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Village History

Wakefield Dispute: Johnson’s Saddlery (30 Edward Street)

Photo: McPherson (sitting) & Son, who was hired by Ernest W Hodgson (storekeeper), and jacked 4 feet over to his property leaving an unsightly gap for years. Photo circa 1903, the child is Ivy Florence Johnson, and far right, Mr Fred Fowler. Waimea Collection/Tasman District Libraries Kete

Between the Wakefield Hotel and Four Square on Edwards Street, you may have noticed the colourful mural (which was painted by Rose Sheppard when she lived in the house, now known as Sweetbites). What one may not realise however, is that this mural is painted on the site of one of Wakefield’s most famous disputes.

History tells us that alongside the Wakefield Hotel the Recabites, a religious group strongly opposed to the consumption of liquor, built a Temperance Hall and a small store. In 1894 P J Dixon set George Johnson up as a saddler in the store. Sometime later Ernest Hodgson  purchased the building and George Johnson remained as his tenant.

In 1903 Ernest’s wife Ann (nee Baigent) purchased a small property alongside.

In 1904 Ann Hunt completed a deal with Ernest Hodgson to sub-divide a small portion of land with a narrow road frontage between the two properties. However the land had not been properly surveyed and Thomas Hunt and Ernest Hodgson entered into a dispute over it. Ernest Hodgson offered to move his entire building but Thomas Hunt would not allow it and demanded rental for the disputed land. Ernest Hodgson solved the boundary dispute by getting local builder John McPherson to cut off the offending piece of building measuring 4 feet (about 1.23 Metres).

Once this had been completed Ernest Hodgson jacked his building across and John McPherson built another end to it. The small cut off piece of building was said to have collapsed. Maud Hunt then built a small confectioner’s shop on her narrow frontage and eventually all the shops were joined together.

A quote from an article written by Christine Grieder and Peter Verstappen sums up what must have been quite a spectacle in the village. “No doubt the operation, in broad view of the main street, attracted a crowd of amused onlookers as McPherson sawed through roof beam and rafter, weatherboard and window frame with the precision of a surgeon. His scalpel work complete, McPherson and a few others levered, hauled and slid the greater part of the structure about 4 feet to the side, leaving a small portion of the building, window panes intact, marooned on its own small frontage. In the space of a few hours the small wooden shop of Johnson, Saddler, had been truncated to Johnson, Saddl, the ‘er’ continuing as a slightly startled appendix.

Other purposes for these shops in the past, have included a Barbers Shop, Dentist’s rooms, a Band Hall, book exchange, TAB, tearooms and a Salvation Army Store. Today it’s the home of Sweetbites.

Article: Waimea South Collection on Tasman Heritage   

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