Wellington Decorators 1897

A selection of historical paint references

by Peter Walters

In January I published extracts from the chapter titled "DECORATORS, OIL AND COLOUR DEALERS. Including - Artists; Colourmen, Carvers & Gilders, Decorators, Fine Art Dealers, Glass Embossers, Glaziers, Oil and Colour Dealers, Painters and Paperhangers, Picture Framers." of "The Cyclopedia of New Zealand" Volume 2 Auckland, published in 1902 by "The Cyclopedia Company" situated at 153 Manchester St., Christchurch. This month I will publish the extract from the chapter of the same name in Volume 1 Wellington, published in 1897.
Again a fascinating insight into the nature of New Zealand society at the end of the 19th Century is obtained from this extract. A publication that served the same purpose then as the Yellow Pages do today provided surprisingly intimate detail into the day to day lives of the citizenry of the City.
The only recognisable name, and even then only to those of us who were in the Industry in the 1980’s, is R. and E. Tingey. Of note is that the retailers of paint and painters supplies were generally Painters and Decorators in their own right who imported more than their own requirements, selling the surplus. Though there is some mention in other publications I have read of paint manufacture in New Zealand in Nelson in 1879 and Thames in 1881, large scale local manufacture of Surface Coatings did not start in New Zealand until the 1920s. So paint, or more correctly the raw materials for the painter to make his paint on the job, were commodities imported by the professional painter for his own use, with the more enterprising importing surplus to be sold from their shops by family or, for the larger businesses, staff.

Ballmüller, Emil, Artistic Painter and Decorator etc. P.O. Box 236, Wellington. Mr. Ballmüller is a man of exceptional attainments in his profession, having had the benefit of tuition in the Painters' School, Berlin. He began life by serving four years at house-painting; and afterwards spent three years in acquiring a knowledge of artistic decorating in the Gewerbe Museum, Berlin. To complete his studies and widen his experience, Mr. Ballmüller undertook engagements in various parts of Germany, Prance, Italy, and South America. From Buenos Ayres he shipped to New Zealand in 1892, and decided to make Wellington his headquarters. Some magnificent specimens of his handiwork are to be seen in the Empire City. Mr. Ballmüller personally did the whole of the decorative work in the public hall, the corridors, and the vestibule of the huge building erected by the Government Insurance Department. The style of decoration is fourteenth century Gothic, and the execution is indeed a triumph of workmanship.

Nine months were spent in the performance of this contract. The work was started when the plaster was wet; Mr. Ballmüller claims to work with equal effect on plaster, whether wet or dry. Seven weeks were spent in embellishing the interior of the Trocadero, the handsome and commodious restaurant in Willis Street, and this beautiful scheme of decoration, based on the modern Renaissance style, has been generally admired. The showroom of Messrs. Kirkcaldie and Stains, drapers, the interior of Kohn's jeweller's shop, the large organ in St. Paul's Church, and the entrance hall and reception-room at Kinsey's photographic establishment all bear witness to the skill of the subject of this notice. Mr. Ballmüller is prepared to execute work, from ordinary house-painting to the highest form of decorative art, and will willingly give estimates free of charge. Church interiors, theatre interiors, and backgrounds for photographers are among his specialties.

Brady, William, Painter, Paperhanger, and General House Decorator, 26 Courtenay Place, Wellington. Bankers, Bank of New Zealand. Private residence, Salisbury Terrace. The subject of this notice was born in the city of Dublin, where he had large experience in connection with the trade before coming to Colony. As an apprentice he joined a large firm in the Irish Capital, Continuing as journeyman, he subsequently became manager; and eventually proprietor. Dissatisfied with the Old World, he sold out and left for Sydney about the year 1875 per ship “Samuel Plimsoll,” crossing over to Wellington by the s.s. "Wakatipu” on her first trip. The business was founded by Messrs. Butler and Brady in 1881 or thereabouts, and has been conducted by Mr. Brady solely since 1886. The double fronted shop built of wood and iron, which is occupied for the business, is of two stories in height, and contains upwards of 4000 square feet of floorage space. Mr. Brady, whose connection extends throughout the city and suburbs as well as up the country, is a direct importer of paper hangings, oils, colours, varnishes etc.

He has successfully accomplished a good deal of work on public buildings, including Government and Parliamentary Buildings besides many of the churches. The decorating of the Royal Oak Hotel at the junction of Cuba and Manners Street has often been much admired, and certainly reflects credit on Mr. Brady, who, assisted by his staff, performed the whole of the work in an incredibly short space of time.

