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 (24/3/1855)

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)

Bridge Street, Undertaker/ Carpenter. Undertaker 1855 Bridge Street, and later 1873 – 77 View Point (listed as a Greengrocer).

Bramston & Marshall – Bridge Street (taken over by Thomas Oakley, December 1856)

Appears to havetaken over Thomas Abell’s Business briefly before selling to T. Oakley. (This was a branch of Bramston and 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. 1853)

Thomas arrived in Sandhurst in 1852, it appears his business started in 1853 and in 1855 moved 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 at various times in High Street, Bendigo and in High Street, Eaglehawk. The Business ran from 1853 – 1885 (When Thomas Oakley died, his wife died only a month later). Referred to as “Economic Funeral Establishment” in Advertising of 1878 and the oldest undertaking establishment in Sandhurst.

W. H. Oakley (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 split, and its settlement was determined by a deed in which Fizelle paid a sum of 35 pounds to Oakley but retained all assets and liabilities of the business. Oakley then started a new business in Howard Place.

W. H. Oakley (1895 – 1960s)

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 which housed both a doctor’s surgery in the 1980/90 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 also owned William Farmer P/L, the businesses where later sold to Jim Summers in approx. 1975 and then to Andrew Hampton in the 1980s. W. H. Oakley had operated from various locations over the years including; Mundy Street, 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

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 it became Peter Fizelle Undertaker (1895 – 1900) then Fizelle & Mulqueen (from 5/2/1900 – 1932) eventually becoming Mulqueen & Sons 1932 – 1990, then Mulqueen Family 1990 – till today. Between 1969 and 2012 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 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).   Turnbull moved to Dowling (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, in Later years operated from Barkly Street.

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, Bendigoclose 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 – his wife Amy Sayer took over the business until her death in 1938, after which the business ceased operation.

Richard Fletcher (1865 – 1885)

Operated at Victoria Street, Eaglehawk. Died 1900.

Delaney, Fogerty & Co (Oct – Nov 1914)

Opposite City Markets, 248 Hargreaves Street, Bendigo.

William Farmer, McCrae Street (1871 – Today)

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, around 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.

Mulqueen & Sons, Bendigo (later Mulqueen Family) (1886 – Today)

Originally known as Oakley & Fizelle, it was a partnership between Peter Fizelle a cab proprietor and William Oakley, son of undertaker Thomas Oakley (died 1885). It traded as W. H. Oakley (1886 – 1895) having taken over the business of Thomas Oakley, located in Bridge Street, it became Peter Fizelle – Undertaker (from 1895 – 1900) when owned and run by Peter Fizelle (d. 1901). It then became Fizelle & Mulqueen (5/2/1900 – 1932) Michael Mulqueen having married Elizabeth Fizelle (d. 1918) in 1896. Eventually becoming Mulqueen & Sons (1932 – 1990) when a Melbourne Branch was established at 28 Blyth Street, Brunswick. Michael’s son John headed the Bendigo company from 1932 until his death in 1950, after which 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 joined his mother in the 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 he sold his share and left the business. The trading name Bendigo & District Funeral Services (1969 – 2012) also operated as a trading name of Mulqueen’s Bridge Street, that name was deregistered in 2012.

Robert Farman, Kangaroo Flat (1870 – 1905)

Died 1905. Builder and undertaker (also known as Farman & Sons).

Frank Taylor, Kangaroo Flat (1888 – 1915)

Also 581 High Street, Golden Square. Initially called C.A.F. Taylor and also Taylor Bros briefly in 1892.

R. Jeffrey, Eaglehawk (1866)

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

E.C. Brown Eaglehawk

Later run by Mr. H.T. Joy.

R. Rosan Eaglehawk

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

Sandhurst Funerals (1983 – 1987)

Established by Jeff Penberthy, Osborne Street, Flora Hill. (The Sandhurst Funerals name 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 – it now has no association with Simon Mulqueen.

Bendigo Funerals (est. 2012 – Today)

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

After 26 years with Mulqueen & Sons, Simon Mulqueen negotiated an exit from the family partnership officially leaving on 10/4/2006 – He then owned and operated F.W. Barnes & Son 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 with his wife Susan under the name Bendigo Funerals.

Old Cemetery (Original Sandhurst Burial Ground)

The Original Bendigo Cemetery – Sandhurst Burial Ground (1851 – 1868) 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 here were later said to have been transferred to the Bendigo Cemetery.

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

Simon and Sue Mulqueen and their family; Murdoch Mulqueen, Eilish Mulqueen, Harrison Mulqueen & Ethan Mulqueen