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Photograph: McCracken's Store today
Galleries: Clothing

Place: 'The Flat' Develops

In the 1870's Otago's economy was strong with retuns from the Central Otago goldfields and the development of public works including railway construction. New Immigration Barracks were built at Caversham in 1873. After becoming acclimatised to their new home, many immigrants settled nearby or in neighbouring South Dunedin providing a boost to the population. In 1877 both areas became independent boroughs, as did St Kilda on the far side of 'the Flat'.

Railway stations already linked Caversham and Kensington to the city. Horse trams followed in 1880, stretching through Caversham and South Dunedin and then to the beaches at St Kilda and St Clair. New housing subdivisions followed the tramlines, while industrial sites, including the Hillside Railway Workshops and Dunedin Gasworks clustered around Caversham.

The homes and workplaces, in addition to shops, schools and churches provided a economic, social and cultural infrastructure and Southern Dunedin became a world of its own. Its inhabitants could live, work, shop, worship, socialise, be entertained and educated, all within 'the Flat' or just beyond it.

View of CavershamThe communities of 'the Flat' provided local markets for a wide range of locally manufactured goods in small shopping centres. As well as grocers, boot-makers' and tailors' clothing workshops, there was also a wide range of food made and sold locally in bakeries and confectionery shops. This is George Murray, staunch Baptist and Caversham Bootmaker, standing outside his shop on David Street in 1905. In his shop window Murray had a large clockwork model from Germany of a bootmaker giving his apprentice a 'hurry-up'. He would wind it up each afternoon, just before school ended, and children flocked to watch. If he forgot they would come and remind him. At this time, the family lived upstairs, but shortly afterwards they moved to a house in Kew, on Easther Crescent, not five minutes walk away from Murray's premises. (Caversham Project Archives)

Cargill's CornerTwo general stores -Rutherford's and McCracken's were the focal point for Caversham shoppers over many years. The Rutherford's, like some other families, constituted a potentially confusing clan. Robert Rutherford Senior lived in Caversham, named his eldest son Robert W. and eventually became a shareholder in the Wax Vesta Match Company. Robert Senior's brother, Peter, bought the grocer's shop and bottle store across the road from McCracken's, and his son, yet another Robert, later took over the shop. Partly because they stayed so long, both grocer's became major presences in the township. The shop stood on the corner of Playfair Street and South Road. It was demolished in the 1970s. (Hocken Library - Uare Taoka O Hakena, University of Otago)

Cargill's CornerJust across the road and fifty metres south from Rutherford's store was McCracken's premises. Sam McCracken migrated from Ireland and was a staunch Methodist. He lived next door to his shop and his neighbour was Robert Todd of Todd and Brown Tailors. The building is still standing on Caversham's Main Road. It has recently been an antique shop and is at present a physiotherapist's rooms. (Hocken Library - Uare Taoka O Hakena, University of Otago)

main road St KildaTodd and Brown - the largest tailor's shop in Caversham prospered sufficiently to build its own two-storied building with a workshop upstairs on the corner of the Main South Road and George St (now Rutherford St). The workshop employed a foreman, a cutter, cleaner, presser (all men), repairer, coatmaker, trousermaker, vest maker, breeches maker, costume maker and a number of machinists. Smaller tailor shops specialised in just one or two garments. Robert Todd's brother, Andrew, owned a grocer's shop on the corner of Surrey and Marion Streets. (Caversham Project Archives)

[Next: The Southern Suburbs]

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