Herbert, William, Painter and Decorator Revans Street, Wellington. Telephone 157. Bankers, National Bank of New Zealand. Mr. Herbert occupies a shop with dwelling attached. The shop is a neat one of 20 by 16 feet, with a large show window. It is well stocked with paperhangings and painters' requisites. Mr. Herbert is an importer, and supplies the trade. He also is an extensive contractor and builder, and has erected a number of cottages on his own account in the City, which are well let. Mr. Herbert was born in England, where he served his apprenticeship to the painting trade in London. He worked some time as a journeyman for various firms. Coming to New Zealand many years ago, he added to his business experience in Greymouth and Reefton before settling in Wellington. He was also working at his trade in Melbourne. The present business, which was founded in 1892, was taken over three years later. Mr. Herbert employs as many as fourteen hands, and has a large turnover for a new business. One of the contracts recently carried on by him was the painting of the Wellington cab and express shelter sheds. Mr. Herbert is assisted in his business by Mrs. Herbert, and does an increasing counter trade.

Jennings, William, Painter, Glazier, Paperhanger and Decorator, 178 Willis Street, Wellington. telephone 887. Bankers, Bank of New Zealand. Mr. Jennings is a native of Cornwall, which county he left early in life. He was apprenticed to the trade in Torquay, continuing to work as a journeyman in various parts of England before leaving for the Colony. He came to New Zealand per s.s. “Tainui" from London in 1885, and the following year established the present business. Mr. Jennings owns and occupies a convenient two-story shop and dwelling as above, with large workshop behind, the floorage space used in the business being 1200 square feet. Mr. Jennings is a direct importer of paperhangings, paints, enamels, and varnishes. He undertakes general house decorating and finishing and has a steadily growing connection.

Wellington Decorators 1897

Lawson, Alexander, Signwriter, Glass Embosser and Decorator, 94 Cuba Street, Wellington. Cable address, Lawson, Wellington." Telephone 806. Mr. Lawson is a native of Scotland. He was apprenticed to James Cumming, of Alloa, and completed his term in 1872. Coming to New Zealand, per ship "Nelson" in 1876, he settled in Wellington. As Mr. Lawson was at that time a first rate tradesman, he had no difficulty in at once obtaining employment, his first and only situation in New Zealand being with a firm in Wellington for whom he worked as journeyman for about six years. Mr. Lawson established himself in business in 1880, and since that time has conducted a steady trade. The premises occupied in connection with the business are well situated in Cuba Street, the building being of wood, well adapted for the business. Mr. Lawson is well known for his ability as a signwriter and decorator, and makes a specialty of glass embossing and gilding. He has successfully trained a great many apprentices, and turned them out as competent workmen. He has had many very large contracts, which he has faithfully completed.

Martin, Robert, Painter and Paperhanger, House Decorator and Artists' Colourman, 17 Manners Street, Wellington. Telephone 144. Bankers, Bank of New Zealand. Branch at Palmerston North. London agents, Henry Brooks and Co. Melbourne agents, Brooks, Robinson and Co. Mr. Martin, who is a native of Norfolk, is a grandson of the Rev. Robert Steele, rector of Mundersley and Trimmingham, County of Norfolk, and great grandson of Sir Richardson Steele, Baronet, of Dublin. Mr. Martin was educated at North Walsham Grammar School, better known as Lord Nelson's School, and finished his course at St. John's College, Hirstpier Point, Sussex. On leaving school, he turned his attention to mercantile life, but was not long before becoming impressed with the idea of emigrating to the colonies. Arriving in Wellington per ship "Queen of the Avon" in 1859, he spent the first four years in gaining colonial experience, especially as a house painter and paperhanger. He established the present large business in 1863. Ever since this time Mr. Martin has been deservedly popular, both as a workman and a master.

He has been, and is still a large employer of labour in the various departments of his trade. The buildings that have been painted, decorated, and finished by workmen from this establishment may be counted by the score, and include a great many of the best private residences. The old Government House, pictured, was twice papered and painted by Mr. Martin himself. The present gubernatorial residence, pictured, bears a good deal of his work. When the building was first erected, Mr. Martin hung 500 pieces of paper personally; and, just before the arrival of the Earl of Onslow, he undertook the renovation of the establishment. In the early days, Mr. Martin displayed his sagacity in securing that splendid freehold site, having seventy five feet frontage to Manners Street, on which the business premises are erected. The buildings consist of one large central shop, having thirty-eight feet frontage, and two smaller shops, which latter are well let. A large and handsome verandah, covering the entire footpath, is erected in front of the premises. Mr. Martin occupies the central building in connection with his large trade. The shop, which is lighted by electricity, is without exception the most artistic of any that the writer has observed in this line within the Colony.

