Buxton and Company Nelson Merchants


E. Buxton & Co Merchants was an importing and exporting business, selling everything from apple trees to firearms, women's hosiery to sausage skins.

The business, first opened in 1855, was located in central Trafalgar Street. Founder Edmund Buxton lived at Broadgreen in Stoke.  Each morning Mr. Buxton was driven from Stoke to Nelson in his buggy and pair.

Mr Buxton. Nelson Provincial Museum, Tyree Studio Collection: 18614
Click image to enlarge

Described as an irascible man, he fell out with a great many people and was regarded with awe, fear and sometimes rebellion by his employees.1

At this time, the importing business was not all plain sailing. On Wednesday, October 24, 1860, Buxton brought a court case against Captain Thomas, for £2 9s. 6d. for broken goods. This was for a hogshead of draught ale, which was found short of several gallons on arrival. Thomas Hill sworn: "Am landing waiter at the port of Nelson. Received a warrant to bond ten hogsheads of ale ex John Phillips. Found one of the casks had been spiled about nine inches from the head. There were twelve gallons deficient; the beer had leaked out to the line of the spile, from which there was a continual dripping. Believe it was done on board ship. E. Buxton sworn: Am importer of goods from England. I consider that a cask partially full would in the course of a very little time turn sour it is only fit now for immediate sale". The Magistrate said the captain must pay for the actual loss, £1 45 costs 15s.2

In 1867 Edmund Buxton went into semi retirement, a wealthy man. Buxtons continued to be run as a family business. In that year Edmund Buxton built Holton House in Ruby Bay, as a holiday home for his retirement. The house was a smaller version of Broadgreen House, and still stands today.3

The company appeared community-minded, despite its owner's reputation. E. Buxton & Co contributed to local events, presenting a ‘handsome plated tea and coffee service, to be appropriated £8 a special prize for any object the Committee chooses' for the Nelson Exhibition in 1873.4

In the same year a show of gold and quartz was displayed in Messrs. Buxton's window. The display appeared to have had a slightly political motive, having letters to the Editor of the Colonist to explain;

"The display of quartz and gold brought over last week from the Decimal Mine, is very refreshing, more particularly as the returns from the Perseverance mine have greatly fallen off. Considering that the Decimal is a next door neighbour, that the division is so fine as hardly to be discernible, now is a fit and proper time for the Decimal Company to make an eligible offer for the rental of the Perseverance".5 

E Buxton & Co, General Merchants, Trafalgar Street. Nelson Provincial Museum, Tyree Studio Collection: 179987. Click image to enlarge

By 1878, however, the company had out-grown its premises. An application from Messrs. Buxton and Co., was lodged to Nelson City Council for a license to store 2000 gallons kerosene and 75 pounds gunpowder, in a covered passage adjoining their warehouse. This application was matched by one from Mr. Wilkins (of Wilkins & Field), for storing 800 gallons of kerosene in a storehouse at the rear of his premises. A note from the Surveyor reported that both these places were unsafe, and recommended the construction of a building on the mud-flat, near the Post office as a kerosene store. The building would be divided into sections, and offered at a low rate of rental to the businesses. It was suggested in Council that the magazine in Albion Square was the proper storing place for gunpowder, and, after much discussion, it was resolved to refer the whole matter to the Works Committee, to report at its next meeting.6

In 1881 the family business passed into the ownership of Mr Francis Hamilton of Greymouth. Buxton & Co. had suffered financial losses in the 1870s, and this, coupled with the death of Edmund Buxton in 1877, forced the bank to dispose of the business. Hamilton retained the Buxton business name.

Buxton & Co Ltd, Hop & Grain Store, Nelson. Nelson Provincial Museum, Tyree Studio Collection: 181083
Click image to enlarge

Hamilton greatly expanded E. Buxton & Co., carrying on a large wholesale and retail trade in agricultural, mining, building and household equipment, and groceries. Wool, hops and barley were purchased directly from local farmers. The barley was malted for supply to local breweries. Buxton's Hop & Grain store was built in Vanguard Street, connecting directly to the port via railway tracks.7  

A Big Fire at Nelson - a Corner of Buxtons Store. Nelson Provincial Museum, F N Jones Collection: 311063
Click image to enlarge

Newspaper editorial, 1884: "A tour through Buxton's through the courtesy of Messrs E. Buxton and Co., we were enabled to make a thorough inspection of their recent additions to premises in Trafalgar Street, and were pleased with the result. Messrs Buxton and Co., finding their old building too small for them, determined to enlarge their borders and build commodious warehouses at the back of their old premises. We can only say that the new buildings have given every satisfaction, and are a great convenience to the proprietors".8 

The breadth and quality of merchandise sold by E. Buxton & Co was highlighted at the Nelson Agricultural & Pastoral Show of 1905. An editorial sung the praises of E. Buxton's stand;" Messrs Buxton & Co make a large display, special feature being made of the celebrated Shacklock ranges, and a number of specially valuable implements to the farmer and orchardist are also exhibited. A novelty is the Jones patent dairy bucket, which is set at an angle which does away with the necessity for the milker tilting the bucket as in the ordinary practice. Burges' stumping jack is an invaluable aid to the bush farmer, a man single handed being able to get an eight ton lift with the larger size...".9

In March 1917 a large fire engulfed part of Buxton & Co's farm department at their Trafalgar Street premises, along with several other buildings. Buxton's main store - a large brick building separated from the next shop by a narrow right of way, was saved.10

The business was rebuilt and continued to trade until 1963, when it was taken over by Wright Stephenson & Co. Today Farmers Trading Co. is on the site, and Buxton Square, behind Farmers, is an enduring reminder of this long-serving local business.

2013 (updated Dec 2020)

Sources used in this story

  1. Le Cren, H. (1997) Broadgreen Historic House. Nelson, N.Z. : The Society
  2. Resident Magistrate's Court (1860, October 26) Colonist, p. 2
  3. Nelson Historical Society newsletter, January 2018 [PDF]
  4. Messrs E. Buxton & Co. Prize Colonist, Volume XVI, Issue 1674, 3 October 1873, Page 5
  5. Correspondence. Perseverance and Decimal Mines (1873, June 17) Colonist, p. 3
  6. City Council. (1878, June 8) Colonist, p. 3
  7. Le Cren
  8. Nelson industries (1884, March 1) Colonist, p. 2
  9. Nelson A. & P. Association (1901, November 27) Colonist, p. 2
  10. Big fire in Nelson (1917, March 28) Marlborough Express,p. 5

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Further sources - Buxton and Company Nelson Merchants



  • Buxton, E & Co. Letterbooks, journals etc (1876-1941). Nelson Provincial Museum Archival collection

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