Wood Family's General Store
410, later 462 and 538 High Street, Preston (1850 – 1950)
The Wood family was one of Preston’s pioneer families, arriving in the district in 1850 as part of a large group travelling from Sussex England. Equipped with household utensils, furniture, and farming implements, they established the first general store in Preston on the corner of Wood and High Streets.
At the time, the primary settlement in Preston was around the property of Samuel Jeffrey, in his self-styled “Irishtown” in High Street Preston, near Regent Street. The Wood family was part of a small community membership of the Particular Baptist Church, who opposed the name “Irishtown” for the area. In response they proposed the name Preston, after a small village in their home county of Sussex. The fact that Edward Wood was the Postmaster may have helped sway the decision the Baptists way.
Edward Wood (b.1804) and his son, Edward Jnr., established a two-storey bluestone building on the corner of High Street and what would later become Wood Street. The store sold the usual range of goods including feed for stock, chaff and grain, eggs, cheese, clothing, assorted tools and confectionary.
The store quickly became a community focal point and gained a useful advantage of any competing stores by becoming Preston’s first post office. It was the counterpoint of Edwin Basting’s general store in Northcote. Having the post office as part of the general store gave Wood some power and influence within the early Preston community. When it came time to select a name for the fledgling community Wood and his followers decided on 'Preston', after their home in Sussex. This was much to the dismay of Jeffrey who championed the cause of ‘Irishtown’.
As with the goods they provided to the community, the address of the store changed over the years. Originally it had no number as it was itself a landmark and everyone would have known where to find Wood’s Store. Somewhere about the end of the First World War however, there were a growing number of businesses and residences in the street and Wood’s Store acquired the number 410. As the post-War boom and subdivision took place, Wood’s changed in 1926 to no. 462 and once more in 1932 to no. 538.
The store remained in the Wood family for one hundred years passing from the father and son - both named Edward - to the next generation, Hubert in 1907. The final incarnation was the Preston Pioneer Store at 538 High Street with Hubert's widow Mary Ann (nee Molloy) in charge. The business closed down in 1951 and the building lay vacant for a year before being purchased by Campbell Motors in 1953 and incorporated into their show rooms. The building, now sadly run down, was used for storing spare parts.
In 1992 Campbell's Motors applied for a permit to demolish part of the building to extend its show rooms. Despite a Council objection the Administrative Appeals Tribunal sided Campbells. In March 1994 the Council reluctantly signed off on a demolition permit for the whole building. It was knocked down probably sometime in mid to late 1995.
Carroll, Brian & Rule, Ian (1985). Preston: an Illustrated History. Preston: City of Preston.
Forster, Harley W. (1968). Preston Lands and People. Melbourne: Cheshire.
Preston Historical Society (1968). Brief biographies of prominent Preston People. Preston, Vic: Author.
Sands and McDougall’s Melbourne and Suburban Directory 1864- 1974. [Microfiche]. (1974). Melbourne, Australia: Sands & McDougall.
Additional information provided by the descendants of the Wood family.