The Mayoral Shop
The premises at 83-86 Bridge Street in Nelson were the birthplace of the mayoral ambitions of three families.
The first owner Moss Davis (1847-1933), an early Nelson Jewish merchant, set up shop in the 1860s. His son, Sir Ernest Hyam Davis, born in Nelson 17 Feb 1872 and educated at Bishops School was destined to be a mercantile force in Auckland as head of New Zealand Breweries Ltd., a noted philanthropist and backer of the newly-formed Labour Party from 1912 to 1962.
He became the Mayor of Auckland from 1935-1941, was knighted for services to industry and local government in 1937 and was also appointed as a chevalier Legion d’ Honneur by the French Government in 1938.
Moss Davis in turn sold the Nelson store in 1876 to Joseph Henry Levien (1811-1876), who became second Mayor of Nelson from 1874. His daughter, Esther Levien, married the third owner and mayoral aspirant William Lock. Lock managed the shop from 1893-1912, and was a renowned marketer. He commissioned several ditties for the Nelson Mail to advertise his wares at Lock's Warehouse and Emporium.
Lock had served as a councillor on the Nelson City Council from 1899 and first became Mayor in 1914. On 20 Sept 1914, on the eve of the First World War, he opened the newly stone built Cawthron steps- a landmark of Nelson then and now. He remained Mayor until 1915, and was re-elected from 1921 to 1927. During his later mayoralty, he and his wife were the gracious hosts of the Duke and Duchess of York, the mother and father (George Sixth) of the present Queen Elizabeth the Second.
The mayoral links not only prove the influence of the early Jewish community of Nelson, but also the power of Nelson’s mercantile class. The building next door, on the corner of Bridge and Trafalgar streets, which dates from 1843, built by Alexander Parry, was the first Wakatu Hotel. Its proprietor was William Harley of the Harley family who owned the Crown Brewery. In 1877 they sold the hotel premises to the Bank of New South Wales (BNSW) and it became a handsome two story building serving the local merchants. It was replaced in 1982, following the merger of BNSW with the present Westpac Bank.
Charles John Harley (1861-1922), son of William Harley became the Mayor of Nelson in 1915 to 1917. He had earlier served as Councillor with William Lock from 1899 to 1902.
William Lock served the City of Nelson for over 40 years and died in 1940 aged 82. He is buried in Wakapuaka cemetery in the mayoral corner (Lot 003 Block 11).
2015 (updated July 2020)
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Further sources - The Mayoral Shop
- Bell, L. & Morrow, D. (2012) Jewish Lives in New Zealand. Auckland, N.Z. : Godwit
- Graham W. A. Bush. 'Davis, Ernest Hyam', from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 7-Jun-2013: