The folded 1856 ‘entire’ letter is franked with the QV 4d rose Victorian pair of the ‘Emblems’ stamps on wove paper (SG 83), tied by the ‘killer’ barred numeral ‘1′ of Melbourne, and it is addressed to Messrs Butterworth Bros., Merchants, Castlemaine (Figure 1).

The red sealing wax is accompanied by an originating MELBOURNE/ D/ SEP 3/ S9 as well as an arrival postmark in September at Castlemaine, Victoria (Figure 2).

Although this business is named for an individual it was in fact run by four Butterworth brothers, Thomas, Robert, Benjamin and John. Gardner believed that they were from Surrey in England. The Public Records Office of Victoria Index to Immigrants to Victoria does not provide any evidence that four men with these names came to Australia at the same time during the 1850s, but they may have come separately.

The brothers purchased their business from Messrs Sargood (whose business later spread around Australia and to London as Sargood Bros. and Gardner. The 1856 Castlemaine Commercial Directory includes four listings for T. Butterworth & Co., under the following headings: General Merchants, 1 Forest Street; Grocer, Market Square; Storekeepers, 1, 2, 3, Forest Street; Wine Merchants, 3 Forest Street. In the back pages of the same directory the brothers advertised themselves as ‘Wholesale and Retail Drapers, Grocers, and wine and spirit, and general provision merchants. ‘ This directory provides the earliest indication of when the business was started. During the second half of 1861 Butterworth and Co. advertised twice in most editions of The Mount Alexander Mail, advertising their role as warehousemen in the Business Directory on the front page, and their Gold Office on the back page.

The brothers were noted for conduct befitting successful men of their time, and involved themselves in the life of their community. Tom and Ben played Cricket for the Australian squad that played against the touring English Eleven in 1863, and Ben represented Victoria on several occasions during the 1860s. They were noted in the 1863 Victorian Cricketers Guide as batsmen and capable fielders (Gardner). Another of the businessmen with premises on Market Square, draper William Froomes, was also a member of the 1863 Australian squad. He issued a penny token in 1862, as did their neighbours R. Calder & Co., and Murray and Christie – both General Stores.

As Gardner observes, Castlemaine was not as large or rich a field as either Ballarat or Bendigo, and while great fortunes were made they were also lost, as the gold field and the associated business activity contracted. He states that the Butterworths recognised the decline of their prospects and moved to Dunedin, New Zealand, where their store was said to be thriving in 1910. The 1862 Castlemaine directory held by the State Library of Victoria list the business, as well as private addresses for the various brothers. However, in the 1865 directory lists neither the business, nor residences for any of the brothers, giving a period for their move to Dunedin. Given that directories tended to be compiled and published around the start of the calendar year, it seems likely that they moved between 1862 and 1864. The building which was Butterworth’s Bros at the Forest Street corner was built in 1857 and in 1874 became the Commercial Hotel.

The firms seven tokens bore the address 1 Forest Street and were issued around 1859, according to the date on the third of their tokens. This token also bore a seated figure of Justice on the reverse, whereas the other four tokens had text on both sides. Sharples argues that there were two separate issues of tokens by Butterworth’s, one before 1859, and one during that year. An example of an 1859 token is seen with the front showing a seated ‘Justice’, and with T. BUTTERSWORTH & CO/ 1 FOREST STREET/ CASTLE MAINE on the reverse (Figures 3 & 4).

This account was derived from a paper on Butterworth Bros. at a website for the collections of the Victoria Museum and no other worthwhile information was derived from the Trove newspapers account in Victoria. As mentioned above the next piece of information about the company was found from Dunedin, New Zealand in the Otago Daily Times on 9 Kohitatea (Maori) 1900, headlined by Soft Goods Warehousemen and Manufacturers, devoted entirely to the firm with no mention of the tokens. The account was particularly rambling, and disagreed with the date of assumed transfer from Castlemaine, Victoria to Dunedin. What follows is a severely pruned version of the New Zealand account.

The firm of Messrs Butterworth Bros. has achieved a fine reputation in Dunedin. Besides their local trade, they have branches in Christchurch and Invercargill (N.Z.), and a branch office in London. In addition to being large importers, they are manufacturers, and give employment to a considerable number of people. The firm had its origin as early as 1850, when Dunedin was but a few years old, and the sites of its best buildings today were occupied by native bush and the sea. The founders, Mr. John Leach Butterworth and Mr. Robert Leach Butterworth, were natives of Rochdale, Lancashire and proceeded to Victoria in the early days of the phenomenal gold rushes in Victoria. Unlike most other arrivals they did not dig for gold but established themselves as merchants at Castlemaine near the famous goldfield of Forest Creek at the place known to this day as Butterworth’s corner. About this time gold was found in New Zealand and they founded their important business in High Street, Dunedin. The business thrived and they eventually added to the soft goods imports the manufacturing of shirts and other clothing. Mr. Robert L. Butterworth was closely associated with business until he died in 1880. Ten years later in 1890, the other surviving founder died, and in the same year the business was floated into a private limited liability company, of which Mr. Charles P.M. Butterworth, the son of John L. Butterworth, became the managing director, and he continues at the head of affairs, at the time of the article.

On the ground floor of their warehouse there were the manchester and dress goods; on the first floor, millinery, mantles, fancy goods, and haberdashery; on the second floor clothing, mercery and hosiery; the third floor was devoted entirely to woolens; and the reserve stock was kept in the cellar. The “Globe” brand of clothing is of superior quality and is especially adapted to the needs of the New Zealand people. The Invercargill and Christchurch branches were also described and Mr. Charles P.M. Butterworth , the head of the firm is described as a native of Dunedin who was educated ar Cheltenham College in England. He, like several of his forbears, was interested in sports, such as athletics, has represented the province of Otago in interprovincial football and is president of the Otago Rowing Club. The paper finishes up with “The historical firm of Butterworth Bros. is having a steady and lucrative career”.

Categories: Business, Family History