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Anthony Hordern (1819–1876)

by Ruth Teale

This article was published:

Anthony Hordern (1819-1876), merchant, was born on 16 July 1819 in London, the eldest son of Anthony Hordern and his wife Ann, née Woodhead, of Retford, Nottingham. The Horderns were a banking family from Uttoxeter, Staffordshire. They disapproved the father's marriage and he migrated in the Phoenix, arriving at Sydney in March 1825. He set up as a 'coachmaker, wheelwright and smith' and later as a grocer and publican. His wife opened a shop as a haberdasher and bonnet and corsetmaker and her success provoked a rumour that Hordern was her assigned convict. In 1839 he bought three lots in Melbourne and later settled there. He died on 9 June 1869, survived by four sons and two daughters and by his wife who died at Darling Point, Sydney, on 18 January 1871.

Anthony was educated by John Dunmore Lang. He went to Melbourne in 1839 and in 1842 became a town councillor. About 1844 he returned to Sydney and with his brother Lebbeus (1826-1881) opened a drapery on Brickfield Hill; in 1855 Anthony started on his own in the Haymarket. He also speculated in city real estate and in 1869 won Phillip ward in the city council. About 1860 he built Retford Hall on Darling Point. In 1864 his son-in-law Henry Bull and next year his eldest son Anthony (1842-1886) became partners in the firm. In 1869 his second son Samuel replaced Bull and the firm became Anthony Hordern & Sons. Survived by two sons and two daughters, Hordern died at Sydney on 21 August 1876 and was buried at Rookwood cemetery. On 17 July 1841 at Windsor he had married Harriett, daughter of Samuel Marsden, tanner.

His eldest son, Anthony, was born on 24 July 1842 at Melbourne. Educated in Sydney and at Rugby, England, he toured Europe and at 18 entered his father's firm. In 1878 Hordern and his brother Samuel signed a formal deed of partnership for thirty years. According to the Bulletin, 22 May 1880, they 'fairly rule[d] the retail trade of the metropolis and the colony in general'. They adopted the trade-mark of the spreading oak over the motto, 'While I live I'll grow'. In 1878 Anthony had visited America and London, and in 1879 opened the 'Palace Warehouse' and the 'Palace Emporium' in the Haymarket. In 1881-82 he opened offices in Britain, the Continent, America and China. Interested in Western Australia, he put to the Colonial Office in 1873 a scheme for 10,000 settlers and in 1883 proposed to the Legislative Council a land-grant railway; later he formed a syndicate in England to construct the line and encourage migration. Leaving an estate of £190,800, Hordern died at sea from brain fever on 16 September 1886 and was buried at Albany where in 1889 an obelisk was erected to his memory. He was survived by four children and his wife Elizabeth, née Bull, whom he had married in 1864.

Samuel was born on 14 July 1849 at Sydney. Educated at Fort Street School and Camden College, he joined his father's firm at 17 and in 1886 paid £158,252 for Anthony's share, becoming sole proprietor of 'Anthony Hordern and Sons, Universal Providers, Palace Emporium, Haymarket [ONLY]', to distinguish it from five other competing Hordern shops in Sydney. On 10 July 1901 fire destroyed all the Haymarket complex but Samuel leased the Exhibition building and opened there next day. In 1905 he had new premises on Brickfield Hill. He was generous to his staff of over 4000 and provided a cafeteria and other amenities. City and suburban land speculation added to his wealth and his success brought comments on his 'glorified sockselling' and 'insolent monopoly'.

Samuel gave privately to many charities. A federalist and imperialist, he gave £10,000 to the Dreadnought Fund. In 1892 he was commodore of the Prince Alfred Yacht Club and an active member of the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron. His love of the country led him in the 1880s to buy Wilton Park, Picton, and in 1887 to build Retford Park, near Bowral, where he bred Jersey and Ayrshire cattle. After wining the Sydney Cup in 1893 with Realm and the Metropolitan in 1896 with The Skipper, he concentrated on breeding horses. He kept homing pigeons and was vice-president of the Royal Agricultural Society. He died at Darling Point on 13 August 1909 and was buried in the Anglican section of Rookwood cemetery. He was survived by four of his five sons, by four daughters and by his wife Jane Maria, née Booth, whom he had married on 11 November 1875 at Sydney. In 1910 his estate of £2,925,925 was upheld by the Privy Council after two sons of Anthony had tried to upset the 1878 deed of partnership. His eldest son, Sir Samuel (1876-1956), became governing director of Anthony Hordern & Sons when it was made a private company in 1912.

Select Bibliography

  • W. B. Kimberly, History of West Australia (Melb, 1897)
  • J. S. Battye (ed), Cyclopedia of Western Australia, vol 1 (Adel, 1912)
  • T. J. Redmond, The History of Anthony Hordern and Sons Limited (Syd, 1938)
  • Bulletin, 21 Jan 1882
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 2, 6 Oct 1884, 14, 16 Aug 1909, 2 May 1910
  • West Australian, 22 Sept 1886
  • Drapers' Record (London), 21 Aug 1909
  • Anthony Hordern & Sons, fire insurance papers, 1901 (Australian National University Archives).

Citation details

Ruth Teale, 'Hordern, Anthony (1819–1876)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 23 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (Melbourne University Press), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


16 July, 1819
London, Middlesex, England


21 August, 1876 (aged 57)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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