These “fine new premises” built for James Williams, the jeweller, were completed in February 1912. The architect was Thomas Battle who also designed the shop next door with its matching upper windows. Constructed by local builders, Dick & Flyger, at a cost of £1,287 the shop retains many of its original features both inside and out.
The shop was constructed on land leased from the Anglican Diocesan Trustees as the site had previously been part of best the churchyard surrounding Christ Church. The first church was built here in 1844 and the second, completed in 1866, was moved to Gonville in 1921 and renamed St Peter’s.
James Williams was a watchmaker in Waipawa in the Hawkes Bay before he moved to Whanganui in 1903. His business was located at various rented shops in Victoria Avenue before he moved into his own purpose-built jewellery shop with a workroom upstairs.
As well as being a noted businessman in Whanganui, James Williams was an active member of the community. He served as a Borough Councillor and was involved with the St John’s Beautifying Society, having built his own house on St John’s Hill, also designed by Thomas Battle in 1910. The Williams family retained the jewellery business long after James died in 1948. Today it is owned by Philip Sell who continues the tradition of having a workshop on the premises.