359 and 361 Napier Street, Fitzroy

The current ‘Napier Quarter’ is one of the older properties in the northern part of Fitzroy, with 361 being built in 1859.
Originally at 245 Napier Street prior to the renumbering of the area in the late 1980s.

  • Architect: Unknown / Builder: Unknown
  • Built:1859 (361) and 1877 (359)
  • First owner: James Inkster (Contractor)
  • Other owners: Hook, Mudie, Tomkins

Below is an extract from the March 2020 Fitzroy Newsletter:

“From 1859, James Inkster owned the vacant land at the corner of Napier and Kerr Streets. By October 1859 he had built a two room stone cottage, now identified as 361 Napier Street.

On 3 November 1863 he married Catherine Murphy at St Francis’s Church, Melbourne. Their four children were born at the bluestone cottage from 1864 to 1873.

By December 1869 he had sold the northern land portion, 30 ft. x 40 ft. (now 363 Napier Street) to Frederick Rouse. Then by 1877 the three room brick shop, known as Willow Tree Store, was built on the corner along the Kerr Street frontage.

Inkster was a contractor, and there are newspaper references to the Fitzroy council awarding him contracts for: kerbing on portions of Hodgson, Kent, Spring and Henry Streets in February 1863; Kerbing and channelling on portion of Johnson Streets in August 1963; 300 yards of metal (crushed stone) for Smith Street in June 1865

He was also awarded contracts at other locations across Melbourne.

James Inkster died, aged 58, at Willow Tree Store on 1 January 1889 “after a long and painful illness”. His wife Catherine continued in the store as a grocer from 1885 for over a decade. She died in 1923 at her son’s residence, 417 Napier Street.”

Adding on from the Fitzroy Historical society, there is record that the shop continued post James Inkster’s death. An advert run in September 1889 promoted 200 quarts of milk available daily. But in 1892, April – June, the shop ‘a small grocers store’ is initially advertised to be let (April) and then later to be sold (May) and then to be let ‘only’ (June). It was re-let in 1893 – advertised as having a good cellar.

On the 17 June 1903, James Inkster’s eldest surviving son John Muir marries Annie Lancaster (daughter of John Lancaster of 417-425 Napier St). The Lancaster’s owned each of the 3 properties with two being dwellings, and the corner of Westgarth and Napier being the farrier workshop. Mrs Catherine Inkster is still the resident of the property in 1905.

In 1910 Mrs M Wallis was resident and grocer at 359 and Thomas Russell at 361

In 1917 the residences were separated, with Walter Leslie and Minnie Hook in residence. Private Walter Leslie Hook passed away on 10 May 1917 on active service in World War I in France.

In 1919 the houses officially were sold together as a pair. They were being rented at the time for 22/ a week.

In 1925 with Elizabeth and Maggie Mudie (Machinist) in 359 and

1921-1925 Sarah Georgina Tomkins (Boot trade) in 361. Elizabeth was a grocer, but it is unknown if the store was used as a grocery at this time.

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