Hodgson's Store and Stables

46 Fairfax Street, Murchison

  • Hodgson's Store and Stables. Store. Image courtesy of www.flickr.com .
    Copyright: Shellie Evans - flyingkiwigirl. Taken By: Shellie Evans - flyingkiwigirl. Date: 13/03/2015.
  • Hodgson's Store and Stables. Stables.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Karen Astwood. Date: 1/06/2009.
  • Hodgson's Store and Stables. Store interior. Image courtesy of www.flickr.com .
    Copyright: Shellie Evans - flyingkiwigirl. Taken By: Shellie Evans - flyingkiwigirl. Date: 13/03/2015.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 2970 Date Entered 30th October 2009


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Pt Sec 63 Town of Murchison (CT NL166/71), Nelson Land District and the buildings known as Hodgson's Store and Stables and the associated shed thereon, and their fittings and fixtures including the store counter and shelving units. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).

City/District Council

Tasman District


Tasman Region

Legal description

Pt Sec 63 Town of Murchison (CT NL166/71), Nelson Land District

Location description

When travelling along Waller Street/State Highway 6 through Murchison, turn south into the lower section of Fairfax Street. Hodgson's Store is the second building from this corner on the western side of the street. The stables are directly behind the store and are accessible via a driveway immediately south of the store.


The Hodgson family have operated their general store business from the site of Hodgson's Store and Stables in the central commercial area of Murchison since the early twentieth century. The series of buildings on the site range from different periods of Murchison's and the businesses history and document its changing fortunes.

Despite exploratory expeditions to the area in the 1840s and gold being discovered soon after, it was not until the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century that Murchison developed into an established town. It was in the late nineteenth century that the Hodgson's family first expanded their general store business into Murchison with the purchase of an existing shop. However, the business soon outgrew those premises and the Hodgsons built a larger store to compensate. Being a country general store in an area which was relatively isolated due to a lack of railway connection and the primitive state of the roads, it was vital to the business to have horses to collect and distribute the store's stock, which by association meant that stables were necessary. As a country general store Hodgson's Store was also essential to its community as the main supplier of everything from grocery items to clothing and hardware. During the first decades of the twentieth century the business went from strength to strength despite considerable setbacks from two major events in Murchison's history, the 1914 fire and the 1929 Murchison Earthquake. On both occasions the store building was destroyed and rebuilt. The current Store building dates from 1930 and the form of its interior and style of operation has been consciously kept consistent with that era by successive generations of the Hodgson family.

The Stables which date from circa 1900, the manager's cottage which is connected to the back of the Store and was constructed in 1915, and the Store itself document the use of the site by the Hodgson family. All of these buildings are consistent with the characteristic styles of their respective construction periods with the interesting exception of the cottage which, while a typical cottage with verandah, is constructed in concrete rather than timber.

Hodgson's Store and Stables is significant because the buildings are physical remnants of key features of Murchison's history, such as its transition from frontier settlement to rural centre in the early twentieth century, as well as major local and national events such as the destructive fire in the town in 1914 and the Murchison Earthquake of 1929. The long association with Murchison and social impact of the business, and the importance of the family locally has meant that Hodgson's Store and Stables has developed into a main landmark within the town.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The establishment of the Hodgson's Store business in Murchison in the late nineteenth century, and then its expansion in the early twentieth century is important because it is demonstrative of the change in fortunes of the town from a frontier settlement to an established rural centre which required, and could support, a reasonably large general store.

Hodgson's Store and Stables is also significant because it is a remnant of the town's early twentieth century history and documents two of its key events. The Stables survived the devastating fire of 1914 which spread through the commercial area damaging or threatening businesses. The second of the Hodgson's store buildings was destroyed in this fire and the manager's cottage, which was constructed after this event, later survived the Murchison earthquake of 1929 when the store did not. The collapse of the concrete store is one of the most referred to results of this event in the historical record because it was one of the most spectacular physical examples of the impact of the earthquake.

Despite adversity Hodgson's Store endured and successive generations of this important local family have continued to operate the store and participate in the workings of the wider community. Changes in the economy and the way modern consumers shop have meant that the other general stores owned by the family in the Nelson region closed during the late twentieth century. This is reflective of a trend, and increases the value of Hodgson's Store because it still trades in a manner consistent with its tradition as an early twentieth century country general store and as such is an interesting example of how retail businesses changed over the twentieth century.


