Charles Wycherley arrived in Wellington, from Weymouth in England, in 1886, with his wife and 10 children. The same year, he established a saddle and harness manufactory in Willis Street. Horses were a very important part of life in Wellington at the time, used for work, transport, pleasure and sport. In 1881, just before Charles Wycherley arrived, there were 21,149 horses in Wellington for the population of 61,371 residents. As Carolyn Mincham says in her book The Horse in New Zealand , “Horses provided the means as well as the proof of colonial success.”
An advertisement in the Evening Post of July 1886 read: “C.W. Wycherley begs to announce that he has opened as above and respectfully solicits public support. Having had upwards of 20 years’ experience he is prepared to execute all orders entrusted to him efficiently, and will study to combine excellency with economy in all the details of his business. Especial attention to repairs.”
By the next year, he was announcing imports and, by the end of the century was gaining major Defence Department contracts. In 1900, for instance, the newspaper reported that “Messrs. Wycherley & Son have just completed, in five weeks, 500 sets of accoutrements for the Defence Department, consisting of 1000 cartridge pouches and 500 each of belts, rifle slings, and bayonet frogs.”
He was clearly skilled at his trade and successful in his business. He took a stand at the 1896 Industrial Exhibition: “a large glass show-case, very artistically arranged and presenting an attractive appearance. . . The excellence of the work in the whole exhibit is manifest, but as testimony goes a long way, Mr. Wycherley shows a number of first prize certificates, which he has received at different Agricultural and Pastoral Shows.” For this show, he won a certificate for excellence and variety of exhibit.
One of his sons (C.J.) later set up a saddlery business on his own account in Ashurst in the Manawatu. Another, Henry, set up C.W. Wycherley & Son in Palmerston North and, in 1903, Charles and Henry applied for letters patent for “an improvement in fastening of leggings”.
Charles Wycherley was also a Brethren. The Brethren Bible Book and Tract Society had opened in temporary premises in Wellington in 1885 but in 1897 it was at 16 Cuba Street and Wycherley was its proprietor. Wycherley is more significant to the Brethren faith than this suggests, however. He is still considered an important contributor to the thinking of the religion, having written a series of 12 letters on household baptism between 1910 and 1913.
The Wycherley family lived at the top end of Willis Street alongside the business for many years. They moved briefly to 9 Levy Street before building a house at 65-67 Pirie Street, where they lived for about four years. Then in 1907, Wycherley bought the property at 96 Brougham Street and built a new home, where he lived until he died in 1915. It still stands, a large house overlooking the Te Aro valley to the Brooklyn Hills and the setting sun. In addition to the houses on Pirie Street, Wycherley also built another two semi-detached, two-storey houses in Levy Street in 1906.