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Preserving Treasures Of The Past - 10
The Rangiora Museum
Dorothy - 25/8/00

As you pass through small towns you may often have noticed a sign pointing to the local museum, but passed on thinking that you haven't time to stop. Don't ignore the sign that points to the Rangiora Museum, in North Canterbury. It is well worth a visit.

The Rangiora and Districts Early Records Society The society was founded in 1960 and is responsible for the Museum and the local archives.

The Museum building looks like a typical building from around the beginning of the twentieth century, but it has a very unusual history. In 1967 the Society was given the upper storey of the Bank of New Zealand. It was cut into four, and shifted by a traction engine owned by a local sawmiller. It cost 500 to lay the foundations and shift the Museum on to the site.

The aim of the Society was to preserve records of Rangiora and the surrounding areas. With the growing interest in genealogy the archives held by the museum attract many people to it.

Each month the committee evaluates what has been offered during the month. Shortage of space means that they have to be selective. If anything is of more relevance to other districts it is passed on to their museums.

Cob Cottage
Pause here and look through the windows before entering the building with the displays.

Cob cottage at the Rangiora Museum
Cob cottage at the Rangiora Museum

To look through the window is to gain a picture of the very basic household of all but the wealthy early pioneers.

In 1972 this two-roomed cob cottage which stands in front of the Museum was built with cob blocks from Fernside, and equipped with gifts from local families. The walls are white washed inside and out. The floors are just packed earth, and the only floor covering is some small handmade rag mats.

The plain kitchen is furnished with a well scrubbed wooden table and Thonet Bentwood chairs. There is a vent above the fire to let the cooking smells out. There are no cupboards but there is an open dresser with shelves for the china.

Fireplace in the cob cottage with the pots on the fire for cooking
Fireplace in the cob cottage with the pots on the fire for cooking

Religious texts hang on the wall. An old metal sewing machine adorned with a gold pattern would be a greatly prized possession as nearly all the family's clothes would be made at home and everything would be mended.

In the bedroom the black double bedstead is covered with a white marcella quilt. The wash stand has a ewer (jug) and basin. There was of course no bathroom and the toilet would have been a pit toilet at the end of the garden some distance from the house.

Displays in the main building
I suggest that you walk straight to the room at the end of the corridor and look at the display of kitchen equipment available to the better off settlers.

Ahead of you is the pièce de résistance - a magnificent stove donated by the Leech family, one of the original families farming on the outskirts of Rangiora. The house was built in the 1860s.

The home of the Leech family
The home of the Leech family

There were only two stoves of that type imported into New Zealand. It has hot water heating with a tap on the left and a large oven. There is a large open fireplace. There are large cooking pots and a black kettle on top of the stove and a brightly coloured handmade kettle holder hangs alongside. In front of the stove there is a pair of bellows used to encourage the fire to burn more brightly. There is also a box with the equipment for cleaning the stove.

The stove from the Leech family
The stove from the Leech family

To the left a woman is looking towards the stove.

Kitchen scene
Kitchen scene

She is dressed in white nineteenth century clothes - a long skirt and long sleeved, high necked blouse, and a white apron. On the table in front of her is the typical cooking equipment of the period. She has an earthenware mixing bowl, cream inside and buff coloured with the traditional design embossed on the outside. There is a set of scales with weights, a rolling pin, a round spice tin, a wooden potato masher, and a butter cooler. Perhaps she was going to make potato scones. Her recipe book is the Victorian favourite, the "Friends of the Kitchen" cookbook.

There is an early model washing machine with a scrubbing board in front of it. There are many other household exhibits, too numerous to mention, too interesting to be passed by when you visit the Museum.

The corridor and side rooms
With a keen eye on the best use of space, the Museum volunteers have organised boards with thematic displays of photographs along the walls of the corridor - schools, houses and Rangiora township in earlier times.

One side room has a varied and colourful display of period costume.

Sitting room 1905
In sharp contrast with the bare simplicity of the cob cottage is a sitting room furnished in the fashion of a 1905 home of a well-to-do family. A woman is sitting reading. A child plays with a doll and dolls' pram. Both wear period costume. The fireplace has elaborate fire irons and the mantelpiece which is covered with ornaments has an elaborate velvet drape embroidered with swans. The room is furnished with expensive period furniture and even an antique gramophone. The impression of cluttered riches captures the atmosphere we associate with the Edwardian age.

Edwardian bedroom
The bedroom is a more comfortable and elaborate version of the bedroom in the cob cottage. The woman wears an embroidered nightcap. The bedstead is of wrought iron as is the child's rocker cradle. There is an antique wash stand also with ewer and basin. Above the head of the bed is a Biblical text.

Well worth a visit whatever your age
For older visitors the displays at the Rangiora Museum will rekindle memories. For students of social history and people interested in antiques there is a wealth of detail to observe. For genealogists the archives are a rich source of local information. For the young the cottage and the domestic scenes offer a glimpse of a lifestyle that they can only imagine, but will imagine more vividly after a visit to the Museum.

Opening hours:
Wednesday and Sunday 1.30 - 4.00 pm or by appointment
Inquiries - Phone (03) 313 7592

Adults $2.00
Children 50 cents

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