There has always been an old world charm about Eames's Store, in Learmonth Street Buninyong, sitting between the National Bank and Whykes butcher shop. Together these buildings make an outstanding contribution to the streetscape of Buninyong. The site is associated with some of Buninyong's earliest commercial ventures, and early storekeepers tents were pitched here.
When gold was discovered in August 1851, the Wesleyan John Adams arrived from Geelong and became a storekeeper at Golden Point. He moved with the rush to Mt. Alexander (Castlemaine), then in January 1853 was advertising his Buninyong store. Advertisements in the Geelong Advertiser in October 1853 announced that Adams had established a Bakery "and will be prepared to supply bread at a moderate price, having erected a large oven for that purpose". This is the very same oven that still stands behind Eames's Store. Local historian Bill Thorpe mentions it in his Illustrated History of Buninyong (1982).
Adams sold his store in 1854 to MESSRS. BOHN & JOHNSON, as announced in the Geelong Advertiser of 14 April 1854.
The Ballarat Star of 16 September 1856 announced that 'Mr Adams is erecting a large new store in the centre of Buninyong, his present being rather out of the way.'
John Adams continued as a storekeeper at Buninyong throughout the 1850s until 1865. He became Post Master on 1 September 1853, following John Veitch. As a devout Methodist, he made it clear in his advertisements that 'no business whatsoever transacted on a Sunday', and before the Wesleyan chapel was built in Warrenheip St, local Wesleyans gathered at his shop for their services.
John Adams moved to Melbourne in 1865. It is likely that he sold his business to Thomas Jesse Smith, for by the 1875 Directory, Thomas Smith is listed as grocer, Learmonth Street. In 1880 Smith moved from Buninyong to 26 Bridge St Ballarat, where he established a flourishing grocery and wine and spirit business. The Buninyong business became Smith and Wilson, with his son Daniel Purves Smith in partnership with J.P. Wilson. In 1881 the young Daniel Purves Smith died at the tender age of 21. By 1884 it is J.P. Wilson, grocer, on his own account.
Mary Schoorman, a descendant of Edward Bradshaw, found the following photograph in an old family album:
It was taken before 1896, when Whykes built their two-storey butcher shop. You can read the name 'Whykes' above the shop next to the weighbridge. Next to that is Parson, Saddler, then the 'Melbourne, Collingwood and Fitzroy Cheap Grocery', with the name 'Smith and Co' underneath. In the 1880s Ralph Parsons was a baker in Learmonth St, working out of the bakery at the back of the building. William Parsons was a currier, and N.J. Thomas was listed in 1888 Directory as a saddler, Weighbridge.
By 1895, there is J.P. Wilson and Co, storekeeper. Wilson became Mayor of Buninyong, a leading citizen, and died in 1930. A photo in the Buninyong Historical Society collection from the 1890s shows the sign 'Buninyong Cheap Store, J.P. Wilson, Merchant, Grocer and Baker'.
In 1900, Ralph Parsons was the baker, in Forest St. Harrie Sleeman is listed as a baker in Learmonth St. in the Borough Electoral Roll.
By 1906 Percy Lyne had taken over the store in Learmonth St., and was running the bakery. Ivan Eames recalls the Bakery as it was in 1917 when he arrived in Buninyong with his family. Ivan was 9 years old when he came from Gippsland with his father Frank Eames, who was a drapery hawker, travelling the district with his wagonette and two horses. The store belonged to Percy Lyne, and Bobby Alexander was the baker in Lyne's bakery business which saw four carts set out every day to deliver bread around the district. Ivan remembers his school mate Tommy Hannah who used to wag school to drive a bread cart, and Frank Luke, whose presence was always known by his tuneful whistling.
In the store itself you could buy everything imaginable, from a bag of chaff, to a leg of ham, to a set of teacups still in their Chinese wrapping.
A photo in the BDHS collection, from the 1920s, shows a crowd gathered in front of the building, perhaps for an auction. The name 'Lyne' is clearly visible on the façade.
In the 1920s the bakery was bought out by Davies of Ballarat, who was expanding his business and took over many country bakeries in this period.
In the early 1930s Frank Eames bought the run down store and its associated outbuildings. He was glad to have a shop for his drapery business, and his wife looked after the haberdashery section. When Frank died his wife continued to run the shop on her own, now as a grocery, until around 1970, when Ivan and his wife Queenie took over the reins.
In 1987 members of the Buninyong Historical Society had a walk around the old shop and bakery with Ivan Eames. He was thinking of selling the property, which had become too much for himself and his wife Queenie. But it was important to hear him tell the story of the old bakery, which Sovereign Hill used as the model when it was building its Hope Bakery.
In March 1988, Hans Peuker, who owned the Old Bank at that time, purchased the site. The National Trust succeeded in having the buildings 'recorded', which means that their historic significance had been publicly recognized.
In December 1989 the building was purchased by the Brown family, who restored the old building and opened their electrical business in one part of the building. In February 1990, at Festival time, the Buninyong Cake Shop was opened in the other half of the premises by the owner's sister. The front room was turned into a pleasant tea shop, and once again the ovens began producing delicious pastries and scones.
In 2004 Dean Lanyon and Bronwyn Janssen took over the business, and operated it until it closed, very suddenly, on 20 February 2005.
The Browns closed their electrical business in 2006 and moved into Ballarat. Unfortunately the buildings have been frequently vacant since then.
In 2008 the Brown family put the site up for sale. In 2009 it was temporarily the newsagent, whilst the service station was being rebuilt.
Since 2011 the Buninyong Lions Club has been operating a second hand book store in part of the site.
When the Bendigo Bank was being mooted, this site was suggested, and would have been ideal, but it fell through. The old shop became a Tarot/alternative therapy shop for a few months, then an antiques shop. The antiques shop closed in June 2012.
The site tells the whole story of the development of Buninyong as a township, and is a precious part of our heritage. This central commercial precinct is now covered by a heritage overlay for the Buninyong area under the City of Ballarat's Heritage Study. It is also listed as a significant building by the National Trust.
Anne Beggs Sunter,
Buninyong and District Historical Society