John Dudgeon – Before


St Mary Magdalene, Bermondsey, 1809

Bermondsey 1842

We’ve seen that John Dudgeon‘s death certificate was a little sparse as to personal detail. This could be excused considering his condition at the time. One would hope that he would have been more attentive at the times of his two marriages but this doesn’t really seem to have been the case. When he married Annie Samuel in October 1872 apart from the error in Annie’s age (given as 21 but more likely 17) John’s age was given as 48. He must have aged very slowly. More than twelve years before at the time of his marriage to Adelaide Abram in March 1860 he had been 38. This could be explained as being a slight adjustment to do with some embarrassment at the age difference. However, there are other discrepancies. On the later certificate his mother is named as “Sarah” and her original family name is “not remembered”. John did remember in 1860. Her name was “Sarah Findlay”. His father in that year was “John Dudgeon, Horse Hair Manufacturer” simplified by 1872 to “John Dudgeon, merchant”.

John had a very good reason for obscuring the details of his origins. He had arrived in Port Phillip in 1850 but had come a very long way round from London. The vessel “Adelaide” brought him the last leg from Tasmania where he’d arrived almost 7 years before as a transported convict. He’d been released on a conditional pardon which usually meant a convict was unable to return to England until the sentence was fully served. In John’s case this would have been early 1852. Unlike today when a convict past can be quite a conversation piece, in the early days of a Melbourne still tightly bound to Empire and struggling to be taken seriously in its own right, I imagine it would have closed many doors.

Am I sure I have made the right connection? The name Dudgeon is not common but not rare enough to be sure by name alone that a John Dudgeon appearing in the Tasmanian convict archives is the same man who ended up a successful Melbourne merchant. What confirms it for me is the thread leading back from that little bit of extra detail given in 1860 about his father’s occupation.

On Friday night the 20th January in 1842 sometime after 9 pm the lock was wrenched from the door of a warehouse on the corner of Neckinger Road and Horney Lane, Bermondsey. Three bags of horse hair were loaded onto a wagon which then disappeared into the night. Bermondsey, just south of where the Tower Bridge now crosses the Thames, was at the time the centre of London’s leather trade. Horse hair, a by-product of this trade, was used for stuffing upholstery and making wigs. A horse hair manufacturer would collect the tails and manes of slaughtered horses and process them into these products. The workers in this industry were known as “horse hair dressers” or “horse hair curlers” (I guess that curly horse hair would put more spring into the furniture although I’m not sure how the curling was done).

In 1842, John Dudgeon, was working at Fresh Wharf near the southern end of London Bridge probably as a horse hair curler. He was charged with the horse hair theft and on the 28th February he appeared in the Old Bailey. From the transcript it looks like he sold the bags of hair to an Edward Platt for about seven pounds. Platt went on to sell it at considerable profit for over eighteen pounds. Platt and Dudgeon were both convicted and sentenced to transportation.

John would have been no stranger to the horse hair trade. For at least three generations his family had lived in the Bermondsey parish of St Mary Magdalene Parish and his father, also John, was variously described as a Horse Hair Weaver, Curler or Manufacturer. He residence was Tyer’s Gate in the centre of Bermondsey’s leather market district (many of the buildings from this time are still standing, possibly his home). His grandfather, another John, was a weaver of the same address.

After his conviction John the youngest was sent to the prison hulk, “Warrior” moored down the Thames at Woolwich. He was 21 and his occupation was given as “Hair Curler”. His age and the name and occupation of his father agree with the details later recorded in Australia but the name of the mother of this John of Bermondsey was Mary not Sarah. However Mary’s surname was “Findley”, close enough to “Findlay”, and John’s grandmother was named Sarah. I found no record of John and Mary Dudgeon after 1832 so maybe John only knew his mother when he was very young and had confused her name with that of his grandmother?

After spending more than a year as a prisoner on the hulk, John was shipped to Tasmania on the “Gilmore”. I have so far only found arrival and departure documents so know very little about his time as a convict there although his early “conditional pardon” suggests that he must have behaved himself. It was reported in a Launceston newspaper in February 1850 and a few months later in June he headed for Melbourne in what was then the Port Phillip District of New South Wales.


Marriage 1860


Marriage 1872

Registry of Births Deaths & Marriages (Victoria), Marriage Certificate, John Dudgeon 1860/242.

Registry of Births Deaths & Marriages (Victoria), Marriage Certificate, John Dudgeon 1872/3705.

Old Bailey On-line,, Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 7.0, 10 April 2013), February 1842, trial of JOHN DUDGEON JOHN POARCH EDWARD PLATT (t18420228-1098). Online Census and BMD,, UK, Prison Hulk Registers and Letter Books, 1802-1849 about John Dudgeon.

Archives Office of Tasmania,, Dudgeon, John

Archives Office of Tasmania,, DudgeonJohnPassengerAdelaide30 Jun 1850LauncestonPort PhillipGilmoreConditional PardonPOL220/1/1 p244.

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The Death of John Dudgeon


“Halcyon”, Acland Street, St Kilda (1960s?)

