History of Funeral Directing in Bendigo/Sandhurst 1851 – Today

As Bendigo’s most experienced Funeral Director and with a keen interest in Bendigo’s History, I thought I might offer an insight into the history of the Funeral Industry in Bendigo since 1851.

From its early beginnings the city has required the services of ‘Funeral Directors’ or ‘Undertakers’ as they were generally known in the 19th and early 20th centuries, many undertakers were both Builders and /or Cabinet Makers as well as Undertakers.

The earliest recorded Undertaker appears to be S. Oakley in the early 1850’s.

A large number have served the city since its foundation:

S. Oakley (1855)

An advert for S. Oakley appears in the Bendigo Advertiser Trade Directory as undertaker being located at Lyttleton Terrace (back of Post Office). There is nothing concrete to connect S. Oakley to Thomas Oakley who operated at McCrae Street.

Thomas Abell (1855 – 1856)

Born at Daventry, Northamptonshire, England in 1826, Abell arrived in Australia in about 1852 making his way to the Bendigo region. It appears he operated as an Undertaker in the region from at least 1854. The Sandhurst Directory of March 14, 1855 lists T. Abell Undertaker at Bridge Street, Opposite the Camp. His second listing was as a Carpenter, Builder & Turner, located  at both Bridge and High Streets. In June of 1855 his location is listed as Opposite the Court House Bridge Street, Sandhurst. Abell sold the Business in 1856, possibly to Bramston and Marshall of Melbourne who on sold to T. Oakley then operating at McCrae St.

The Land in Bridge Street where the business operated from (cnr Cemetery St) being Crown Allotment 1 Sect. 25c was acquired by Thomas Abell and Phillip Kennedy on May 21st 1855.

Abell moved to Dunolly, Ballarat and Amherst, before returning to Sandhurst in about 1862/3, he and his wife Elizabeth Ann (nee Clift) had 12 children a number of whom died at a young age. He opened a Wholesale Fruit Store at Shop 1, HOLMES BUILDINGS opposite the Weighbridge, Market Square, in May of 1873.

In 1873 reference is made to Abell being resident  at 77 View Place and listed as a Greengrocer. His business sold was to H.R. Manning in 1877.

Thomas Abell died in 1892, aged 65 Years, and was buried at the Bendigo Cemetery.

Bramston & Marshall – (1856)

Bridge Street (taken over by Thomas Oakley on November 29th 1856)

Although a little unclear it appears Bramston & Marshall acquired Thomas Abell’s business briefly in May of 1856 before selling to Thomas Oakley in November of that year. (This was a branch of Bramston & Marshall’s Melbourne business which operated initially at 79 Little Bourke Street, then moved to 90 Collins Street, East Melbourne. and 88 Gertrude Street, Collingwood).  

Thomas Oakley (est. approx. 1853)

(Thomas Oakley was born in Chelsea, England in 1809, arriving in Sydney in about 1830 before making his way to Bendigo in 1852.)

It seems he was a critical figure in the history of Funeral Directing in Bendigo, Thomas arrived in Sandhurst in 1852, it appears from later advertisements that his business started in 1853(Location unknown) and in 1855 he moved his business to McCrae Street (opposite the Coroner’s Office ), then he acquired the business of Bramston and Marshall in Bridge Street, on 29/11/ 1956, He also operated branches at various times in High Street, Bendigo and also High Street, Eaglehawk. Thomas Oakley operated his business from 1853 until December 16,1885, When he died Aged 71 Years (his wife died a month later). Advertising material of 1878 referred to his business as “Economic Funeral Establishment” and as ” The oldest undertaking establishment in Sandhurst”.

Both Thomas and his son William were members of the No.1 Sandhurst Volunteer Fire Brigade – the photo’s here showing them both in uniform.

