Thomas, George and Co.
(F. W. Haybittle and E. B. Bristow), Auctioneers, Fruit and Produce Merchants, Thomas' Hall, Custom House Quay, and Wellington Fruit Market, Harris Street, Wellington; Cable address, “Thomas, Wellington,” Code, A B C, Fourth Edition. Telephone, 78, P.O. Box, 26. Bankers, Bank of New Zealand. Private residence: Mr. Haybittle, Willow Bank, Lower Hutt; Mr. Bristow, Abel Smith Street. This large concern is the oldest established auctioneering business in the city. It was founded in 1869 by the late Captain George Thomas, whose memory is still green. The site originally selected in Lambton Quay is opposite the site until lately occupied by the Colonial Bank. The building was known as the old Presbyterian
Mr. F. W. Haybittle, of Messrs. Geo. Thomas & Co.
Messrs. G. Thomas and Co.'s. Buildings.
Church, and now forms part of the Central Hotel. In 1879, Captain Thomas removed to larger premises in Hunter Street, and there the business was conducted till 1882, when it was transferred to Panama Street. No further changes were made for nine years, when the firm as at present constituted entered on the fine block now used by them in Custom House Quay. Captain Thomas continued to take an interest in this fine business till shortly before his death, which occurred in January, 1890. He was a genial and kindly man, who had endeared himself to all who came within the scope of his acquaintance. By honesty and stern integrity he laid the foundation of the large concern now so ably conducted by his surviving partner and his successor. Mr. F. W. Haybittle, the senior partner, was born in Wellington, in 1860. Educated at Mr. William Finnimore's school, he was put to business as a little lad of twelve years of age, and was fortunate in securing employment under Captain Thomas. Mr. Haybittle owes his business capacity to the early training then bestowed upon him, and has not been in any other business. After thirteen years, he became a partner with his employer, and continued a member of the firm until the partnership was dissolved by death. The executors under Captain Thomas's will sold that gentleman's interest to Mr. E. B. Bristow, who had been for many years in the employ of Messrs. Johnston and Co., merchants. Messrs. Ilaybittle and Bristow soon realisel that the Panama Street premises were too small for the growing demands of their business. They therefore took steps to secure a more commodious establishment; and, having leased from the Harbour Board a splendid section fronting Custom House Quay, Hunter Street, and Queen's Wharf Approach, instructed Messrs. Clere and Richmond to prepare plans and specifications. The contract was let without delay, Mr. J. H. Meyer being the successful tenderer, at a price of £5560. The building now known as Thomas' Hall is an imposing brick structure of three stories in height. The ground floor, which is used as a grain and produce warehouse, has a large cart entrance communicating with Custom House Quay in front and Hunter Street at the back. The first floor, which is marked by a handsome staircase, is splendidly fitted up as a hall, capable of seating some 500 persons. It is brilliantly lighted by electric light, and has a large stage and suitable ante-rooms. Here splendid sales of land, property, furniture, etc., are held as and when required. It is specially known as the leading ballroom of the city, and is in great demand for such purposes as public receptions, meetings, and other gatherings. On the second, or top floor, Messrs. Thomas and Co. keep their reserve stock of grain and produce. A powerful hydraulic lift connects the various floors, and is much used, At the corner of Custom House Quay and Hunter Street, a fine mite of rooms is leased by the National Fire and Marine Insurance Company. These fine premises, which cost over £6000, have a total floorage space of little less than 15,000 square feet. In the grain and produce trade they have a very large turnover; the trade extends all over New Zealand, and shipments are made extensively to Australia. Besides grain and produce, Messrs. Thomas and Co. are prominent fruit salesmen. Almost the whole of the fruit consumed in Wellington passes through the hands of local auctioneers, and of these Messrs. Thomas and Co. are in the front rank. For a long time the sales of fruit were held in the open air, behind the hall, on the reclaimed land. This was found very inconvenient, and a fruit market was projected. In conjunction with Messrs. Townsend and Paul, fruit auctioneers, a suitable building was put up in Harris Street, in 1894. This has proved to be of great convenience, and has since been used jointly by the two firms. It is a two-story brick building, having some 12,000 square feet of floor space. Messrs. Thomas and Co. hold daily sales at 9 a.m., and quit large quantities. They have immense consignments sent for realisation from Tasmania, Australia, and Fiji, as well as from all parts of this Colony. Messrs. George Thomas and Co. issue a weekly market report on the grain, produce, and fruit market, and their quotations are accepted in all parts of the Colony, Periodical sales of poultry are held, and outdoor sales are conducted whenever and wherever they may be required. Producers of grain, fruit, and other
Mr. E. B. Bristow.
produce may rely upon their goods being promptly and honestly realised, and may depend upon speedy settlements. Mr. Haybittle the senior partner, has for twelve years past taken a leading part in musical circles, especially in the literary portion. He has been prominent as a reciter, and has been successful in winning prizes at public competitions. Mr. Bristow was born in London, and received his education at Dr. Yates' Academy, Peckham. After leaving school, he was for five years in the office of Gun and Shot and Griffin's Wharves Company, of Southwark, London. In May, 1877, he left England for Otago, and came on without delay to Wellington, where he arrived on the 19th of July of the same year. After a few weeks, Mr Bristow entered the office of Messrs. Johnston and Co., of Featherston Street, and remained with this firm till the month of February, 1890, when he resigned his position and joined the firm of George Thomas and Co., as above.