It has three large show windows, which are used to good effect to display a few of the beautiful designs which Mr. Martin understands how to procure so as to suit the varied tastes of his customers. On the left hand side, the visitor is attracted by the splendid glazed screen enclosing the office used by the accountant, which is magnificently painted, from selections out of Dr. (now Sir Walter) Buller's Book of Native Birds. A beautiful glass door leading out of the shop towards the various departments of the business is also noticed for its handsome figuring and lovely transparencies. Large mirrors are conveniently placed to reflect the choice wares that are arranged in all parts of the shop. For artists, this shop has great attractions, as Mr. Martin makes a specialty of colours and art material from the well-known establishments of Winsor and Newton, and others. To this department Mrs. Martin devotes a good deal of attention, and this has contributed in no small degree to the reputation that has been gained by this popular establishment. Indeed, Mrs. Martin, has been a "help-meet" in every sense of the word; and her unremitting attention to customers has largely conduced to the growth and development of the trade.

Muniz, Emanuel, Picture framer, Mount Cutter, Fine Art Dealer, Carver and Gilder, corner of Taranaki Street and Courtenay Place. Bankers, National Bank of New Zealand. Mr. Muniz is a native of Spain. He was apprenticed in the town of Gijon on the Bay of Biscay, serving for five years. He landed in New Zealand in 1860, at Lyttelton, and for several years remained within the Colony. He then went over to Sydney, and established himself in business, which he conducted for twelve years, till 1894, when he returned and commenced the present business. The premises are of wood, one story in height, the space being about 1000 square feet. Mr. Muniz is a direct importer from England and Germany of mouldings, cardboard, and other materials used in his business. He makes a specialty of enlargements from photographs, which he executes himself, having all the necessary appliances. He colours these enlargements with considerable ability, and frames them in elegant frames. Mr. Muniz has a considerable stock of choice mouldings from which he makes very fine picture frames. He has a large variety of paintings, all splendidly mounted in handsome frames, and may be relied upon to furnish good value at all times. Besides doing a considerable local trade, Mr. Muniz does business in various other parts of the Colony.

Nicol and Petherick (William Nicol), Paperhangers, Painters, Glaziers, and Decorators, Courtenay Place, Wellington. Bankers, National Bank of New Zealand (Te Aro Branch). Private residence, 19 Rhodes Street. Mr. Nicol is a native of the Colony. He was apprenticed to Mr. James Graham, of Nelson, and completed his term in 1886. Soon afterwards he removed to Wellington, where he worked at his trade for several years. The present business was established by Mr. Nicol in conjunction with Mr. Walter Petherick in 1891, and has been steadily growing ever since. The founders of the business continued in partnership until the 1st of February, 1896, when Mr. Petherick retired, Mr. Nicol carrying on solely. The premises are well situated in Courtenay Place the building being of wood, two stories in height, and affording a floorage space of about 1500 square feet. Mr. Nicol is a direct importer of paperhangings and other goods, and makes a specialty of general house furnishing and decorating, as well as sign-writing. From eight to ten hands are employed in connection with the business.

Tingey, R. and E. (Richard Tingey and Edward Tingey), Painters, Paperhangers, and Importers, Oil, Colour, and Glass Warehouse, Manners Street, Wellington. Branches at Wanganui and Palmerston North. Telegraphic address, "Tingey, Wellington." Telephone 437. Bankers, Bank of New Zealand, Private residence of Mr. Richard Tingey (resident partner), Cambridge Terrace. Messrs. R. and E. Tingey began business in Wanganui in 1868, and in 1889 extended their operations to Wellington, where they purchased the business of Mr. McAlpine. Since then, they have opened in Palmerston North. In each of these places they conduct a large business. Mr. Richard Tingey lives in Wellington and Mr. Edward Tingey in Wanganui, while the Palmerston branch is in the charge of an experienced manager. The two-story premises in Manners Street, with a frontage of fifty-two feet, are the freehold of the firm. Messrs. R. and E. Tingey are direct importers of everything in their several lines, and, having three good businesses, they are able to import in very large quantities.