Messrs Nelson Brothers'

Contribution to The History of The Meat Trade




"NELSON BROTHERS, (LIMITED.) Incorporated under The Companies Acts, 1862 to 1880.

Capital:—£300,000, in 30,000 Shares of £10 each.

First Issue :—16,000 Shares.

Of which 4,000 Shares are to be issued to the Vendors with £8 paid up thereon in part payment for the Properties and Business, and 11,000 Shares are now offered for Subscription. 1,000 Shares are reserved for issue in Hawke's Bay.

The amount due on the Shares now offered for Subscription is payable as follows, viz. :

£1 On Application.

£1 On Allotment

£3 On the 1st day of July, 1883.

£3 On the 1st day of September, 1883.

It is not intended to call up, at present, the balance of £2.

DIRECTORS: E. Montague Nelson, Esq. (Nelson Bros. and Co.), Hawke's Bay, New Zealand, and G. Nelson, Dale and Co.), 14, Dowgate-Hill, London, E.C., Managing Director.

James Anning, Esq. (Aiming and Cobb), 11, Lime-street, London, E.C.

Frederick Nelson (Nelson Bros, and Co.), 14, Dowgate-Hill, London, E.C.

WM. Taylor, Esq. (W. Taylor and Son), 4, Elm Row, Edinburgh.

Abraham Scott, Esq. (Director of the National Bank of Australasia), 157, Leadenhall-street, E.C.

BANKERS: The Royal Bank of Scotland.

BROKERS : Messrs. Greenwood and Co., 28, Austin Friars, London, E.C.

SOLICITORS: Messrs. Dawes ancl Sons, 9, Angel Court, Throgmorten-street, London, E.C.

SECRETARY: Valentine S. Hervey, Esq.

OFFICES : 14, Dowgate Hill, London, E.C.








This Company is established for the purpose of acquiring, as from the 1st of July next, and developing and extending the business now carried on at Tomoana, Hawke's Bay, in the North Island of New Zealand, by Messrs. NELSON BROS, & WILLIAMS, and of adding to it the business of Refrigerators of Meat and other perishable produce.

The business, as now carried on, is that of Sheep Farmers, Manufacturers of Extract of Meat, Preservers of Meat for Exportation, Manufacturers of Tallow and Edible Fat, and Exporters of Wool, Sheep Skins, and Hides, but the demand which has recently arisen in Hawke's Bay for a Refrigerating Establishment, has induced the proprietors to turn their attention to this branch, and for that purpose additional capital is required. The business, which will be taken over as a going concern, has, as regards most of its branches, been in working for nearly three years under the immediate superintendence of Mr William Nelson and Mr Williams, the former of whom will occupy the position of Local Manager to the Company.

The success of the business has exceeded the expectation of the proprietors, and the experience of the working to the present time tends to show that independently of the refrigerating branch of the business, to start and develop which the additional Capital is required, considerable profit may be anticipated.

The properties to be acquired by the Company consist of—

1. A Freehold Estate known as "Tomoana," containing about 102 acres of very valuable land, situate about 12 miles from Napier, and being in direct communication with that Town by means of a Railway bounding the Estate on one side, and which is connected with the works by sidings. There have, within the last three years, been erected on the Estate a Manufactory fitted and supplied with the most improved machinery and plant, suitable for the requirements of every branch of the business as hitherto carried on, capable of preserving 2000 Sheep per week; Preserving Rooms, Factories for Tallow Melting, and for Fellmongering Sheep Skins; Wool Shed, and Artesian Wells; Dwellings for the Manager and Employes, Workshops, Boiler and Engine Houses, Storehouses, Sheep and Stock Yards, and Slaughter Houses, and one mile of portable Railway, with necessary Rolling Stock, Tools, and appliances.

This property was locally valued in September last at £30,000 since which time upwards of £2000 have been spent in additional Machinery and the erection of Cottages.

2. A Freehold estate known as "Apley," containing about 4735 acres, with necessary Wool Shed, Cottage, Yards, &c, situate in the Puketapu District in the province of Hawke's Bay, 12 miles from Napier, which is approached by good main roads. The land is well watered, and divided into 13 paddocks, enclosed by about 30 miles of post and iron fencing, and is chiefly composed of low rolling hills specially adapted for sheep-grazing, and as such can be classed as of the highest character. The Estate has drafting accommodation for about 15,000 Sheep. The Stock on the Estate at present consists of about 8000 Sheep and a herd of Horned Cattle. The Estate, exclusive of the Stock, has been recently valued by Mr Edward Lyndon, a well known Valuator at Napier, at £39,000. It is in mortgage for £20,000.

