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Warnock Bros., Drapers, Melbourne & Maldon, Victoria

By Museums Victoria    |   Thursday, 17 October 2019

The owners of the business were James and Samuel Warnock. The business opened in 1856 and closed in 1887.

The Public Records Office of Victoria index of Immigrants, 1852-1923 lists a Samuel Warnock as arriving in Victoria from Britain on board the Constance in December 1852. James is reported to have arrived in Victoria in 1854 at the age of 22. There is no mention of a James Warnock arriving up to and including 1858, so he must either have already been in Australia or not have been recorded as arriving on the passenger lists of the time.

Their drapery business was opened out of a tent in Maldon, and quickly developed into a strong trade. They built a brick store to replace the tent, the first brick building in the town (Gardner).

Maldon is very close to Castlemaine, and an 1861 advertisement in The Mount Alexander Mail for Warnock Brothers & Co., of Barker Street, could well be for the same business. The advertisement proclaimed their 'Great Clearing-out Sale of Winter Drapery,' and included: Mixed Alpacas from 7d per yard; Cobourgs in all colours, from 8 1/2d; Flounced Wincey Robes, 16 yards for 9s; White Straw Bonnets, from 1s, worth 3s 6d; Boys Tweed Trousers, from 4s 6d.'

They also operated a business in Melbourne which served primarily as a warehouse for the Maldon business.

'In the early years, James Warnock took an active interest in municipal affairs, was a member of Maldon Council, and elected Mayor, retiring in 1866,' (Gardner). John Hope's research indicates that he was mayor in 1863 at the age of 31. His service to the Borough was recognised by the community in the form of an illuminated address, and when the Borough became a Shire in 1864, James was elected President.

When they closed the business James retired to Kent and Samuel retired to Switzerland. James was still alive in 1910, when Gardner conducted his research, but Samuel had died.

The business issued tokens in 1860 (dated 1861) and 1863. Sharples records that 'In the past, the Warnock Brothers tokens were thought to have been struck in London by W.J. Taylor. However the reverse die form is now associated with Heaton and Sons, Birmingham. It is possible that Heaton's made the dies and the tokens were struck by Taylor, but more work is needed to establish exactly where these tokens were manufactured.'

Andrews 604 = Heyde 266 = Sharples V.183 There is a second obverse die recorded for the 1863 penny issue. Heyde 265/2. Heyde states: "265/1 1 mm.+ between BROS. amd MELBOURNE R3 265/2 2 mm.+ between BROS. amd MELBOURNE R2" This second die is not held by the museum (2004) but it is believed that two examples are known, both in a private Queensland collection, Sharples JNAA.7.68 incorrect. Heyde's R2 rating is in error.

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