Mills, E. W., and Co., Limited
(Directors: Messrs. E. W. Mills (chairman and managing director), Edward Seagar and Martin Kennedy), Iron Merchants and Ship Chandlers, Jervois Quay, Hunter, and Victoria Streets, Wellington. Cable
Messrs. E. W. Mills and Co's Premises—Victoria Street Frontage. (From a photo taken before completion).
address, “Ranhadura”; code A.B.C., 4th edition and private codes.
Telephone 35; P.O. Box 274. Bankers, Bank of New South Wales. Private residence of managing director, “Sayes Court,” The Terrace. This extensive business is the oldest established ironmongery concern in Wellington. It was founded in 1854 by Mr. E. W. Mills, then a young man. The trade extended and developed to such an extent that larger premises were from time to time required. For many years the offices and retail establishment of the Company were situated in Lambton Quay, the wholesale stocks being in Featherston Street and Lambton Quay. The disadvantages of three separate premises for one business have long been very apparent, and the directors have been on the lookout for a suitable site where the operations of the firm could be concentrated. Five large allotments have been leased from the Wellington City Council in a most suitable position, having the advantage of close proximity to the wharves and shipping, and being very near the Post and Telegraph and Customs offices, as well as very convenient for business people. The new building, which is from plans prepared by Mr. W. C. Chatfield, who supervised the erection, is built of brick and cement, and occupies a commanding site facing Queen's Wharf approach, at the angle of three streets—Hunter and Victoria Streets, and Jervois Quay—the frontages being respectively 54, 147, and 179 feet. The front portion, which is three stories in height, has its main entrance at the corner of Hunter Street and Jervois Quay. The ground floor is used as a showroom, the offices of the firm, including those of the managing director and the secretary, being located on the left hand side of the entrance. The first and second floors, which are on powerful steel girders supported by iron pillars, are connected by a handsome staircase. The stock shown on the ground floor embraces ranges and stoves, register grates, mantelpieces, Milner's safes, pumps, lawn mowers, plated ware, bedsteads, chaff cutters, oat bruisers, hydraulic, logging and screw jacks, and many other useful machines. The shelving round the walls of this flat is filled with stocks of builders' hardware. The first floor contains, among other goods, varnishes, lampware, brushware, artificers' tools, builders' hardware, brass cocks and steam fittings, carriage and buggy lamps, guns and sporting material, filters, bedsteads, lawn mowers, and weighing machines; and on the upper floor are stored tinware, enamelled ware, spades, shovels, forks, rakes, churns, hay tools, fenders, lamp chimneys and globes, brooms, doormats, basketware, and milk dishes, these being a few of the many lines that go to make up the large hardware stock held by the firm. The two-story building at the back is connected on the basement and first floors by fireproof iron doors, an hydraulic jigger, capable of lifting half-a-ton, being used for raising packages, while travelling cranes for moving heavy goods run along the whole length of the buildings, and also transversely. A waggon way runs right through the centre of this building from Victoria Street to Jervois Quay, an asphalt floor being on one
Jervois Quay Frontage. (Since enlarged and completed.)
side, and a raised platform on the other about the level of a waggon. Beneath this staging are stored bulk-oils, naves, and such goods as it is necessary to stow in a dark place. The heavier and more massive goods which are kept by the Company, such as plain and corrugated galvanised iron, fencing wires, staples, nails, paint oils, castor and other lubricating oils, cement, Milner's safes, and strong-room doors are kept on this floor. On the floor above is the packing room, and stocks are stored of stoves, ranges, bedsteads, saws, axes, handles, belting, bolts and nuts, and general engineers' and wheelwrights' material. Two of the sections fronting Jervois Quay are not yet built on. The iron-yard, agricultural implement, machinery, and ship chandlery departments will not be moved into the new premises until the extension is completed. After conducting a large business for thirty years, Mr. Mills decided on the formation of the present Company, which was incorporated in 1884. Few hardware concerns have been able to present such favourable balance-sheets or pay the dividends which have been regularly forthcoming by Messrs. E. W. Mills and Co. (Limited). The Company imports large quantities of general hardware, metals, machinery, ship chandlery, paints, oils, etc., from the best markets of Britain, America, and the Continent of Europe. The stocks are as heavy and valuable as they are varied, comprising as they do everything required to till the land or fit up a house, warehouse, or mill. The customers of the firm are to be found in most of the towns of the Colony, but most of the special area covered by the travellers of the Company extends from Gisborne on the East and New Plymouth of the West Coast, southwards to Wellington, and in the South Island to Marlborough, Nelson, and Westta id Provincial Districts. Three commercials are constantly employed, and occasionally two others. One traveller, Mr. Gibbs, has been in the firms employ for thirty-four years. Mr. C. A. Briggs, secretary and accountant, and several other employees have been in the service of the Company for about twenty years. Messrs. E. W. Mills and Co. (Limited) have a large number of special agencies from British, American, and Continental manufacturers. A few of the leading houses may be named, such as Milner's Safe Company, Felten and Guilleamme, of Mulheim-on-Rhine (wires and wire ropes), Valentine and