3. The Vendors' interest in the Block known as " Mangaterctere East," situate near to Tomoana (and forming a valuable adjunct to it), containing about 2000 acres. Of this Block, about 1800 acres are held by the Vendors on a lease, which will expire on the 9th July, 1888, and the Lessees have purchased about 250 acres of the reversion, which is, therefore, freehold in possession. They are also entitled to an undivided 1/4th of the reversion of the remainder. Included in the freehold portion is a residence and 40 acres of land, known as "The Lawn," which is now let on a repairing lease to Mr William Nelson, at a rental of £350, the Lessee having the option of purchase at £5000. The stock in June next will consist of about 5000 head of Sheep and 150 head of Fat Cattle. The price for the Estate and Stock is £35,000. The Estate is in mortgage for £6000.

With regard to the articles manufactured at the Works, it may be stated that the tallow, of which about 350 tons wore sold last year, averaged 45s 6d. per cwt., some of it having reached 49s. 6d. per cwt., and being the highest price obtained for tallow during last year. The tinned and preserved meats are also much in demand.

The facts mentioned above suffice to show that even if the business was confined to the branches now in operation, it would prove very remunerative to the shareholders, but a large addition may confidently be expected from the development of the system of refrigeration and the export of frozen meat.

To perfect this latter branch of the business it will be necessary to devote a portion of the Capital to the purchase and setting up of Refrigerating Machinery, either at the Tomoana Works or on Board a Launch in the Harbour at Napier, as may be arranged. This will be ordered without delay, and will be dispatched with the utmost expedition, so as to be fixed and got into working order in December next, which will be the most favourable time for commencing operations.

Apart from the Stock of Sheep which the Company will themselves rear, and those which they will purchase for the purposes of their business, a large revenue will be derived from refrigerating the meat of neighbouring Sheep owners, which will be done at a fixed tariff, to include slaughtering, and, if required, storing, and shipping.

The Province of Hawke's Bay is, from its salubrity and the equability-of its temperature, specially adapted to the rearing of Sheep, and it is confidently expected that it will before long become the principal Meat producing District of New Zealand. The price to be paid to the Vendors for their properties as detailed above (subject to the mortgages for £26,000 thereon), is £80,000, of which £48,000 is to be paid in cash, and the balance in 4,000 Shares with £8 paid thereon. The un-manufactured Stock, and Stock in process of manufacture, and the Casks and Tins for use in the business carried on at the Tomoana Works, are to be taken over by the Company at cost price. The remaining £48,000 of the Capital will be applied so far as may be necessary, in the purchase of the Stock, and of the Machinery and Plant principally connected. (Prospectuses. Daily Telegraph 11 July 1883)



Australian Chilling and Freezing Co.

The Australian Chilling and Freezing Co., Ltd., a London concern of which Sir Montague Nelson is chairman, first opened works at Aberdeen, on the Hunter river, in 1891, and in February, 1892, the S.S. Port Douglas took the first shipment of 13,000 carcasses of mutton. Mr. W. A. Benn, of Sydney (prominently connected of late years with the frozen rabbit business), was for many years manager of the company. The Aberdeen works at the start offered three forms of contract: first, to purchase delivered, fat wethers weighing 47 Lbs. and upwards, dressed, with shanks off, and kidneys and kidney fat removed, at 1d. per Ib. cold weight, all offal, including fat, to belong to the company, skin and wool to seller; second, partial sale, the company to make an advance of 3/4d. per Ib. on sheep, and in the event of the mutton selling on average above 3 1/8d. per Ib. the company returning shippers 75 per cent, of surplus, the offal to belong to the company, the skins and wool to owner; the third form, to consign on owner's account, the company treating the meat, and bagging and shipping it, as well as paying all charges for a consolidated rate of 2.20d., giving shippers an advance, and keeping offal and by-products as before. These works have had to contend with variable seasons and low London values for the excellent class of mutton and lamb exported, and their operations have benefited New South Wales and sheep growers more than the shareholders. Mr. R. C. McAclam is the manager of the company.



Newport Freezing Works. Victoria was early in the field, for this company, formed in Melbourne after the Strathleven shipment, erected works at Newport, near Melbourne, the second freezing works erected in Australasia. The Victorian Government afterwards acquired Newport, which first assumed commercial export shape when Mr. John Hotson secured a lease of the works. In 1893 Nelson Brothers, Ltd., and Mr. Hotson came to a working arrangement to freeze for export regularly at Newport. In 1896 Mr. Hotson sold out his interest to the Austral Co., and the firm of John Cooke and Co. has ever since used the works as its chief base for preparing and shipping its well-known “Champion brand “of mutton and lamb. Fuller details of the formation and operations of these works appear in “The Work of the pioneers,"


1908 the works had a capacity of 6,000 sheep and lambs per day, and storage equal to 120,000 carcasses. In 1809 the company established works at Fairfield, Ashburton. Works at Pareora, South Canterbury, were opened on April 7, 1904; these have a capacity of 4,500 sheep and lambs per day, and storage space equal to over 100,000 carcasses.

