Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Grimley, Frank (1853–1930)

by Peter Spearritt and Katherine Vasey

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Frank Grimley (1853?-1930), hardware merchant and coachbuilder, was born at Birmingham, Warwickshire, England, son of Edwin Grimley, saddler and coachbuilder, and his wife Mary, née Benton. Educated at King Edward's School, Grimley joined the Birmingham firm of Insole & Grimley in 1867, receiving a training in the coach and saddler's ironmongery business.

In 1880 Grimley came to Australia as a manufacturer's agent. Soon after he bought the saddlery branch of E. Williams & Co., Sydney, and in 1883 began his own business. By the late 1880s he had built a five-storey warehouse in Clarence Street and in the early 1890s he took over two coachbuilding firms. By 1895 Frank Grimley, saddlers and coachbuilders, were one of the largest wholesalers in the trade, holding agencies for a number of related products. That year the Australasian Coachbuilder and Saddler, with whom he advertised regularly, described him as 'one of the most aggressive and progressive coach-ironmongers in Australia'.

Like many successful entrepreneurs, Grimley bitterly opposed government intervention in business. He railed against the 10 per cent tax which the New South Wales government placed upon coachbuilders' materials in the early 1890s. In 1895 he urged cab-drivers in Sydney to reduce their charges to stimulate trade, which he claimed would benefit them, coachbuilder and the public alike. He advocated standardization of vehicle parts and served for a time as the treasurer of the Freetrade and Land Reform League. In 1897 he failed to be elected as a member of the Federal Convention. He also found time to devote to voluntary welfare, being a founder of the Queen Victoria Homes for Consumptives and of the Hospital Saturday Fund of New South Wales in 1894 and sometime director of the New South Wales Institution for the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind.

He retired from active control of his firm in 1907 but remained on the board. Grimley Ltd was registered in May 1920 with Grimley as first chairman. The early 1920s were good years for the company but in 1925 the directors explained that falling profit was due to 'the rapid displacement of horse carriages by motor transport'. By 1927 Grimley Ltd managed to get a toe-hold in the motor accessory trade and this proved profitable, but losses were still incurred in liquidating unsaleable old stock. By the early 1920s Grimley was also a director of Marcus Clark & Co. Ltd, and its off-shoots Bon Marche Ltd, and Craig, Williamson Pty Ltd (Melbourne), the Australian Linoleum Co. Ltd, Clyde Brick Co. Ltd, and Cumberland Paper Board Mills Ltd.

Now calling himself a Nationalist, Grimley persisted with his long-held abhorrence of taxation. In 1928 he wrote to the Sydney Morning Herald attacking any form of levy on the rich on the grounds that it 'diminishes enterprise and production by taking unduly from the funds of the employers of labour'. He became a keen collector of Australian paintings, including Conder and Streeton.

At St Peter's Anglican Church, Sydney, on 19 September 1887 Grimley had married Amy Sparrow. He died, aged 77, in hospital at Stanmore on 1 June 1930 and was cremated with Anglican rites; he was survived by a son and three daughters. His estate was valued for probate at £195,015 in New South Wales and £10,041 in Victoria.

Select Bibliography

  • Australasian Coachbuilder and Wheelwright, 5 (1895), no 10, p 147, 19 (1908), no 2, p 31
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 10 Aug 1922, 7 Jan 1928, 3 June, 10 Oct 1930
  • Herald (Melbourne), 26 Feb 1946.

Citation details

Peter Spearritt and Katherine Vasey, 'Grimley, Frank (1853–1930)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/grimley-frank-6492/text11131, published in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 23 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

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