Notable People of Collingwood

Collingwood Notables Database

James Levens


Draper, photographer, magistrate

Levens ran a drapery in Wellington Street for many years and was active in the Collingwood community, being appointed an honorary magistrate in 1877 and acting as a member of the Collingwood School Board of Advice in the 1870s and 1880s. At the time of his death he was the oldest justice of the peace in Collingwood.

Born in Warwickshire, Levens worked as an assistant in a hosiery and drapery shop at Leamington Priors. He was just in the process of setting up in business for himself when he heard about the discovery of gold in Victoria and decided to emigrate with his wife and two small children. Mrs Levens’ brother Charles Baker who had emigrated several years earlier had probably given encouragement to the young couple. Arriving in December 1854, he initially worked as a greengrocer in Cambridge Street, then Derby Street and by the 1860s in Wellington Street. He then resumed his chosen trade as a draper in what was at the time the popular shopping strip of Wellington Street.

His shop was known as Warwick House. He was fond of claiming that while working in Warwickshire he had served Louis Napoleon (eventually to become Emperor of France, but in the 1840s under exile in England). In the 1880s he moved a few doors along Wellington and re-named his shop Birmingham House.

In the late 1880s Levens added another trade to his repertoire when he set up in business as a photographer next door to the draper’s shop, perhaps involving other family members, as it was known as Levens and Co.

A number of his children married into local families; his eldest daughter Fanny married Henry Aaron Ponton who ran a grocer’s shop next door to the drapery and eventually took over his father-in-law’s premises as he expanded into ironmongery and crockery. Levens died at Ponton’s residence.

Work Photo 1

Life Summary

Birth Date Birth Place
1829 Warwickshire
Spouse Name Date of Marriage Children
Fanny Baker (c. 1830-1899) c. 1850 Fourteen children, survived by 3 daughters and 7 sons
Home Addresses
Home Street Home City Status of Building
79-83 Wellington Street Collingwood Demolished
Work Addresses
Work Street Work City Status of Building
79-83 Wellington Street Collingwood Demolished
Church Lodge
Anglican Freemason

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