Confectionery History
in Nelson

Photo: Thomas outside his Trafalgar St Store – [Nelson Provincial Museum]

Family Confectionery History in Nelson since 1880

This is the story of Eliza Mylrea (Wobblie’s grand aunt) one of the first Confectioners in Nelson.

Eliza’s story is an exhilarating tale from the loss of her children and husband to leaving the Isle of Man, training in the art of confectionery in Texas, surviving a shipping disaster and finally settling in Nelson with family. Where she opened one of Nelson’s first confectionery store in 1880 on Bridge St, later moving to Hardy St.

Eliza was born Eliza Isabella Muncaster in the Isle of Man, twin of Thomas William Muncaster a watch & jewellery maker. In 1860 Eliza married Philip Mylrea. The couple had two children Philip Thomas & Myles. Sadly in 1863 Philip Thomas passed at the age of 2 years 8 months. During this time Philip had travelled to Australia as a gold prospector. Later Eliza & Philip travelled to Texas USA so she could begin training in the field of confectionery. Eliza lost her husband Philip & son Myles to fever, leaving her alone in the USA. Eliza returned to Europe for a short time before being encouraged to join her brother Thomas & family in Nelson, New Zealand, where Thomas was running his Watch & Jewellery store on Trafalgar St.

Photo: Thomas outside his Trafalgar St Store – [Nelson Provincial Museum]

Eliza made passage to New Zealand on the sailing ship “Piako”, departing from Plymouth, UK in October 1878. A month in to the sail the ship had a significant fire on the lower deck endangering those on board. With the nearest land being Brazil 180 miles away, the crew fired their rockets (flairs) then with a lot of yelling and presenting of weapons for control, some of the crew clambered up the mast to keep watch and call for any sighting of passing ships. The caption was shouting so hard he was frothing at the mouth. Luckily the Ship “Loch Doon” was passing on its way from San Francisco to Queenstown in Ireland and was able to take the passengers from the stricken vessel to the nearest port. Passengers where lowered to the life boats by rope around the waist, married women and children first, then the unmarried, which included Eliza as a widow.

The caption of the “Piako” partly scuttled the burning ship to extinguish the fire and then limp the ship to Pernambuco, Brazil arriving to meet with the “Loch Doon” and the passengers.
On arrival in Pernambuco there was another threat with the area experiencing a small pox outbreak, so the captain arranged for the passengers to be housed on an isolated island, aptly named Coconut Island.
After three months of living with the Indians of Brazil, Eliza was able to leave the island on 29th
December. The Piako, with Eliza on board, arrived in Lyttleton, New Zealand on 6th March 1879.

Photo: The Piako sailing ship – [National Library of New Zealand]

Photo: Eliza outside her Hardy St Store – [Nelson Provincial Museum]

Photo: The Piako sailing ship – [National Library of New Zealand]

By January 1880, Eliza was in business with her sister Catherine (Lorimer) as a confectioner, firstly on the corner of Bridge & Harley Sts, then moved to Hardy St as pictured here. Eliza continued in the business of confectionary for another 30 years in Nelson. She was always at the forefront, even enrolling to vote in 1893, so she was most likely among the first group of women to vote in NZ (and consequently one of the first women in the world with unconstrained franchise). Eliza passed away in Nelson in 1932 at the age of 93.

Photo: Eliza in the centre – [Duke Family Album]

Mylrea Store (Bridge St)

Photo: Eliza’s Bridge St Store (corner of Bridge and Harley) – [Nelson Evening Mail]

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