The question of freight greatly embarrassed this company's early operations. In May, 1887, the company, together with Nelson Brothers and the Southland company, signed a contract with the Tyser Lane, and with the advent of the Balmoral Castle, the first Tyser steamer sent out, the difficulty about tonnage gradually disappeared. The capital of the company is now 225,000, and during the twenty-five years of freezing the company has paid in all 191 per cent, dividend on the ordinary shares. The present directorate is: Messrs. John C. N. Grigg, James Gough, Sir George Clifford (chairman), George Humphreys, and R. H. Rhodes.

 Nelson Brothers. The operations of Nelson Brothers have been alluded to; their works were first erected at Tomoana, and afterwards at Waipukurau and Woodville. The company now has two establishments in the Hawke's Bay district Tomoana and Gisborne. Woodville has been sold to a bacon curing company, and Waipukurau is dismantled. The daily killing capacity and the sheep storage of these works are respectively 6,100 and 160,000. Messrs. Nelson Brothers also have works at Hornby, Canterbury district. The company built the Ocean Beach works at the Bluff, now owned by Messrs. Birt and Co., Ltd., of London. It is generally considered that the most carefully conceived plan for carrying on the frozen meat trade was that proposed by Mr. William Nelson. Many of the New Zealand sheep growers had no faith in the permanency of the new industry, and some were actively in opposition, so Mr. Nelson, who formed clear ideas as to buying arrangements in New Zealand and a selling organization in London, entered into contracts with farmers in various districts. In 1887-88 Nelson Brothers made forward contracts with sheep farmers, giving 2d. per lb. for the carcass unfrozen, sellers also getting the full value of the skin and fat.

The Nelson Freezing Co. This company began shipping in 1908. The directors are: Messrs. George MacMahon (chairman), A. Drummond, F. W. Fairey, Frank Hamilton, D. T. J. Rouse, and J. 8. Wratt. The works are at Stoke, and the capacity is given as 1,000 sheep per day, with storage equal to 30,000 carcasses.

The Ocean Beach Works, Bluff (owned by Birt and Co., Ltd.), were erected in 1891; the North British and Hawke's Bay Freezing Co. (Napier Works) were built in 1888; the Patea Farmers' Co-operative Freezing Co., began exporting meat in 1904; the Southland Frozen Meat and Produce Export Co., formed in 1884, has works at Mataura and the Bluff; and the Tokomaru Sheepfarmers' Freezing Co. began shipping in 1911.

Such are the particulars of the establishment and progress of New Zealand's meat freezing works. A full list of these works in the Dominion will be found in Appendix VII. Reference may now be made in a general way to the process of development under which the meat works of to-day have attained their fine equipment and completeness.


The Smithfield Market Store.

About 1883, a London cold storage company was promoted and duly registered, the names of Messrs. James Anning, E. Montague Nelson, Alfred Seale Haslam, Ebenezer Cayford, and Alfred Towers being associated with the venture. It was styled the Dead Meat Storage Co., Ltd., and had a capital of 100,000. Messrs. Cayford and Towers had been granted a lease of the vaults under the Poultry Market, and these it was proposed to turn into a cold store equipped with Haslam's cold air machinery. The Dead Meat Storage Co., however, did not proceed to operations, and was dissolved by notice in the London Gazette in 1890.

The concession, however, was taken up by the Central Markets Cold Air Stores, Ltd., a company formed in 1884 with a nominal capital of 30,000. Among the subscribers were, Messrs. E. 8. Moulder, E. Cayford, Thomas L. Devitt, Joseph Moore, C. E. Green, John Bell, and Alfred Towers (managing director). Mr. E. Penman was also associated with Mr. Towers in the management of the store. The secretary was Mr. H. E. Kaye, who retired in 1890 and is now the manager of the Blackfriars Cold Storage Co., Ltd.

The appearance of the names of so many important ship owners on the subscribers' list of this cold storage company is interesting as marking early recognition by the Australian ship owning interest of the commercial importance of the coming trade.

The company was wound up in 1901. This store, that is, in the vaults under the poultry section of Smithfield, was not a success, its failure, however, being by no means due to the Haslam refrigerating machinery installed, which worked well, but to defective insulation. Adapting the peculiar conditions of these underground spaces to refrigerating work was probably too grave a problem for the refrigerating engineering knowledge available twenty years ago.

Nelson Brothers' Stores and Depot.

