An excerpt from Brett & Hook’s The Albertlanders
Amongextracts from letters sent to London by Mr W R Brame, one reads: “I have advanced about 400 pounds for the town land and public works and as no-one has gone into the trade of supplying the settlement with provisions, I have had to send up some hundreds of pounds of goods, or the people must have died of sheer starvation in the wilderness.”
Mr Brame denied that he intended going in for storekeeping, or that he had any desire to do so. A building was erected on Section 1 of the Port Albert Town plan to house these supplies.
Some settlers alleged that he started a store in opposition to one set up by a settler and that at his store sly grog was sold, leading in one instance to a near tragedy when a drunken mother attacked her daughter with a knife. Brame said he knew nothing about it. If anyone was to blame, it was probably the manager of the store.
By the end of 1863, the store established by Mr Brame had come into the hands of C D Cray. About 1868, Mr Cray left for his farm at Wharehine, his store being taken over by another firm (Hague-Smith) and managed by William Day. In the early seventies this business finally closed.
The biographer of Jane Mander, the famous New Zealand author whose father owned the timber mill on the Raekau opposite the Port Albert wharf, tells us that in 1892 their family lived in what had been the first store.
In the 1890s, two cousins arrived in New Zealand, almost penniless. They built up the principal gum trading business in the country. The firm of Arnold and Lichtenstein was known all over the north. They had gum stores in Northern Wairoa, Matakohe, Opitanui and took over another at Port Albert, the old store on Section 1. They also opened offices and a gum store in High Street, Auckland. The Port Albert store was still consigning kauri gum to this firm c.1930.
On 27 April 1903 George Bennett, who had purchased the Port Albert store from his father-in-law John Shepherd in 1898, bought Lot 1, 2b370, half-acre from Max Lichtenstein and Louis Arnold for £80.
He shifted the store building onto it alongside the boarding house, which was part of the same business as the store. For several years it was used to host weddings, visiting sports teams and any other functions considered too large for the boarding house dining room. Several years later, George Bennett’s widow Mildred, gifted the building to the Methodist Church. The church history states about 1914, although it seems probable it was not shifted again until the 1920s, as Alf Bennett (born 1915) remembered, as a small boy, the reassembling of the building under the supervision of Walter Payne senior. He also recalled a large fire when hawthorn hedges were cleared from the site and gatherings in the hall prior to its relocation. This building later had a kitchen added to one end and became known as the Sunday School hall, replacing the small, two-room building behind the church. Of interest are the old windows which open and close without the need of metal stays, hinges, or catches. Also, some of the kauri lining appears to be pit-sawn, hinting perhaps at the building’s antiquity.