Fifeshire House


Fifeshire House, 326 Trafalgar Square in Nelson, is today a commercial premises, but much of the original architectural integrity of the 1911 structure remains.

Fifeshire House. Nelson City Council

The house was built in 1911 (some sources say 1918). Originally Fifeshire House was called Raglan Villa and it was the homestead of the Harley family for over 50 years. The Harleys owned Raglan Breweries,1 which were located right next door where the Rutherford Hotel now stands, near to the Cathedral.  Over the years the family became well respected brewers for their internationally recognised 'Harleys Ale'.

Raglan Brewery in Cathedral Square. Nelson Photo News,  no 70 August 20, 1966
Click image to enlarge

Joseph Auty Harley, Mayor of Nelson from 1949 to 1956, and his family were the last generation to live in Raglan Villa. Over this time the house gained a reputation as a friendly, welcoming place, with guests regularly dropping in. Friends of the Harleys would stop by to enjoy a sumptuous lunch from the busy kitchen, or to attend an evening function in the more formal end of the house.

In 1970 Harley's Raglan Brewery was purchased by Westland Breweries, which later became Monteith's, which itself became part of DB Breweries.2

The house remained a family home until the 1970s. After this it was used as a Nelson Community Centre for arts and other organisations. In 1987 Fifeshire FM Broadcasters moved in and renamed the house. The Broadcasters wanted to preserve the architectural integrity of the old house and, apart from a new colour scheme, the exterior was retained as it was originally built. However, some structural changes were necessary on the inside. Among the acoustic requirements was the need to fully soundproof the on-air studio and, on the ground floor, some walls were removed to open up the old stairway and give extra space for a public reception and waiting area in the front room.

The building continues to house MediaWorks and the Fifeshire Foundation.

2012 (updated 2021)

Sources used in this story

  1. Harley & Sons: Raglan Breweries (1901, September 7 ) Nelson Evening Mail, p.2
  2. Our history. DB Brewing Company. Retrieved 6 June 2012 from:

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  • Small correction - the Harleys didn't found Raglan Breweries. If you look at the Papers Past reference, it says Raglan Brewery was founded by Travers, Oldham and Smith in 1855. Charles Harley brought in in 1859

    Posted by Felicity, 15/11/2023 5:45pm (8 months ago)

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Further sources - Fifeshire House


  • Lash, M. (1992) Nelson Notables Nelson, NZ : Nelson Historical Society, p.74
  • Smedley, B. (1989) The Harleys of Nelson: then and now. Nelson, N.Z.: the author


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