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Sir Stephen Joseph Morell (1869–1944)

by David Dunstan

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Sir Stephen Joseph Morell (1869-1944), businessman and lord mayor, was born on 15 August 1869 at Carlton, Melbourne, son of Esteban (Stephen) Morell, Spanish restaurateur, and his Victorian-born wife Ada, née Scott. By the time Stephen was 3 he and his family were living in Spain where he received his early education, but in 1883 they returned to Melbourne. Morell had a hotel on the corner of Bourke and Russell streets from 1884 to 1893 when he expanded his interests to set up his children; the Orient Hotel on the corner of Swanston and Collins streets was transferred to Stephen in 1894.

In 1885-87 Stephen had attended Scotch College. He excelled at rowing, which remained a lifelong interest: he helped to coach the college crew in 1891-92, joined the Mercantile Rowing Club in 1891 (president, 1907-33), and was a member of the Victorian champion four in 1896 and of the champion eight in 1896 and 1897; at his death he was president of the Victorian Rowing Association. In the 1890s he was also actively involved in the Metropolitan Amateur Football Association and was later a vice-president of the Melbourne Cricket Club.

Consolidating the start his father had given him in the hotel trade, Morell, who worked briefly for a firm of indenters, invested in Queensland pastoral runs and more city property. In 1914 he took over the Princes Bridge Hotel (Young and Jackson's). When the Melbourne breweries combined in August 1903 to raise the price of beer he helped to establish the successful Melbourne Co-operative Brewery at Abbotsford; he became its chairman and joined the expanded board when Carlton and United Breweries absorbed the co-operative in 1925. From 1911 Morell was a director of Windsor Pictures and from 1928 of the Victoria Insurance Co. and of Equity Trustees, Executors & Agency Co. Ltd.

He was popular and affable, yet shrewd. From 1901 until 1939, when he retired, he represented Gipps Ward on the Melbourne City Council. He served on seven council committees and was chairman of the licensed vehicles and electric supply committees. He was a member of the Melbourne Tramway Trust in 1901-05 and joined the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board in 1929. In 1925 Morell was made an alderman and in 1926 succeeded Sir William Brunton as lord mayor. In this capacity he entertained the Duke (later King George VI) and Duchess of York in 1927 and was knighted. He was unanimously elected to a second term and, in 1928, declined a third. Bridges over the Yarra were an issue of his mayoral years, as was the work of the Metropolitan Town Planning Commission, but initiatives were frustrated by the division of metropolitan authority. Morell was a supporter of a unified Greater Melbourne Council, but was ideologically unable to support the adult suffrage necessary for reform.

A cosmopolitan, Morell visited Japan in 1933; he was honorary consul for Spain prior to the Civil War and but for the outbreak of hostilities would have been motoring there in 1936. He died at his South Yarra home on 6 July 1944, survived by his wife Elizabeth Rutherford, née Telford, whom he had married on 27 November 1901 at Richmond with Presbyterian forms, and by three sons and a daughter. He was cremated after Masonic rites and left an estate sworn for probate at £65,219. Morell Bridge over the Yarra was renamed after him in 1936 in tribute to his municipal service and his enthusiasm for rowing.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Smith (ed), Cyclopedia of Victoria, vol 1 (Melb, 1903)
  • Victorian Historical Magzine, 23 (1950), p 74
  • Table Talk (Melbourne), 14 Nov 1901, 9 Dec 1926
  • Herald (Melbourne), 9 Oct 1926, 17 Jan, 12 Nov 1927, 9 Feb 1948
  • Argus (Melbourne), 13 Jan, 9 May, 11 Oct 1927, 7 July 1944
  • Age (Melbourne), 19 Oct 1936, 7 July 1944.

Citation details

David Dunstan, 'Morell, Sir Stephen Joseph (1869–1944)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 14 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (Melbourne University Press), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Stephen Morell, n.d.

Stephen Morell, n.d.

State Library of Victoria, H84.225

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Murrell, Stephen Joseph

15 August, 1869
Carlton, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


6 July, 1944 (aged 74)
South Yarra, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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