Charles Norwood

Sir Charles John Boyd Norwood (23 August 1871 – 26 November 1966) was a prominent Wellington New Zealand-based businessman with interests throughout New Zealand and Australia. He was a civic leader, his knighthood was awarded for public services. Founder chairman (1927–1966) of the Wellington Free Ambulance he served on the Wellington City Council from 1917 to 1923 and he was for one term, 1925 to 1927, twenty-second Mayor of Wellington. He was a member of the Wellington Harbour Board for more than 30 years from 1918 to 1935 and from 1938 to 1953 and its chairman from 1931 to 1933.

Sir Charles Norwood
22nd Mayor of Wellington
In office
Preceded byRobert Alexander Wright
Succeeded byGeorge Troup
31st Chair of Wellington Harbour Board
In office
Preceded byJohn William McEwan
Succeeded byCharles Murray Turrell
Personal details
Born23 August 1871
Maryborough, Queensland, Australia
Died26 November 1966
Wellington, New Zealand


Norwood was born near Maryborough, Queensland, Australia. He modelled the Wellington Free Ambulance on similar services in Australia funded by Golden Casket lotteries in Brisbane, and Maryborough and also in Newcastle, New South Wales. He had seen the efficient operation of the Brisbane service, and when he saw from his mayoral car in Wellington an accident on Lambton Quay he got out and put his coat on the victim. The hospital would not send their ambulance so as a member of the Wellington Harbour Board he asked them to send their ambulance to move the patient. He then resolved to start a free ambulance service in Wellington.

Norwood was a public-spirited man of great service to his community. His substantial business, Dominion Motors, imported assembled and distributed cars. He beat his competition to winning the Dominion's sole agency for the best selling English cars Morris by using his influence to go out with the Harbour Board's pilot boat to the ship on which W R Morris later Lord Nuffield was arriving in Wellington. The matter was settled before the ship tied up

He was a prominent member of the Wellington Rotary Club.

He was instrumental in helping Rotary set up the New Zealand Crippled Children Society (NZCCS) in 1935 and was the inaugural vice-president of that organisation. He was able to convince Lord Nuffield, on his 1935 visit to New Zealand, to donate 50,000 pounds to the newly established NZCCS. This donation was important to establishing the NZCCS and helping it expand nationwide. In 1939 he became the President of NZCCS and remained in that position until 1965, stepping down at the age of 94 (NZCCS rebranded to CCS Disability Action in 2008). In 1950 he donated funds to set up the CJB Norwood Trust, originally to help young adults with cerebral palsy gain work skills. The Trust is still in operation today but has broadened its scope and accepts applications from anyone in New Zealand who has cerebral palsy.

In 1966 he had been in indifferent health for some while, but was still chairman of the Wellington Free Ambulance when he died, aged 95. His trademarks were a cigar and his goatee beard. His wife Rosina was President of the Ladies’ Auxiliary from 1929 to 1955, and she was succeeded by their daughter Eileen George.

In 1935, Norwood was awarded the King George V Silver Jubilee Medal[1] and he was appointed a Knight Bachelor in the 1937 Coronation Honours for public services.[2]


C B Norwood had settled in Wellington by the turn of the century and was a senior manager of The Wellington Gas Company. Supplier of the only modern source of energy for heating lighting cooking the Gas Company was highly entrepreneurial and he was active outside his regular post in civic industrial and sporting affairs. In 1908 when he was a director of Wellington's Rouse & Hurrell Charles Norwood secured them the New Zealand Ford agency from Ford of Canada. In 1912 Rouse & Hurrell changed their name to Colonial Motor Company. Norwood began in the motor business the same year incorporating a company in 1913, Dominion Motor Vehicles Limited.[3] He acquired premises in Courtenay Place through to Tory Street,[4] the new buildings incorporated a ladies waiting room. Courtenay Place remained his business's base for another 80 years. He had agencies for Maxwell (later Chrysler) and Chevrolet together with the Hudson and Essex franchises. Dominion Motors went on to obtain the Morris agency and become New Zealand's sole assembler of Morris vehicles. The New Zealand representative of Rolls-Royce his always new Rolls-Royces were a familiar sight about Wellington. He surrendered his drivers licence on his 95th birthday. Soon after Sir Charles died Dominion Motors amalgamated with other assembly businesses to form New Zealand Motor Corporation.[5]


  • Borne Free: The Wellington Free Ambulance 1927-1994 by A. W. Beasley (1995, Wellington Free Ambulance) ISBN 1-86934-047-7
  • "The History of the New Zealand Crippled Children Society's First 25 Years, 1935-1960" by H.E.Carey 362.4 Z CAR
  1. "Official jubilee medals". The Evening Post. CXIX (105). 6 May 1935. p. 4. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
  2. "No. 34396". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 May 1937. p. 3077.
  3. new companies Evening Post, Volume LXXXVI, Issue 14, 16 July 1913, Page 4
  4. Local and general Evening Post, Volume LXXXVIII, Issue 128, 26 November 1914, Page 6
  5. Mark Webster, Assembly, New Zealand Car Production 1921-1998 Reed 2002 ISBN 0 7900 0846 7
Political offices
Preceded by
Robert Alexander Wright
Mayor of Wellington
Succeeded by
George Troup
Preceded by
John William McEwan
Chair of Wellington Harbour Board
Succeeded by
Charles Murray Turrell
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