Messrs. Nelson Brothers, who had been using the dock stores in London for their importations of frozen meat up to 1885, in that year opened what might be called the third of the three pioneer cold stores, in the arches under Cannon Street Railway Station, and the effect of this was to lower charges for storage of meat. The Tyser Line from New Zealand to London started its refrigerated traffic two years later, and the competition set up reduced freight charges.

Little experience in cold store construction was available in those days, and the efforts of architects and builders in this connection were accordingly crude. The following description of Nelson Brothers' early cold store is interesting. Under Cannon Street Station there was a central arch extending from Thames Street to the river, and from it, other arches ran at right angles. From the central arch as a corridor the other arches were closed in and insulated.

The door in the centre of each arch had a trapdoor through which carcasses were passed into the chamber, and through which they were delivered, the main door hardly ever being opened. At the river end of the central arch was a landing platform, alongside which barges from the docks were unloaded; the carcasses were passed up by hand into trucks and run along a tram line to the chambers.

At the Thames Street end were the loading platform, scales, and offices. Trucks filled at the chambers were run up to the weighbridges and loaded into market and railway vans for the country.

(This store was in 1898, sold to the Union Cold Storage Co. and remodelled.)

As Messrs. Nelson Brothers found the Thames Street store inadequate for their expanding business in one year they had handled about one and a quarter million carcasses and 50,000 quarters of beef the firm opened additional premises, a splendid cold store in Commercial Road, Lambeth, in 1892.

Sir Frederick Bramwell and Mr. H. Graham Harris were the architects, and the definite plan on which these stores were constructed was that formed by Sir Montague Nelson, whose proposition was that the store should be a "gigantic tank ": everything was to go in at the top and go out from the top. This idea was rigidly adhered to. The "tank " was divided into floors, but though it was intended that these floors should extend from side to side without divisions, the building regulations of London forbade this, and a dividing wall had to be built down the centre, cross partitions at intervals dividing each floor into several bays with fireproof doors. Even the upper floor, intended only for receiving and delivering goods, had to be similarly divided, even to the iron doors. The store, exclusive of the cost of the freehold, cost 50,000.

This store was opened for business on March 17, 1892, and was, and is, one of the biggest and best-equipped cold store warehouses in the world, with a capacity of 250,000 carcasses, equal to 750,000 cubic feet. The opening of the establishment was one of the features of progress in the 1890 1900 period, a time of such great expansion in the frozen meat trade.

A feature of this riverside store is the system of taking delivery from the barges. The elevator is an endless chain running up by the side of the building and working between the upper floor of the store and the barges down in the bay.

The carcasses are placed in the cradles of this elevator, which is lowered so that its under end is in the barge; they are then carried by hydraulic power to the floor and dropped on to the sorting table. When the elevator deposits its frozen carcasses there, they are placed in little iron trucks, all of equal weight; the trucks are lowered to the chambers and the meat packed away. This method is expeditious and cheap, and saves handling the meat. The standing instruction to the men at Nelson's Wharf is to "handle the carcasses as if they are eggs"; this care, combined with as little handling as possible, saves damage and consequent insurance claims. These stores passed to the Colonial Consignment and Distributing Company in 1895.

The store at Nelson's Wharf was designed to facilitate the company's country business, and the spacious floors are used for assembling, packing, and despatching the frozen meats distributed throughout the Provinces. Various labour-saving appliances are used, notably cutting machines (Nelson-Dicks patents), which separate the parts of a sheep swiftly and evenly, ready for packing, where joints are required. With regard to the Smithfield part of the company's business, the meat is conveyed by van to the Central Markets during the night.

When required for Smithfield the carcasses are repacked on the trucks, raised to the delivery floor, passed over a weigh-bridge, then on to a lift, and lowered to the loading platform and carried into the vans.

Two De la Vergne ammonia compression refrigerating machines, and one Haslam cold air machine are installed, the Haslam machine, the older plant, being used only occasionally.

There are nineteen hydraulic lifts and hoists and ten miles of refrigerating pipes in the buildings.

There are five storage floors, each divided into three sections, in the arrangement of which the "bay" system is used.

An idea of the working facilities may be gathered from the fact that a cargo of 50,000 carcasses of meat has been received and housed in less than four days. To conclude reference to the features of the premises, it may be added that recently some disused cellars were turned into a miniature rifle range, which is very popular with the staff.

Attempts on the Continent.

Belgium. The first signs of departure from this principle were, perhaps, to be noted in the despatch to Antwerp in 1885 by Messrs. Nelson Brothers of the hulk which they had sent to Plymouth with 10,000 carcasses. The craft was loaded with meat for a Belgian syndicate which had taken up very thoroughly the idea of importing frozen meat.

