Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Leggo, Henry Madren (1869–1938)

by John Lack

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

This is a shared entry with Arthur Victor Leggo

Henry Madren Leggo (1869-1938), merchant and manufacturer, and Arthur Victor Leggo (1875-1942), metallurgist and merchant, were born on 28 February 1869 and 19 December 1875 at Eaglehawk, Victoria, the ninth and eleventh children of William Leggo (d.1879), goldminer, and his wife Elizabeth Jane, née Rowe, both of Cornwall, England.

Henry was educated at Eaglehawk State School and at Slade's private school. In 1882 he became a clerk with Frederick Rickards, Bendigo grocery distributor. Henry was admitted to partnership in 1891 and in the mid-1890s purchased Rickards's interest. Trading as H. M. Leggo & Co., with premises among the largest in Bendigo, he manufactured grocers' sundries and bought a coffee, tea and spice business. Large purchases of flour and vegetables for the making of pickles and sauces stimulated the regional market through Leggo's resident buyers. The output of the salt lakes in Victoria's northern districts was absorbed in the production of cooking and rock salt. On 5 March 1890 he had married Edith Susan, daughter of Thomas Edwards, a Cornish proprietor of pyrites works at Bendigo and Ballarat.

By the early 1900s the company was one of Victoria's foremost wholesale and manufacturing concerns. Leggo closed his coffee business to concentrate on the manufacture of a range of products including condiments, preserves and canned foods. He developed an export trade, formed a limited company in 1918, mainly a family concern, and progressively transferred processing operations to Abbotsford in Melbourne. Living in Bendigo, Leggo had substantial investments in and was a director of several gold-mining companies. He was involved in local organizations as a keen bowler, clubman, football enthusiast, Freemason and trustee of the Forest Street Methodist Church.

Henry died on 1 September 1938 during a business trip to Melbourne and was buried in Bendigo cemetery. His wife predeceased him by three months and he was survived by a son and four daughters.

Arthur Victor was educated at King's College, Melbourne, and the Ballarat School of Mines. In 1892 he was appointed an assayer with Thomas Edwards's Ballarat metallurgical works. He became manager in 1896 and subsequently acquired an interest. In 1906 Leggo left the firm after a bitter legal battle instituted by Edwards over profit-sharing and disputed partnership. As A. Victor Leggo & Co. he operated a plant at Spotswood, Melbourne, for three years before establishing a metal-refining works at Bendigo in 1909, and the Victor Leggo Chemical Co. in 1913 at Yarraville as well as an organization to market his products. The head office was in Melbourne with branches in Sydney and Brisbane.

Leggo invented and patented the 'Leggo' ore roasting furnace, and during World War I pioneered the manufacture of previously imported chemicals and raw materials essential to the munitions industry. In the 1920s he claimed to be the largest producer of arsenic in the Southern Hemisphere. His company supplied chemicals for the leather, wool and rubber industries, and seed wheatpickles, sheep dip, rabbit poison, pest sprays and weed-killers to primary producers. He also had an agency for cosmetics and toiletries. Leggo was a director of Bendigo mining companies. A founder, sometime treasurer and a vice-president (1919-33) of the Australian Industries Protection League, he was a member of clubs in Ballarat, Bendigo and Melbourne, and an associate and member respectively of the London and Australasian Institutes of Mining and Metallurgy.

On 23 February 1916 Leggo had married Ruby Gertrude Crawford at Bendigo. He died suddenly of coronary vascular disease on 21 September 1942 at his home in St Kilda Road, Melbourne, and was cremated. His wife and two daughters survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • W. B. Kimberly, Bendigo and its Vicinity (Ballarat, 1895)
  • Bendigo and District in 1902 (Melb, 1902)
  • J. Smith (ed), Cyclopedia of Victoria, vol 2 (Melb, 1904)
  • Ballarat Courier, 13 Aug 1904
  • Age (Melbourne), 23 Mar 1906, 23 Sept 1942
  • Argus (Melbourne), 23 Mar 1906, 2 Sept 1938, 24 Sept 1942
  • Bendigo Advertiser, 20 Jan 1913, 2 Sept 1938, 23 Sept 1942
  • private information.

Citation details

John Lack, 'Leggo, Henry Madren (1869–1938)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/leggo-henry-madren-7161/text12369, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 17 October 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

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