William Mason was born in Ipswich and like his father and grandfather before him, he practiced his architecture in his native town. In 1838 he emigrated to New South Wales, where he took employment with the Colonial Architect. In 1840 he sailed from Sydney to New Zealand as a member of Governor Hobson’s staff, and became the first architect to live and work in this country.
Mason stayed twenty two years in Auckland, sampling the many occupations of a colonist – auctioneering, farming, and politics, as well as architecture. While a Member of Parliament, he moved south to Dunedin to enjoy the prosperity of a province suddenly enriched by the discovery of gold. He became Dunedin’s first Mayor and then, in 1877, he retired to the seclusion of Lake Wakatipu.
William Mason died in Dunedin in 1897. Among Mason’s well-known buildings are the former Government House in Auckland and St Matthew’s Church, Ross and Glendining Warehouse and The Otago Daily Times offices in Dunedin, as well as some now demolished buildings including the BNZ in Wellington.