The Belgian company had gone into the question deeply, they had shops in Antwerp, Brussels, Liege, and other Belgian towns, appointed agents, and advertised the meat well. For a time the sales were satisfactory, but after a while the demand died away. The people did not take kindly to the meat, and finally the hulk had to bring back the unsold carcasses. The Belgians insisted on the carcasses bearing the lungs, which were frozen in New Zealand. To inaugurate this departure, Nelson Brothers entertained the Belgian Burgomasters on frozen mutton at Cannon Street Hotel when Mr. de Keyser was Lord Mayor. The freezing hulk did not cease her connection with the frozen meat trade with her double failure at Plymouth and Antwerp. She was sent to New Zealand to act as temporary freezing works, and is now, after fifty years of stout service, still afloat.

The chilled beef trade

In 1887 the first conference was held, and on October 18 of that year the following firms and gentlemen met to consider " combined action amongst consignees of New Zealand mutton to support prices": Nelson Brothers and Co., Ltd.; Miles Brothers and Co.; John Bell and Sons; Shaw, Savill and Albion Co., Ltd.; New Zealand Shipping Co., Ltd. ; Gear Meat Preserving Co., Ltd.; P. Comiskey, T. Russell,  F. Larkworthy ; New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency Co., Ltd.

A scheme to regulate supplies, limit prices, and concentrate sales was considered and rejected.

Two London Conferences.

In September, 1897, a desperate slump occurred in the lamb trade. The chief holders met on September 22, and a declaration of stocks (200,000) held by them was made. In March, 1898, a series of meetings was held in London and attended by these firms for the purpose of considering the lamb position, which had again become acute.

These conferences, under the auspices of the Frozen Meat Trade Association, were considered to have checked the "rot" which had set in. Skipping forward a decade, allusion may be made to one more meeting of the trade. That was on May 4, 1909, when Sir Montague Nelson invited all leading importers of frozen mutton, Australasian, South American, and North American, to discuss the position an exceedingly dismal one of over-supply and under-demand.

Nothing came of this conference except a useful exchange of views. In the marketing of Australasian frozen meat it has often been necessary to attempt to secure combined action, either in limiting quantities offered or in fixing minimum prices; but such movements have rarely been completely successful owing to the number of holders and their widely divergent interests.

Popularizing Frozen Meat.


The Charter and the New Name.

On October 26, 1909, a resolution was adopted winding up the Frozen Meat Trade Association, and passing over all its interests to "The Incorporated Society of Meat Importers." With this acquisition of its charter, the Association took up a variety of extended duties.

The first president, in 1896, was Sir Montague Nelson, and successive presidents have been:

Mechanical Refrigeration

KEELE, RICHMOND, who has been called the "Grand Old Man of the Meat Trade," was for many years the frozen meat manager for Nelson Brothers and the Colonial Consignment and Distributing Co., Ltd. He was a well-known and highly respected figure at Smithfield, where, prior to his retirement, he was to be seen every morning. With good general knowledge of live stock, country born and country bred, Mr. Keele finished his education by two years at an agricultural college, which had numbered the late John Tyndall and Edward Frankland among its professors and Henry Fawcett among  its students. In 1849, as a lad of eighteen, Mr. Keele arrived in Adelaide, South Australia; in 1851 he joined his brother, a Canterbury Pilgrim, in New Zealand, and later visited the East, residing for several years in India, Japan, and China. In Shanghai the food supply of the foreign settlement was under his supervision, and he ran a British dairy, supplying Shanghai with milk and butter, and Hong Kong with butter. Mr. Keele returned to the Old Country in 1874, and took up dairy farming, with a large shed of milch cows and several shops in London. About this time Mr. Keele became associated with Sir E. Montague Nelson in the farming business. In 1881, when on a voyage to the East, Mr. Keele met at Niagara Mr. Robert Campbell, of New Zealand, and travelled with his party through Canada. At Quebec Mr. Campbell then told him he had just concluded arrangements with Mr. Davidson for providing from his stations 10,000 sheep for the Dunedin experimental shipment, and New Zealand's pioneer cargo. In 1886 Mr. Keele joined Nelson Brothers, Ltd. He retired from the C. C. and D. Co. (which had taken over the distributing business of Nelson Brothers) in 1903, and on October 20 in that year he was entertained at the Cafe Royal by seventy gentlemen representing the import and wholesale departments of the trade, who made him a presentation of a massive silver bowl.



The personal connection of Messrs. Nelson with New Zealand dates back to 1862, when Frederick

and William Nelson arrived in Auckland. A sheep station was purchased in the Hawke’s Bay district, where their relatives, Bishop Williams and his family, were the earliest settlers, and later a noted flock of Lincoln sheep was established.

