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April 12, 2021 April 2021 No Comments

Two of Martinborough’s historic buildings would have been forever lost without the intervention of the late Angela Sears, who died on Easter Sunday five years ago.  The first, built in 1883 at 33 Jellicoe Street, was beautifully crafted by builder J. W. McCarthy for his son John McCarthy’s tailoring business. It was the prettiest commercial building in town with a charming verandah, a parapet, a spire and four large spherical finials. Then he built a more substantial shop next door at 29 Jellicoe Street, which, between 1904 and 1909, was the first home of the Bank of New Zealand in Martinborough. 

After tailor John McCarthy retired, the buildings were sold to Fred Machell, the owner and editor of the original Martinborough Star, and #33, with the printing press in a shed behind #29, became the publication’s base until it ceased publication in 1962. 

When Fred Machell died his son Charles became editor but, unfortunately, he was reluctant to press his advertisers for payment and the rates debt mounted. When, in the late 1970s, the rates bill became insurmountable, Charles gave the property to the Council in lieu.   

Over the following years, 33 Jellicoe St served variously as a florist and plant shop, as a dressmaker and milliner’s shop, as a lending library and as a meeting place for the Country Women’s Institute.  In 1992 the council decided to sell it and called for tenders.  Angela quickly lodged a tender of $20,000, not because she wanted the building, but to prevent its probable demolition. Suddenly she owned this picturesque historic building.  What to do with it?  

During her extensive travels Angela had gathered together embroidered heritage linen, wonderful silks and saris and  wooden items.  They were the mainstays of what became The Heritage Shop, a shop that on weekends seemed almost a community centre. Dressmakers loved her drawers full of hard-to-find buttons, her collection of laces and embroidery silks. 

Around the turn-of-the-century, the shop at #29 stood vacant and was subject to vandalism. Angela sought out the owner and convinced him to sell. She refurbished the shop and, in 2013, sold it to a local couple who turned it into a hairdressing saloon, now Le Coiffeur Hair Boutique, a perfect mate for The Heritage Shop next door.

When Angela died in 2016, she left unfinished the replacement of the four finials on #33. She had had one new one made by a woodturner who found it so difficult that he turned down the opportunity to make three more. After her death, Angela’s trustees persuaded a woodturner in Hastings to agree to produce three more. After making two, he too called it quits and the trustees decided that one of the originals should be restored. 

Tribute must be paid to the 1883 craftsman who turned the four originals! Last month the four finials  were finally replaced and The Heritage Shop, now occupied by the He Putiputi Flora and Foliage Studio, reveals again its picturesque beauty. Thank you, Angela.

David Woodhams


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