617 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy North

In 1883, number 613 is owned by John G Bird and 615 is owned by Joshua Bennett. Both of these are single blocks of land. James Sharpe owns the double block of land from 617-619(Rate Books, 1882-1883).

The two houses 617-619 are built in 1884 by James Sharpe (Foreman). They appear in the rate books on the 27th November 1884 as Brick Homes of 6 Rooms. Neither are occupied, suggesting that the houses were near completion. The house to the left had not yet been built and is still shown as vacant land. It is likely that 617 and 619 were a matching pair, but that something happened to 619 to cause it to be rebuilt at some point (see photos below).

Google Image of 617 Brunswick Street (middle house).

James Sharpe (Builder, Foreman, Clerk of Works, Manager, Owner of 617-619 from 1882-1899)

James Sharpe looks to have been born in 1835 in England and travelled to Australia at age 22 (1856), his profession is as a carpenter. He marries Avarina Rachel King (also English) in 1860, she was 20 years old and he was 25 years old. They had children, Victoria Rose (1861), Avarina Isabella (1863), Charles James (1868), Ethel Mary (1870), Percy Thomas (1872), Albert Edward (1878).

It appears that James set up a timber yard and building company with his partner William Radden, in Elgin Street, Carlton, the first record of this is in 1869. The timber yard is put up for sale and they are announced insolvent in December 1872 (Age, 12 Dec 1872). The articles in the insolvency case confirm they are builders (in particular Mr T Burrows cites they did not complete his house) (Argus, 22 March 1873) and they owned land in Canning Street, Carlton which they had developed. Both Radden and Sharpe have their principle residence in their wives’ names. Avarina is cross examined about the two houses they own in Nicholson Street. She bought the land for these houses in 1871 and paid for their building. (Argus, 28 May 1873 & 14 June 1873).

By 1883, there are records of a James Sharpe requesting improved sanitary conditions and street lights in North Fitzroy. It is possible that this James Sharpe is the same as who was the licensee at the Recreation Hotel from 1877 to 1884. He transfers the licence in May 1884. I haven’t been able to confirm this link yet, but the timing aligns with him working on building 617-619 in 1884 and his profession being recorded as Foreman for this period.

James and Avarina and their children move into 619 Brunswick (then 157 Brunswick) and at some stage James’ half brother Thomas Lee also moves in. They have been close throughout their lives, with Thomas owning part of the Canning St Property. Thomas dies at 619 aged 73 (Argus, 21 Nov 1887).

By this time James is now Clerk of Works, and then becomes a Manager. He however is always known as a builder and this is what appears on the application for Probate. He also holds a bit of an honour in Draughts: “Mr James Wyllie (Herd Laddie) champion draught player of the world, again visited the Free Chess and Draught room in connection with the Fitzroy Public Library on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, March 24th, 25th and 26th, so that we have had quite a draught revival amongst us. On Tuesday evening the room was crowded to suffocation, and the champion played twelve games simultaneously of which he won eleven, the twelfth ending in a draw for Mr James Sharpe of North Fitzroy.” (The Mercury Courier, 2 Apr 1891).

The houses must have been sold by Avarina after his death in 1899 or her death in 1911. They are sold as a pair and come up for sale again in 1932: No. 617 and 619 Brunswick Street, “Corner Church Street, North Fitzroy. Pair Superior 2 Story Brick Balcony Houses. Each 7 Rooms, Bathroom, Scullery, Ac. Let at 30/ Per week each. Land 38ft x 74 ft. Along Church Street Back to ROW” (Advertising, Age 1 Oct 1932)

1885-1886 – John Jones (Town Clerk)

1887 – Charles Hardwicke (Reporter)

1888-1889 – Edgar Rosman (Reporter)

1892-1894 – Henry Bucunde? (Carpenter)

1895 – William Britt (Detective)

1898-1899 – Gregory Godwin (Upholsterer)

The two houses on the right hand side below were owned by James Sharpe (Manager). James was residing in 619 and rented 617 out to Henry Buwider (Carpenter) in 1894. The houses were then numbered 155 and 157 respectively.

1925-1935 photo by Charles Daniel Pratt (State Library)

1925-1935 photo by Charles Daniel Pratt (State Library)
1965 photo – you can just see the side of the building on the left
State Library – Committee for Urban Action photo – c.1970-1974

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: