Wills Tobacco and the Pethybridge Memorial Rose Garden Motueka


On 26th November 1964, a memorial plaque and rose gardens were dedicated to Charles Edward Pethybridge, by G.W. Johnston, Chairman of the Tobacco company W.D & H.O Wills (NZ) Ltd. Charles had just retired from the company, as the Motueka Branch Manager, and was acknowledged for his 50 years of service, from 1914 to 1964, to W.D & H.O Wills (NZ) Ltd. In fact he was the very first person to complete 50 years of service for the New Zealand branch of the company.1

Pethybridge NPN Nov 1964

Presentations for 50 years of service. From left Glynne Barnett (now Franklyn), Sue Hunt (now Wood), Charles Pethybridge, Mr G W Johnston and Lillian Pethybridge. Nelson Photo News 12 December 1964

W.D & H.O Wills (NZ) Ltd. store was located between High and Saxon Streets in Motueka. This large industrial scale building still exists today, as the Masonic Lodge and Funeral Directors facilities. The company purchased the High Street fronted, residential section adjoining the company land, built and planted the gardens, eventually naming them after Charles, for his outstanding service. Charles was also presented with a set of crystal glasses and decanter, a silver salver and silver water jug and ice bucket.

The memorial plaque in the rose garden reads:

These gardens have been named to perpetuate the outstanding service given by Charles E. Pethybridge Esq. over a period of 50 years (1914-1964) to the company of W.D. & H.O. Wills (NZ) Ltd.. On Nov 26th 1964 the chairman of the company Mr G. W. Johnston opened the rose garden for the use and pleasure of the citizens of and visitors to the District of Motueka.

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Pethybridge Rose Garden entrance off High Street Motueka. Ken Wright Photo

The 2,023 m³ residential section was purchased in January 1963 from Mrs Harriet Gordon. After the purchase, Charles Pethybridge organised the development of the gardens2 for the pleasure of the citizens and visitors to Motueka. On 5 October 1988 the Rose Garden was transferred from the Wills Company to the Motueka Borough Council.  It was further transmitted to Tasman District Council on 13 July 1995.3

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Pethybridge Rose Garden memorial plinth. Ken Wright Photo

Charles Edward Pethybridge was born in Kilburnie Wellington, on 21 January 1901.4 He was the eldest of five children.  His education was at Kilburnie and Johnsonville schools and he took the Commercial Option at the Wellington Technical College.  In October 1914, he joined the shipping department of W.D & H.O Wills in Wellington, where he worked for eight years.5 He initially joined the company, earning 17 shillings and 6 pence a week, by playing truant from school.  He had completed two weeks service before his parents realised that he was not going to school.6  When he first joined the company they employed 14 staff and were involved in manufacturing and packaging. The Wills parent company originated in Great Britain, however in April 1919, W.D & H.O Wills (New Zealand) Ltd was formally registered.7

In 1922 Pethybridge transferred to Christchurch. He was branch manager at Timaru and advertising manager in Christchurch.  He married his first wife, Marjorie Eileen Mounsey of Riccarton, on 5 June 1929 in Christchurch.8  Marjorie passed away on 17 July 1935 in St Albans Christchurch, aged 28 years.9

He remarried Lillian Doris Hanham of Riccarton, at Christchurch on the 20 April 1938.  Lillian was a very talented professional soprano10 and often sang in local concerts and on the radio.  During World War II Charles served in the Shirley Home Guard, as the Company Commander.11

In 1946 Pethybridge came to Motueka to open the branch of W.D & H.O Wills.  Charles and Lillian lived initially on the corner of Tudor and High Streets.  In 1951 they had a large home built on a double section, at 3 Jocelyn Avenue.  This house was designed for Charles by Wellington architects Gordon H Burt Ltd.12 Bishop Peter Sutton described this big home as "a gracious centre of hospitality".12 Lillian continued her involvement in singing and drama and many entertaining gatherings were hosted at their home in Jocelyn Avenue.14

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The Pethybridge home, built 1951 at 3 Jocelyn Avenue Motueka. Ken Wright Photo