Mr. William Nelson returned home in 1875, and as the result of experiments carried on at the well-known gelatine works of Nelson Dale and Co., at Warwick, machinery was perfected by him for a process of meat preservation and the preparation of tallow; hitherto the only method for dealing with the carcass in New Zealand had been boiling down. On Mr. Nelson's returning to the Colony in 1880 (in conjunction with Mr. J. N. Williams as partner), machinery was installed, and the establishment at Tomoana, Hawke’s Bay, was in full working order the following year. Conducted on scientific principles, this was far in advance of the then existing boiling-down works in Australia, which were crude, both in their appliances and methods.

In 1882 the success of refrigeration in the carriage of perishable products had been established, and it was decided to form a company that should take over the existing business, and add refrigerating machinery to the works at Tomoana. In May, 1883, the prospectus of Nelson Brothers, Ltd., was issued, and mainly owing to the personality and influence of Mr. Edward Montague Nelson (who was in charge of the business in London) the subscribed capital of 160,000 was immediately raised.

The refrigerating works started under the management of Mr. William Nelson, and the three shipments of frozen meat made by the company in 1884 marked the first stage in a business which developed to very large proportions. From time to time additional amounts of capital were raised and spent in developments, and this expenditure was a great factor in establishing the freezing trade on a strong and lasting basis in New Zealand. Both in the Colony, and, as regards distribution at home, Nelson Brothers deservedly occupy the position of pioneers of the frozen meat trade. Selling the meat in Great Britain was just as important as freezing and shipping, and the system had to be initiated. For the first two years the cargoes were almost entirely sold at Smithfield, but in 1885 the stores in Thames Street, under Cannon Street Station, were opened by Nelson Brothers, and the opportunity was afforded of sending the meat farther afield; the country business was started, and quickly attained big proportions. England was mapped out into districts, an army of travelers being employed to push the trade, not only in the cities but in the country towns and villages. In addition to butchers, other provision retailers were induced to give the new commodity a trial, and were supplied in small quantities, even to a single carcass, the great end in view being to get the meat known throughout the country. To assist in this object Nelson Brothers purchased the barque Prince of Wales, fitted her with refrigerating machinery, and sent her to Plymouth as a distributing station for the West of England. With their up-river store supplied by barges from the vessels at the docks, and served as to deliveries by railway vans, no difficulty was experienced hi getting away the Colonial produce. So much progress was made that before long there was hardly a town in England without its frozen meat shop. The system was to send out price lists on Saturday to the various customers offering the different classes of meat, and the orders came along in the following week. The chairman at a general meeting, questioned by a shareholder as to the advisability of opening shops, answered that having some 5,000 butchers as customers purchasing meat, the directors thought it a preferable system to continue supplying them and not come into competition with them. In 1893 the fine and extensive premises, known as Nelson's Wharf, embracing warehouse, cold stores, and distributing station, were opened at Lambeth, with frontage on the river Thames. These stores are fitted with Haslam and Be la Vergne machines, and there are ten miles of refrigerating pipes in the building. The works are said to have cost over 150,000. Nelson Brothers' meat when first introduced into London was sold at Smithfield by Messrs. Black and Stimpson; Mr. William Stimpson who died in 1900 looked after the frozen meat department of the business.

To show the enormous risks of the trade, it may be mentioned that in the early nineties Nelson Brothers, Ltd., who had established a system of annual contracts with the farmers in New Zealand in order to secure regularity in supply and freight arrangements, lost no less than 102,000 on their shipments in one year. The sheep farmers of Hawke’s Bay met the situation by a reduction on contract price. The system was found inapplicable to a trade suffering from such great fluctuations in market values, and it was not continued. In 1895 Nelson Brothers, Ltd., sold their English distributing business to the Colonial Consignment and Distributing Co., Ltd., of which Sir Montague Nelson is also chairman and managing director, and, with the fresh capital introduced, every effort has since been made to develope possible outlets for the produce of the Colonies. Nelson Brothers consign all the frozen and general produce which they control to the Colonial Consignment and Distributing Co., which company acts as general agents for Australian and New Zealand clients.

The Central Queensland Meat Export Co., Ltd. (which company acquired in 1901 the undertaking of the Central Queensland Meat Export Co., Ltd., of Rockhampton), and the Australian Chilling and Freezing Co., Ltd. (works at Aberdeen, New South Wales), are domiciled at the Colonial Consignment Co. 'a London office. Mr. W. A. Porter is secretary of Nelson Brothers, Ltd., and of the Central Queensland Meat Export Co., Ltd., and Mr. P. B. Proctor is secretary of the Colonial Consignment and Distributing Co., Ltd., and of the Australian Chilling and Freezing Co., Ltd.

