Must Read & Experience
The Old Meadery
Words: Georgi Waddy Images: Lucy Hunter-Weston
A complete stroke of luck led Anette and Graeme Drewery to establish their French import furniture and clothing business at the Old Meadery in North Canterbury recently.
“We'd missed out on a place in Leithfield and just happened to come across this property. It had an extensive garden on a small acreage, but ‘the jewel in the crown’ was the old meadery at the entrance. I knew that it would make the perfect backdrop for my shop. The previous owners had used the building for their honey mead business here since 1964; it was considered to be one of the best in the world, and the onlyauthentic meadery in New Zealand. We kept coming back to visit and eventually we made an offer,” recalls Anette.
“We knew it was going to be hard work in the garden but it’s amazing what a chainsaw can do!” recalls Graeme matter of-factly. “The house needed a bit of work but we loved its eclectic style and quirky details. There was also a great big shed, which is now my workshop.” The garden had good bones and together they have taken out a number of crowded established trees, built a vegetable plot which now grows prize broccoli, and renovated and repainted the old meadery. No longer producing alcoholic honey mead, it’s now where Anette
sells her French imported antiques, chandeliers, French linen clothing and imported ‘bric-a-brac’. Adding to her collection, she now represents the beautiful Bianca Lorenne linen range. In this charming space she piles up the bed linen, fills the planter boxes with bright geraniums, and lets the French antiques speak for themselves.
Both originating from Canterbury, Anette and Graeme have lived in Mapua for the last 14 years and ran their French inspired shop, Le Havre, at the Mapua wharf. “It was after the Christchurch earthquakes that we really felt a strong need to come back into the area to help the community,” Graeme explains, “We wanted to be outside the city, and also be close enough to help with aging parents.” Anette has always run her own business and Graeme, a former air-traffic controller, now works with Anette restoring furniture and doing engineering contracts for clients.
“We work well together, Anette has the vision and the creative gene and I turn her dreams into reality,” says Graeme. The day I first visited, Graeme was busy putting the finishing touches on their new wooden chook house, (soon to be home to their buff and black Orpington hens), and also finishing a curved pergola for one of Annette’s clients.
Anette jokingly describes him as a ‘tradesman of many, master of none’, but admits she shouldn’t take him for granted, knowing only too well how lucky she is. “He loves making something from nothing!” she says proudly.
“I grew up in a house of extreme resourcefulness, my father was incredibly practical and I learnt a lot from him,” Graeme explains. “Times were tough, so if we needed something we’d made it, the old No. 8 wire joke was a reality. We fixed everything to avoid spending hard-earned cash”.
“Our life here is similar in lots of ways, we have always kept a finger in business and learnt to ‘live off selling’. You learn to be resourceful, you have to, in order to survive!” His ability to be inventive means he finds inspiration in old forgotten gems, converts throw-outs into useful treasures, and visits local auctions in search of the unusual which can be rewelded, strengthened and revitalized.
Before Mapua, the couple had lived in Canterbury for 15 years and built the Wine Shed at Tai Tapu, which today operates as a wedding venue. “We love renovating buildings, we always enjoy a project and a challenge. However, having a big garden again wasn’t quite on the agenda, but we still love it,” Anette explains.
“I love the springtime, it makes everything seem worthwhile. Everything is popping up and some of it we didn’t even know existed. The old roses climbing up the cherry trees feel like they are floating in the air. We have heritage varieties, which are always being admired… mauve and pink poppies next to pink roses. It’s stunning! This year we have been cutting trees back to let the sun in, replanting, rearranging, shifting and splitting irises and green hostas. It’s been exhausting work but now I think we need a potting shed and maybe a glasshouse.” Was Graeme in earshot I wonder?
In its previous life, the mead business was a true iconic landmark in the area for over 50 years. Visitors came from all over the world to try the famous honey mead from the Havills, and it soon became available globally. The mead, a powerful alcoholic drink was made from the fermentation of honey, water and yeast, and was considered to promote good health, virility, life-long happiness and other wonderful health benefits.
For Anette, the meadery’s previous history has been the perfect backdrop for her shop. People knew the business and know where to come. “We painted everything in the meadowy white; the walls, the floors, I love white on white! For me it’s all about layering the textures; old wood, shutters, and crackled paint.”
‘This year we were hosts on the ‘Gardens of Fernside’ open day, we had well over a thousand visitors. We even had a wedding here recently, we both loved it.” Today, new life has sprung for the Old Meadery in a very short space of time, with plenty of energy, changes are imminent and it’s sure to impress!