Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Jones, Sir Charles Lloyd (1878–1958)

by Ruth Thompson

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

Sir Charles Lloyd Jones (1878-1958), merchant and patron of the arts, was born on 28 May 1878 at Burwood, Sydney, son of native-born parents Edward Lloyd Jones (d.1894), draper, and his wife Helen Ann, née Jones, and grandson of David Jones. He was educated at the Manor House School, London, and Homebush Grammar School, Sydney, but showed little academic aptitude. In 1895 he attended Julian Ashton's art school and later the Slade School of Fine Art, University College, London. Failing in his ambition to exhibit at the Royal Academy of Arts, he gave up hopes of an artistic career, and qualified as a tailor and cutter in London. On 16 November 1900 when visiting Sydney he married Winifred Ethelwyn (d.1916), daughter of Dr Frederick Quaife and granddaughter of Rev. Barzillai Quaife, at Trinity Congregational Church, Strathfield; they were childless.

On his return to Sydney in 1902, Jones worked in David Jones' clothing factory before transferring to the advertising department. His creative flair and awareness of American trends were recognized and by 1905 he was advertising manager. When David Jones Ltd became a public company in 1906, he was appointed a director and was chairman in 1920-58. Under his guidance the firm prospered and expanded: a second store in Elizabeth Street was completed in 1927 (which benefited from the nearby St James station) and a third on the corner of Market and Castlereagh streets was opened in 1938 to mark the firm's centenary. The first interstate extension came in 1953 with the acquisition of Bon Marché in Perth.

A staunch advocate of free enterprise, Jones prided himself that David Jones was a 'store with a soul', dedicated to customer service, responsible to its shareholders (who regularly received a ten per cent dividend) and to its staff. Strict when necessary, Jones was approachable and a ready listener; his paternalistic care for staff and his quiet courtesy won him respect and loyalty.

Among other public positions Jones was treasurer of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce (1915-16), president of the Retail Traders' Association of New South Wales (1915), the Australian division of the Chartered Institute of Secretaries and of the Kindergarten Union of New South Wales, a founder and director of the board supervising the Australian National Travel Association, chairman of the Cancer Appeal Fund and member of the University Cancer Research Committee. A director of radio station 2BL, he was appointed first chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in May 1932. He hoped to found a national orchestra and wanted the A.B.C. to follow 'in the footsteps of the British Broadcasting Corporation' with programmes that would be popular as well as cultural. Educational broadcasts and concerts began, but striking a balance between ideals and resources proved difficult. Conflict over content and disunity in the administration, coupled with the death of his brother and Depression business worries, led him to resign in 1934.

A man of medium build, with silver hair, thin lips and shrewd humorous blue eyes, Jones was described as 'that rare combination of artist and businessman'. Much influenced by the French Impressionists he continued to paint landscapes and regularly exhibited with the Society of Artists, Sydney, of which he was sometime treasurer. He built up a notable private collection of paintings including the works of Charles Conder, Rupert Bunny, (Sir) Arthur Streeton and Maurice Utrillo. He was an early patron of (Sir) William Dobell. In 1916, with Sydney Ure Smith and Bertram Stevens, he founded the quarterly journals, Art in Australia and the Home. He was a trustee of the National Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1934-58 and in 1944 established the David Jones' Art Gallery. He occasionally contributed articles to the press and also encouraged music and the theatre.

At Auckland, New Zealand, on 29 October 1917 Jones had married Louise Violet Multras (d.1973). He divorced her at Reno, Nevada, United States of America, on 19 July 1929 and at Chicago on 25 July he married Hannah Benyon Jones (d.1982) of Sydney. From the early 1930s they lived at Rosemont, Woollahra, where they frequently entertained politicians and overseas visitors. (Sir) Robert Menzies was a close friend.

A veteran sailor and member of the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron from 1903, Jones was rear-commodore in 1906-08 and commodore in 1949-55. He was a founder of the Rotary Club of Sydney in 1921 and a member of the Australian, Athenaeum and Royal Sydney Golf clubs and the Royal Automobile Club, London. Knighted in 1951, he was appointed officer of the Légion d'honneur in 1954.

Sir Charles died at Rosemont on 30 July 1958 and was cremated after a service at St Andrew's Cathedral when Menzies gave the funeral oration. He was survived by a daughter of his second marriage and by his third wife and their two sons. His estate was valued for probate at £235,768. Portraits of Jones by Dobell (1951) and Ivor Hele (1958) are held by the family. His own paintings are represented in the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the National Gallery of Victoria.

Select Bibliography

  • P. R. Stephensen (ed), Sydney Sails (Syd, 1962)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Commonwealth), 1952, p 106, 130
  • Newspaper News, 8 Aug 1958
  • Art and Australia, Sept 1971
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 25 Apr, 19, 22, 31 July 1929, 28 May 1932, 9 May 1952, 31 July 1958
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 25 May 1946
  • Smith's Weekly (Sydney), 1, 8, 18 May 1948
  • People (Sydney), 1 June 1955
  • R. M. Thompson, David Jones' in War and Peace (B.A. Hons thesis, Macquarie University, 1980)
  • personal and business records, David Jones Ltd archives (Sydney).

Citation details

Ruth Thompson, 'Jones, Sir Charles Lloyd (1878–1958)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/jones-sir-charles-lloyd-6869/text11901, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 22 December 2014.

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

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