James Edwards, boat builder, was first listed in Melbourne directories in 1869. The business was located at Princes Bridge, between a swamp and the Yarra River, and adjacent to boat sheds occupied by rowing clubs. From 1872 he also listed a site at 'Lagoon, Emerald Hill', and from 1879 he had a further site at Albert Park. In 1880-81, J. Edwards won a silver medal at the Melbourne International Exhibition. Edwards won this medal in Jury Section XXX, Navigation, for his display of racing boats (NU 35635). He also won a certificate for his display of rowlocks (Official Record, pp. 455-456). In 1881, a James Edwards, probably the same person, won a silver medal at the Adelaide Exhibition for his sculls (NU 35634).
In 1884-6 James Edwards only listed the site at Princes Bridge, but in 1887 he again listed multiple sites, this time at 'St Kilda Rd, South Yarra' (probably Princes Bridge) and Yarra Bank.
In 1888, he was listed as 'James Edwards, boatbuilder, etc, Yarra Bank' and 'J. Edwards and Sons, boathouse, St Kilda Rd, South Yarra'. In this year J. Edwards and Son [sic] won a prize at the 1888 Melbourne Centennial International Exhibition in Class 64, Navigation and Life Saving, no.1300, for 'racing boats, canoes, oars, sculls, etc' (Official Record, p.621) and a bronze medal for 'boats and oars' in Jury Section 44, Navigation, Ship-building and Life-preserving (p.1073) (NU 33458).
In the same year Frank (Francis) Edwards of Princes Bridge, probably his son, won a silver prize medal at the Victorian Juvenile Industrial Exhibition in section XVII, Ships, Boats, award 1027. Frank had entered a Rob Roy canoe built of ceder and spruce, described as 'light draft and safe' (Official Catalogue, p.76).
By 1895, James Edwards, boat builder, had disappeared from the directories. He probably decided not to operate a business independently from his sons but J. Edwards and Sons continued to maintain both sites. In 1901, James Edwards and Sons, boat builders, had sites listed at 'Yarra Bank Rd, St Kilda Rd, Melbourne and Albert Park, South Melbourne'. The reappearance of the Albert Park site suggests that it had continued to operate, but had not been listed in the directories. The site in South Melbourne was last listed in 1909, but both the Yarra Bank and St Kilda Road sites continued to be listed until 1921.
In 1922, James Edwards and Sons, boat builders, were only listed at Yarra Bank. From 1925 to 1927 they were listed in Alexandra Avenue, and from 1929 to 1936 they were listed in 'Kavanagh St, City'. The last reference to Jas Edwards and Sons, Pty Ltd, was in Ireland St, City, from 1937 to 1938. Boat sheds remain in the vicinity of Edwards' Princes Bridge site to this day.
Maps of Melbourne in the vicinity of Princes Bridge, including one identifying 'Edwards' dated circa 1866-70, are held in Museum Victoria Collection.