433 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

Such a lovely building now a charity shop, it was originally James Reilly’s Flour Mill. Erected in 1869, the Mill was owned by Robert Swan, but called James Reilly Flour Mill, and is believed to be the oldest industrial building in Fitzroy that still stands today. Originally, the street address was 375 Brunswick Street prior to the streets being renumbered (approx. 1888). The Mill operated until 1878 (but only till 1872-73 under Reilly) utilising steam power.

The exterior of the building remains intact, however the upper floors have been altered and the window openings have changed.

Google image – April 2021

According to the Northern Suburbs Factory Study, page 33, conducted by Vinoes & Churchward, “the only manufacturing building which appears to have survived in Fitzroy from this early period is James Reilly’s flour mill on the corner of Brunswick and Cecil Streets. Although this mill was possibly not built by James Reilly, he is the first recorded occupier having leased the mill for about 3 years from 1869 or 1870, after which he moved to Benalla to build his own mill. The substantial two-storey brick structure is not only typical of other Victorian four mills of this period, but also reflects the high standard of construction used for other early Fitzroy factories that no longer survive

According to Lina Favrin (Fitzroy Library), the building had two main floors for the machinery and an upper loft for grain storage. Originally there were two small cottages at the rear of the mill built for mill workers. James Reilly, was an experienced milling engineer from Cork, and is thought to have been the first operator of this mill but later Robert Swan took over the Brunswick St flour mill in 1875-6 and operated it under the name “Fitzroy Flour Mills”.

After this time, the building was used as a chemist (manufacturing) by Robert Anderson in 1887. It was at this time after the days work, two tram conductors (Francis and Hutchins) on 27 January 1887 observed smoke issuing through the windows on the third floor. They broke open the door and with a few buckets of water extinguished the flames which had caught some shelves and a quantity of labels. The building was insured for 1,000 pounds. The premises belonged to Mr. Stephens who resides at Parkville. No damage was done to the building. (The Age Melbourne, 28 January 1887, pg. 5).

By 18 May 1887, just 4 months later, Robert Anderson was declared insolvent, with the causes being that mortgagees were taking possession of his stock under a bill of sale and bad debts. He had liabilities of 1,252 pounds. (The Argus, Melbourne, 18 May 1887, pg. 6)

According to the 23 April 1887, in the Fitzroy City Press, W. Smithers-Gadd and Ross and the Excelsior Mutual Building Society both advertised their branch office at 375 Brunswick Street. The first advertisement was August 1885, but it was just the Excelsior Mutual Building Society, but it appears that W. Smithers-Gadd were also operating from the premises at the time.

23 April 1887, Fitzroy City Press

In 1888, it appears the numbers changed and the address goes 433 Brunswick St. There are still advertisements for this address as W. Smithers-Gadd, advertising properties around Fitzroy (up to Dec 1889) but I cannot find references to Excelsior. The picture below therefore must be somewhere between circa 1885 and 1891.

Image held by Fitzroy Library. Offices of the Excelsior Building Society and Savings Bank, 433 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy. Also called the Excelsior Building Society and People’s Freehold bank. Manager; W Smithers-Gadd, Auctioneer. Sketcher unknown and date unknown.

By April 1891, W. Smithers-Gadd is now advertising as Gadd & Co Ltd, but still from the same address. But there are also advertisements for dress makers. In Jan 1893-1894, a Miss Woollatt that operates at the same address.

In 1896 H Rankin advertised selling a printing and press business at the site in July 1896 and then he advertised a gas engine is being sold in August 1896.

In 1897 it appears the plasters were appointed to make good the property.

In April 1898, J H Stone & Co is operating the sale of concentrated milk from 433 Brunswick St, from Rosebrook Farm. And a year latter he was advertising for a young fellow to perform the ‘butter round’.

By 1903, Stone is still at 433 Brunswick St, but it appears he is now a real estate agent with many advertisements for property in the area. Real estate advertisements under Stone’s name continue to 1905. In 1906, there is an advertisement for sewer-ing properties in North Fitzroy.

In 1907, Fowls’ Food, cow feed and barley produce store has opened at the location but J H Stone is still also operating from the site, and in November is looking for Tenders for a sewering factory and cottage.

Stone is still there in 1912 though there is nothing advertised in the period. In 1912, he advertises ‘Forms’ for sale, and then in 1913 there are adverts for both Douglas & Co and Streak Cycle and Motor Works (both related to motor cycles).

In 1916 two adverts run for a wagon and in June a Pony and harness.

In March 1919 (and maybe 1918) Harris and Bowman worked from the store for Eclipse Patent Wardrobes (as Cabinet Makers).

In 1929, we have Wagons being advertised, which may pick up Farvin’s comments below. By the late 1930’s there is strong evidence that Strickland is utilising the property for his wagon business, which continues until 1948, but it is unknown when they finished with the site.

According to Farvin “The sign “Est 1857″ above the door, refers to the firm Strickland & Sons, a coach builder who bought the building in in the early 1920s.”

Photo from Past Port 2019

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