Charles was not only respected for his services to the tobacco growers, but was also active and respected in the community.  He was a very modest and humble man, who knew how to give generously without the slightest touch of patronage.  He was a foundation member and house manager of the Whakarewa Trust and was active in a number of other charitable organisations. Charles and Lillian became second parents to a number of Motueka youngsters during the 1940s to 1960s, and all remember him fondly.  At the time of his death he was still corresponding frequently with many of the young men who passed through Whakarewa Home.  He took an interest in their businesses and their families and was often invited to weddings and family occasions.15

He was a foundation member of the Motueka Rotary and, between 1947 and 1982, he played a prominent part in the organisation of the club.  He was club president from 1953 to 1954 and, after that, served on almost every Rotary committee.  Four years after Charles' death the Rotary organised a Pethybridge Youth Trust Fund to assist with travel for young Motueka people to go overseas on youth exchanges and assist families hosting overseas students coming to Motueka.  This was funded by W.D & H.O Wills and Rotary fund raising events.16

In their retirement, the Pethybridges' remained in their home at 3 Jocelyn Avenue, as they had both grown fond of Motueka.  Retirement was a new chapter of service to others.  He was active on the Whakarewa committee, in the Anglican church and in Rotary.  Lillian predeceased Charles, on 14 December 1972.17  In the New Year’s Honours of 1981 he was awarded a QSM for community service.18 Charles died on 19 February 1982.19 Lillian and Charles were both given funeral services at St Thomas Anglican Church in Motueka, and were then buried at the Marsden Valley Cemetery Nelson.20 Appropriately their ashes are interred together, in the "Rose Bushes" area.

There is also a Pethybridge Street in Motueka, off Thorpe and Greenwood Streets.  Pethybridge Street is named after Charles Edward Pethybridge QSM.21

2016 (Updated September 9,2021)

Sources used in this story

  1. Nelson Evening Mail (1964, November, 27), p.5
  2. Nelson Evening Mail (1964, November, 27), p.5
  3. Tasman District Council File:  41752 "Pethybridge Rose Garden", Certificate of Title 35/172
  4. New Zealand Births Deaths and Marriages: DEATH 1982/28796.
  5. Lifetime of service to others  (1982, March 3) Motueka and Golden Bay News, p.3
  6. Nelson Evening Mail (1964, November, 27), p.5 
  7. Evening Post (1919, April 24)
  8. Mounsey-Pethybridge (1929, June 6) Press
  9. New Zealand Births Deaths and Marriages: DEATH 1935/20458.
    https://www.govt.nz/organisations/births-deaths-and-marriages/NZ Births Deaths and Marriages
  10. Broadcasting.  Soloists Lillian Pethybridge (soprano) (1944, December 16) Press 
  11. Press (1941, July 26) 
  12. Tasman District Council ( Motueka Office) Property File 1956005300
  13. Lifetime of service to others
  14. Motueka & Districts Historical Assn,  Pers Comm: Mrs Jan Baily: Young actress remembering Lillian as Play Director
  15. Pethybridge Youth Trust planned (1986, March 12) Motueka and Golden Bay News, p.2
  16. Pethybridge Youth Trust planned 
  17. New Zealand Births Deaths and Marriages: DEATH 1972/47016: Born 1 December 1903
  18. London Gazette (1980, December 31), p.41
  19. Nelson City Council Web Site Cemeteries Data Base MVRSE365
  20. Nelson City Council Web Site Cemeteries Data Base MVRSE365
  21. Tasman District Council. Tasman District Street and Place Names. Retrieved from:

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  • As visitors from Melbourne, my wife and I loved and admired the garden. Few roses are out yet but plenty of other flowers. What an asset for the town and a boon for visitors Our thanks to those who tend it and to the council who funds it.

    Posted by Barney, 04/11/2019 8:47pm (5 years ago)

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Further sources - Wills Tobacco and the Pethybridge Memorial Rose Garden Motueka



  • Lifetime of service to others  (1982, March 3) Motueka and Golden Bay News, p.3
  • Pethybridge Youth Trust planned (1986, March 12) Motueka and Golden Bay News, p.2

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