Friday, 15 February 2019

The Crabbe Store

Crabbe Store in Cameron Road
Courtesy of Helen Borell, Hardy Collection, Tauranga Heritage Collection
George Alfred Crabbe established a grocery and drapery store in Cameron Road near the corner of Sixth Avenue in 1867 and replaced it in 1877 with the building that survives today at the Boys’ College. He built a house next door in the 1890s that has since be relocated to Pyes Pa. Crabbe had arrived in Tauranga in 1864 as a soldier in the 1st Waikato Militia and lived at The Camp, the area around today’s cricket pitch in the Domain and Brown Street. He was born in London and his gravestone in the Tauranga Presbyterian cemetery includes the words “Edgeware Road, London”. His position during the Battle of Gate Pa or Pukehinahina was at the rear but he took an active role in the Battle of Te Ranga making him eligible for the New Zealand Medal. His land allocation for his service included a quarter acre in the town of Opotiki and 50 acres near McLaren Falls. He obtained half an acre in Cameron Road from an officer who wished to dispose of his section and sold his country acres. When George Crabbe died in 1905 his coffin was covered by the Union Flag that flew at the Battle of Gate Pa and is now in the Tauranga Heritage Collection.

George A Crabbe, founder of the store (1840 - 1905)
Courtesy of N. Wilson, Crabbe Collection, Tauranga Heritage Collection
John Conway, a well-known builder in Tauranga constructed the two storey shop for £600. The room at the front included the retail area while there were two rooms upstairs and living accommodation at the back.  Conway later built the adjacent house. The shop and outside beneath the verandah was a popular meeting place for the people in the neighbourhood. A man on horseback delivered the daily newspapers for distribution from the offices of the Bay of Plenty Times in town and posters were shown in the shop windows when war broke out in 1914.

Maria S Crabbe (1824- 1923)
Courtesy of N. Wilson, Crabbe Collection, Tauranga Heritage Collection
While living in a bell tent at The Camp, George Crabbe and wife Maria had a son Charles in 1866 and he was christened by Archdeacon Brown at the Mission Chapel. A daughter Annie Frances followed in 1870. In 1899 Charles married Rebecca Johnston a daughter of Noble Johnston of Katikati. Crabbe was a direct descendant of Sir Christopher Wren and was able to pass down some of his famous ancestor’s possessions to his son Charles. Charles and Rebecca were to have a daughter Rebecca Violet, later well-known by her married name Vi Simons. They also had three sons, Charles who died as a child and is buried with his grandparents, Reginald and Selwyn. Vi was a nurse and midwife in Tauranga and an active member of the Tauranga Historical Society.

Hillsdene Store
Courtesy of Tauranga Boys' College
While the property remained in the Crabbe family until 2002 the premises were used by other businesses for many years.  In that year Peter Cooney gifted the building to Tauranga Boys’ College and it was moved further down Cameron Road. At this stage the old stairs were replaced and the building relined. However, the original wide floor boards are visible on the ground floor and the exterior retains most of its original appearance with rusticated weatherboards, double hung sashes in the upper windows and the iron hip roof. The large front windows on the ground floor can be seen in the early photograph of the building.  Today the store functions as a school uniform shop on the ground floor and office space upstairs.  The building is on the Register of Heritage New Zealand in their Category 2 level and is included in the Tauranga City Council Heritage section of the District Plan.

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