Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

10 March 2010

Open 7 Days 19. Langfords Store, Bainham

I wrote and illustrated ‘Open 7 Days’. It was published in 1991. It’s a series of freeze-frames of some historic New Zealand general and convenience stores as they were preserved in the last decade of the 20th century. Bit by bit, on this blog, I re-publish some of the entries from that book.

Main Road, Bainham, Collingwood.
Proprietor: Lorna May Langford

Langfords Store is the jewel in the crown of Open 7 Days.

Although not the oldest shop in the book, it’s the one with the best pedigree. With ageing dignity, it exemplifies the whole tradition of country general stores.

Its preservation is due to Lorna Langford and her sense of family history. She traces six generations to Wales and the marriage of Richard Langford to Mary Price in the first decade of the nineteenth century. One of their sons, John Alfred, born in 1815, arrived with his wife, Harriet, at Petone on 22 January 1840. She was the first settler woman ashore from Aurora, the first of the immigrant ships.
The Langfords settled in the Takaka area, from where Lorna’s grandfather Edward Bates Langford and his bride, Eleanor, moved in December 1900 to farm at Bainham. When Lorna’s father, John Edward, took over the farm in 1924, E.B.L. became Bainham’s postmaster and, largely because the government of the day was too miserable to fund a new post office (for an estimated £148/6 shillings) he founded Langfords Store in 1928.

He was, as Lorna proudly describes, a man of many parts. Deeply involved in community affairs, an unqualified part-time vet and surgeon, comforter of the sick, Sunday school teacher, amateur musician, horse trainer, cobbler and repairer of harness and canvas, he also found time to study carnivorous snails and to print invitations, labels and butter wrappers on the press he set up in the old post office, now destined to spend its remaining days as a work- and store-room.

E.B.L. died on 25 July 1959. Lorna had taken the store over from him in 1954 (she had already been postmistress for two years). Thus the store has passed through only two hands since its establishment.
Lorna has spent her whole life at Bainham and has a deep, sentimental attachment to both the shop and her neighbours.

Langfords Store supplies general goods, groceries and postal services to about thirty-eight local families and itinerant gold prospectors. In summer the tourist traffic becomes an important source of trade. Some visitors come to Bainham especially to see the store, others are passing through from the Heaphy Track, which starts a few kilometres south and connects trampers with Karamea on the West Coast. I noticed that the hikers’ bus from Collingwood more often than not passes the store without stopping. That’s a shame because the visitors are unwittingly deprived not only of a remnant of a fast dsappearing New Zealand but also of Lorna’s cat, Panda, who sleeps in her own special spot in the shop window and appears to challenge Lorna’s ownership of the store.
Langford’s Post Office


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By Don Donovan