W. H. Oakley (V1) – (Oakley & Fizelle)

(1886 – 1895)

On the death of Thomas Oakley in 1885, and his wife within a month, the business was taken over by his son William H. Oakley in partnership with local cab proprietor and livery stable owner from McCrae Street, Mr. Peter Fizelle. The Partnership (Oakley & Fizelle) operated from 1886 – 27/2/1895 at Bridge Street (corner of Cemetery Street), trading under the name W. H. Oakley. The Partnership was dissolved, and its settlement was determined by a deed of Settlement in which Fizelle paid the sum of 100 pounds to Oakley but retained all assets and liabilities of the business. The Bridge St. Building was already solely owned by Peter Fizelle. Oakley then started a new business in Howard Place. Oakley continued to hire horses from Fizelle as was the general practice for the industry at that time.

W. H. Oakley (V2) (1895 – 1990)

W. H. Oakley – Howard Place Premises c 1895
W. H. Oakley Premises Mundy St. c1970 after they had moved to St. Andrew’s Ave.

William Oakley left partnership with Peter Fizelle to establish a new business at Howard Place (the site of the current FOS Restaurant/Icon Bar entrance). It was later run by his son Thomas Richard Oakley and grandson Ray Oakley, moving about 100 meters to Mundy Street (next door to the corner building – the former Niagara Hotel which housed a doctor’s surgery in the 1980/90’s and later O’Farrell Robertson and McMahon Solicitors around the year 2000).

The Oakley business was acquired by a group of investors in 1967 who built modern new premises at St. Andrew’s Ave opposite St. Andrew’s Church in the early 1970’s, the group also owned William Farmer P/L in McCrae St., the businesses where later sold to Jim Summers in approx. 1975 and then to Andrew Hampton in the mid 1980s.

The W. H. Oakley Business had operated from various locations over the years including; Howard Place, Mundy Street, St. Andrews Ave (1970 – 80), View Street opposite the QEO, and Queen Street (opposite Bendigo Cinemas) before being absorb into William Farmer’s McCrae Street operation in approx. 1990.

Oakley & Fizelle (Partnership)

  • see also Mulqueen and Sons(Bendigo)

Oakley & Fizelle was a partnership trading as W. H. Oakley (1886 – 1895). It took over the business of Thomas Oakley located in Bridge Street, in 1895 the partnership with Oakley was dissolved and the business became known simply as Peter Fizelle Undertaker (1895 – 1900), then Fizelle & Mulqueen (from 5/2/1900 – 1932) eventually becoming Mulqueen & Sons(Bendigo) 1931 – 1990, then Mulqueen Family 1990 – till today. Between 1969 and 2012 it also operated the name Bendigo & District Funeral Services.

M. Calvert (1859)

Carpenter, Builder and Undertaker K/Flat (operated only briefly in 1859).

Francis Brothers, Beehive Stores

(1860s – 1871)

Operated a Mourning Department & Undertakers Business (it was managed for a time by Thomas Oakley around  1865 then by William Turnbull). Ceased after the Beehive fire of October 1871.

William Turnbull (1868 – 1877)

Hargreaves Street, (Manager / Undertaker for Francis Bros /Beehive Stores – Mourning Department).   After the Beehive fire, Turnbull moved to Dowling (now Hopetoun) Street, Bendigo, operating on his own account, then in 1876 to Mitchell Street, for one year until his death in 1877.

On Turnbull’s death the business was taken over by Thomas Oakley and amalgamated into the Bridge Street, Funeral Business.

Joseph Skues (1885 – 1908)

At California Gully, then in Later years operated from Barkly Street, Bendigo.

Thomas Sayer (1860s – 1936)

Thomas emigrated to Australia in 1845, he arrived in Bendigo and established himself as a cabinet maker and Undertaker in Pall Mall, he eventually established more permanent premises located at 30 (later 220) Bridge Street, Bendigo close to the Sandhurst Burial Ground (located at the rear of what is now the Tom Flood Sports Centre). Thomas died in 1871 (buried at White Hills Cemetery) The business was then run by his son, also Thomas for 37 years until his death in 1908. In turn his son Thomas Victor Sayer took control of the business until his death in 1918 after which his wife Amy Sayer took over the business until her death in 1938, the business ceased operation.

Richard Fletcher (1865 – 1885)

Operated at Victoria Street, Eaglehawk. Died 1900.

James Houston (1877 – 1897)

Operated at Eaglehawk.

Delaney, Fogerty & Co (Oct – Nov 1914)

Opposite City Markets, 248 Hargreaves Street, Bendigo.

William Farmer (1871 – Today)

Buick Hearse used by William Farmer c1950’s, The Rear Section was originally attached to a Horse Drawn Hearse. That section was later acquired by Simon Mulqueen from the late Mr. Wes Hammill of K/Flat and restored to a Horse Drawn Hearse in the 1980’s
Simon Mulqueen at Rear of Vehicle c1980’s

William Farmer first operated in partnership with ‘John Cooper’ in Inglewood from around 1867 then moved to Ballarat (Humphray Street) operating for at least two years, 1870 and 1871, before establishing his Bendigo Business in McCrae Street, in November 1871.

William Farmer died in 1912. The business passed to his son Frederick William Farmer who died in 1915, Henry William Farmer then took control until, the original William Farmer’s grandson Harold Shegog (he later changed his name to Harold Farmer) His mother was Alice (nee Farmer) Shegog, the daughter of William Farmer, Harold died in 1960 and the business was sold to a group of investors including Ron May (Manager), M. J. Mulqueen (Melbourne), Peter Mulqueen (Bendigo) , and Nell Oakley(Bendigo). In approx. 1975 it was again sold this time to Jim Summers (d. 2018), who had owned Appleby Funerals in Inglewood, then to Andrew Hampton in the mid 1980s.

Over the years the William Farmer business has acquired a number of other companies including; W. H. Oakley, R. Rosan of Eaglehawk, Appleby Funerals of Inglewood, and Sandhurst Funerals.

Mulqueen & Sons(Bendigo)

later Mulqueen Family (1886 – Today)

Its origins go back to the partnership established in 1886 , Oakley & Fizelle, it was a partnership between Mr.Peter Fizelle a cab proprietor and Livery Stable owner(with over 200 Horses) and Mr. William Oakley, son of undertaker Thomas Oakley (died 1885). It traded under the name W. H. Oakley between 1886 – 1895, having taken over the business of Thomas Oakley, located in Bridge Street. In 1895 the partnership was dissolved and the business taken over by Peter Fizelle under his own name from 1895 – 1900 . Peter Fizelle died in 1901 his wife and 3 of his 5 children had pre-deceased him. He was buried at White Hills.

Following the marriage of Michael Mulqueen to Peter’s daughter Elizabeth Fizelle (d. 1918) in 1896 the Business became Fizelle & Mulqueen (5/2/1900 – 1932). The name was changed to Michael Mulqueen & Sons in 1931 when a Melbourne Branch was established at 28 Blyth Street, Brunswick, then to Mulqueen and Sons P/L in 1935. Michael’s son John(Jack) Mulqueen headed the Bendigo company from 1931 until his death in 1950(He was assisted by Michael’s brother Andrew Mulqueen who had arrived from Ireland in 1901). After John’s death his wife Rene took control, separating the Bendigo business from the Melbourne branch which continued under the direction of Michael Mulqueen Snr, Michael Jnr., Daniel, and Joseph Mulqueen.

Peter Mulqueen, having left Xavier College in Melbourne, joined the Bendigo business in 1948, his brother in the mid 1960s. The business was owned by Peter and his brother until Peter’s death in 1999. Peter’s half share then passed to his wife and his son Simon (who had worked in the business since 1980). Simon became Managing Director building the company into one of the largest Funeral Companies in Regional Victoria), on April 10th 2006 Simon sold his share and left the business. The trading name Bendigo & District Funeral Services (1969 – 2012) which had also operated as a trading name of Mulqueen’s , was deregistered in 2012.

In December 2022 after a lifetime of involvement in the Family Business, Peter’s brother John, sold his half share in the Mulqueen Family and associated Funeral businesses, his family no longer having any stake or Directorships in the Businesses whilst John retained (at the time) ownership of the original Art Deco Style Mulqueen Building in Bridge Street.