Kew, 1884

The laudanum had quelled his cough and strangely the pain was now sitting just behind him. The room was dim but through a window he could just make out in the dawn light on the orchards falling down to the slope to the river and the mountains beyond. At odds with this coming autumn day his world was fading. As he drifted into the darkness he was comforted by the nurse’s cloth on his brow and the hand of his friend in his own.

This is how I like to imagine the scene of John Dudgeon’s death but I have no way of knowing what really happened. He died on Saturday 5th April 1884 at “Walpole Street, Kew”. The time wasn’t recorded. The informant was “C. C. Arnell, Friend”, his business partner of 20 years. The cause of his death was “cancer of lung”, not a great surprise considering his profession.

I don’t know why John was at Walpole Street that day. According to the directories of the time his home was at 131 Lonsdale Street West next door to the Dudgeon & Arnell tobacco factory. Walpole Street in 1884 was at the edge of civilization and as far as I can I tell there was no hospital in it. Maybe John had moved away from the noxious fumes of inner Melbourne to take advantage of the country air.

The top end of Walpole Street had the Kew Town Hall, two churches and some shops. As the street dropped away towards the Yarra Valley there were a few modest brick villas. Did he rent one of these and have his wife Annie and his children with him on that day or was he being nursed by one of the women living in them, maybe Miss A Fleming, Miss Sarah Carr, Mrs Homelaine or Mrs M. A. Bartram? Further on at the Malmsbury Street corner with views forever in three directions some of the beneficiaries of Melbourne’s boomtime had built their palaces. Maybe it was to one of these mansions that John came at the behest of an old friend or relative? Or was he still well enough to have have travelled there with Charles to look for a site for a new family home?

As with his death, the record of his life is blurred. His death certificate meticulously lists the details of his marriages and children. When it comes to his life the entries are vague or non-existent. His parents appear as “Unknown”, his birthplace “London” and his time in the colonies a very round 30 years. This would make sense if Charles Arnell had been the only informant but even if Annie had been there too, she was much younger than John (they married when she was about 17 and he close to 50) and maybe his past was something they just never discussed.


What is certain is the size of his estate.  John Dudgeon left over eighty thousand pounds to his wife and children.  To put this in perspective, the four shops he owned in Elizabeth Street in Melbourne’s heart were valued at just over twenty thousand pounds.  By 1887 Annie Dudgeon had purchased land and moved into her newly built home, “Halcyon”, just behind the bayside esplanade in St Kilda. This house still stands and is considered one of the gems of “Marvellous Melbourne” architecture.

The references I’ve seen tend to suggest that at the time of his death John had initiated the land purchase and already had the house plans drawn up by the architects, “Frederick de Garis and Son”. Maybe this was the case but the land titles show that Annie Dudgeon only took possession of the land in November 1885 (from Alfred Kirkpatrick a Wilcannia grazier). I haven’t explored it further but there was possibly a contest over John Dudgeon’s estate with a number of newspaper items from the mid-1880s referring to “Dudgeon and others v Hale and others”. Maybe it was all settled in 1889 when the “Halcyon” title became subject to a mortgage in the names of Thomas Mitchell Hale, Charles Carty Arnell and Frederick Beauchamp, Annie’s brother-in-law (these three were also the executors of John’s will).

The theory that the “Halcyon” plans were ready and waiting in early 1884 seems to be based on an entry in John’s probate mentioning an outstanding amount of 84 pounds payable to “de Garis, architects”. There is no mention of any interest in St Kilda real estate. This firm had a close relationship with Dudgeon and Arnell. In June 1881 they had called tenders for a 3 story factory to be built in Lonsdale Street West.  The probate mentions a creditor payment of 330 pounds due for “Building” and further on “a store and factory is now being erected” at Little Lonsdale Street West as part of the Dudgeon & Arnell factory. Could this be related to the design work for 84 pounds?  A year or two before, the architect is said to have designed “Ripplemere”, the Grey Street home of Charles Arnell and most likely “Dalkeith” in 1890 for James Aitken, a Dudgeon and Arnell director and brother-in-law to early partner John Owen. It is worth noting too that in September 1884 the offices of De Garis “REMOVED” to 159 Elizabeth Street from Bank Street, South Melbourne. This shop was owned by John Dudgeon at the time of his death.

Nowhere could I find any hard evidence for De Garis being the architect for the three mansions mentioned. The attributions in various heritage documents seem to be based on the style and possibly the common link to Dudgeon & Arnell. I’m not sure it strengthens the case but it is interesting to note that the younger de Garis was living in a house named “Dalkeith” in 1907.


John Dudgeon Death Certificate


1885 Title


Registry of Births Deaths & Marriages (Victoria), Death Certificate, John Dudgeon 1884/4896.

State Library of Victoria, St Kilda, [Halcyon], Collins, John T. 1907-2001, photographer
(accessed 16 April 2013 from Culture Victoria)

MMBW Sewerage Plans,
Level 1 – Main Grid System
Level 2 – General Area of Walpole Street
Level 3 – South end of Walpole Street, East side
Level 3 – South end of Walpole, West side
Level 3 – Walpole Street, further north

State Library of Victoria, Sands & McDougall postal directories, 1862-1974, microfiche.

