William Nelson, a native of County Down, born c.1830, the son of Robert Nelson, a merchant. He arrived in Limerick around 1850, to work in the Limerick Warehouse Drapery Company.

He branched out on his own, working as a merchant before opening a store at 61 William Street in 1878.

The following long-winded extract comes from Dublin, Cork, and South of Ireland A Literary, Commercial, and Social Review, Stratten & Stratten, (London, 1892).

William Nelson, Family Grocer (The William Street Tea Warehouse),

61, William Street, Limerick.

Few establishments in Limerick more efficiently and successfully combine the features of both wholesale and retail trade than the well-known house conducted by Mr. William Nelson, of 61, William Street. As “The William Street Tea Warehouse,” it sustains a character of pure and fragrant tea that is by no means of yesterday’s origin. It is the accredited centre of a first-class family grocery trade, and retains the favour of influential and steady connections, whose support has been gained by honourable and liberal dealing, and whose favour is still preserved by adherence to that principle.

In point of attractiveness the establishment has much to commend it to the notice of the public, appointed as it is in the appropriate modern style and with that care and taste in external arrangement which tend to render its well-laid-out stock thoroughly inviting.

Two large plate-glass windows are made fully available for display, and the great depth of the interior admits of such ample counter accommodation as is necessitated by a constant and busy trade. There are notable evidences of departmental method in the arrangement of groceries on one side and provisions on the other, while the warerooms and stores at the end are similarly arranged, the back portion being lighted from the roof, and the gallery, by which it is surrounded, being appropriated to the store of dry goods.

In every part of the establishment there are examples of good and careful fitting, and probably the most interesting feature of the house is the manner in which the genuine, fresh conditions of all the goods is carefully preserved. We have already alluded to the superiority of the proprietor’s tea, from which the above title is appropriately derived, and it is only necessary to add that, in every other branch and section of a comprehensive stock, there are embraced home and foreign comestibles, in every degree acceptable to the tastes and needs of the large community for whom Mr Nelson so well caters.

It is beyond the scope of this brief sketch to enumerate the many specialities that have become identified with the progressive trade of this emporium. Customers have at all times the fullest assurance that no inferior goods of any description whatever are kept in stock, and for this reason – apart from Mr. Nelson’s judicious tact and enterprise – the house has become a very popular centre of an Italian warehouse trade; and it speaks well for the ability of the principal that despite all forms of modern competition, it commands a high names and character in local commerce, to the attainment of which its conspicuous position in a leading and busy thoroughfare of the City has some extent contributed.

Stratten & Stratten, page 289.
Front of brick terrace row of shops, with long signs above door
Wm Nelson Ltd, 61 William Street, 29 September 1955 (Limerick Leader)

William Nelson Family Man

He was a member of the Methodist community in Limerick and was for a period the superintendent of the Sunday School at the Methodist Church, Bedford Row. He was also a member of the Limerick Young Mens’ Protestant Association.

He was married at least twice. He became a widower in 1874, following the death of his wife, Frances Elizabeth Nelson. On 6 December 1876, while living in Eden Terrace, he married for a second time to Rosina Adelaide Dunlop, Patrick Street, in St Michael’s Church of Ireland Church, Pery Square.

William Nelson died, aged 73, in his home on William Street, on 3 March 1903 after a protracted illness (gangrene of the lung). The probate of his Will was granted to his wife Rosina and son Benjamin Nelson.

The Nelson store at 61 William Street continued under the guidance of the Nelson children. In 1960, an unfounded rumour was spread about their closure.

Limerick Leader, 17 December 1960.

The business began to wind down in August 1962, with the planned the retirement of the owners. The building was put up for auction on 3 August 1962 and sold the following year.

The Tipperary Studies have an image of the front of the store in the 1930s.


Limerick Chronicle, 29 Sept 1874, 3 March 1903; Irish Civil Marriage Certificate, 6 Dec 1876, St Michael’s Limerick; Irish Civil Death Certificate, 3 Mar 1903, Limerick No.2; 1901 Census of Ireland, William Street; Limerick Leader, 29 Sept 1955, 17 Dec 1960, 18 Jul 1962, 11 May 1963.