497 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy North

Constructed in 1886, this was the home and shop for Thomas Pinsent, a signwriter (painter). The architect and builder are not known.

Photo of the house – you can see the shutters are still in place. Photo: Rachel Axton 21 Nov 2021

The Building

The sign on the York St side of the building, it says T. J. PINSENT across the centre and has the word SIGN above and WRITER below on the circle- Photo by Rachel Axton 21 Nov 2021.

“This building, constructed in 1886 for Thomas Pinsent (signwriter) is a terrace house with a built-in shop front where there would normally be a verandah. There is a residence entrance on right hand side, a central shuttered shop window and a shop entrance on the left. The upper balcony has intact cast iron with a fern pattern which was registered by Cochrane and Scott on 5th August 1884. The upper floor windows are flanked by cement pilasters (an elaborate treatment for this shop design) with debased Corithian capitals, archivolts and elaborate voussoirs all against a brick wall. The lower storey has an interesting shop entrance door with two removable upper panels of the four panel door. These panels are bolted from the inside and when released can be lifted up and outwards. The shop window has intact shutters (six panels) locked in by a horizontal bar at the base. Below is a skirting board with three panels of bolection mouldings. Above is a two part transom light with curved corners and above the door another plain transom light with a flat segmental head.

The Residence door with the panels around the outside. Photo taken by Rachel Axton – 21 Nov 2021

The residence door is elaborate with bolection mouldings and pyramidal panels, late coloured glass side lights and likewise side lights in the transom, but the central transom pane has been replaced. A flat timber segmental head of unusual character surmounts the transom light. Piers on either side of the building and between the residence door and shop window, frame the composition and are in bluestone with tooled edges. On the southernside of the building (the York Street elevation) the original sign of “Pinsent, Signwriter,” and an early street sign (York Street) are visible.

York Street signage on the side of the building – Photo by Rachel Axton 21 Nov 2021

“The interior of the shop (the front room) has had the partitions removed from it and has a deal boarded ceiling. The hall and the second room have intact doors, cornices and roses, but have otherwise been re-decorated. The banister, in very good condition, finishes in a spiral rather than newel post. The doors opening off the upper landing are in original condition with the mouldings in black and the rest varnished. The front landing has much of the original brown and floral wallpaper intact. There is a wide stairwell light with intact etched blue and ruby glass. The doors and mouldings, in original condition, are more elaborate and are picked out in black and other stains. The upstairs front room has an intact marble fireplace (with one servant bell on either side) and a glass fronted bookshelf. The front windows can be raised for stepping out.” (North Fitzroy Conservation Study 1978) (Glossary)

Side view of the house from York St – Photo: Rachel Axton 21 Nov 2021

Thomas James Pinsent (Painter) Lived: 1884- early 1920s @497

Thomas James was born in 1858 in Ballarat. In 1878 he was awarded with a silver medal for the Engraving, Enamelling and Embossing on Glass, Painting, Graining category. He was living on Reilly Street, Fitzroy and was 20 years old (The Australasian, 18 May 1878, p.21)

It appears in 1880 he may have lived in Young St (address unknown) , and in 1884, he is recorded as owning land in Brunswick Street, the street at the time is a mix of wooden houses, land and brick homes (Rate Books 1884). There are a few Thomas James Pinsent in Fitzroy at the time, including a baker at 370 Brunswick St and another who lived in Northcote (maybe his father).

In 1885, it is “Recommended – that the necessary order be and is hereby made on Thomas Pinsent, as owner, to construct brick and cement sinks and channels in each yard at rear of three brick cottages, situate in York-street and known as Jersey Cottages” (The Fitzroy City Press, 19 Sep 1885, p.2). These cottages were located from 38-42 York St, Fitzroy North and were likely sold as a group as they have been replaced by apartments.

MMBW Map 1901

In 1886 he married Clara Jessie Candy who passed away on 5 Feb 1899 (aged 35-36) and is buried in the Melbourne General Cemetery. They had at least one child, Elsie Beatrice Pinsent (1895-1968) and lived at 41 North Brunswick Street (a brick shop with six rooms) and he also owned the land north of this. 41 North Brunswick (as shown above on the MMBW map) is later renumbered to 497 Brunswick St.

In 1902, Thomas marries Nellie (Ellen) Oldfield – she is 13 years his junior. They marry at Nellie’s mother’s residence – 427 Napier Street. In the early 1920s, Thomas and Nellie moved from Fitzroy to Canterbury where he lived for the remainder of his life. His last residence was 201 Mont Albert Road, Canterbury. His daughter and her husband lived at 282 Mont Albert Road, Surrey Hills.

Thomas James Booth (Financier/Accountant)resident from 1925 – late 1940s.

Thomas James was born in 1881, first son of William Booth a cotton picker from Lancashire, England. William immigrated to Australia in 1871 and married Elizabeth Ann Heery in 1878. His father passed away when he was 6, just 5 months before his mother gave birth to twins. In 1904 he married Elsie Victoria Esler. Thomas and Elsie moved around a little, their daughter Dulcie May was born in 1910 in Northcote, but passes away at Park St Sth Melbourne aged 10 months in 1911. They then have a son in 1917, but he passes away in Fitzroy aged 5.

Thomas most likely rented this location and lived next door to Max Cohen Fruiter/Grocer/Newsagent lived next door at 499 in 1925, 1930 and 1935.

In 1930, it appear that he operated for a short time as a branch of the Standard Cash Order & Finance Pty Ltd, a company owned by W. M. Kirton and Ethel M Kirkton (of 189 Park St, South Melbourne). The company had previously been known as Medways. It appears the association was short lived as it is only these references in 1930 (Sands and MacDougall 1930 & advertising 1930).

In 1940, the listing changes to Booth, T. J. Py Ld, suggesting that he was now operating under his own name and his neighbour at 499 was now Mrs L V Wetzel a confectioner. While Booth was residing at this location, it is likely he did not own the property, as on 11 August 1943, at 3.00pm 497 Brunswick Street was sold as a “Two-storied Brick Shop and 5-roomed dwelling, Garage. Rent 2pound 10 shillings per week. Land 20ft.4in x 108ft.” The auction was run by George G Henderson Pty Ltd, auctioneer, 352 Collins St, Melbourne. (The Argus, 31 July, 5, 7, 11 Aug 1943). Although the property is sold, Booth remains operating out of the property and in 1945 Vincent Flynn was next door (Sands & MacDougall, 1945).

Thomas James Booth passed away at the West Preston Private Hospital on 26 August 1952, he was aged 70 years.

Mrs Elsie Victoria Booth (Financier)resident from 1925 – 1974

In 1950-1955, Mrs E V Booth, widow of Thomas was located at this address, with Vincent (John) Flynn next door (Sands & MacDougall, 1950, 1955). In 1960, ‘Brunswick Dry Cleaners’ are operating from the shop, but Mrs E V Booth is still residing at the property. A draper, U Kozowski had moved in next door (Sands & MacDougall, 1960). Elsie was about 3 years younger than Thomas, so would have been about 68 when he died. There is reason to suggest that she continued running the money lending business while Thomas was in hospital and that he was there for a considerable period given he was still alive in 1950, but not recorded as resident.

In 1970 and 1975, Roberston’s Dry Cleaners and Mrs E.V Booth are operating from the site and an opportunity shop has opened at 499 (Sands & MacDougall, 1970 & 1975). However there is suggestion that Mrs E. V Booth died in 1974 aged 89 years.

National Trust Database – circa 1970s?

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