Charles Yates Fell and his Memorial


Charles Yates Fell was born in Nelson in 1844. He was the son of Alfred Fell, merchant and early settler, brother of the English politician Arthur Fell and grandson of Henry Seymour, after whom Seymour Square in Blenheim is named.

Fell took lessons with the Rev Meyrick Lully and later with Archdeacon Paul of Nelson. In 1859 both he and his parents returned to England where he attended King’s College School, London. From there he went to St John’s College, Oxford from 1863 to 1867 obtaining a Bachelor of Arts. He married Edith Louisa Bainbridge at Putney, London in 1869.

Fell CYCharles Yates Fell, between 1894-1895 - lying ill in bed in either 1894 or 1895. Next to him, on a table, is a painting, probably by John Gully. Photograph taken by Charles Yates Fell. Alexander Turnbull Library.
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Fell was admitted to bar and joined the Home Circuit, entered Lincoln’s Inn, and thence Inner Temple. After a short time practising in England he returned to New Zealand in 1870.

In 1880 he entered into partnership with Arthur Atkinson, founding the legal firm Fell and Atkinson. For many years Fell was the Crown Solicitor, Registrar of the Diocese of Nelson, and governor of Nelson College.

After the death of his first wife, in 1879, he married Atkinson’s daughter, Edith Emily Atkinson, in 1881. She was also the niece of the painter Dorothy Richmond.

Fell became Mayor of Nelson on 23 November 1882, when Edward Everett resigned. He remained Mayor until 21 December 1887 when he was succeeded by John Sharp.

Fell had painted in watercolour while at King’s College but did not paint seriously until later in his life. He was a trustee of the Bishop Suter Art Gallery, Nelson, from its inception in 1896 until his death in 1918. In 1918 he accompanied the painter Henry Morland Gore on a sketching tour of Maitai Valley and was a member of the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts. Two of his works, St Johns Farm, Prades (1916) and Mountain Village are held in the Suter. A third, Country Scene, Nelson, is held in a private collection.

Fell MemorialThe Charles Yates Fell Memorial Tahuna. F.N. Jones image. Copyright Rob Packer Post Card Collection.
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Prior to returning to painting, Fell had become a photographer, specialising in landscapes and portraits. Some of his photographs are held in the National Library of New Zealand.

Fell’s talents also extended to music, and he was noted as a fine musician and promoted and supported the Nelson School of Music. He was also a good athlete, noted as a sprinter, was a stroke for his college boat at Oxford, and an expert horseman. In Nelson he was an enthusiastic yachtsman.

Fell died in Nelson on 9 June 1918 and was buried at Wakapuaka Cemetery. In February 1919 a public meeting was held to propose a fitting Memorial to Mr Fell. It was decided to provide a water supply at Tahuna for the public. The committee had agreed that the most suitable, memorial would be a drinking fountain in the City Council Reserve at Tahuna for the benefit of pleasure seekers. There was no water for the public at Tahuna, and it was felt that a drinking fountain would be a great boon to the people. To enable  water to be supplied to the fountain, it was necessary to get the permission of the Council, to extend the present water service.

The Memorial was constructed in the 1920s. It was shifted to a nearby location when the access to the beach foreshore was changed in early 2000.


Updated May 8, 2020

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