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Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies, Volume 1, Issue 4, October 1984

Some Early Storekeepers of Waimea South

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Some Early Storekeepers of Waimea South

As soon as a rural community was established small stores appeared to cater for the daily needs of the settlers — food and farm necessities would be stocked, household goods, some clothing, a few luxuries such as sweets, trimmings, perhaps even wine and spirits. This happened in the area we now know as Wakefield. The first old photograph shows Smith's Store on the site of the present Wakefield Hotel.

Smith's Shop on the site of the present hotel.—Waimea South Museum.

Smith's Shop on the site of the present hotel.
—Waimea South Museum.

Thomas James Smith arrived on the Whitby, his wife, Grace, with their only child, Robert, on the Lloyds in 1842. They came to Wakefield about 1846, James to take over the school while Grace ran a small general store. In 1752 James offered to handle the mail for Waimea South, thus establishing Wakefield's first Post Office. Louis Drager bought them out in 1868. He built an accommodation house at the rear and the store became the local sweet shop. It was demolished about 1887 when Harleys took over the hotel.

Other small stores in the area at that time were those of Mr Wilkinson on the site of the first school, later moved to 88 Valley; Mrs Price, W. F. Maiben; J. Fowler and David Clarke, the two last named just across the Jemmy Lee Bridge.

Around 1865 three stores were established which were to remain for many years though not on their original sites.

William Painton, at the top of Pitfure Road, had his home and store in the one building, as was often the custom in that era. A general store also sold wine and spirits which led to strife with some of the local people. Painton was a keen cricketer who gave the use of his paddock for the game. In April 1874 a letter appeared in the Colonist saying that it was simply untrue that the amount of drunkenness on and about his premises was a public scandal, unless it alluded to a day when some festival was held in his paddock. The local publican had been heard boasting that they took as much as forty pounds on a day when cricket was held in his paddock. As the cricketers had moved further down the road he trusted that his premises would no longer be a public scandal.

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Painton Building on the site of the present Plunket Rooms. Photo taken after 1900 when Hodgson's owned it.— Waimea South Museum.

Painton Building on the site of the present Plunket Rooms. Photo taken after 1900 when Hodgson's owned it.
— Waimea South Museum.

In May 1883 he moved his whole building by traction engine, down to the site of the present Plunket Rooms. This building was later used by Hodgsons and, later still became a boot store and a bicycle shop. The living part was where the two Misses Bird, Kate and Ada, lived for many years.

The third Painton Store, a little further along the street has been restored as a small museum, called Painton House.

John Hodgson arrived in Wakefield in the 1850s, but it is not until 1865 that we find him on section 89, on the corner of what is today Days Lane, as a bootmaker. He had begun to stock a few grocery items such as flour, sugar, tobacco and matches, when, sadly, he died suddenly leaving his widow, Ann Hodgson, and two small sons, Ernest and Herbert.

Hodgson's First Store at Wai-iti. John Hodgson standing with child in his arms.—Waimea South Museum.

Hodgson's First Store at Wai-iti. John Hodgson standing with child in his arms.
—Waimea South Museum.

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Ann leased the store, first to W. Paterson and then to Mr Langtord. Later she took it over herself. When Ernest finished his education, he joined her in the business and it became A. Hodgson & Son, a name that became very well known in the province.

Ann died in September 1899, and the following year Ernest moved the business into Wakefield township, taking over the old Painton shop; then in May 1905, on the opposite side of the street, he opened his new building. Meanwhile his brother Herbert opened a similar shop in Murchison. It was a two storied building; groceries, produce and hardware were on the ground floor and drapery on the floor above. Later there were branch stores at Belgrove and Motupiko and a store cart that served the outlying valleys. His brother, Herbert had opened a store in Murchison about the time the new Wakefield store was built.

Hodgson's third and final shop with expresses in front, 1909.—Waimea South Museum.

Hodgson's third and final shop with expresses in front, 1909.
—Waimea South Museum.

Ernest died in October 1935, but the business did not go out of the family until 1968 when Mrs G. Lawson, trading under the l.G.A. banner took over, naming it Hodgsons 1968 Ltd.

E. Hooper & Son established the third store in 1865, just north of the village. Today a pile of gravel marks the site. When the railway crossed the road in this area it placed Mr Hooper's store on the wrong side of the tracks. It was 1883 before Edwin moved his business to the main street – on the corner near the Pigeon Valley Bridge. Here he traded, in friendly rivalry with his neighbours for many years. He also ran a store cart to the neighbouring valleys. Hooper's first store, on the wrong side of the railway tracks was run as a store for a short time after Mr Hooper moved by one of Rev. Bowden's sons, but after this it lay vacant for many years until Mr Telenius bought it to use as a storage shed when he moved to Wakefield.

Traders of those early days were lucky, they lived in an era of big sawmills, railway camps and gold rushes. Edwin Hooper died in July 1891, his son James took over the business and he was later succeeded by his son, Cecil. About 1946 the business was sold to Mr A. Wood and about 12 years later to the partnership of A. Housler & W. S. Laird. The mid 1960s brought the final move of what was still called Hoopers Store to the site of what is today Baigents butcher shop, the old building was demolished about 1975.

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Edwin Hooper's Store.—Tyree Collection. Nelson Provincial Museum.

Edwin Hooper's Store.
—Tyree Collection. Nelson Provincial Museum.

In January 1972 Mr Charles Forward took over both Hoopers and Hodgsons businesses, but used only Hodgson's premises. In 1981 Mr Watson began trading as Wakefield Super Discounter. It is still the same building, it is still run by friendly folk, but, apart from the memories of older folk, only the headstones in St Johns Churchyard commemorate the names of Hodgson and Hooper in Wakefield today.