Taking a step back in time in Wakefield
The days of rotary dial telephones, haberdashery stores and Nelson’s Tyree photography studio are long gone but a little historic village is letting visitors reminisce.
Willow Bank Heritage Village in Wakefield gives the impression of walking into Edwardian times while every building focuses on a different decade up until the 1970s.
Village guardian Christine Grieder said the eras included a 1930s photographic studio, a 1940s library, a 1950s burger bar, a 1960s bakery and grocery store and a 1970s milk bar.
Many of the buildings have connections to Nelson’s past.
The photographic studio was built from Ngawhatu Hospital’s wood.
The studio encouraged visitors to dress up in period costume housed in the Hiddlestone Drapery store before sauntering over to get a photograph in front of a replica backdrop from Nelson’s prominent Tyree Studio.
‘‘You can do that all for free, we don’t charge anything.’’
Grieder’s labour of love opens the first Sunday of each month, amazing its visitors.
‘‘When people come they’re surprised something like it exists, and they didn’t know about it.‘‘
She started building up the tiny township in 2002 with her late partner, Kim Kerslake, after she ran out of room to store the antiques she bought for her store.
Over time, she collected buildings to accommodate the items from yesteryear, including Jack Guard’s office which now serves as a bakery, a Brethren Hall from Collingwood St which is the cafe and the smoko room from Brookside Mill which is the china store.
There was a time though that Grieder nearly packed the venture in.
She said when Kerslake died three years ago, ‘‘I really wanted to give it up’’.
But she was given a new lease on the village life when she met Scott Anderson.
‘‘He’s a builder and he’s very much involved in it.’’
Adults might feel nostalgic walking through the village but for children, the excitement lies in the old telephones.
A number of the 20 buildings on site are connected by a phone system, utilising phones from the 1930s to the 1960s.
Grieder said the children mainly used the phones to call each other from different sites around the village.
‘‘At the start, they don’t even know how to use them.’’
The village relies on fundraising, donations and volunteers to stay afloat and is free to the public.
There would never be an entry fee, she said.
‘‘Families come and they enjoy themselves and we know that some families have it hard these days.’’
As for the growing collection of buildings and items, Grieder compared herself to a lady in Canada who proceeded to build a house with 170 rooms when she lost her husband.
‘‘Maybe it’s me as well. I just keep going and I don’t even know why. All the money I get, I put into it.’’
‘‘Maybe it will keep going when I’m not around – I hope so.’’
Willow Bank Heritage Village in Wakefield is one of the applicants in the Car Company’s Charity Drive.
Colleen Warren, left, Carol Leggett,
Christine Grieder, Scott Anderson of the Willow Bank Heritage Village and
Jamie Taylor of The Car Company promote The Car Company $10,000 Charity Drive.