WH Rocke & Co. was colonial Victoria's largest, most successful and profitable furniture manufacturers and agents; by 1870 the company had a workforce of 150. At the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition, WH Rocke & Co. dominated Victoria's display on the Avenue of Nations.
William Henry (W.H.) Rocke arrived in Victoria, aged 16, with his father George in September 1852 on board the Jane Pratt. The Rockes came from Wrexham in northern Wales, where William was born in 1836 (H.M. Humfrey). It is possible that following their arrival in Melbourne William worked as a manager for Hyde and De Carle, wholesale grocers, in Elizabeth Street (H.M. Humfrey).
G & W.H. Rocke & Co.
Father and son went into partnership as importers and furniture dealers under the name George and William Henry Rocke sometime during the 1850s. The first listing for the Rocke's business is in the 1859 Sands and McDougall directory: 'Rocke, Geo & Wm. Henry, Furniture dealers and Importers, 12 Lonsdale Street East.' They immediately set about positioning themselves as the purveyors of choice for those seeking the best in decorative finery.
They returned to the United Kingdom briefly around 1858 returning to Melbourne aboard the Royal Charter in December 1858. G & W.H. Rocke issued four penny tokens in 1859, struck by Heaton and Sons in Birmingham.
William married Salisbury Anne Buchanan at the Wesleyan Church, Lonsdale Street in 1860. The partnership between father and son was dissolved in December 1862, when George returned to the United Kingdom.
Beauchamp & Rocke
In 1863 William entered into partnership with Horatio Beauchamp and the pair were listed in Sands and McDougall as 'Beauchamp and Rocke, Auctioneers, 38 - 40 Collins Street East'. The business was established by J.W. Bell, who came from Launceston to Melbourne in the early years of the settlement. Bell was joined by Beauchamp, and when the founder retired, Mr. Byrne joined the company. Rocke joined the company after Mr. Byrne retired. The partnership between Beauchamp and Rocke lasted until 1875, when Mr. Beauchamp retired. In the following year Rocke was listed at 40 Collins Street East, describing his business as a Furniture and Carpet warehouse.
Gardner, F. (1912). 'Trade Tokens and the Firms who Issued Them', The Australian Storekeepers and Traders Journal, 30 March, p. 10.
PROV internet index of Unassisted Immigrants to Victoria, 1852-1923.
Humfrey, H.M. (1878). Victorian men of the time , biographical entry on W.H. Rocke, pp.177-178.
Sharples, J. (1993). 'Catalogue of Victorian Trade Tokens' in Journal of the Numismatic Association of Australia, Vol.7, December, pp.53-54.
Melbourne Directories, 1851-1870, Collection of the State Library of Victoria.
Advertisement, Sands and Kenny Commercial and General Melbourne Directory for 1860, advertisements, p.47.
Advertisement, Sands and Kenny Commercial and General Melbourne Directory for 1861, advertisements, p.30
Hope, John (2005). 'G. & W. H Rocke', unpublished MSS, 3pps.