Queer Places:
Bolton Street Cemetery, Bolton St, Wellington, 6011, New Zealand

Ellen Taylor (June 25, 1826 – December 27, 1851) ran a shop in Wellington with her cousin Mary Taylor (later a noted English feminist and a friend of novelist Charlotte Brontë).

Mary Taylor was born in Yorkshire, England in 1817. She met Charlotte Brontë and another girl named Ellen Nussey at school in 1831, when they were just 14 years old and the three became close friends. But in 1840 Mary's father died leaving debts which split the family up. It was then Mary decided to emigrate to New Zealand, (after a stint in Brussels) to see her younger brother, William Waring Taylor who had emigrated here to Wellington in 1842. By 1843, he was running a general business and importing agency, living in and trading from his wooden colonial house on Herbert Street, Te Aro, a thriving commercial hub fairly near the water front. Mary Taylor arrived in Wellington, New Zealand onboard the “Louisa Campbell” on 24th of July 1845. She stayed with her younger brother Waring, in Herbert Street Te Aro (Herbert Street is now Victoria Street). In 1847, she had a small 5 roomed house built on Cuba Street, which she rented out to supplement her income. Mary taught piano forte to supplement her income. Charlotte sent Mary 10 pounds (a lot of money in those days), shortly after she arrived in New Zealand, as she was very concerned that Mary's financial circumstances were in a bad state. Mary bought a cow with the money. In 1850 Mary and her cousin Ellen decided to build and open up a shop together. It was a wooden shop, with two floors, situated on the corner of Cuba and Dixon Street. These streets still exist today, but Mary's shop doesn't. She first built the right hand side and added the left hand side of the shop in 1853/4. It was what was called a “drapers” shop, they sold ladies accessories, gloves, laces, buttons, combs, fans, buckles, shoes, bonnets, hose, clothes and the like, important things for colonial women at the time. Mary also imported and sold the first sewing machine in Wellington. All her stocks were imported from England arriving by ship. After Ellen had died, Mary had a hired an assistant, a Miss M Smith to help. Mary left New Zealand in 1860, Miss Smith and her sister took over the running of the shop. In 1866 they sold it as a going concern to a Mr James Smith (no relation).

Ellen Taylor arrived in New Zealand in August 1849 and she and Mary set up the shop together, funded mainly by Ellen. They apparently got on very well, Ellen was good for Mary and vice versa. They shared the shop work and the bookkeeping. Ellen died of tuberculosis in December 1851. She is buried in the Bolton Street Cemetery (Bolton St, Wellington, 6011).


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  1. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/170834441/ellen-taylor
  2. http://brusselsbronte.blogspot.com/2015/06/mary-taylor-in-wellington-report-from.html