The Mayoral Shop


The premises at 83-86 Bridge Street in Nelson were the birthplace of the mayoral ambitions of three families.


J H Levien: The Nelson Provincial Museum, Print Collection: 297185

Lock wedding day NEM

A poem advertising Lock's Warehouse in the Nelson Evening Mail, May 8 1909. Papers Past

The first owner Moss Davis (1847-1933), an early Nelson Jewish merchant, set up shop in the 1860s. His son, Sir Ernest Hyam Davis, born in Nelson 17 Feb 1872 and educated at Bishops School was destined to be a mercantile force in Auckland as head of New Zealand Breweries Ltd., a noted philanthropist and backer of the newly-formed Labour Party from 1912 to 1962.

Moss Davis

Moss Davis. From Papers Past. [he died in London in 1933]

Locks Warehouse

Lock's Warehouse c.1902. Nelson Provincial Museum 1738375

He became the Mayor of Auckland from 1935-1941, was knighted for services to industry and local government in 1937 and was also appointed as a chevalier Legion d’ Honneur by the French Government in 1938.

Moss Davis in turn sold the Nelson store in 1876 to Joseph Henry Levien (1811-1876), who became second Mayor of Nelson from 1874. His daughter, Esther Levien, married the third owner and mayoral aspirant William Lock. Lock managed the shop from 1893-1912, and was a renowned marketer. He commissioned several ditties for the Nelson Mail to advertise his wares at Lock's Warehouse and Emporium.

Lock had served as a councillor on the Nelson City Council from 1899 and first became Mayor in 1914. On 20 Sept 1914, on the eve of the First World War, he opened the newly stone built Cawthron steps- a landmark of Nelson then and now. He remained Mayor until 1915, and was re-elected from 1921 to 1927. During his later mayoralty, he and his wife were the gracious hosts of the Duke and Duchess of York, the mother and father (George Sixth) of the present Queen Elizabeth the Second.

The mayoral links not only prove the influence of the early Jewish community of Nelson, but also the power of Nelson’s mercantile class. The building next door, on the corner of Bridge and Trafalgar streets, which dates from 1843, built by Alexander Parry, was the first Wakatu Hotel. Its proprietor was William Harley of the Harley family who owned the Crown Brewery.  In 1877 they sold the hotel premises to the Bank of New South Wales (BNSW) and it became a handsome two story building serving the local merchants. It was replaced in 1982, following the merger of BNSW with the present Westpac Bank.

Charles John Harley (1861-1922), son of William Harley became the Mayor of Nelson in 1915 to 1917. He had earlier served as Councillor with William Lock from  1899 to 1902.

William Lock served the City of Nelson for over 40 years and died in 1940 aged 82. He is buried in Wakapuaka cemetery in the mayoral corner (Lot  003 Block 11).

2015 (updated July 2020)

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  • i am looking for other photos of moss davis whom previously resided in nelson.
    my Grtgrdmother and Moss are in an early Tesla photo that i have in my possession.
    Any other info regarding the first moss davis marriage before 1871 would be awesome,
    and including, the Davis son, william herbert moss davis from my Grtgdmothers birthing,
    would be invaluable.
    Williams father was moss davis.
    William and his mother mary ann, passed away during the 1918 year, i think of some
    pandemic bug.

    Posted by Bruce Windleburn, 21/06/2021 12:41pm (3 years ago)

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