One of Glebe’s original corner stores, 55 Glebe St was run as a grocery for over a century from the 1850s. The Bardsleys were early shopkeepers there.

‘Here is your change’. Corner shop, 55 Glebe St, Glebe, Sydney, 1964 (image: Raymond de Berquelle, National Library of Australia). The storekeeper handing over the change in 1964 is probably Edna Taylor.
‘Here is your change’. Corner shop, 55 Glebe St, Glebe, Sydney, 1964 (image: Raymond de Berquelle, National Library of Australia). The storekeeper handing over the change in 1964 is probably Edna Taylor.

Glebe St lay within Bishopsgate, an area described by W S Jevons in the mid-1850s: ‘Numerous small cottages or well built rows of small houses, chiefly of brick or stone, are here found. They are pretty, newly built and are not unduly crowded while the main streets, or at least the corners, are occupied by substantially built shops of two or three stories [sic]’ When it was advertised for auction in 1855 the Glebe Store and Post Office (‘A Sure Road to Fortune’) on the corner of Glebe and Cowper Sts comprised a shop, sitting room and enclosed rear yard, so the second brick storey may have been added later.

John Bardsley was in the grocery business in Glebe by 1854. Four years later he married Janet Buchanan and the pair established The Glebe T Mart at 55 Glebe St. In 1861 he and publican turned local baker John Alheit were fined for selling underweight bread. (Another German-born baker Berthold W Stehr was on another Glebe/Cowper corner.) In contrast to Alheit who had been declared insolvent in 1858, John Bardsley prospered. By 1868 had set up as a wholesale grocer and commission agent in Sussex St in the city; he supported commission agent and produce merchant Charles Field’s candidature for the Brisbane Ward.

In 1871 Bardsley moved his home and shop, now including a drapery, to Glebe Stores, larger premises on Glebe Rd ‘opposite the Wesleyan chapel’ (adjacent to the Glebe Public School grounds). At various times he advertised for smart young boys to milk, work in the ginger beer trade, and drive delivery carts. He also sought a Glebe paddock to graze his horses. In 1880 he put the Glebe retail grocery, drapery and ironmongery on the market, but kept his city interests.

In 1879 John Bardsley and Co. moved to George St, and in 1883 to Bathurst St where one of Sydney’s first telephones was installed. The firm (its original partners Bardsley, James Hunter and James Evans) expanded into tea and tobacco importing and won prizes at the Royal Easter Show with impressive exhibits of pipes, cigars, razors and penknives. John Bardsley and Co. was still in existence in 1954.

Bardsley had several encounters with the law. In 1867 he was fined for allowing effluent to flow out of his stables in what was by now a densely populated area. He was also the victim of several robberies of matches and tobacco, and in an 1870 instance of ‘snowdropping’ had items stolen from his clothesline.

At Glebe John and Janet had six children. Three died: Alexander (1859-60), John (born and died in 1865) and James Munro (1873 – 25 May 1875). Three others survived: Robina Munro (1860-1936), John Edward (1869-1955) and Ernest Alexander (1871- 1960). ‘Munro’ was perhaps a compliment to local builder William Munro.

Both surviving sons were involved in the family firm. The Bardsley family also had business connections with the National Barbers Supply Company, the Premier Ant Banisher Company, and the Sydney Chemical Manufacturing Company. In 1903 the registered partners of John Bardsley and Co. were John Edward and Dr Ernest Alexander Bardsley, Robina’s husband John Hindle, James Hunter and Philip Henry Jeffery.

Who this Philip Henry Jeffery was is a mystery. It was the name of a father (1856 – 89) and son (1889 -1984), but in 1903 one was dead and the other a child, although Philip jnr started working at John Bardsley and Co. at age thirteen. Beginning as a store hand, he graduated to clerk and finished up as managing director. From the age of three months he lived all his life at Parramatta where he was seven times mayor.

John Bardsley adopted a son Robert Ewen Alexander Jeffery (1884-1966) but this was not Philip jnr’s brother (his name was Ernest). At the Enmore Tabernacle in March 1909 Robert married Linda Muriel Kingsbury from a prominent Church of Christ family. (Their daughter is commemorated by the Linda Kingsbury Jeffery Scholarship for Voice awarded by the Sydney Conservatorium.). An analytical chemist, Robert Jeffery established Bardsleys Ltd, makers of scents, hair oils and eau-de-Cologne. An expert on essential oils, perfumes and essences, Jeffery became an accountant after the Second World War.

Janet Bardsley died aged 73 at Garfield Stanmore on 11 January 1906. Treasurer of the Ladies of the Enmore Tabernacle Dorcas Class, she was buried at Rookwood. Her widower died aged 80 on 7 September 1909, and after a service at the Enmore Tabernacle was also buried in the Independent section at Rookwood.

Following the Bardsleys’ move to Glebe Rd, the Glebe T Mart at 55 Glebe St was run by local councillor Irish-born ‘Honest John’ Reilly, pound keeper and inspector of nuisances, and London-born William John Longrigg who died aged 33 in late 1875 leaving a pregnant widow Margaret Elizabeth (1843-1923) and baby Catherine Emma. William John Robert died aged 10 months in March 1877. Father and infant son were buried in the Balmain Cemetery. Despite these family tragedies, Margaret soldiered on until 1879 when Longrigg and Co. transferred the grocery business to Joseph Blyth Cook and George Cooper. This partnership was in trouble by 1881 and declared insolvent the next year, after which Cook was a sole trader. During her period of occupancy Margaret joined other grocers in discontinuing the practice of giving Christmas gifts to customers.

Mrs J. M. Sanders ran the shop 1895-7 after which Cook seems to have returned, remaining until 1903. Joseph and Charlotte Solomon were there briefly, followed by Ernest Bell who in August 1904 put up for auction his stock and working plant. Subsequent storekeepers were Thomas Byrne (hairdresser), Mary Byrne (ham and beef) and Joseph Gascoigne (dealer and fruiterer).

The next occupants of 55 Glebe St remained for a much longer period. Mary Ann née Germundson and John Francis Morier were there from 1911 until at least 1933, initially as fruiterers, then grocers. They had 13 children. Edna May and Alfred Felix Kempster Taylor ran number 55 as a mixed business from 1960, Alfred dying in 1971 and his widow two years later.

Sources: Australian Town and Country Journal 17.1.1906; Bell’s Life 3.11.1855; Empire 5.11.1855, 7.11.1855, 9.11.1855, 10.11.1855, 12.11.1855, 13.11.1855; 17.3.1858; Evening News 9.9.1909; NSW births, deaths, marriages online indexes; NSW cemetery records; NSW electoral rolls; NSW State Records: insolvency; Sands Directories; Sydney Morning Herald various issues including 17.4.1855, 14.11.1855, 20.7.1858, 2.6.1859, 1.10.1862, 2.10.1862, 19.3.1872, 26.6.1875, 2.9.1875, 4.11.1875, 30.12.1875, 16.12.1876, 21.3.1877, 6.4.1877, 24.1.1878, 26.1.1878, 11.12.1878, 31.3.1879, 24.4.1879, 29.10.1879, 1.11.1879, 26.8.1904, 24.7.1911, 20.8.1912.