Hodgson's Store and Stables has architectural value as examples of characteristic structures from their respective periods. The Stables reflects its utilitarian function with the simplicity of its design and in its use of native timbers and corrugated iron, which were prominent building materials in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries because of their ready and cheap availability. The manager's cottage, which forms the back section of the Store, is a representative hipped roof cottage with verandah from the World War One period, although it was uncharacteristically constructed primarily in concrete in accordance with the material used in the shop it was connected to, instead of timber and weatherboards. The Store building, with its discernable Classical, Art Nouveau and Art Deco references is reflective of the transitional commercial retail building architecture of the time of its construction in 1930. The interior is also of importance because its open space, with only a few small auxiliary spaces and no extant storage rooms, is indicative of the style of commercial operations it was built to facilitate, of which it is now a rare example.


Hodgson's Store and Stables is a local landmark because of its long association with Murchison and the importance it has obtained over this period socially. As a country general store which delivered goods, initially making use of horses and carts and then motorised vehicles, it was a vital outlet for goods which were essential to the wellbeing of many local residents and would otherwise have been difficult to obtain. The Store was also of social value as a place for locals in this relatively isolated and rural area to swap news of local, regional, and national events, and to network.

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history

Because of the rural base of New Zealand's economy, rural centres like Murchison became a common feature of the landscape in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These towns characteristically featured a limited selection of businesses which provided the essential services and products which were commonly in demand in these often isolated districts. One of these businesses was the country general store, and Hodgson's Store and Stables is a representative example of this aspect of New Zealand's history and society.

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history

The Murchison Earthquake of 1929 is one of New Zealand's largest recorded earthquakes and caused widespread damage including the spectacular destruction of the existing Hodgson's Store which subsequently had to be demolished and rebuilt.

(f) The potential of the place for public education

Hodgson's Store and Stables has great potential for public education on several aspects of Murchison's history, such as the importance of horse and carts for a prolonged period in the area due to its isolation, as well as the important place of the general store in rural districts. While the Murchison Earthquake's impact has largely been overshadowed by the devastation and significantly larger death toll of the Hawke's Bay Earthquake a few years later, the event was terrifying for those who lived through it. As one of the most referred to exemplifiers of the damage this event caused, Hodgson's Store is a suitable means of exploring the event and its aftermath.


Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

The settlement of the Nelson region is said to have begun with the landing of the prominent early iwi, Waitaha, in the waka Uruao. This travelled from Hawaiki and the voyagers made landfall on the Boulder Bank circa 850, near what would become Nelson city. From there scouting parties set out to explore the interior while others continued their journey by sea down the east coast of the South Island. Maori later developed a series of trails inland around the Murchison and Nelson Lakes area, such as that through Tophouse Pass. For Maori, and eventually the Europeans who used it in the mid nineteenth century, this and other tracks in the area were vital passages providing access to the West Coast as well as eastern and southern districts.

A European association with the Nelson area was first established in 1642 when Abel Tasman anchored in what was to be called Murderer's, then Massacre, and now Golden Bay. The result of this first visit was a lethal exchange between the Dutch sailors and Ngati Tumatakokiri. It was centuries after this initial encounter that European interest in the area began in earnest with explorative visits from Captain James Cook and Dumont D'Urville and a few others. Then in the late 18th and early nineteenth centuries flax traders and sealers began to frequent the coast around Nelson. However, because there were few whaling stations in the immediate area there was no substantive European settlement until the New Zealand Company's establishment and settlement of Nelson from 1841.

The company explored the potential of several sites for its settlement but Nelson was chosen as the nucleus because of its harbour and the plentiful supplies of game and fish, despite the generally swampy nature of the low lying areas. It was then a matter of Captain Arthur Wakefield meeting with the various iwi of the region to persuade them to agree to the proposed settlement. This was essentially a confirmation and extension of a land sale organised by the Tory expedition in 1839. The meeting took place at Kaiteriteri and Wakefield eventually negotiated a deal with those in attendance. However, subsequent events demonstrate that in regard to this and some later transactions there were discrepancies in what each party believed they had agreed to. This led to several instances of conflict in the Nelson region during the 1840s, in particular. Perhaps the most well-known occurrence was the 'Wairau Affray' in 1843.

It was not until the 1850s that the Nelson community and its subsidiary towns began to coalesce. Provincial government was established in 1853, and most of the farm land from Wakapuaka to Brightwater was occupied by this date. Between 1853 and 1858 the European population of the district had risen from 4,587 to over 7,000 and continued to grow and prosper into the 1860s and 1870s with the aid of the local gold rushes and the nationwide demand for the area's produce. The gold rushes also saw the development of small trading and supply settlements further inland.

