Over the past few months, the Ashford Store and Café on West Street have been undergoing a revitalisation. Built in 1912 as a home for the owner of the nearby Canterbury Roller Flour Mill, this iconic building, which carries a Grade II Historic Building classification, is now once again a delightful destination for craftspeople and foodies.

The house was designed in the arts and crafts style by the England Brothers who were responsible for many buildings in Ashburton and Christchurch. Built by J Smith and Son, it is one of Mid Canterbury’s few surviving ‘grand’ buildings.

“The building came through the Christchurch earthquakes very well, however required strengthening to bring it up to the current building code,” says David Lester, Director of Ashford Handicrafts. “At the same time, we saw it as a great opportunity to rebrand the Ashford’s store and create a fitting showroom for Ashford products, which are internationally recognised as the highest quality spinning wheels, weaving looms and textile equipment.”

Stage One of the project, which involved re-roofing and reinstating the chimneys, was carried out early last year. “Fortunately, we didn’t need to vacate at that point, but that changed once we moved on to the remaining interior strengthening work,” David says.

Having to close both the craft shop and the cafe gave the Ashford family an opportunity to look at every facet, inside and out.  

Inside and out, everything has had a sensitive, but very noticeable facelift. All the character has been retained; walls and flooring, lighting, heating, plumbing and electrical have all been upgraded and interior native timber panelling has been restored to its former glory, radiating a warm glow.

“Ashfords has been a destination for 86 years.  We’re really proud of that history and we want to continue that for the next 100 years by showcasing our products in a building that is equally as impressive.”

Ashford Store and the newly opened Millhouse Kitchen now have a grand location to excite craftspeople and fitting of two of Ashburton’s favourites.

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Judy McAuliffe is a writer, and publisher Essence Mid Canterbury. Her experience in media is extensive and includes approximately 15 years as Creative Director for The Radio Network, writing, and managing the writing of radio advertising, mainly in Invercargill and Greymouth. In the late 1990’s she transferred to Christchurch, moving into an Account Management role with 91ZM. In 2007 she and a business partner set up Essence Mid Canterbury, very quickly adapting her radio-writing skills to print media. Judy became sole owner of Essence Mid Canterbury in June 2014. Judy is a ‘people person’ and has found her niche writing feature stories about the community she lives in and the people who live there. She is also available for freelance writing assignments.