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Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies, Volume 2, Issue 6, 1995

David Sclanders: Nelson Citizen, Merchant and Banker

page 33

David Sclanders: Nelson Citizen, Merchant and Banker

One of the first Nelson merchants also provided one of the first Nelson banks. David Sclanders set up the firm known first as Morrison and Sclanders and later as Sclanders & Co.

David Sclanders was born in Glasgow in 1814 and as a young man became associated with the firm of Alexander Morrison & Co in London. He emigrated to Nelson in 1842 on the Lord Auckland.

He brought his house and goods to sell on the ship with him and set up his business at Auckland Point where he had his house, three stores and a brick hostelry. His firm imported all kinds of merchandise from all the markets of the world and exported wool and other products. Continuing links with the London branch was an important support to the Nelson business.

Shipping also formed a good part of the business and the firm had a wharf at Auckland Point. The steamer Ann from Sydney was under their management. They were local agents for the New Zealand Shipping Company and the Shaw Savill & Albion Company and part owners of the Anchor Company's local line of small steamers. They also undertook fire and marine insurance.

In 1845 Eliza Louise Lowe, the stepdaughter of Alexander Morrison, came to Nelson and the pair married on 21 December 1846. Daughters were born in 1849 and 1854.

In 1847 the New Zealand Government passed the Act to create a Colonial Bank with a monopoly on banknote issue. This was only a bank of issue, with no provision for effecting remittance or for receiving deposits. As a result the Union Bank of Australia withdrew every note they had in circulation as speedily as possible, and closed their branch in Nelson in 1848. Businesses then had great difficulties, as they no longer had a place to make remittances, and gold, cash and the Government notes constituted a small and uncertain supply. Government notes were required for paying custom duties, and this drained away the small supplies that the businessmen had.

Morrison and Sclanders helped the situation by setting up the Nelson Bank and were the first firm in town to own a safe. Their notes were made payable twelve months after date, to comply with the Bank of Issue Act. Although they were not payable on demand, they were widely acceptable and notes of the Nelson Bank were accepted in the Wairau and some other places. These notes provided a circulating medium for nearly eight years in the province of Nelson and greatly assisted businesses to carry on. At first the notes were one pound ($2) and when silver became scarce, five shilling (50c) notes were issued.

As the Bank of Issue Act was found to have failed, it was repealed in 1856. The Union Bank was then able to issue its own notes and reopened its branches, and the Nelson Bank notes were cancelled as they came in, being no longer required.

With the small population, David Sclanders, like other citizens, had to engage in a wide variety of activities. He led an application in 1848 for the Church of Scotland to send Nelson a minister and became the trustee and secretary of this organization, heading the subscriptions for building the church. The first minister, T.D. Nicholson, arrived in 1848 and the church was built soon after.

David was a member of the committee which named the streets of Nelson, helped organize Nelson's Anniversary celebrations and was an umpire for the investigation of page 34
Sclanders and Co, Hardy Street, Nelson. Tyree Studio Collection, Nelson Provincial Museum.

Sclanders and Co, Hardy Street, Nelson. Tyree Studio Collection, Nelson Provincial Museum.

early land purchases. The London firm invested in the Dun Mountain Copper Mining Co in the 1850s, with the Morrisons being provisional directors, and David was their Nelson agent. A small tributary of the Maitai River in the mining locality is named Sclanders Creek.

David bought property in Bridge Street and the business later moved there from Auckland Point. This became practical once a bridge had been built, allowing easy access to the present city area.

David and Eliza Sclanders had daughters but no sons and two of his nephews, Alexander and James Sclanders, joined him in the Nelson business. David returned to London in February 1858 but his interest in Nelson and the Nelson business continued. When Nelson celebrated a jubilee in 1892 he sent a donation and historical information to James Sclanders.

Alexander Sclanders was manager in Nelson from 1858 and the firm moved to Hardy Street in about 1864. Branches were set up in Wanganui and Christchurch, the latter operating until 1895.

Alexander Sclanders returned to England in 1874, but subsequently visited Nelson several times. He managed the London office from 1874, and was able to do buying and selling in England to the advantage of the Nelson business.

James Sclanders became the Nelson manager and offered a money lending service, using money mainly from English contacts and with the help of the London branch. He lent to people in Wanganui and Palmerston North, rather than Nelson, as this was where the demand for mortgage money was. In a period of about 15 years he lent about 300 mortgages.

James Sclanders died in Nelson on 15 September 1900 at the age of 55. At this time his uncle was still living in London and described as hale and hearty. Alexander Sclanders had died in London in 1899 and in 1902 the firm was sold to Levin & Co. This firm page 35continued on the Hardy Street site for many years. The original firm of Morrison & Sclanders is recalled today by Morrison Street, between Hardy Street and Selwyn Place.

Some of the land owned by the Sclanders family in Nelson city were Sections 64, 168, 169, 170, 172, 437, 442, 613, 620, 622. These fronted Bridge, Hardy, Trafalgar and Brougham Streets.

When David Sclanders died, at the age of 90, in London on 1 July 1904 he had outlived both his nephews and had been involved with the Nelson business for sixty years.

Sources: A Centennial History of the Trinity Presbyterian Church

The Colonist and Nelson Evening Mail

Galt, Margaret. The market for finance in New Zealand in the late nineteenth century. Thesis.

Galt, Margaret. Spectrum programme