Joseph Gabriel

c. 1847-1922

Chemist, naturalist

Personal Photo 1
Hygeia, the Goddess of Health, carved on the chemist shop

Joseph Gabriel was a Victoria Street chemist who devoted his spare time to the study of natural history, becoming a noted amateur naturalist. He was an early member and office-bearer of the Field Naturalists' Club of Victoria and an honorary collector for the National Museum of Victoria; his reports on marine expeditions to the Bass Strait islands were a major part of the twenty-one papers he published in the Victorian Naturalist. He was a committee member of the Microscopical Society of Victoria.

Gabriel rented a shop in Victoria Street in the 1870s but by 1888 was the owner of a group of three double-storey shops on the corner of Charles Street. The chemist shop was in the corner building and the family lived upstairs. Now numbered 297-301 Victoria Street, these buildings are rated as individually significant by the City of Yarra Heritage Review.  The group is a large and prominent building of distinctive design and a particularly ornate example of the Italianate style, with unusual fenestration. Unfortunately the brickwork has been overpainted. Number 297, the former chemist shop, is the most intact at ground level. The Mercury 8 June 1888 (page 3) waxed lyrical:

The materials employed are bright red and dark bricks, tuck-pointed … the shop has been specially designed for … a Chemist, and a marked and novel feature in the facades are the three rainbow or semi-circular arch windows standing on short piers. Over each arch, in a reclining position, are two figures moulded in cement, representing Hygeia, the Goddess of Health, handing over the arch of the window, a portion of medicine to a sick patient … a splendid bit of modelling by R. Kretzschmer, and an object of attraction to passers by. Another feature in the design is the open balcony at the corner over the shop door; the broad arches giving a depth of shadow behind, rarely obtainable in modern business premises. Internally, the shop ceiling is tastefully panelled out with varnished kauri pine and cedar mouldings, while the floor is laid with encaustic or mosaic tiles. Mr. Gabriel has designed the fittings himself, and studied every arrangement for … the quick dispatch of his business. The wall fittings are of cedar with figured blackwood columns; the counter is also of Cedar, with beautifully figured Kauri panels. The domestic portion is entered from Charles Street by a very handsome indented hall door, and notwithstanding difficulties where the high price of land compels the depth to be disproportionate to the frontage, still the internal arrangements are most complete. Messrs Powell and Whittaker are the Architects; Mr. J. Thorpe, the Contractor; the plastering being done by our enterprising … townsman, Councillor Gahan.

Mrs Elizabeth Gabriel was the daughter of prominent layman Charles Baker, and the Gabriels became very involved with St Philip’s Church of England. In 1883 Joseph was appointed a churchwarden; the boys joined the cricket team. Sons Charles and Joseph Ernest studied drawing at the Collingwood School of Art. Eldest daughter Charlotte, a music teacher, married Henry Morton Lynch, son of the Deputy Sheriff, also a resident of Victoria Street and St Philip’s parishioner. Joseph Ernest became a dentist, Ada a nurse. Charles studied pharmacy and took charge of the shop after his parents moved to 22 Walmer Street Kew.

House Photo 1

The former chemist shop in 2004

Life Summary

Birth Date Birth Place
c. 1847 Wales
Spouse Name Date of Marriage Children
Elizabeth Lovatt Baker (c. 1846-1938) 6 March 1875 St Andrew’s Clifton Hill Charlotte Mary 1876, Ada 1877, Charles John 1879, Joseph Ernest 1881, Edith Hilda 1883
Home Addresses
Home Street Home City Status of Building
297 Victoria Street Abbotsford Extant
Work Addresses
Work Street Work City Status of Building
297 Victoria Street Abbotsford Extant
Church Lodge
St Philip's anglican, Hoddle Street Abbotsford
Death Date Death Place Cemetery
1922 Studley Park Boroondara

The Argus; Mercury and Weekly Courier; The Observer; Fitzroy City Press; Collingwood Conservation Study