is arguably the most intact Edwardian shop in Victoria,
It has always been a chemist. The chemist at 164 Gertrude Street,
Fitzroy was built earlier, in 1888 for C.R.Blackett,
Victorian Government Analytical Chemist and founder of the Pharmaceutical
Society of Australia. But there, all fittings have been removed from the
building. Dow’s Pharmacy at Chiltern (1863) still contains contents and
fittings, but these are nineteenth century and quite plain and undecorated. The
Family Butcher at 745 Nicholson Street, NorthCarlton
is a comparably intact Victorian shop to Brinsmead’s.
Very few interstate shops of the period are in
the same league as Brinsmead’s.
Shott’s Umbrella Shop in Launceston (1890s) and the
Paragon Café, Katoomba (1925 & 1934-36) are the only known contenders. Two
collections of the contents and fittings of nineteenth century pharmacies
survive also: Oggs’ Pharmacy was at 76 Collins Street,
demolished when Nauru House was built in 1977. Its vaulted cast-iron canopy,
which extended to the kerb was saved and relocated to University House at the
by architect Robin Boyd and its collection said to be in storage at The Museum
of Victoria. (The Ogg’s business is now at 189 Toorak Road, South
Yarra). The Department of Pharmacology at the University
also contains the interior and contents of an historic pharmacy, accessible to
There has never been a
Brinsmead connected with Brinsmead’s
Pharmacy. The Brinsmead family had operated
pharmacies in St Kilda and Caulfield at least from the 1880s. James
Brinsmead opened a pharmacy, two doors from the Glen
Eira railway gates in 1913. He closed it when the
present building was completed. However, it reopened as
Appel’s Pharmacy, also extant, on the corner of Glen Eira Road
and Hotham Streets. Frederick Damyon purchased the
Brinsmead business (and presumably, its name) and
built Brinsmead’s, and its smaller neighbouring shop
in 1918. Perhaps he decided to trade under the Brinsmead
name because it was so well known and regarded. It is embossed on a bronze
panel, part of the original design.
Next door was leased to Eileen Finch, pastry
cook, but the year after, by Alice
Giddy, confectioner. By 1928, Damyon owned other
chemist shops in St Kilda and leased Brinsmead’s to
other pharmacists, firstly, to Joseph Lakeland and in the early 1930s to Samuel
Park. By then, Damyon was comfortably ensconced,
riding out the great Depression years at Mt Macedon. In 1938, he leased
Brinsmead’s to the newly graduated young pharmacist
who had helped fund his university degree by working evenings at the shop as a
delivery boy. His name was Campbell Fraser Johnson. With £50 saved from his
21st birthday and a loan from pharmaceutical wholesalers, Johnson began his
business. He remembered those days when pills were made by hand and a chemist
was on call over 24 hours. In the first night of his new business, he was
called out five times between
During World II he supplemented income from the shop, by operating a mobile
dispensary around the Port
wharves. He lived in the residence upstairs.
A hand lotion first formulated in the 1920s
was still manufactured at Brinsmead’s 60 years
later. Mr Johnson had still retained customers from 1938, 50 years later.
Staff had been equally loyal. Helen Felder stayed for 25 years. One day she
and went off to have a baby at ,
Mr Campell recalled. He was a national yachting
judge for the Victorian Yachting Council and member of Brighton Road Primary
School Council for 23 years.
In 1955-56, Mr Johnson purchased the property.
By then next door was Alexander Reid, hairdresser. In April 1997, Sally
Johnson, his daughter decided to sell the property, for only the second time in
its 80 years.
The architect of this striking pair of
Edwardian shops was Sydney Smith & Ogg. This firm
is important as architect for the Victoria Brewery and for many hotels around
and also for State Savings Banks of Victoria, often in association with
brilliant designer Robert Haddon. Sydney Smith (Senior) is known to have
designed 48 houses, commercial and municipal buildings
between 1859-74. He died in 1886. His son of the same name (1868-1933)
is known to have designed 35 buildings (1888-1934). Sydney Smith and
Ogg designed 89 houses, banks and commercial
buildings (1889-1908) and as Sydney Smith, Ogg and
Serpell (1910-36), 12 more buildings are known.
Their twentieth century work has most eclectic influences including the English
Arts-and-Crafts movement, Art Nouveau and creative Classicism, with a particular
interest in craftsmanship and new materials. Brinsmead’s
is a very fine and spectacular example.
Note the old Kodak painted hoarding sign on
the external wall and others over the front first floor windows. Old signs are
relatively rare survivals. The shop-fitters who created
Brinsmead’s shopfront and interior were Thomas Duff & Bros. Their
nameplate survives on the window frame. There are bronze display cases, two
brass lamps, and integral to the shopfront with magical leadlight domes over the
symmetrical doors. The doors and interior joinery in oak are very fine and the
concave fronted bank of druggist drawers is a tour-de-force of the
joiner’s art, with a further elliptical leadlight dome overhead. As virtuosic
Brinsmead’s compares well with English examples of the period. The
builders were Queever.
Messrs Thos Duff & Bros Shop Fitters, Show
Case Makers, Shop Front Builders and Contractors operated from 225-227 Russell Street,
with a factory behind in Heffernan
Lane. Thomas Duff left C.
Beecham & Co after 20 years with brothers John and Charles. Within a year they
had purchased their former employer’s business to become the largest in the
industry in Victoria
with twenty employees. They were known for the ‘elegance of design and finish’
with orders from all states and New Zealand.
Thomas managed, John manufactured and Charles maintained the machines. Their
virtuosity continues to grace Glen Eira Road.
David & Wilson Sayer Core Pty Ltd.St Kilda Study Area 2.(Undated). pp 176-179.
City of St Kilda.Building Permit Records.No.
3640.Includes the original architectural drawings.
City of St
8,157; 8, 440; 8, 441; 8, 649; 4, 028; 10, 656; 11,753; 15,126; 15,127 &
15,290. The address was re-numbered from no.105 to 73 in 1926.
Dan, Horace &
Willmolt, E.C. Morgan.English Shop-Fronts; Old and New.
Victorian Heritage Register No H725.
(Architects’ Index) Architectural Survey. Final Report.University
November 1977. p91.
Dr Carlotta. Research Notes.17 July 1975
(Source of ratebook research).
National Trust of Australia
File No. 3670.
(Ed). The Cyclopaedia of
An Historical and Commercial Review. The Cyclopaedia
1903-05. Vol.1. p549
Institute of Architects.Journal.
March 1930. Advertisement pages, p XXXIX.
The Argus.17 July 1886.
P3, (on the Brinsmead’s
Simon. ‘Chemistry doubles as History’. Emerald Hill and
, October 1987.