43 Cecil Street, Fitzroy

Back in 1865 Cecil Street had some strange numbering, but through tracing the houses and owners over the following 30 years the pattern has been determined. This house was initially number 144. The houses also didn’t run in numerical order on the street. The rate books of 1865 describe the house as a brick house dairy, 4 rooms, shed and land.

Google Image – 2013

By 1870 the numbers are more reliable, and the number of this house is 31. The house and dairy was owned by Benjamin Woodhead from at least September 1854 to 1890. It was in these last 5 years that the numbering changed from 31 to 43.

Benjamin Woodhead (Builder / Dairyman / Councillor)

Was born in 1820 not far from Huddersfield in Yorkshire. His father ran a wool sorting and dyeing business. Woodhead however decided to apprentice to a building firm and later worked as a foreman of bridge construction in the London and Lancashire railway companies (Fitzroy City Press, 5 Dec 1885). In 1850 he left England and travelled to Australia in January 1851 aged 31 with his family on the Petrel (Shipping records, Ancestry). Initially he resided in Adelaide, but moved to Fitzroy later in the same year, taking up residence in Cecil Street (close to 43, but I am not sure exactly where). He immediately commenced business as a builder and contractor. His health started to deteriorate some time between 1851 and 1865, and on medical advice he was ordered to restrict his diet to pure milk (Fitzroy City Press, 5 Dec 1885). In 1854 he advertises that he has Pigs for sale from his home in Cecil Street, close to the William Tell Inn (The Argus, 9 Sep 1854), but it seems that after this he switches them for cows for his dairy. The product being so successful that others also applied to purchase his milk (“anxious to get it minus water”) that he embarked in the milk supply trade, which he ran on “a rather extensive scale and managed it so successfully that he was able to retire from it some years afterwards” (Fitzroy City Press, 5 Dec 1885). From other records, we can see the dairy is well established in 1867 (The Argus, 31 Jul 1865). When he actually retired from being a dairyman is not clear, as one paper puts it at 1895 (Weekly Times, 14 Jun 1902) but this would place him at 75 years and so I do not think this is correct.

I am speculating, but in 1867, George Sparkes was living in a 2 room house on Woodhead’s land. It is about this time that the houses now numbered 51-53 Cecil Street were built. The other two houses between 43 and 51 (now numbered 47-49 Cecil Street) were likely built in 1871.

MMBW Map – 1900 – State Library of Victoria

By 1869, Woodhead decided to run for Council in Fitzroy, joining Thomas Rowe of Fitzroy Street, Edward Delbridge, junior of Moor Street, and Alexander Grant of Gore Street. The Poll occurred on 12 August 1869 (The Argus, 31Jul 1869). Campaigning, he presented at Mr Snadden’s Bucks Head Hotel on Napier Street of 4 August (The Argus, 3 Aug 1869). He was clearly friends with Joseph Snadden, and although not voted in on this occasion, put himself forward again at his friends request in July 1870 (The Age, 23 Jul 1870). This time he goes up against Alban Thomas Best, John Falconer, JP, William Miller Scotchmere and Albert Lee Tucker on 9 August 1870 (The Argus, 27 Jul 1870) and was successful polling 975 votes, behind Albert Lee Tucker who polled 1,134. The two men along with John Falconer joined the Council (The Argus, 10 Aug 1870). He was re-elected in several times (The Age 12 Aug 1874) and remained part of the council for 12 years. During this period he was appointed as a Magistrate for Fitzroy (The Age, 7 Nov 1874), a chairman (Fitzroy City Press, 5 Dec 1885), and was part of the Edinburgh Gardens Committee (Mercury and Weekly Courier, 13 May 1882).

Photo of the foundation stone laid in 1873 with Benjamin Woodhead listed as a councillor. Photo by Carmel Reynen

Woodhead was also a religious man and was appointed in Sep 1872 as a Trustee of Church Lands on the land set apart on 26 July 1869 for a new Church of England in Fitzroy (Church of England Messenger, 6 Sep 1872). I believe from the dates that this is St Luke’s Church in North Fitzroy, which was originally granted land on Queen’s Parade. In 1882 he was elected to the Rights and Privileges of a Life Governor of the Melbourne Benevolent Asylum (Mercury and Weekly Courier, 11 Mar 1882) and also became a Trustee of the Dispensary at 287-291 Gore Street (later referred to as the Friendly Societies) in the later part of the 1800’s.

The Cecil St house in 1876 was described as a six room stone house, which was quite large compared to the other houses in the street at the time, most being wood or brick and of 3 rooms. In 1877, he also sold three houses – one stone cottage and two wooden cottages on McKean Street (The Argus 24 Mar 1877).

Photo of Benjamin Woodhead from 1887-1888 – Sourced from Carmel Reynen (Ancestry)

In 1881 Benjamin Woodhead brought the land under the new land statute. This is interesting as it gives a sense of the size of the land, given he had 99 feet facing Cecil Street by 81 feet deep. The start of his land commenced 480 feet and 3 inches east from the east side of Nicholson Street (The Age, 5 Mar 1881). Aligning this with the Rate Books at the time it looks like he owned 43 – 53.

Between 1885 and 1890 number 37 Cecil St was built next door and Woodhead moved to his large block of land at Queen’s Parade. He had owned this land from 1869, but had only been slowly developing it, with the Recreation Hotel at 170 and another residence. Woodhead moved there around the late 1880’s and was at 162 (next door to the Recreation Hotel) in 1890. There was an empty block of land east of this and another house at 148. After moving her, in October 1890, his wife Sarah passed away aged 65 (The Argus, 27 Oct 1890). Benjamin died in Jun 1902 aged 82 years (The Argus, 9 Jun 1902)

In all, he owned at his death, 144 Queens Parade – a double fronted weatherboard cottage of 4 rooms and land; 148 Queens Parade – a double fronted weatherboard cottage with shop front, 6 rooms and 3 stall stabling, a large shed and land. The three blocks of land between 148 and 162 Queens Parade each 35 ft x more than 112 ft; 162 Queens Parade, a well built double fronted weather board villa with 7 rooms, scullery, bathroom, large billiard room at rear and land (59 ft facing Queen’s Parade); 1 and 3 Grant Street, which were two superior semi detached brick villas with slate roof.

It is highly likely that Woodhead St, Fitzroy North is named for Benjamin given his prominence in the area (Fitzroy, Melbourne’s First Suburb).

Francis Craddock

The residence looks to have been rented to Jane Amelia and Francis Craddock in early 1891. Jane passes away on the 20th October and Francis must then shortly move out. (The Age, 21 Oct 1891)

William Montgomery (Coachbuilder)

In late 1891, William Montgomery was renting from Woodhead, who continued to own the properties for some years. By the following year the house is vacant (Rate Books, 1891 & 1892).

Richard Benson (Paviour) 1893-1901

First recorded here in 1893, Richard was a Paviour who had previously owned his own wooden home in St Philip Street, Collingwood (1891). A Paviour, is, I believe is someone who lays paving stones, so perhaps was working on road construction? He was here until at least 1900, and then appears to have moved to 87 Cecil Street in 1903 along with his wife Mary and his son John Joseph Benson (Compositor). (Rate Books and Street Directory).

In Nov 1900, his son Richard William (Willie) Benson passes away aged 25 years and 3 months (The Age, 26 Nov 1900) and then in February 1901, Edward H, the youngest son aged 6 years and 9 months also passes away (The Age, 28 Feb 1901).

Post 1900

The properties must have been sold sometime between 1900 and 1902 when Woodhead passes away.

In 1905 James Pullen is residing here

In December 1915, Herbert Pattison (Labourer) and Lucy Ellen Pattison both of 43 Cecil Street declare themselves bankrupt. The causes are “Borrowing money at high rates of interest and pressure of creditors … Losses on boarders” (The Age 22 Dec 1915)

I haven’t found much more about the property until it and #47 are sold in two lots on 12 September 1923. The house is described as “Attractive D.F. Brick Villa, Slate Roof, Tiled Verandah, Side Entrance, 7 rooms, bathroom, Extensive Outbuildings, Pitched Yard &c. in Perfect Order, Electric Light, Specially Well Built. Immediate Possession. An Exceptional Opportunity for Dairyman, Carrier, &c. Land 33ft.10in. x 87ft.6in to Right of Way” (The Argus, 8 Sep 1923).

By 1929, the Les Beck and his wife lived here (The Argus, 21 Dec 1929).

The Property is again sold in July 1932, advertised as “Double Fronted Brick Villa, containing 6 rooms, conveniences and large sheds” (The Age, 20 July 1932).

Committee for Urban Action Photo – c.1970-1974 – Held by the State Library

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