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JAMES & JOHN GRIFFITHS, GRIFFITH BROS., TEA MERCHANTS, MELBOURNE

The registration envelope with the printed purple 4½d KGV Head stamp is uprated with a red 1½d KGV Head stamp and they are both canceled with NORTH BRIGHTON/ 10 SP 26/ VIC. There is a red Registration label for Brighton North and the cover is addressed to Griffiths Bros., Tea Merchants, Elizabeth Street, City (Melbourne) (Figure 1).

There are two postmarks on the reverse, a copy of the identical North Brighton copy on the front as well as a transit REGISTERED/ 4/ 530A  11 SE 26/ MELBOURNE (Figure 2).

 

The brothers built one of the great tea, coffee and cocoas importation firms located at 28 Flinders Street, Melbourne, with branches in at least 4 other Australian Colonies (N.S.W., Queensland, South and Western Australia), in addition to the main base in Melbourne, Victoria. It is surprising how little has been found about James, and John is mentioned only 3 times, twice by full name and once by initials. My surprise is compounded by the fact that the firms advertising was scattered throughout Australia, particularly along train lines, telling the distance, say, from Sydney and where you could have a refreshing cup of tea, as seen in Figure 3.

The Guide to Australian Business Records describes the company of Griffiths Bros Limited (1898-1960s) as follows: Location Melbourne, Victoria. Registered in Victoria in 1898 as Griffiths Brothers Pty Ltd. The company was re-registered in 1913, and in 1920 was converted to a public company. In the 1960s the business was taken over by the Robur Tea Company Limited. Founded by Griffiths, James ( ? - 1925), and John Griffiths was not mentioned.

"James Griffiths had migrated to Australia in 1873 and founded the successful tea business of the same name. Both Griffiths and his wife were committed to Christian missionary work and in 1902 Mrs Griffiths was appointed President of the Women’s Missionary Council. St. Hilda’s (in Clarendon St., East Melbourne)was built in 1907 by R.S. Phillips for James Griffiths. The architects were Ward and Carleton. Almost immediately (when) the house was completed it was given in trust to the Christian Missionary Society to become a Church of England Missionary Training Home".

" Nestled in the foothills of Mount Dandenong (33km to the east of Melbourne), the Basin is a mixture of outer suburban and rural landscapes. Land purchases in The Basin began in 1866. James Griffiths (Tea Merchant famous for ‘Griffith Teas) lived on the property Ferndale in the late nineteenth/early twentieth century. A leading local figure in The Basin, Griffiths was killed with his wife and two others at the Bayswater railway crossing in (December) 1925".

"After the First World War, there developed in Melbourne the strongest, the best-organised, and the most determined network of lay evangelicals in Australian History. Names that come readily to mind include ........James and John Griffiths (tea importers)."

By the mid 1940s the Griffiths building was leased to Verona Press and became a printing headquarters. From 1973 to 1988 the building was used as the Melbourne billiard and snooker- playing establishment, leased by Dolly Lindrum, named after her famous uncle Walter Lindrum. The building is now the home to ‘Hotel Lindrum’, which displays items from the ‘Griffith Bros’ occupation in memory of its history. The building site is seen in Figure 4.

Examples of Griffiths Bros. advertising is seen in Figures 5-7.

There is no doubt that the Griffiths brothers, James and John, and James’ wife prospered well, and they led a religious life as well as contributing to Church charity.

 

 
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