Wills Jewellers

29 Bridge Street, Nelson

  • Wills Jewellers, Nelson.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Alison Dangerfield. Date: 29/01/2009.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 5118 Date Entered 13th December 1990 Date of Effect 13th December 1990


City/District Council

Nelson City


Nelson Region

Legal description

Lots 4/5 DP 1737


This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. The following text is the original citation considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration. Information in square brackets indicate modifications made after the paper was considered by the NZHPT Board.


The land on which Wills Jewellers stands, part of Section 1104 City of Nelson, was granted to Thomas Askew on 13 December 1851. Askew had arrived in Nelson with his parents in 1843 and the Nelson census of 1849 has him living in Bridge Street. Despite living on Town Acre 224 where he then built a house and shop in 1852, the Ratings Rolls for 1864 specify that Askew had a house and shop built on Section 1104 in 1855. The building was let to various people and Askew does not appear to have occupied it himself. In 1883 [it was] sold to John Ogilvie, a cooper. When Ogilvie was adjudged bankrupt in 1889 the property was sold to Mary Rogers, a widow. [At Ogilvieā€™s bankruptcy hearing he said he bought the property in 1880 on deferred payment and that he built the shop and dwelling on it.]

Mrs Rogers died in 1903 and her widowed daughter Mary Ellen Browne lived in the property until her death in 1930. It was then transmitted to her two married daughters, Mary Eleanor Naylor and Frances Lucy Soper. On Mrs Naylor's death it was transmitted to Mrs Soper (1963) and when Mrs Soper died it was transferred to her niece Marjorie Eleanor Froom Naylor (1964). Marjorie Naylor was an artist well-known for her portraits and landscapes. She operated Gallery 29 from 29 Bridge Street, living and working there until her death in 1985 when the present owners purchased the property from which they have since operated their jewellery business.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Believed to have been built in 1855, the building which now houses Wills Jewellers has survived as a dual commercial and residential property while the street in which it is located has undergone substantial architectural modification. As such Wills Jewellers is a vivid reminder of an older commercial centre which is now almost completely gone, not only in Nelson but in most other early New Zealand towns. It shares this distinction with the slightly later Shands Emporium, Christchurch. It is the oldest surviving building in the central business district of Nelson and possibly the oldest commercial building still extant in New Zealand. The building also has a remarkable ownership history, having been owned by five women spanning four generations of the one family over 96 years.


Wills Jewellers is an important example of the small scale building erected in growing commercial areas of towns such as Nelson in the mid-nineteenth century. Few such buildings survive and this is the oldest surviving building in the central business district of Nelson. While internal walls have been removed at ground floor level, the first floor and exterior retain their original character.


While it is not a landmark, this building does make an important contribution to the streetscape. The small scale, pitched roof and timber construction make an obvious and pleasing contrast with the glass and concrete of surrounding commercial buildings.


Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description


This small two-storeyed building has a pitched roof and a long single storey lean-to built in at least two stages, at the rear. Clad in rusticated weatherboards the street, or south, facade is symmetrical with a central entrance and one large shop-front window on either side. Within the gable end at first floor level is a double-hung sash window with a small hood on wooden brackets. Each sash has four lights.

The other three facades are clad with shiplap weatherboards. The extended lean-to is partly plastered and the north end is clad with corrugated iron. A variety of casement windows including the rear gable end window have been used, some with multi-lights.

The interior has been much altered at ground floor level, the removal of several walls allowing one larger retail and workshop space. The first floor consists of two small rooms with low sloping ceilings following the roof line.


Dates not known:

- Lean-to extended (post 1927)

- Internal walls removed at ground floor level

- Internal stair replaced.

1985 - Further unspecified shop alterations

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1855 -

Construction Details

Timber frame clad with weatherboards, rusticated to street facade and shiplap elsewhere. Rear section of lean-to is part concrete or brick, plastered, and part clad with corrugated iron. Corrugated galvanised iron roof cladding. Brick chimney.

Information Sources

Alexander Turnbull Library

Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington

Electoral Rolls for the Province of Nelson, 1853-58/59, 1861, 1866-77, 1893-94

Wises Post Office Directories

Wises Post Office Directories

1872-73, 1878-79, 1883-84, 1885-86, 1898-1938

Land Information New Zealand (LINZ)

Land Information New Zealand

CT 59/58, CT 60/157, Deeds Index 2/774, 4/457, 7/886, Deeds Register 79/13

Nelson Evening Mail

Nelson Evening Mail

24 September 1969

1 February 1985

Nelson Provincial Museum

Nelson Provincial Museum

Jury Lists 1852-61

- Nelson City Ratings Rolls 1857, 1861-64, 1866, 1868

- Nelson Census 1849

Other Information

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration. Information in square brackets indicate modifications made after the paper was considered by the NZHPT Board.

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.