STEPHENSON, THE LATE R. MACDONALD, became connected with the frozen meat trade in 1881, when he joined the Australian Co., Ltd., as secretary; of this concern he was general manager in 1884. The Australian Co. owned the meat export works at Poole Island, Bowen, Queensland. It was wound up in 1888, but prior to that Mr. Stephenson became managing director of the New Zealand and Colonial Consignment Co., Ltd., which took over the consignment business of the former concern in 1885. In 1886 Messrs. Nelson Brothers, Ltd. purchased the goodwill and business of the New Zealand and Colonial Consignment Co., Ltd., and Mr. Stephenson went over and was appointed country manager.  He visited Australia twice, and South Africa, and in 1897 took the position of secretary to the Colonial Consignment and Distributing Co., Ltd., on the retirement of Mr. V. 8. Hervey. Mr. Stephenson

vigorously tackled all the problems which presented themselves in the early days of the trade, when precedents were few. He took a very active part in the promotion of the Australian Chilling and Freezing Co., Ltd. (works at Aberdeen, New South Wales) in 1890, and his ambition was to raise Australian meat to the standard of that from New Zealand. His sudden breakdown of health put a premature end to a career of unflagging energy and enterprise. He died in 1901.

Extracts from "A History of the Frozen Meat Trade" by James Troubridge Critchell  & Joseph Raymond 1912 (page created March 2010)

 Webpage reproduced by kind permission and the generosity of Edward Montague (Sam) Nelson.



The Prince of Wales.

Whaler, Freezer and Hulk, Over Seventy Years Old, Hull Still in Use in 1924.



Ships are very much like human beings; some die young and some live to a remarkable old age. Some, like the Titanic, have hardly left the launching ways before they meet with an awful fate; some, like the old Victory, Nelson's ship, seem fated to remain afloat for ever, like Van Der Decken's famous craft. Of the hale old vessels there is a very remarkable example swinging to her moorings in Wellington, the hulk that once bore the Royal name of Prince of Wales. This remarkable craft takes us back to the anxious days when England was searching for news of that gallant Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin, for she was one of the vessels fitted out for the relief expedition of 1856.


The Prince of Wales was brought out to New Zealand by Nelson Bros., so well known in connection with the development of the freezing industry, and I am indebted to Mr. W. Nelson, of Tomoana, Hawke's Bay, for getting on the track of the most interesting history of this staunch old example of the British shipbuilders' thoroughness. "She was bought by Nelson Bros. in the early days of the freezing industry," he writes, "and was used as a store ship on the Thames. Early in 1889 she was at my request sent out here to New Zealand to exploit various ports, having first of all been fitted with twin propellers, which were driven by a pair of 30 h.p. engines, the steam for which was supplied from the boiler of the refrigerating plant."


The Prince of Wales started work at Gisborne in November, 1889, freezing 200 sheep a day. It must be remembered that in the infancy of this industry, which has grown to such astonishing proportions in the present day, there were no shore freezing stations. For instance, the Dunedin, the ship that took the first cargo of frozen meat Home, had to freeze the meat herself. The Prince of Wales remained at Gisborne until January, 1891, when she went to Picton and inaugurated the frozen meat trade of Marlborough. Eight years later she returned to Gisborne and again acted as store ship until July, 1901, when she went to Port Chalmers, remaining page 338 there as a store ship until 1906. From there she went to Wellington, where she was eventually sold for use as a coal hulk. She was first used as a hulk by the Blackball Coal Co., and then she passed into the hands of the Union Steamship Co., which still owns her, and this wonderful old vessel is still in commission, "and likely to last another century," as Mr. Nelson puts it.



Mr. Nelson tells me that during all the time the Nelsons had her "the bilge pump was never used." She must have been a remarkably tight example of the British shipwrights' handicraft. Mr. Nelson also recalls the incident that when the storeship was on her way to Port Chalmers she created a great scare at Lyttelton. The "Russian scare" was on at the time, and when the Lyttelton people saw this strange craft steaming somewhat clumsily down the coast they came to the conclusion that some sort of Russian filibuster was making a descent upon the colony.


Her lines must have been rather uncommon. Built in 1850 at Southampton for Money, Wigram and Co. for the Hudson's Bay trade, she was specially constructed for encountering the ice-strewn Arctic seas. She was a vessel of 536 tons gross, or 487 net, built of oak timbers and planking, over which there was a sheathing of greenheart, with zinc sheathing outside all, and all her fastenings were of metal. Mr. Nelson tells me that the "Prince's" bows for some 15ft were solid oak, with a swell of a foot or more beyond the general line of the hull. It was perhaps not surprising that such a powerfully built craft should have been selected as one of the Franklin relief expedition fleet of 1856.


Harking back to the arrival of this remarkable ship in New Zealand, I find from Napier files that Napier was her first port of call. She arrived there on October 26, 1889, 124 days out from London, in command of Captain Cumming, formerly a White Star Line officer. She is described as a barque-rigged, old-fashioned looking vessel, SO perhaps it is not surprising that she frightened the good people of Lyttelton the first time they saw her. The unconscionably long passage the "Prince" made from London is accounted for by the fact that her power was so low that she could only steam four or five knots in calm weather, and, of course, when it was a question of sailing her propellers would only hold her back.


In an account of some of the old hulks in Wellington, published in the Wellington "Post" in 1915, I find it stated that the Prince of Wales was christened by the Royal personage after whom she was named, and that on that occasion he dined on board. Edward VII., who was then Prince of Wales, was quite as popular as our present Prince, his grandson, and his name was given to all sorts of craft and places. The "Post" account goes on to say that after having been used in the Arctic for some time the ship was put on to the colonial trade, carrying immigrants, and that she witnessed the famous fight between the Kearsage and Alabama. Personally I have been unable to verify the statement that this Prince of Wales was ever in New Zealand before she was brought out by Nelson Bros. The records show that two other ships bearing the same name visited New Zealand, one in 1842 and one in 1863. The vessel of 1842 was obviously not the Prince of Wales that was built in 1850, and the ship of 1863 was a vessel of 924 tons, whereas the tonnage of the Prince of Wales, now a hulk, was 536 tons gross or 487 net.


The first of these two Princes of Wales arrived at Nelson on December 22, 1842, in command of Captain Alexander, and landed 203 immigrants, the voyage occupying 110 days. A very good passage for a vessel of 582 tons. During this year no less than nineteen ships, nearly all bringing immigrants, arrived at Nelson. The second Prince of Wales arrived at Lyttelton on June 24, 1863, under Captain McWilliam, having made the passage in 118 days from the docks.


White Wings Vol I. Fifty Years Of Sail In The New Zealand Trade, 1850 TO 1900 Henry Brett 1924


Nelson Bros Tomoana Freezing Works Rolling Stock.

Ormondville Station Hawke's Bay. Photography Sept 2012 by ?




The Nelsons


A Brief History of The Nelsons Of Warwick




Compiled for the benefit of Warwickians and Others by Anthony James Leahy


Rediscovering the Gelatine Factory



The Gelatine Factory

A comprehensive account 1899

from Round About Warwick


George Nelson



Nelson's Emscote Mills 2009



T B Dale


Charles Nelson's

Cement Works at Stockton


The Nelson Brothers


William Nelson


George H Nelson


Sir E Montague Nelson

E M (Sam) Nelson


A Visit to

Messrs. G. Nelson, Dale & Co. 1880



Nelson Works

Tomoana New Zealand


Guy Montague Nelson

Nelson Village

Charles St, Warwick


The Lawn at Emscote


Nelson's Lozenges

 packaging & adds

Nelson's Club

Isinglass Wars

Swinborne v Nelson


Nelson's 1950's

Warwick Advertiser account 1953



Descendants of George Nelson


George Wyatt A city trade jubilee



Nelson's Heritage Walk


Gelatine and its uses


Davis Gelatine


Sir E Montague Nelson's Scrapbook Circa 1882

Nelson Gym

Nelson Patents


The Nelsons of Warwick Timeline





Walter Nelson




Home Comforts


Mary Hooper



Mary Hooper Letters

 Mary Hooper Book Collection


Nelson's Home Comforts

Mary Hooper


Wives and Housewives

Mary Hooper


Little Dinners

Mary Hooper


Cookery for Invalids

Mary Hooper


Every Day Meals

Mary Hooper


Hints on Cookery

Mary Hooper

Good Plain Cookery

Mary Hooper


Handbook for the

Breakfast Table

Mary Hooper


Weekly Telegraph

Cookery Book

Mary Hooper

Our Dog Prin

Mary Hooper

Ways & Tricks of Animals

Mary Hooper


Lily's Letters from the Farm

Mary Hooper

Charles Wentworth Wass

Round About Warwick

Mary Hooper Books Wanted

Fleur De Lys

The Pie Factory at Emscote

Nelson Story

In Brief


Nelsons Story


Nelson's Home Comforts

From Beginning To End


Cookery & Home Comforts

Mrs Wigley

Rock's Royal Cabinet

Leamington & Warwick 1880



Anthony Leahy



Anthony Leahy


Art & Photography

Anthony Leahy


A Major Arcana

Kathleen Forrest


The Drumroom

Anthony Leahy









Compiled for the benefit of Warwickians and Others by Anthony James Leahy




 A Walk in Warwick





Book Wanted Handbook For The Breakfast Table

Book Wanted Wives and Housewives A Story For The Times


3 The Butts



Sky Blue Heaven