I love Melbourne: The “writing on buildings” edition

So, as we know, I love Melbourne (as evidenced there, and here, here, here, here, here, here and here).

I love the writing on our CBD buildings


I’ve wondered for years what a Public Benefit Bootery was:

– all I could find out was that it was a shoe company:

In 1908 The Public Benefit Bootery began to retail fashion shoes. By the 1930s the family run business had three stores in Sydney. They filled an important niche in the market for fashionable yet inexpensive shoes. The company had an unusual pricing policy, all shoes were at first one price of 10 shillings, this was later expanded to two basic price groups.

(That’s from the Powerhouse Museum website)

I’ve never had any idea what this is supposed to say:

Although googling “building called Rocke in Flinders Street” informs me that it’s the Rocke Tompsitt Building.

I was hoping it was short for “rocketship” 😦

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3 Responses to I love Melbourne: The “writing on buildings” edition

  1. Pingback: I love Melbourne: writing on buildings, suburban edition | lisaslifelately

  2. I.L.Wallis says:

    The ‘Rocke” building you refer to is The Rocke Tompsitt Wholesale Druggists and Manufacturers building which was established on this site in 1871 by two 19th century British pharmacists and businessmen; Herbert Rocke (Welsh) and Henry Tompsitt (English). The company became a formidable business which at one stage was one of the largest and respected of its type in Australia. The company expanded from the site in Flinders Street to include Griffiths Street Richmond where it’s large manufacturing laboratories and distribution complex were located after the Second World War. Rocke Tompsitt was delisted from the Australian Stock Exchange in 1974 after a series of very poor business decisions when it was taken over by another pharmaceutical company known after it’s founder F.H. Faulding who had established a wholesale druggist company as far back as 1845. Faulding continued to operate as a separate entity until it was taken over in 2001 by the Mayne Nickless Pharma group of companies after which it was absorbed by an American conglomerate in 2007 as have many other Australian based manufacturing concerns since economic deregulation.

    How do I know all this? Well my father worked for Rocke Tompsitt during part of the Second World War until about 1974 where he had spent many years as a wholesale sales representative for the company in its dealings with the dispersed retail pharmacy industry. My father eventually left the pharmaceutical and allied industries in the mid-1990’s in his late 60’s.

    He tells me that the “Rocke” building you refer to was adjacent to a hotel called ‘Hosies” separated by a narrow laneway facing Flinders Street for several decades from 1905. In fact this whole area of Melbourne was home to the pharmaceutical industry in the late 19th century. In 1917, the management of the company was so disgusted with nightly drunkards decamping themselves in the vicinity of it’s offices due ostensibly to Hosies location that Rocke’s made a written submission to the City of Melbourne requesting that public toilets be installed nearby and and/or Hosies tenancy be revoked. To Rocke’s management disappointment the Melbourne City Council disallowed the request and some of Rocke’s own employees presumably breathed a sigh of relief since Hosies was literally within a few arms length distance from the Company’s building – on the lower ground floor in particular. During the 1940’s my father can recall several instances of American War Personnel being hung by their ankles outside of windows by Australian drinkers who, not unexpectedly after only just a few “pots” took a dislike towards their brash, “Overpaid, and Overhere” Pacific brethren.

    So there you have it; “Writing-on-buildings” is indeed an interesting pastime and it would be even more interesting for all of us if all those buildings’ walls could speak!

    Kind Regards

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