Early explorations into the Murchison area were undertaken in the 1840s by Charles Heaphy (1820-1881), Thomas Brunner (1821?-1874), and William Fox (1812?-1893). Until the discovery of gold in the proximity there was little to entice people into the area, but by 1865 there was sufficient interest in the area for Brunner to return and survey the town, which was initially called Hampden. This name was changed to Murchison in 1882 to forestall confusion with a town in Otago and also one in Hawke's Bay. However, at this time and indeed until the twentieth century, Murchison was considered a frontier settlement and its continuance relied on small-scale gold mining operations and its timber industry. Roads in the area were rudimentary, if they existed at all, and so access was minimal and difficult. This isolation did not foster commerce and as such the standard of living of most local residents in the late nineteenth century was barely above subsistence.

Murchison seems to have come of age in the early twentieth century, changing from a frontier settlement into an established support centre for the burgeoning dairy industry and other commercial enterprises. This transition was recognised in 1909 when the town became the centre of Murchison County, an area that was previously incorporated into the Inangahua County. This was a status symbol, but also a result of the growth of Murchison's identity as dairy farming area as opposed to that in Inangahua County which was characterised by mining and milling. The transition from frontier community to established town and seat of local governance was physically marked in Murchison by the building of the Council Chambers (1913) and other civic buildings. The presence of several large hotels in the town centre by 1900, complete with stables and often an associated hall, and enough patronage to ensure their ongoing viability, is also evidence of this early twentieth century change in the town's fortunes.

The growth of the Hodgson's family store business dates from the early twentieth century period of development in Murchison. Herbert John Hodgson of Murchison and his brother Edward William from Wakefield purchased a small store in Murchison in 1892. However, they soon outgrew these premises and therefore built a new, two storey store in 1905 next to Downie's Hotel. A devastating fire in the commercial area of Murchison in 1914 destroyed this building and Downie's Hall, as well as damaging the Hotel and threatening many other businesses. It was then a matter of rebuilding the Murchison store. The site for this new and significantly larger general store was acquired through familial ties as the Hodgsons had married into the Downie family by this time and were granted a section of the land next to Downie's Hotel for the business. The replacement store was constructed out of concrete instead of timber. This building was a two storey structure with a verandah in the front and extensive shop front glazing at street level. A manager's cottage, constructed in like material, adjoined the back of the shop,

As well as their large store in Murchison, the Hodgsons also had general stores in Wakefield, then Motupiko in 1914, and also Brightwater. There does not seem to have been regular traffic running between these sites, and the Murchison store's stables were mostly for the benefit of the teams of horses which were used to cart goods between Murchison and the railway station at Glenhope. The large turning circle around the stables enabled these teams to turn easily. It is unclear when the stables were constructed but they may predate the 1915 store and could originally have been connected with Downie's Hotel before the Hodgsons acquired the land. Part of the success of the Hodgsons businesses can be attributed to their function as country general stores. In the absence of the good roads and quick travel times of the mid to late twentieth century, people in rural areas were dependant on their local general stores for all manner of supplies. These stores were also important to their districts because they often included a Post office and were good places to catch up on local news.

Perhaps the biggest event in Murchison during the twentieth century was the Murchison Earthquake on the morning of 17 June, 1929. The earthquake was of a magnitude of 7.8, the same as that of the tragic Hawke's Bay earthquake of 1931. For those who experienced it in and around Murchison the earthquake was terrifying. A Glenhope resident, Jean McWha recalled everyone's relief when the initial reports that Murchison 'had disappeared completely under slips' were proven false by the streams of refugees who evacuated the town and headed for Nelson the next day.

One report of the destruction in Murchison after the earthquake of 17 June and the aftershocks which followed said that: 'Damage could be seen in every building. The only concrete building in the town, Hodgson's Store, was completely wrecked with the front of the building thrown out over the road.' The effect of the first earthquake on the structural integrity of the store could be seen in verandah posts which assumed a 60 degree angle and then, after several aftershocks, on the next day the front portion of the shop collapsed revealing its interior. Given the extent of damage the building incurred it is remarkable that no one was injured as a result. Meanwhile the cottage survived with little or no damage and was retained when the store was rebuilt.

