Monday, 30 June 2014

Enter Sir Arthur Rickard

(Sir) Arthur Rickard—Biography[1]

Arthur Rickard in the 1920's--at the height of his powers
Arthur Rickard (1868-1948), real estate developer, was born on 17 November 1868 at Currawang near Lake George, New South Wales, son of Cornish parents William Heath Rickard, miner, and his wife Mary, née Bennett. At 13 he left Bathurst Public School and found employment with E. Webb & Co., hardware merchants.

Moving to Sydney aged 17, he worked for Tillock & Co., wholesale grocers, as a commercial traveller. On 28 February 1889, at the age of 21, he married Annie Eliza Addy, at Waverley. The marriage was not a happy one. Possibly Arthur considered Annie inferior to his ambitions. She may have been a ‘loose woman’ or a drinker, for despite giving birth to two children in the marriage, she lost them. Rickard divorced Annie in December 1901 and gained custody of their son and daughter. On 19 March 1902 he married Nellie Crudge, daughter of architect Thomas Rowe, at St Mark's, Darling Point.
Sir Harry Holdsworth Rawson (1843-1910)--Governor of NSW from 1902 to 1909. 'Straightforward to the verge of bluntness', Rawson refused the ambitious Rickard a post as Portuguese Consul on the grounds of his suspect commercial dealings.

By 1893 Rickard had set up as a mercantile broker and agent for Chaleyer Fisher & Co. Ltd, East India merchants of Melbourne. He himself began importing and about 1899 entered the wholesale grocery business with S. A. Joseph. They secured some government contracts but had trouble with imported foodstuffs infested with weevils.

 In 1904 Governor Sir Harry Rawson objected to Rickard's proposed appointment as Portuguese consul because Joseph & Rickard had been found supplying goods 'unfit for human consumption' to asylums. Late in the year, in financial difficulties, they broke up the partnership.

A natural salesman, Rickard sought a business requiring less capital than the grocery trade. In January 1904 he registered Arthur Rickard & Co. Ltd, a real estate firm, and developed inventive advertising strategies in contrast to most current property advertising. His strikingly illustrated advertisements urged families to buy rather than rent, availing themselves of 'Rickard's Easy Terms'.
In 1904 Arthur Rickard ventured into Real Estate and commenced buying land on the outer fringes of greater Sydney for subdivision and development. Photo shows his impressive offices in Pitt Street in the 1920's...

In 1905 he subdivided 152 acres (62 ha) at Woy Woy into waterfront residential sites, poultry farms and orchard blocks. A superb self-publicist, in 1909 he launched Rickard's Realty Review, a quarterly (sometimes monthly) magazine which continued to appear until 1927. 'Rickard's Solar System' described a map of Sydney with a series of radiating arcs and dots pinpointing the extent of his land offerings. On his return from Europe in 1912 the Sun named him as 'Sydney's subdivisional specialist'.

By 1916 the 'Solar System' extended to Wyong, the Blue Mountains and Port Hacking. He even persuaded the railway commissioners to build stations at Warrimoo (1918) and Bullaburra (1925) to service his estates. In July 1918 the Review declared that members of the firm were 'fowlanthropists'—specialists in poultry farmlets. Rickard House at 84 Pitt Street opened about 1920.

Rickard was a foundation president (1912-48) of the Millions Club, established in the belief that accelerated British migration would make Sydney the first Australian city to reach a population of one million. He used the club (whose membership included many leading politicians and businessmen) as a platform for pronouncements on immigration, socialism (he was vehemently against it) and the economy. He published a pamphlet entitled Population: the Cash Value (1915) in which he argued that the State's population should be increased to nine million. He actively supported the war bond campaigns and was appointed K.B.E. in 1920.
Inside the Millions Club in 1924. As a foundation member, Rickard presided over the club as well as being pre-eminent in the Japan-Australia Society. You will note a Japanese naval officer in the foreground of this photograph.
On returning from overseas next year Rickard stressed his preference for the White Australia policy and approved of the way the United States of America had 'wiped out' saloons, horse racing and gambling. In 1926 he was a member of the Australian delegation to the League of Nations General Assembly.

Rickard attacked the failure of State governments to populate Australia and called on the Commonwealth to take over migration. He was active on the executives of organizations which aimed to foster migrants, including the State branches of the New Settlers' League of Australia, the Big Brother Movement, Dr Barnardo's Homes and the British Empire League.

Maurice Guillot (Guillaux), daredevil French pilot and the first man to fly airmail from Melbourne to Sydney in 1914. He could not have done it without sponsorship from Arthur Rickard, whose capacity for self-promotion was inventive and effective. The flight took nine and a half hours.


In the 1920s Rickard's business interests included many directorships and part-ownership of the Hotel Sydney, Usher's Metropolitan Hotel and The Windsor, Melbourne. He was a director of Sydney Hospital (1917-27), a council-member of the Sydney Regional Plan Convention (1923-24), a fellow of the Royal Colonial Institute (1912), and of the Royal Geographical Society of London (1924), vice-president of the Defence of Australia League and president of the Japan-Australia Society—although he considered the Japanese unsuitable immigrants, he admired their ambition and social welfare system.
Sir Arthur Rickard (at Left) with Eric Campbell, photographed in Martin Place during the 1930's. Campbell was a notorious figure in right-wing NSW politics at the time.

