William Waring Taylor was born around 1819 in Yorkshire and arrived in Wellington in 1842. He established a general business and importing agency and dealt in land, wool, cattle, clothing and “piece goods and commodities of every kind”. Even leeches appear now and then in his advertisements. In 1848 he married Mary Knox. He bought Customhouse Wharf in 1860, and owned considerable property in Wellington and estates in the Rangitikei district. In 1860 he also became Member of the House of Representatives for Wellington City and Deputy Superintendent of Wellington Province, serving as its speaker for a decade from 1865.
In 1869, Waring Taylor built 7 Paterson Street, the most interesting of all the houses on the street, with one of the longest and most fascinating histories of any residence in Wellington. The house sits on the original Town Acre 673, which Taylor bought in 1868 along with the adjacent Town Acre 672. He had been leasing them since at least 1863 (possibly for pasturing horses because the land was fenced). He had been living in Thorndon but while this house was being built rented an eight-room house in Majoribanks St.
Designed by Nicholas Marchant, architect, the house was valued at £750 in 1869.
Described as a fine example of “fancy colonial” style by Terence Hodgson in his book Proud Possessions, he writes: “The verandahs have been given a juicy assortment of decoration including brackets, lattice work, pierced balustrading and bold expanses of glazing” although the walls were sheathed with corrugated iron”.
By the 1870‟s Waring Taylor had grown rich and respectable and Waring Taylor Street in the heart of the city was named in his honour. Unfortunately, however, Waring Taylor was also known as “a kindly, well-meaning muddler”. In 1878, for instance, the City Council dealt with the issue of the Waring Taylor building on the Te Aro foreshore on land which he did not own. On November 21 1884, Taylor was arrested for fraud at his home, Carnarvon, near Bulls. The charge was that he “converted to his own use 25 fully paid-up shares in the Bank of New Zealand (£250 worth), the property of Ernest Arundel”. In fact, three charges were laid against him, “the total amount of monies alleged to have been misappropriated being about £10,000”. The most serious charge related to fraudulently appropriating money as a trustee or agent and the others were for wrongfully endeavouring to obtain a loan from a loan company and obtaining money by falsely representing the discovery of a goldfield.
When he came up for sentencing the Evening Post reported: “During his incarceration in the Terrace Gaol Taylor has grown much stouter, and his whiskers and moustache have become much longer. As he advanced to the prisoner’s stand it was seen that he was trembling in every limb and wearing a very anxious look”. He was described as being an old man in his 66th year and as having spent 43 years in the city. He was tried, convicted on only one indictment and sentenced to five years in jail. There was a move to have the name Waring Taylor wiped from the face of Wellington in 1885, by changing the name of the street commemorating him, but enough Councillors felt his earlier contributions deserved to be remembered and it stayed.
Waring Taylor had a sister, Mary, who became a close friend of Charlotte Bronte while she was at school in Yorkshire. By 1841 her unorthodoxy became apparent when she declared that she proposed to emigrate to New Zealand with her youngest brother, Waring. Charlotte Bronte wrote to her sister, Emily: “Mary Taylor and Waring have come to a singular determination, but I think under the peculiar circumstances a defensible one, though it sounds outrageously odd at first. They are going to emigrate – to quit the country altogether. Their destination unless they change is Port Nicholson, in the northern island of New Zealand!!! Mary has made up her mind she cannot and will not be a governess, a teacher, a milliner, a bonnet maker nor a housemaid. She sees no means of obtaining employment she would like in England, so she is leaving it!”
When she arrived in New Zealand in 1845, Waring Taylor helped his sister and her cousin set up a shop, including teaching them bookkeeping. In 1848 she wrote to Charlotte Bronte: “About a month since, I have received and read Jane Eyre. It seems to me incredible that you had actually written a book. Your novel surprised me as being so perfect as a work of art . . . Such events did not happen when I was in England. After I had read it, I went on to the top of Mt Victoria and looked for a ship to carry a letter to you. There was a little thing with one mast, and also H.M.S. Fly and nothing else. If a cattle vessel came from Sydney she would take the mail, but we have had East wind for a month and nothing can come in.”