Robert Farman, Kangaroo Flat (1870 – 1905)

Died 1905. Builder and Undertaker (also known as Farman & Sons). Arrived in Kangaroo Flat in 1853 and died in Oct 1905 Aged 77 years.

CAF Taylor Undertaker (and later) Frank Taylor UNDERTAKER , Kangaroo Flat (1888 – 1915)

Operated at Camp St. in Kangaroo Flat (now Lockwood Rd) premises known as Watford Villa and also 581 High Street, Golden Square. Initially traded as C. A. F. Taylor (and Taylor Bros briefly in 1892). Proprietors were Charles Alfred Frederick Taylor J. P. and Frank Taylor (see Photo’s Below – made available thanks to Wayne Pattison).

Charles Alfred Frederick Taylor J.P. (d. 1924)
Watford Villa (Camp St. now Lockwood Road)
Frank Taylor

R. Jeffrey, Eaglehawk (1866)

Undertaker briefly, an Iron and Timber merchant and a prominent Eaglehawk businessman.

E.C. Brown Eaglehawk 1874-1920

Mr. E.C. Brown was a Respected member of the Eaglehawk community was a Mayor of Eaglehawk in 1896-97. His business was that of Furniture Dealer and Undertaker and he was a qualified embalmer. Following his death in 1905 the business was run by Mr. H.T. Joy (d. 1916).

E.C. Brown Invoice from 1889

R. Rosan Eaglehawk

Located at High Street, Eaglehawk (Later acquired by William Farmer, Bendigo).

Sandhurst Funerals (1983 – 1987)

Established by Jeff Penberthy, at a residential address,  Osborne Street, Flora Hill. (The Sandhurst Funerals name was acquired by William Farmer’s approx. 1987).

Napier Park Funerals (1990 – Today)

Napier Park Funerals was built by a group of investors under the company name Delkista P/L. In 2003 Simon Mulqueen negotiated the purchase of the Napier Park company (Business and Assets) on behalf of two companies one of which was Fizelle P/L (owned by Simon Mulqueen). In 2006 Fizelle P/L sold its holding – There is now no association between Simon Mulqueen and Napier Park.

Bendigo Funerals (est. 2012 – Today)

c2016 Bendigo Funerals Hearse Fleet
Simon Mulqueen c2018

Established and solely owned by Simon Mulqueen,  commenced operation on 1/7/2012 – Today.

After 26 years with the Mulqueen family business in Bridge St. , Simon Mulqueen divested his shares in the  partnership officially leaving on 10/4/2006 – He then owned and operated F.W. Barnes & Son Funeral Directors  Ballarat (est. 1895) as Sole Proprietor from 2006 – 2016 when it was sold to Propel Funeral Partners (now an ASX listed company).

He purchased the old Bendigo Brick Co. site in Miller Street, Flora Hill in 2011 developing a chapel and mortuary facility with  adjacent parking  along with his wife Susan under the name Bendigo Funerals – Simon Mulqueen. 

Simon Mulqueen is the only Mulqueen  still working full time as a  Funeral Director and continues the  family legacy which began with his Great Great Grandfather,  Peter Fizelle in 1886.

Simon, Susan, Murdoch, Eilish, Harry and Ethan MULQUEEN (5th and 6th Generation)

Old Cemetery (Original Sandhurst Burial Ground)

The Original Bendigo Cemetery – Sandhurst Burial Ground ( Burials 1853– 1854) was located at the back of the current Tom Flood Sports Centre were the Car Park is now located, entrance was off Cemetery Street. The Burials (apparently 209 Registered Burials occurred there) were later said to have been transferred to the Bendigo Cemetery however there is no evidence this actually happened. It appears the reason for the Change to the City’s resting place was that Legislation was introduced to the Victorian Parliament that made it mandatory for cemeteries to be at least 1 mile from the center of the township.

 * Every attempt has been made to ensure the information in this article is Accurate – E&OE