Teschemakers open for business

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After two and a half years, Teschemakers, the former Catholic girls’ boarding school south of Oamaru, is now entering its new life.

Owners Joy and John Murdoch have received resource consent to use the iconic buildings and site as a wedding, conference and function centre and have officially opened for business.

They have already hosted one wedding and last week a television advertising crew stayed at the property.

“When we came here a lot had to be done – there was massive work on the grounds and a lot of work on the sewage system,” Mr Murdoch said.

The 29ha property and former boarding school were bought by Japanese businessman Dr Hirotomi Ochi in 2000. In 2003 the main building was badly damaged in a fire and rebuilt by Dr Ochi.

“It must have cost millions to rebuild,” Mr Murdoch. “Some of the builders were here for four years. They did a wonderful job.”

In 2005 Dr Ochi died and the Murdochs, who had farmed at Herbert, bought the property after being impressed by a similar building and property, Claremont Castle, near Timaru.

The newly refurbished main block has eight studio units, three two-bedroom units and one three-room unit with two separate bedrooms. Each room has its own kitchen. There is also a large dining room, kitchen, bar, conference rooms, a children’s room and special toilets for the disabled.

“We’ll be on the internet shortly; we hope to have national and overseas markets for weddings and we’re very lucky we’ve got Mary Horn’s art on the walls,” said Mr Murdoch.

The Murdochs said their neighbours had been hugely supportive during the refurbishment and had taken a great deal of interest in its progress.

“It’s been a part of their lives,” Mr Murdoch said.

The property still has the former classrooms and hall and three storey dormitory from its time as a boarding school. These have been shut off and used for storage.

The highly acclaimed chapel is owned by the Murdochs and available for weddings. Most of the contents still belong to Teschemakers’ former owners, the Dominican sisters, who gifted stained glass windows and the chapel’s Italian marble altar to Holy Name parish and Fr Mark Chamberlain, of Dunedin.

Fr Chamberlain has sought the removal of the altar to Dunedin. The Murdochs said they kept out of the controversy surrounding the altar which has been the subject of High Court action.

By CHRIS TOBIN

PHOTO: CHRIS TOBIN

ALL SET: It’s been a long haul for Joy and John Murdoch but they are delighted to be open for business as a wedding venue and conference centre.