Will Appleton

Sir William Appleton KStJ (3 September 1889 – 22 October 1958) was a New Zealand local body politician, advertising agent and leading company director. He was Mayor of Wellington for two terms from 1944 to 1950 after serving as a city councillor from 1931 to 1944. He was knighted in 1950.

Sir William Appleton
Will Appleton.jpg
25th Mayor of Wellington
In office
DeputyMartin Luckie (1944–47)
Robert Macalister (1947–50)
Preceded byThomas Hislop
Succeeded byRobert Macalister
31st Chair of Wellington Harbour Board
In office
Preceded byWilliam Henry Price
Succeeded byBrian Edwin Keiller
Personal details
Born(1889-09-03)3 September 1889
Alexandra, New Zealand
Died22 October 1958(1958-10-22) (aged 69)
Wellington, New Zealand
Political partyUnited (1931–1935)
National (1936–58)
Spouse(s)(1) Mary Helen Munro
(2) Rose Hellewell


Early life and careerEdit

Appleton was born in Alexandra in Central Otago in 1889, the eldest of nine children. His parents were Yorkshireman Edwin Appleton and his Scottish wife, Margaret Bruce. The Appleton family briefly moved to Gisborne in 1904 but was back in Alexandra in the following year. Appleton, left by the postmaster in charge of the local post office as a teenager, did some bookkeeping for local businesses. In October 1906, aged 17, he was appointed a cadet in the accountancy department of the General Post Office at Wellington. In 1909 he passed his accountancy exams.[1]

He left the Post and Telegraph Department, then still a centre of modern communications technology, and in April 1910 joined advertising agent Charles Haines and Co. Haines had founded his business, the country's first advertising agency, in Wellington in 1891.[2][3] Will married Mary Helen (Nell) Munro in March 1913. They were to have a daughter and two sons.[1] By the time of the first world war 25-year-old Will Appleton was manager of Charles Haines.[4] He was appointed managing director in 1918. Nell died in 1918's influenza epidemic. The following year he married Rose Hellewell and they had a daughter and two sons.[1]

Meanwhile, Appleton maintained his local body interests serving on the Wellington Hospital Board from 1923. In 1931 he successfully stood for the Wellington City Council.[1] Then in 1932 he sold his interest in Charles Haines to his former partners, accepted directorships in many major listed companies and devoted himself to politics.[5]

Political careerEdit

Local politicsEdit

Cathedral architect, Bishop and (Presbyterian) mayor. From left: Cecil Wood, Herbert St Barbe Holland and Appleton discussing plans for the new Wellington Cathedral in 1945

After moving to Wellington, Appleton was elected to the Onslow Borough Council in 1915 where he led a successful campaign for amalgamation with Wellington in order to gain an integrated water and drainage system.[1] In 1923 he was elected to the Wellington Hospital Board on a Civic League ticket and remained a member until 1929.

In 1931 Appleton was elected to the Wellington City Council where he became an effective and popular councillor renowned as being friendly, approachable and possessing a "chuckling" sense of humour. He became chair of the Works Committee and oversaw the introduction of a system of refuse disposal to converted gullies into sports grounds including Appleton Park, which was named after him.[1]

In 1944 Appleton challenged Thomas Hislop for the Citizens' nomination to stand for mayor. Appleton claimed he would stand as an independent should he not be granted the candidacy. Declining arbitration, Appleton got his wish when Hislop (albeit reluctantly) agreed to stand aside in the interests of unity.[6] Appleton was elected with a huge majority and was later re-elected for a second term in 1947 by a lower margin before retiring in 1950.[7][8] In a 1955 by-election Appleton was invited by the Citizens' Association to stand once again for the City Council, though he declined to re-enter local politics.[9]

Appleton served for 21 years as a member of the Wellington Harbour Board, representing Wellington City, and was its chairman for 3 of those years (1954–57).[10]

National politicsEdit

He unsuccessfully stood for Parliament several times.[1] In the 1931 election, he contested the Wellington South electorate for the United Party and was beaten by Robert McKeen.[11] In the 1935 election, he contested the Otaki electorate as an independent candidate and came third.[12][13][14] In the 1938 election standing for the National Party in the Wellington Central electorate, he came second but was beaten by Labour's Peter Fraser.[15] He was to stand against Fraser again in the cancelled 1941 general election. In the 1943 election, Appleton was again unsuccessful but came second and greatly reduced Fraser's majority.[16] He did not contest the 1946 election, but stood for a third time in Wellington Central in 1949 election against Fraser's successor Charles Chapman, but was again defeated.[17]