PROV VPRS 28/P0&P2 File 27/544 (Probate: John Dudgeon 1884; digitised copy, viewed online 16 April 2013)

Land Victoria, Certificate of Title, Volume 01760 Folio 826
Land Victoria, Certificate of Title, Volume 01623 Folio 500

1881 ‘Advertising.’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), 29 June, p. 3, viewed 16 April, 2013,;
“F DE GARIS, architect, Bank street, Emerald Hill,
Invites TENDERS FACTORY, brick, three story, Lonsdale street, Melbourne.”

1884 ‘Advertising.’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), 1 September, p. 3, viewed 16 April, 2013,;
“F DE GARIS, Architect, has REMOVED to com-
modious offices, 159 Elizabeth-street, Melbourne,
and will be known in the future under the name of
F. De Garis and Son, Architects.”

1907 ‘Family Notices.’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), 14 September, p. 13, viewed 16 April, 2013,
DE GARIS.-On the 7th September, at “Dalkeith,”
Raleigh-street, St. Kilda, the wife of F. R. De
Garis-a daughter.

Posted in Charles Carty Arnell, Dalkeith, Halcyon, John Dudgeon, Ripplemere, Thomas Mitchell Hale, Walpole St Kew | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

In Richmond

Cnr Palmer & River 1936

“Tobacco workers and staff assembled outside the Dudgeon and Arnell factory in River Street (cnr. Palmer Street), Richmond in 1936.”1

Palmer Street Factory

On my way to work through Richmond every now and then I pull off Bridge Road into a petrol station on the corner of River Street. While I fill the tank I often stare vacantly past the pumps and across the street behind to a large and featureless modern brick wall belonging to a storage business. That street is Palmer Street and in 1936 the employees of the tobacco manufacturer Dudgeon and Arnell gathered on it for a group photo in front of their then new factory at 153 Palmer Street just a few doors from the River Street corner.

Dudgeon & Arnell operated from this location until 1953 when they were taken over by Dobie, George & Son before that in turn was absorbed into the Phillip Morris conglomerate. With the possible exception of some brick walls incorporated into newer structures there’s nothing left of the pictured Deco factory, but on the River and Murphy Street corner there is still a large Victorian era red brick warehouse now used by Guardian Storage. This is probably of roughly the same design as one used by Dudgeon & Arnell next door and right on the the River and Palmer Street corner. As well as the main entry for the Palmer Street address the directories from this period included an entry for “Dudgeon & Arnell Py Ld (strge)” at 52 River Street. This is almost certainly the peaked roof building at the rear of the group and to the left of the tree.

Why would any of this interest me? Because my great great grandfather Thomas Mitchell Hale was part of this company for most of his life and I don’t really know much about him. I have a couple of photos from around 1900. I know who his family were and where he lived most of his life. I know roughly when he started at Dudgeon & Arnell and that he was there at the time of his death. I have a few documents showing how his role changed over that time. I would like to know more but until recently had just fiddled around gathering a few bits and pieces.

I’d always wondered how he ended up with company. I suspected that his father had had something to do with it. His name was also Thomas Hale and until he fell on hard times in the early 1860s he had been a reasonably successful architect, councillor and businessman. Hoping to find a link to him I looked briefly at the Dudgeon and Arnell behind the company name. but didn’t go much further.

That was where I left it until recently when an email from a tobacco tin collector spurred me to further activity. I now know a lot more about the founders of the company and its growth through the late 1800s. I only know a little bit more about my gg-grandfather but I guess by knowing more about his workplace, bosses and partners it must tell me more about him. This blog is my way of organising what I’ve found and airing it for comment.

Dudgeon & Arnell evolved from a tobacco manufactory started by Gideon Heard in the late 1850s. There are some hints that he may have been involved in the tobacco business even earlier in Sydney or Adelaide (although the Sydney reference is likely to be a confusion with the large American company “Messrs Heard & Co” of Augustine Heard which operated out of China and had a large Asia-Pacific presence at the time). Gideon Heard’s company became “Heard, Owen & Dudgeon” in 1862 and then “Owen, Dudgeon & Arnell” in 1864 before settling on “Dudgeon & Arnell” in 1876.

I plan on starting with the founders. I include amongst these Gideon Heard, John Owen, John Dudgeon and Charles Carty Arnell and where better to begin than with John Dudgeon whose name was associated with tobacco in Melbourne for almost a century.

1 Best, Alleyn. & Federated Tobacco Workers Union of Australia. Victorian Branch. 1989, The tobacco worker : history of the Federated Tobacco Workers’ Union of Australia, Victorian Branch, 1884-1988 / Alleyn Best Federated Tobacco Workers Union of Australia, Victorian Branch, Cheltenham, Vic. :
2 1936-1955, Sands & McDougall’s directory of Victoria
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