 A member of the Sane Democracy League, he worked for several taxpayers' associations advocating public economy and in 1935 attacked taxes on mortgages. Rather square-faced, with a dark, clipped moustache, he enjoyed golf and motoring and belonged to the Imperial Service Club. In 1928 he donated an elaborate floral clock to Taronga Zoological Park.

One of Rickard's advertisements in 1922 had proclaimed 'we are in business for all time'. He did not, however, foresee the Depression nor how difficult it would be to sell his landholdings on the urban fringe. Many of the blocks sold on 'Rickard's Easy Terms' were returned to the company which had to pay rates on land which had no immediate sales potential. Arthur Rickard & Co. Ltd went into voluntary liquidation in 1930 with Rickard as liquidator.

In the same year, the family's heavily mortgaged mansion—Berith Park at Wahroonga—was sold and they moved to a more modest home at Killara. Dowell O'Reilly wrote in 1913 that the country around Bankstown had been cut up into lots 'suitable for anything from poultry-farming to the residence of the Governor General'.
Taronga Park Zoo's 'Floral Clock'. It was donated by Sir Arthur Rickard, who was one of Sydney's leading lights in the 1920's. The Great Depression brought him back to earth, and found him divesting many of his assets.

In a city preoccupied with real estate Rickard was the outstanding land developer of his era, his extroverted personality showed through most of his advertisements. He died in the Scottish Hospital, Paddington, on 13 April 1948 and was cremated. His wife, their two sons and two daughters, and the children of his first marriage survived him. His eldest son Lieutenant-Colonel A. L. Rickard, M.C., D.S.O., served in both world wars and his youngest son Douglas was chairman of the Australian Postal Commission in the 1970s. Sir Arthur left a modest estate valued for probate at £12,623. His portrait by John Longstaff is held by the successor to the Millions Club, the Sydney Club.”

[1] This biography is entirely drawn from Spearritt, Peter’s contribution to the Australian Dictionary of Biography,

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Warrimoo/Karabar in 1900

Derring-do bicycling at the turn of the century. With 'auto mobiles' still way out of reach for the majority of the population, bicycling was the most common form of sightseeing excursion.
By 1900  ‘Karabar’ was still a fairly nondescript place. ‘Warrimoo Historians’ have found little evidence of settled activity in the area around the Platform, except for the work of Tom and Mary Smiley.

In his worthy booklet entitled Sun Valley and Long Angle Gully—A History, Bruce Cameron[1] reveals that ‘…Indications would suggest there was activity in Long Angle Gully and Sun Valley from around the late 1800’s…’ He was referring to loggers who may have been felling timber from the beautiful ‘Mountain Blue Gum’ (Eucalyptus Deanei),’Cabbage Gum’ (Eucalyptus Amplifolia) and ‘Turpentine’ (Syncarpia Glomulifaria) in the vicinity north and east of the railway.
Timber-getters at rest. Evidence of such work is still about at Warrimoo and Long Angle Gully: gigantic old stumps, tracks and mill equipment can still be found, if you look hard enough.
There is much evidence of logging still around Warrimoo, Long Angle Gully and Sun Valley, and there may have been some lots of the Karabar Estate that were cleared at this time, if only to provide wood/fuel for cooking and heating, or to provide timber for buildings or poles.

There were probably at least a few weekender cabins erected on the Karabar blocks, and of course, the railway and western (Bathurst) road always provided a central focus. The “Cyclists Guide to the Roads of New South Wales (1898)” provides a picture of what it was like…

After passing Blaxland Station the road is level, passing through railway gates (there was a level crossing opposite ‘Michelangelo’s Restaurant’ before the present bridge was built) and rising gradually. A long and fairly steep hill with a steep descent to railway gates at Karabar (near the intersection with The Avenue). The road becomes loose and sandy after crossing the line, still downhill, up a fairly long hill (toward Torwood Road), then level for about half a mile, again passing through railway gates (where the subway and Gatekeeper’s cottage are at Greens Parade) and then fairly level through about 200 yards of heavy sand. The surface now improves and again the road passes through railway gates at Valley Heights (where the road bridge crosses the rail line near the present signal box).[2]

Unescorted women bicycling into the 'Mountains was still a rare sight in 1900--but the suffragette movement was asserting womens' independence at this time, and if they did travel through 'Karabar', they would have used the 'Cyclists' Guide'
The bicycle guide mentions no shops, stopovers or dwellings near the road at Karabar. The area remained predominantly bushland with limited clearance and seemingly no noticeable population.

At the turn of the century, ‘Warrimoo’ was a place waiting to happen.

[1] CAMERON  B., Sun Valley and Long Angle Gully—A History, Springwood, 1998, p21
[2] LUPTON, Maisie et al, Warrimoo Public School, The First Twenty-Five Years, magazine published by Warrimoo Public School Anniversary Committee, 1987, pp 12-13