Bainham General Store

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Bainham General store, a living museum

Driving along the country roads on the outskirts of Collingwood in Golden Bay, with lush green paddocks spreading far and wide and cows staring at you intently, the last thing you expect to see is a thriving general store, "Time has worn the outside of Langford's store, but inside time has stood still".1 The Langford's general store has a strong historic background, with three generations of Langford's behind the counter since it opened in 1928. This store is one of New Zealand's most renowned general stores and has attracted people from all over the world.

Langford Store, 2011.
Click image to enlarge

In 1928, the people of Bainham rarely went to Collingwood and it was almost unheard of to go Takaka. Therefore The Langford's store has been a major asset for the Bainham community. This was their local supermarket, post office, and repairs shop all rolled into one. In 1928, Edward Langford, along with help from local builders, built what is today known as The Langford's store. It was built in the period when there was no electricity, and to ring someone you had to use the party line. The world has changed dramatically since this period of time, but the shop is still in the 1920's time period.

The old post office building was moved from across the road to next to the store and has become the storeroom. The Langford's store has seen thousands of people come through its doors, once as a service store that helped the Bainham community, but in  more recent years it has become better known as a historic icon which has created interest from all around the Globe. From the rustic and worn look on the outside and the nine pink letter boxes to the large clock inside and the shelves stacked with items from today and yesteryear, it could be described as the "hub of the universe"2, but one thing is for sure, this place is definitely one of a kind.

Langford Store, letterboxes 2011.
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The Langford's left England on the 22nd June 1839 and arrived in New Zealand on January 22nd 1840. The Langford family came to Bainham in 1893, with many more family members following. Edward Bates Langford bought land in Bainham and turned this into a farm, which is still being farmed on today by the Langford family. In 1923 Edward Langford took the position of Postmaster, the family farm was then passed down to their eldest son John, while Edward worked fulltime as the Postmaster. Edward had his own shop built in 1928 and it has been owned by The Langford's ever since.  Edward Langford started the store and helped make the store what it is today, but the store's biggest influence was Edwards's granddaughter, Lorna Langford who ran the store for over 60 years.

When Lorna started working for her grandfather in 1947, rationing was still in place and the mail was still only coming into the shop three times a week. When Lorna first started working at the shop she began by keeping the accounts up to date. She would bike to the store and home again each day with her typewriter on her knees. It is evident from the beginning that Lorna was dedicated to her job as a Postmistress, store keeper, and a  person ready to give out information on the area or just purely for a chat. In 1952 Lorna took over the post office, and then in 1954 she took over the shop as well. The Langford's store was a true family store, with Lorna's mother helping in the shop each Friday unpacking the weekly stock, Florence helped in the shop from 1961 until three weeks before she died in 1989 at the age of 89. Florence enjoyed the company and it was a chance to catch up with friends, just as Lorna did -   who loved seeing the customers and to catch up and give them information on the area and nearby Heaphy tramp.

"Lorna is also one of the leading lights of tourism in New Zealand..."3 She has guided the shop through the good and the bad times, so no one would know the area better than Lorna. Lorna owned the shop for 61 years, and during that time she experienced a lot. Lorna has had many famous visitors, including Lance Armstrong who cycled down to the shop when he was staying in Pakawau after his cancer treatment. He stayed at the shop for a few hours and "was a very nice gentleman"4. Lorna has also had famous conductor Sir David Wilcox and Lady Rachel visit. They got married in the year Lorna started at the shop, 1947.

Lorna retired in 2008 after 61 years behind counter of The Langford's store and has now passed the store onto her uncle's granddaughter Sukhita Langford, who moved from Wellington to take over the store. Although Sukhita has put her mark on the store, it is still in its original and natural condition and has kept the family name; it has been The Langford's store and always will be.

Lorna and Sukhita Langford
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Many things at the Langford's store have remained same since the day it opened. The Langford's store no longer stocks items such as kerosene lamp wicks, wooden clothes pegs or dubbin for boots. But many of the items that are no longer stocked are on display to fit in with the feel of the store. Lorna recalls when ration books were in the store when she first started and that everything people bought was noted down in their ration book and items such as meat, tea, sugar and silk stockings were rationed. Electricity has been in the store since 1951, so frozen food can now be kept and eftpos has been installed since Sukhita has taken over.  Sukhita faced a challenge when she took over as Lorna had run the store for so long. Lorna was a familiar face far and wide, but it was time for Lorna to move on.  Sukhita has turned the storeroom into an art gallery and there were plans for a sculpture garden. A café has been set up, with people being able to explore the store while having a coffee and award winning baking by Sukhita's partner. We often don't take time to appreciate what life was like in the 1920's but this is a fine example to show us.

The Langford's Store has been a historic icon since it was opened in 1928 by Edward Langford and it has lived through many centuries and has become famous by standing still. Without The Langford store, Bainham wouldn't be as well-known as it is. It has become a major asset for the community.  This store has remained the same through its years and will continue to do so. The Langford family have created history with the store and have put Bainham on the map.

Megan Petherick, 2011, Nelson College for Girls

Sources used in this story

  1. Murdoch, H. (2010, January 9) New store owner follows family tradition. The Press
  2. Lorna bows out after 61 years (2008, April 17) Nelson Mail.
  3. Gale, H. (2008, June 2). Warm farewell for Lorna marks the end of an era. Nelson Mail. p. 1.
  4. Lorna Langford, telephone interview. (2011, May 28)

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Interviews:

  • Telephone interview with Lorna Langford. 28th May 2011

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