Hyman Marks was born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1834 and received a "Colonial Certificate of Naturalisation" by the Governor General of New Zealand in 1861.
Hyman Marks had a shoe and boot business in the early days in Christchurch but was later described as a "financial agent" being a money lender and property investor. He died on 22 May 1895 at Christchurch Hospital. He is buried in the Jewish section of the Linwood Cemetery in Christchurch and the tall obelisk bears this simple epitaph:
He bequeathed his wealth to the poor and afflicted.
A few months before his death, Hyman Marks discussed his Will with his friend and bank manager, Alexander Ferguson and they mutually agreed that his estate be used to fund “local charitable, benevolent, deserving or laudable objectives as the Trustees think fit".
In his Will he gave clear instructions to his Trustees as to how they should address the priorities he had resolved through his discussions with Mr Ferguson.
First, a specific capital sum was made available for the provision of additional beds at Christchurch Hospital. It was common knowledge around Christchurch at the time that the Hospital was overcrowded but that the Hospital Board, having just completed a new Nurses Home, had no funds for additional wards. The Hyman Marks Wards opened in 1897 and continued in use for more than 90 years - identified latterly as Wards 5 & 6.
Secondly, the Will set aside funds to provide a measure of relief for those in the community who were experiencing poverty and hardship particularly during the winter months.
Thirdly, a sum for the discretionary use of the Trustees has been directed over the years to various and changing areas of need.
In the years following Hyman Marks' death a large proportion of the urban and rural real estate in which he had invested was sold in order to carry out his wishes. A few were retained for varying periods. The last was sold as recently as 2007. Located at 203 Cashel Street the Trustees, in 1907, erected a building for the long term lease of the Massey Harris Company which remained the tenant for over 50 years. Subsequent tenants were C.B. Norwood, Andrews and Beaven and, from 1980, Les Mills World of Fitness. Les Mills purchased the premises in 2007 and redeveloped the site with a purpose-built gymnasium opened two years later.
For more than 100 years the Hyman Marks Trustees have been meticulous in carrying out the terms of his Will. The original Trustees were the Hon. Charles Louisson M.L.C. and Alexander Ferguson, Bank Manager, and, apart from the present ones, there have been only eight other Trustees in the past 118 years. Naylor G Hillary retired on 28 February, 2013 after 59 years as a Trustee. He retains the title “Emeritus Trustee”.
The present Trustees are Kirsten Challies and Jackie Lilburne.