John Cole Edwards was a printer, publisher and Wellington councilor in the late 1800s. He was the first resident of 89 Brougham Street in Mt Victoria, which was designed for him by Francis Penty.
Edwards was born in England in 1854 but in 1862 his father came to New Zealand as the schoolmaster of the Non-conformist Settlement north of Auckland. He was educated prinicipally at his father’s school at Mahurangi, then at Wesley College in Auckland.
He went into the publishing and printing industry and by 1878 had started his own business as a printer in partnership with a bookseller of Lambton Quay, under the name Dutton and Edwards. Not long after, he took on a new partner and under the name of Edwards and Green the firm became well-known throughout New Zealand for printing the Law Reports, the Industrial Gazette, and other important publications. Green left the business in 1886 and Edwards continued alone until 1894 when he sold the business to one of the firms involved in the production of the New Zealand Cyclopedia. This change was made to allow him to give more time to the Cyclopedia company, of which he was also a director. It is fascinating to find this association with one of the men instrumental in the publication of the unique reference tool to which the Historical Society is so indebted.
From 1885 to 1888, Edwards was also a representative of Cook Ward on the Council. He was a valuable member of the Destructor, Electric Lighting and other committees, but is most remembered for the help he gave in settling the vexed question of the limit of foreshore reclamation. A committee of councillors had been conferring for several months with a committee of the Harbour Board, with the object of agreeing a limit for the Te Aro Reclamation – but with so little success that the report was ordered to be “laid on the table for six months”. The problems seemed insurmountable. Edwards didn’t see it this way, however. He immediately tabled a motion for a conference of the whole membership of both organisations. As the Cyclopedia says, “this was deemed so reasonable a project that no one was found to oppose”. The conference went ahead and, to the surprise of all, the points which had been in dispute for months were amicably settled in two hours.
Edwards married Fanny Bradford of Ballarat in 1879. They had no children and Fanny devoted much of her time to hospital visiting and other charitable and church duties. Apparently, her amiability and exceptional tact made her many friends. Unfortunately she died just six years after they married, while visiting friends in Victoria.
This information is from the Cyclopedia of New Zealand, Volume 1, 1897.