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.

This entry was posted in Charles Carty Arnell, Dalkeith, Halcyon, John Dudgeon, Ripplemere, Thomas Mitchell Hale, Walpole St Kew and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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