Co., of New York (varnish and coach colours), Allen Everitt and Sons, of Birmingham (special locomotive and condenser tubes), Leonard and Ellis, of New York (Valvoline oils), T. and W. Smith of Newcastle-on-Tyne (wire ropes), Fairbanks and Co., of New York (weighing machine and weigh bridges), The Planet Junior Company (farm and garden implements). The Company's trade mark is the erect figure of a Maori chief, which has been duly registered in England. Mr. E. W. Mills, the founder and managing director, established one of the earliest foundries in Wellington in 1856. The business then inaugurated has been the leading foundry and engine works in the Empire City for many years. It was commenced on the present site of Mr. Mills' private house known as “Save Court,” and was named the Lion Foundry, a name which it retains to the present time. Until 1871 this business was conducted at the same place, a large number of hands—about one hundred and twenty in number—being employed. New and more commodious premises became a necessity, and in March, 1871, the new foundry on the foreshore was opened. A handsome piece of silver plate, suitably engraved, was presented to Mr. Mills to commemorate the opening. It was accompanied by a letter referring in kindly terms to the good understanding that had ever existed between that gentleman and his employees. The site occupied by the Lion Foundry was surrounded by water on three sides, and here steamers were built and launched in the early days. For many years Mr. Cable, the present owner, was foreman of works; he was subsequently admitted a partner, and eventually purchased the good will and business. Mr. Edward William Mills is the third son of the late Mr. Charles Mills, builder, who died in Wellington in 1862. Mr. Mills' ancestors settled in Winchester Hants during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and had an estate there till about 1838. His grandmother Elizabeth Sophia was a daughter of the renowned Dr. Edward Shorter, a civil engineer and machinist, who patented several useful inventions—notably the screw propeller—in 1802. Born on the 19th of August, 1829, at Kensington, England, Mr. E. W. Mills accompanied his father to New Zealand per ship “Birman,” arriving in Wellington on the 1st of March, 1812, in his twelfth year. The fire fiend played havoc in the early days sometimes. On the 9th of November, 1842, the house of Mr. Mills' father was totally destroyed, and great loss was the result, as a valuable cargo had just previously been received. In consequence of this conflagration Mr. E. W. Mills had to go to work. He found employment with Mr. McLeod, a brother of Dr. Normau McLeod. In 1846 he assisted his father in carrying out his first contract at building for the Imperial Government. For about two years subsequently he had the usual experience on the goldfields, visiting Ballarat, Forest Creek, and other places in Australia. Returning to the Colony in 1854, Mr. Mills founded the large hardware trade which has borne his name for over forty years. Mr. Mills has carried through many large contracts for the construction of important works, including the building of, alterations and repairs to steamers, building locomotives, constructing railway plant, sawmills, etc., since establishing himself in business. He has ever taken a keen interest in the prosperity and progress of the Colony, and has always been ready to subscribe and help forward any scheme that was inaugurated to develop the resources of the country. As a director and promoter of several well-known companies—notably the Wellington Tramway Company and the Wellington Patent Slip Company—Mr. Mills has rendered yeoman service to New Zealand in general and Wellington in particular. Though he has steadily declined to be a candidate for the more prominent positions, such as the Mayoralty of the City and a place in the House of Representatives, he was a member of the old Town Board, and subsequently sat as a councillor for the City. In 1876 Mr. Mills was appointed a Justice of the Peace. For ten years he has been one of the directors of the Colonial Insurance Company, and of the Commercial Insurance Company, which purchased the former company's business. He has been interested in yachting matters since the earliest days of the Colony. Mr. Mills is now the commodore of the Port Nicholson Yacht Club. As a volunteer he has done his full service, joining in 1846 as one of a small company under Mr. George Allen, which patrolled the outskirts of the young settlement; after this Mr. Mills joined No. 1 Company Royal Rifle Volunteers, and subsequently rose to the position of captain, which he held till the troop was disbanded. He was afterwards appointed to No. 1 Company of the Militia, as captain, and his name is now on the retired list. In musical matters Mr. Mills is a flutist, and was a member of the first choir of St. Paul's pro-cathedral Church, and still retains his connection with this church. In the masonic fraternity Mr. Mills belongs to the Pacific Lodge 517, E.C., and is a master of the order. He has long been a member of the Chamber of Commerce, of which he was president in 1889. Mr. Mills is a member of the Wellington Club. He was married on the 28th of December, 1854, to Louisa Felicite Prideaux Evelyn, eldest daughter of Captain John Faithful Fortescue Wright, of the Royal Marines, and has four sons and five daughters. Mr. E. C. E. Mills, the eldest son, who had taken a prominent part in the hardware business of Messrs. E. W. Mills and Co. (Limited) for many years, was married on the 22nd of May, 1891, to Mrs. Masters, relict of the late
Mr. Edward Masters, late M.H.R. for the Grey electorate. All Mr. Mills's daughters are married—the eldest to Mr. B. Holmwood, of Lee, Kent, the second to Mr. G. C. Russell, the third to Mr. A. Anderson, C.E., of Christchurch, the fourth to Mr. W. G. Grey, and the youngest to Mr. W. J. Napier, barrister and solicitor, of Auckland.