Charles Fell

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For the English divine, see Charles Fell (divine).

Charles Yates Fell (5 August 1844 – 9 June 1918) was a New Zealand barrister, politician and watercolour artist.

Early life and family[edit]

Fell was born in Nelson in 1844.[1][2][3] He was the son of Alfred Fell, merchant and early settler,[4] brother of the English politician Arthur Fell and grandson of Henry Seymour, after whom Seymour Square in Blenheim is named.[5]

Fell took lessons with the Rev Meyrick Lully and later with Archdeacon Paul of Nelson. In 1859 both he and his parents returned to England where he attended King's College School, London. From there he went to St John's College, Oxford from 1863 to 1867 obtaining a Bachelor of Arts. He married Edith Louisa Bainbridge at Putney, London in 1869.[6]

Legal practice[edit]

Fell was admitted to bar and joined the Home Circuit, entered Lincoln's Inn, and thence Inner Temple.[7] After a short time practising in England he returned to New Zealand in 1870.

In 1880 he entered into partnership with Arthur Atkinson, founding the legal firm Fell and Atkinson. For many years Fell was the Crown Solicitor, Registrar of the Diocese of Nelson, and governor of Nelson College.

After death of his first wife in 1879[8] he married Atkinson's daughter, Edith Emily Atkinson, in 1881.[9] She was also the niece of the painter Dorothy Richmond.

Political career[edit]

Fell became Mayor of Nelson on 23 November 1882[10] when Edward Everett resigned. Fell remained Mayor until 21 December 1887[11] when he was succeeded by John Sharp.


Fell had painted in watercolour while at King's College but did not paint seriously until later life. He was a trustee of the Bishop Suter Art Gallery, Nelson from its inception in 1896 until his death in 1918.[12] In 1918 he accompanied the painter Henry Morland Gore on a sketching tour of Maitai Valley and a member of the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts.

Two of his works, St Johns Farm, Prades (1916) and Mountain Village are held in the Suter. A third, Country Scene, Nelson, is held in a private collection.

Prior to returning to painting, Fell had become a photographer, specialising in landscapes and portraits. Some of his photographs are held in the National Library of New Zealand.

Fell's talents also extended to music, being noted as a fine musician. He also promoted and supported the Nelson School of Music.

Sporting activities[edit]

He was also a good athlete, noted as a sprinter, a stroke for his college boat at Oxford, and an expert horseman. In Nelson he was an enthusiastic yachtsman.


Fell died at Nelson on 9 June 1918[13] and was buried at Wakapuaka Cemetery.[14]

His son by his first wife, Alfred Nolan Fell, played rugby for Scotland while studying at Edinburgh University and served in the Royal Army Medical Corps. His son by his second wife, Charles Richmond Fell, took his place in Fell and Atkinson. He also had six daughters, four by his first wife and two by his second.


  1. ^ "Births". Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle. 10 August 1844. p. 90. Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  2. ^ Fell, Charles Yates, 'Whos Who in New Zealand and the Western Pacific 1908, Gary H Scholefield and E Schwabe (Editors), Gordon and Gotch Proprietory Limited (Publisher)
  3. ^ OBITUARY – Mr C Y Fell, Evening Post, Volume XCV, Issue 137, 10 June 1918, Page 8
  4. ^ Platts, Una (1980). "Fell, Charles Yates". Nineteenth Century New Zealand Artists. Christchurch: Avon Fine Prints. 
  5. ^ "An Old Colonist Dead". Grey River Argus. XXX (4607). 31 May 1883. p. 2. Retrieved 2 August 2011. 
  6. ^ "Marriage". Nelson Evening Mail. 9 September 1869. p. 2. Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  7. ^ Barristers and Solicitors, p81, 'The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Nelson, Marlborough & Westland Provincial Districts]', Cyclopedia Company Limited 1906, Christchurch
  8. ^ "Death". The Colonist. 22 February 1879. p. 3. Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  9. ^ "Marriage". Marlborough Express. 30 July 1881. p. 2. Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  10. ^ Editorial, Colonist, Volume XXVI, Issue 3627, 24 November 1882, Page 3
  11. ^ Installation of Mayor, Colonist, Volume XXX, Issue 5089, 22 December 1887, Page 3
  12. ^ Appendix A, p170, 'The Suter – 100 years in Nelson, Susan Butterworth
  13. ^ "Deaths". Nelson Evening Mail. 10 June 1918. p. 4. Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  14. ^ "Fell, Charles Yates". Nelson City Council. Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
Political offices
Preceded by
Edward Everett
Mayor of Nelson
Succeeded by
John Sharp