Percy Rendle was the founder of Rendle and Sons, a furniture warehouse in Smith Street Collingwood which continued operating for about 70 years. It was advertised as ‘Complete House Furnishers’ and stocked ‘furniture, oilcloths, linoleums, carpets, crockery, ironmongery &c.’ In the late 19th and early 20th century Smith Street was an important shopping centre for drapers and furniture stores and Rendle rightly judged that the market was ready for another retail emporium, especially one that offered the popular option of time payment.
London-born Rendle had migrated to South Australia, where he married Rosina Mary Burton in 1876. There the first three of their children were born before they moved to Victoria and settled in Fitzroy in the early 1880s. Rendle obtained employment at Ackman’s, a large furniture emporium on the Fitzroy side of Smith Street. Ackman’s opened in 1882 in what used to be impressive three-storey building, numbers 101-103, now just a façade on the site of Woolworths supermarket and carpark. The Rendles lived a stone’s throw away at 7 Hodgson Street Fitzroy. Rendle was the manager for some years, and became a well-known member of the local retail community. He was consulted for his views on such topics as the Saturday half-day holiday, and the need for a Fitzroy railway line; with other Fitzroy manufacturers and local politicians he was instrumental in establishing the Australian Productions League to foster the use of colonial products. To promote this, what sounds like a very lively Fancy Dress Procession took place in 1892, with Rendle providing great amusement in his guise as the cartoon character, Ally Sloper. Outside work he was a keen gardener, and won prizes for his palms, begonias and mimulus in the Collingwood Horticultural and Cottage Garden Society competition.
When Henry Ackman died in 1895, Mrs Ackman kept the business running in the experienced and capable hands of her husband’s protégé. Rachel Ackman died in May 1900, which probably prompted Rendle’s decision to branch out on his own, opening his shop in July of that year, right opposite Ackman’s. This building remains today, (2018) as a chemist shop . It has a two-storey façade, but internally features a mezzanine floor on three sides, rather than the common Smith Street design of incorporating a residence on the upper floor. It is worth a visit, as the stained glass windows of the façade, and the remnants of the name ‘Rendle’s’ can still be seen from inside.
The shop had a basement level made possible by the steep slope to the east, and this was also well-stocked with furniture, indicated in the illustration of Rendle & Sons on an advertisement (see link below). The substantial building fills the whole site, and a stroll along the back lane to look at the rear brick façade reveals the name ‘Rendle’s’ in large black letters. Fittingly, this is now (2018) occupied by a homewares shop called Kim Soo.
The sons of the firm were Percy’s two eldest, Charles and Samuel, both in their early twenties when the warehouse opened. Around 1899 the Rendle family briefly rented a house in South Terrace Clifton Hill but in 1900 they moved into a ‘pretty residence’ built for them in the Eaglemount Estate, Heidelberg.
Despite Samuel’s untimely death in 1919, the shop continued and even expanded in 1920 when Percy and Charles took over the neighbouring two shops at number 248 and 250. By this time they also had a furniture factory at 22 Stanley Street, just around the corner. An advertisement promoting their enlarged premises includes a rather fanciful sketch which makes the neighbouring building (a Victorian pair) look the same as their existing building. The expansion did not last, as by 1930 the address was again 244-246.
By 1950 the name of the business had been changed to Rendles Pty Ltd. Under this name it continued until around 1970. By 1974 the building was occupied by Hellenic Market Pty Ltd, also a furniture shop.
Sketch of 244-250 Smith Street
244-246 Smith Street in 2018
|Birth Date||Birth Place|
|14 July 1856||St Pancras, London|
|Spouse Name||Date of Marriage||Children|
|Rosina Mary Burton, 1854-1945||12 February 1876, Moonta, South Australia||Charles Percy 1877-1957, Samuel Burton 1879-1919, Sydney Ernest 1881-1890, Myrtle Mary 1887-1978, Ruby 1889-1977|
|Home Street||Home City||Status of Building|
|7 Hodgson Street||Fitzroy||Demolished|
|South Terrace||Clifton Hill||Not yet identified|
|Work Street||Work City||Status of Building|
|244-246 Smith Street||Collingwood||Extant|
|248-250 Smith Street||Collingwood||Extant|
|22 Stanley Street||Collingwood||Demolished|
|Death Date||Death Place||Cemetery|
|13 August 1942||Kew||Heidelberg|
The Age; The Argus; The Herald; Fitzroy City Press; Mercury and Weekly Courier; Weekly Times; Yorke’s Peninsula Advertiser and Miners’ and Farmers’ Journal; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ally_Sloper