has suggested that it was worthy of more respect than it is currently getting. This in turn led to speculation on the origins of the painting and how Cromwell had managed to acquire it.
Former town clerk, Ron Farquhar, was able to fill in the details. In 1957 Cromwell was expecting a visit from the then Governor General, Sir Willoughby Norrie. Some time before his arrival, a large packing case with an obscure label was delivered to the council office. It was put to one side and promptly forgotten. Sir Willoughby duly arrived and shortly before the welcoming ceremony asked for his packing case. The borough foreman was hastily despatched to find it and bring it to the dais. The mysterious case was found tocontain a portrait of Oliver Cromwell which Sir Willoughby Norrie presented to the town with the comment, 'Here he is, warts and all'.
According to Mr Farquhar, Sir Willoughby was a collector of fine paintings. He had discovered the painting in an obscure dealer's shop and had bought it because he had been born in Cromwell Road in London. His visit to Cromwell had prompted Sir Willoughby to present the painting to the town.
A close examination of the painting suggests that Peter Beadle's assessment of it may be correct. The artist's signature is obscured but markings on the back of the frame show that Oliver has changed hands several times. One note indicates that in 1947 the picture was sold for 12 pounds. Inflation being what it is today, Cromwell's Oliver could be worth a mint. well at least a gold mine. Whatever it is, there is no chance that he will be sold yet again to perhaps help defray the rates.
In a Summary
Cromwell had its beginnings in 1862 when two miners, Hartley and Reilly, discovered gold just below the junction of the Clutha and Kawarau Rivers. The rush that followed brought miners in their thousands to Central Otago – check out the History section.
Cromwell is strategically placed as a holiday centre for the whole of Central Otago. It is only 50-60 kilometres from the lake and ski resort towns of Queenstown and Wanaka. With the construction of the Clyde Dam, Cromwell became the residential and administrative centre for the development. A new suburb was joined onto the old town to house hydro workers. The former business centre in Melmore Terrace was relocated adjacent to the State Highway in a new mall. Other sporting, educational and cultural facilities were upgraded to a high standard.
Cromwell has maintained its function as a service base for a large rural hinterland. The continued growth of orcharding and the emergence of the wine industry will enhance the town's future regional importance. Lake Dunstan has added to the growing list of attractions and opportunities for the area with activities such as picnicking, fishing, boating, sight-seeing, cruising etc.
Apart from its location as a hub of three major gorges, Cromwell's other attractions include its pleasant and dry climate. Summers are hot with temperatures from 25-30 degrees, while winters are frosty (down to minus 10 degrees), but usually followed by a clear warm day. Rainfall is sparse at 400mm average per annum. The dry air also makes the frosts less unpleasant.
Cromwell College is the town's Form 1 to 7 high school, and boasts a magnificent auditorium, and gymnasium. Two other primary schools service the younger children. Other major facilities for the town include a comprehensive greenway and reserves system; golf, squash and bowls clubs; and Town and Country Club; and the 25 metre, twin covered pools at the Cromwell Swim Centre. An artificial turf hockey field was completed in 1997. There are three camp grounds in the district: Cromwell Holiday Park, Cairnmuir Camping Ground, and Bannockburn Domain Camping Ground.
During your stay it is suggested you visit The Mall. This is the shopping centre which replaced the original business district which has been flooded by Lake Dunstan. In The Mall is the Cromwell and Districts Information Centre (i-Site) and Museum. This features modern displays of the area as well as historical exhibits. It is well worth a visit - you may like to take some more of our brochures back to your home towns to give to your friends.
If you have time, it is suggested you visit Old Cromwell, a re-creation of the original main street which is located adjacent to the Victoria Arms Hotel in Melmore Terrace.
Another feature is the Fruit Sculpture located adjacent to The Mall and State Highway. This was erected by a local service club and has become the symbol for Cromwell.