Royal Reels: Gambling


The 1876-81 1d ‘Bell’ postcard was postmarked with the duplex GEELONG and B.N. ‘2′ with an indistinct date, and it was addressed to Messrs Peterson, Lane & Co. Melbourne (Figure 1).

The reverse has a short printed message: Dennys, Lascelles & Co., Geelong, will Sell by Auction on TUESDAY NEXT, at Two o’Clock, WOOL 17/ 10/ 78 and there is a reception postmark MELBOURNE / 4X/ OC 17/ 78 (Figure 2).

Charles John Dennys, wool-broker and stock and station agent, was born in October 1818 in England, son of Nicholas Dennys, wine merchant of London, and his wife Eliza, nee Lascelles. In 1842 he migrated to Melbourne but soon moved to Geelong and farmed land on the Barwon and Moorabool Rivers. In 1847 he bought the Barwon Melting Establishment, a tallow-rendering works, and by 1850 a leather warehouse was added.  He was helped by his cousin, Thomas Allen Lascelles junior, a business association which developed into Dennys Lascelles Ltd, one of the great Victorian wool-broking houses.  

In  March 1853 Dennys left for England, and on his return he decided to begin local wool auctions in Geelong.  The usual practice for merchants had been to advance money to growers for their wool and to ship it for sale in London.  Dennys’s first sale of 160 bales was in November 1857.  In September 1858 Dennys advertised his intention to establish a ‘Local Wool Mart’, and claimed to have the support of the leading local merchant firms.  He also invoked the traditional rivalry between Geelong and Melbourne by stating that one of his aims was to avoid the cost of shipping wool to Melbourne.

The business prospered, and in the 1867-68 selling season they catalogued 10,500 bales and Edward Harewood Lascelles became his partner.  To provide larger premises they bought an old coal yard in Geelong, in December 1870.  An imposing bluestone wool-store and offices were built and it opened on 1 August 1872.  The three-storey woolstore, with its fine windows was built of bluestone, to a thoughtful and innovative design.  Later additions until 1930 resulted in three separate buildings behind a single facade.  The building now houses a museum dedicated to the history of the Australian wool industry, which played such a vital part in Geelong’s development.  A photo of this building is shown in Figure 3.

In the 1877-78 season the company sold 21,000 bales.  Its name had been changed to Dennys Lascelles & Co. in 1875.   Dennys had few notable activities outside his business career.  In July 1857 he was elected to the South Barwon Municipal Council.  In 1871 he unsuccessfully contested one of the two Legislative Assembly seats for Geelong East.   In the early 1840s he served on the committee of the Geelong & Portland Bay Immigration Society.  His early association with Germany led to his influencing many German migrants to the Geelong district.   He had married his cousin Martha Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Allen Lascelles senior in December 1855.   

Aged 80, he died on 4 February 1898 at his home, Claremont, Newtown Hill, survived by his daughters Laura, Emmeline and Ethel, wife of E. H. Lascelles.   Dennys was known for his kindliness and generosity.  His career showed strong talent, imagination and resolution.  As a  successful businessman, he exploited the opportunities offered by the rich Victorian Western District, for the benefit of Geelong as well as himself, and he was an influential pioneer of the process whereby domestic sales of Australian wool surpassed London sales by the mid-1890s.

Edward Harewood Lascelles, pastoralist and businessman was born on 3 October 1847 in Bothwell, VDL, the son of Edwin Lascelles and the grandson of Thomas Allen Lascelles.  After his mother died he and his sister went to live with their uncle, C.J. Dennys.  He joined his uncle in the business at 16 and became a partner at 21.  He became an expert wool-classer and broker, and as the chief wool-valuer and manager he extended the business in both Geelong and Melbourne.  He also experimented in wool production at Ingleby, a lease near Winchelsea, and substantially improved both quality and clip.

In the 1870s Lascelles became interested in the mallee area of north-western Victoria. In December 1876 he took over the Lake Corrong sheep station on Yarriambiac Creek. He worked this lease in partnership until 1883 when he became sole lessee under the provisions of the Mallee Pastoral Leases Act.  On his mallee properties he faced the great problem of vermin eradication and succeeded with rabbit-proof fencing, methods of poisoning and land-clearing.

Lascelles was for several years a commissioner of the Geelong Harbor Trust and was prominent in local rowing, tennis and golf clubs. He died at Geelong on 12 February 1917. He had married Ethel, daughter of C. J. Dennys, in 1887.  Of their six children three daughters survived him.

Information on both C.J. Dennys and E.H. Lascelles was obtained from the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Addendum (February 2011):  An O.H.M.S. postcard was addressed to Mr. C.J. Dennys, Dennys Lascelles, Austin & Co., Geelong , and it was sent from the Income Tax Office, Melbourne.  It had 2 superimposed cancellations, one a Frank Stamp of theTreasurer, Victoria and the other MELBOURNE/ JY 19/ 97.  There were 2 identical purple handstamps of COMMISSIONER OF TAXES MELBOURNE (Figure 4).

The reverse had a printed unusual warning notice as the ‘sting’ of the message was removed by the crossing out of the last half of the message as shown here in brackets.  It was dated 16. 7. 1897, addressed to Mr. C.J. Dennys and read as follows:  “It is pointed out that no reply to my communication dated this       has yet been received, (and that, therefore, unless the necessary information be supplied within one week, Revision of the Assessment will be immediately proceeded with)”.  THOS PROUT WEBB Commissioner of Taxes. (Figure 5).