This series of events, firstly the fire and then the earthquake, would have crippled many businesses but the Hodgson family seem to have taken it in their stride. The income from the various stores in the other towns may have insulated them somewhat from any financial losses caused by rebuilding and a temporary store, which is a close neighbour to the rebuilt Hodgson's store, enabled them to continue to trade to some extent. After the earthquake damaged shop had been demolished the family rebuilt the store on the same footprint as its predecessor, but on a single level using reinforced concrete, and in a style consistent with the architectural currents of the time.

As well as operating the store the family was also active within the Murchison district, and wider community. As well as establishing the store in Murchison, Herbert Hodgson acted as chairman for several years on the Nelson Hospital Board and had a long tenure as chairman of Murchison's Medical Association. Later during the 1930s, L.W. Hodgson was instrumental in the establishment and activities of the local Progress League. The purpose of this committee was to act as an intermediary between local residents and the Council regarding projects which were seen as being good for the progress of the district. Hodgson was president of this group until 1953 when it went into recess.

The Progress League headed by Hodgson failed in perhaps its most pressing task, which was to convince the government to continue work on the railway which had reached Glenhope on 1912, and was almost completed to Murchison when the earthquake struck. Until well into the twentieth century the road access to Murchison was rudimentary and if the construction of the railway had not been interrupted by World War One and had reached Murchison during that period it would have been tremendously beneficial to the town and its businesses including Hodgson's Store. Because the railway never reached Murchison, Hodgson's Store still needed to maintain its stables in the first decades of the twentieth century to facilitate trade and then, when it became economically viable and the roads improved, they turned to motor vehicles to fulfil the same tasks. The store no longer delivers, however they have been known to take telephone orders and then transport them using the local bus system.

With dwindling interest for the business within the family the branch stores in Wakefield, Motupiko and Brightwater were sold in the late twentieth century with only the Murchison shop retained. The country general store nature of the business, typical of the early to mid twentieth century, has been consciously maintained by the current owner and the shop still stocks a variety of products from grocery items to hardware, as well as being the location of the post office. With over one hundred years of commercial activity in Murchison, Hodgson's Store is considered a local institution and landmark.

Physical Description

Hodgson's Store and Stables are located on a large section in the commercial area of Murchison which is centred around the corner of Fairfax and Waller Streets. The surrounding buildings generally date from a similar period to Hodgson's Store, or later in the twentieth century, are constructed from like materials, and house small commercial businesses. The exception to this is the Store's northern neighbour which is a large two-storey timber early twentieth century hotel built on a corner section. This building and the Store form a focal point in the streetscape because of their height relative to their counterparts.


Hodgson's Store has two main sections comprising of the commercial area which is accessible from the footpath on Fairfax Street, and the residential building that was the manager's cottage, which is connected to the rear and pre-dates the commercial section.

The Store was constructed in reinforced concrete in 1930 after the Murchison Earthquake of 1929 damaged its predecessor beyond repair. The commercial area conforms to the footprint of this earlier building, being almost square in its dimensions, and has a reasonably shallow pitched gable roof clad in corrugated iron. The Store had its roofing material replaced in 2009.

The shop façade is reflective of this era as its combines Classical and Art Nouveau elements and points toward the emergence of an Art Deco aesthetic. The shaped parapet, which hides the roofline of the building behind the façade, is a characteristic feature of shop buildings from the late nineteenth century, and Classical symmetry and other features that are referenced in these early buildings are also evident, although in a minimalistic form, in the Store's façade. These aspects include four pilasters which terminate above the line of the parapet in stepped column caps, and a simple cornice demarcates the lower section of the building and the parapet. Any other decoration on the commercial face of the building is concentrated on the street level in the Art Nouveau inspired windows, which flank this façade and also the fanlight and other windows of the entranceway. The band of tiling, which runs along the length of this façade beneath the window line, as well as the flooring tiles of the entranceway, act as a break from the starkness of the façade. It is unclear when these tiled areas date from, although it seems likely that they are original features.

Aside from the large display windows along the façade of the shop, the body of the commercial section of the Store has few windows punctuating it, with only one multi-paned sash window close to the large loading bay door and a small multi-paned group of windows near the roofline on the south elevation of the building. This series of windows is repeated on the north elevation with the sash windows providing light to one of the office areas of the Store, and each multi-paned group of windows augments the light provided in the shop by the series of skylights.

The interior of the shop is open plan, with two small office areas defined with non-load-bearing walls on either side of the rear wall of the commercial space. These two office areas are enclosed from the main body of the shop, and each have inwards facing windows that reference those used on the front façade and indicate that the offices are original features. Of these areas, the post office on the south side of the building has the most extensive glazing. It is unclear whether the absence of what would have been the middle pane of three large frosted glass panels in the Post office is an original feature, or if this section of glazing has been removed at a later date in order to create the customer enquiries window in the office.

The counters, which flank and run almost the entire length of each side of the shop, are characteristic of Depression Era joinery, being simple and purely functional in design and made from whatever native timbers were readily obtainable and therefore the cheapest material available for the durability it provided. The painted strip of advertising for the Aulsebrooks biscuit company along the front of the south side counters is consistent with this period, or just subsequent, too. The floor to ceiling shelving units which line the side and rear walls of the shop also add to the early to mid twentieth century character of the interior. The layout of the commercial area means that there is very little storage space for excess stock external to the main retail space, which is reflective of the way that products were traded in country general stores in period Hodgson's was constructed. This form of trading is a different to late twentieth century equivalents of general merchants who require separate storage areas in which to keep the balance of the bulk orders which space and modern retail theory restrict from being on display on the shop floor.

Adjoining the rear wall of the commercial space is a residence which used to be the manager's cottage. This area is currently not used, however, it was constructed circa 1915 after the fire of 1914 which destroyed the existing store building. This is a typical hipped roof cottage of the period which had a verandah around its north and west elevations, although it was constructed in concrete which matched the construction material used in the store. However, the verandah on the west elevation seems to have been abbreviated because of a weatherboard lean-to on the southwest corner. An interesting feature on the interior of the cottage is the large brick faced copper in the laundry room of this lean-to. Access to the shop was through a door perpendicular to the main entrance of the cottage. This door has now been clad over in the interior of the shop to enable more display area since this entrance point became redundant when the manager's residence ceased to be used. The western section of the verandah was enclosed using corrugated iron in the 1940s due to the manager at that time requiring more space in which to house his large family.


The construction date for the Stables is uncertain although it seems likely that it dates from around the turn of the twentieth century, either being associated with Downie's Hotel and then being taken over by Hodgson's for their cart horses, or else dating from the period when Hodgson's built their store on the present site in 1904. The Stables and another shed are located in the middle of the turning circle, created for ease of turning teams of horses, which occupies a large area of land at the rear of Hodgson's Store. The shed was constructed circa 1940 and at this time it formed a trio of buildings including the Stables and another earlier shed which was in between these two. This early shed, which was constructed by the time of the Murchison Earthquake and may have been contemporary with the Stables, burned down in the late twentieth century, but fortunately the Stables were not damaged.

The Stables is a timber framed and board and batten clad gabled structure. In the centre of the north pitch of the roof is a dormer which had a hoist attached in order to lift barley chaff into the mezzanine section of the Stables. From here the chaff was either packaged for sale or was dispensed to the horses housed in the three stalls below via a chute along the length of the southern wall of the stalls. The floor of the building consists of totara rounds. Until the late twentieth century the Stables also had a lean-to canopy extending from the south wall. This has been removed but it is unlikely that this was an original feature.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1900 -
Stables constructed

1915 -
Manager's cottage constructed as part of store built after 1914 fire

Original Construction
1930 -
Hodgson's Store completed

1940 -
Shed constructed

Construction Details

Concrete, corrugated iron, glass, and timber.

Completion Date

13th July 2009

Report Written By

Karen Astwood

Information Sources

McAloon, 1997

Jim McAloon, Nelson: A Regional History, Whatamango Bay, 1997

Mitchell, 2004

J and H Mitchell, Te Tau Ihu o te Waka - A History of Maori of Marlborough and Nelson, Wellington, 2004

Newport, 1966

J N W Newport, A short history of the Nelson Province, RW Stiles ad Co Ltd, Nelson, 1966

Brown, 1976

M C Brown, Difficult Country: An informal history of Murchison, Murchison, 1976

Grigg, 1947

J R Grigg, Murchison, New Zealand: How a settlement emerges from the bush, Murchison, 1947

Murchison Centennial Committee, 1976

A Pictorial Record of the Murchison Centenary, April 1st to 4th 1976, Murchison, 1976

Murchison District Historical and Museum Society Inc, 1979

Stories of Murchison Earthquake 17 June, 1929, Murchison, 1979

Other Information

A full referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Central Region Office

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.