Later life and deathEdit

Appleton was president of the Wellington Rugby Football League from 1940 to 1958 and presented the Appleton Shield, which is used to this day as the premier club trophy.[1] In the 1950 King's Birthday Honours, Appleton was appointed a Knight Bachelor, in recognition of his service as mayor of Wellington.[18] In 1953 he was made a Knight of Grace of the Order of St John,[19] and was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal.[20] Rose Appleton was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire in the 1946 New Zealand Honours,[21] and a Commander of the Order of St John in 1958.[22]

Appleton died of cancer in Bowen Hospital, Wellington, on 22 October 1958. Lady Appleton died in 1980.[1]

His son, Lloyd James Appleton (1923–1985), was a newspaper editor and was elected mayor of Dannevirke in 1965. In the 1971 New Year Honours, he was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire, for services to local government and journalism.[23]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Buchan, Allison. "Appleton, William". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 10 January 2012.
  2. ^ The Evening Post page 5, 23 April 1910
  3. ^ Te Ara Advertising agencies, 1891–1970
  4. ^ The Evening Post page 6, 23 January 1915
  5. ^ The Evening Post page 12, 30 June 1932
  6. ^ Betts 1970, pp. 180.
  7. ^ "Mr. Appleton Mayor". Evening Post. Vol. CXXXVII, no. 125. 29 May 1944. p. 11. Retrieved 28 October 2016.
  8. ^ Norrie, J (1 December 1947). Declaration of Election Results (Report). Wellington City Council.
  9. ^ "Interest Aroused in Wellington City Council By-Election". The Evening Post. 6 December 1954.
  10. ^ Johnson, David (1996). "Members and Officers of the Wellington Harbour Board, Appendix 1". Wellington Harbour. Wellington Maritime Museum Trust. p. 475. ISBN 0958349800.
  11. ^ The General Election, 1931. Government Printer. 1932. p. 5. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
  12. ^ "Mr. Appleton's Candidature". The Evening Post. Vol. CXX, no. 97. 21 October 1935. p. 11. Retrieved 28 March 2014.
  13. ^ "Otaki Seat". The Evening Post. Vol. CXX, no. 55. 2 September 1935. p. 10. Retrieved 28 March 2014.
  14. ^ "How the votes were cast". The Evening Post. Vol. CXX, no. 130. 28 November 1935. p. 8. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
  15. ^ "The General Election, 1938". National Library. 1939. pp. 1–6. Retrieved 8 February 2012.
  16. ^ "The General Election, 1943". National Library. 1944. pp. 1–12. Retrieved 2 January 2014.
  17. ^ "The General Election, 1949". National Library. 1950. pp. 1–5, 8. Retrieved 3 January 2014.
  18. ^ "No. 38931". The London Gazette (Supplement). 8 June 1950. p. 2813.
  19. ^ "No. 39743". The London Gazette. 2 January 1953. p. 94.
  20. ^ "Coronation Medal" (PDF). Supplement to the New Zealand Gazette. No. 37. 3 July 1953. pp. 1021–1035. Retrieved 14 April 2021.
  21. ^ "No. 37410". The London Gazette (Supplement). 28 December 1945. p. 161.
  22. ^ Taylor, Alister; Coddington, Deborah (1994). Honoured by the Queen – New Zealand. Auckland: New Zealand Who's Who Aotearoa. p. 48. ISBN 0-908578-34-2.
  23. ^ Traue, James Edward, ed. (1978). Who's Who in New Zealand, 1978 (11th ed.). Wellington: Reed Publishing. pp. 44–45.

Further readingEdit

  • Betts, G.M. (1970). Betts on Wellington: A City and its Politics. Wellington: A. H. & A. W. Reed Ltd. ISBN 0-589-00469-7.

No Mean City by Stuart Perry (1969, Wellington City Council) includes a paragraph and a portrait or photo for each mayor.

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by Mayor of Wellington
Succeeded by
Preceded by
William Henry Price
Chair of Wellington Harbour Board
Succeeded by
Brian Edwin Keiller