One-hundred-and-fifty years of local service

One-hundred-and-fifty years of local service

This year, North Melbourne’s W.B. Simpson & Son is celebrating 150 years of continuous service in real estate.

The business started in 1872 when William B. Simpson opened an office in Collins St, Melbourne called W.B. Simpson & Son.

Back then, real estate mainly involved collecting rents and debts with the odd house being sold. After the discovery of gold in the 1850s, Melbourne experienced a population boom, and William saw an opportunity to be involved in that growth.

The son in the business name was John William Allan, also known as William, who partnered and then succeeded his father.

When young William set out on his round of collecting rents, he wasn’t to know that the daughter of one of his tenants would later become his wife.

By 1927, William’s son Allan joined him in the business, later followed by Allan’s brother Jack.

The firm moved into an expanded property in Victoria St, North Melbourne, and then renovated a larger premises on the other side of Victoria St in West Melbourne.

By 1934, the firm moved to 30 Errol St – a building which has since undergone a number of renovations and modernisations.

Allan’s son Darrell recalls “I would come into the office after school, and work there in my university holidays” and earned pocket money by handing out brochures at auction sales.

William remained active in the business for many years, still going into the office until he died, aged 95. Darrell fondly remembers a photograph of his grandfather on the front page of The Herald newspaper, taking golf lessons at the age of 91, as he was not hitting the ball as far as in previous years.

Darrell’s son Richard joined the firm in 2001, having qualified in economics and accountancy, and working with KPMG in the banking and finance division.

Three Simpson family members have served as president of the REIV – Allan Simpson (1949-1950) Darrell (1978-1979), and Richard (2017-2018). Darrell continues his involvement with the institute through the valuations committee, where he is a past chairman, and Richard through the commercial and industrial chapter committee, also as a past chairman, and continues as a board member.

The firm has seen enormous changes throughout North and West Melbourne, originally a dormitory suburb for many people working for the nearby railways and dockside businesses, then post war, as large numbers of migrants entered the area, often buying their houses on vendor terms.

Some older houses were demolished to make way for large scale developments such as Hotham Gardens, and Ministry of Housing flats around Melrose St.

Now former factory and warehouse buildings developed largely through the 1960s and 1970s are making way for new apartment and townhouse developments, with steady demand for people wishing to live close to the Central Business District, Melbourne University, and several of Melbourne’s major hospitals.

Richard Simpson said, “The sociological changes have also been enormous with significant growth resulting from considerable overseas migration from Europe in the 1950s and 1960s, and later from Asia in the 1970s and 1980s.”

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John Buncle

John Buncle

February 14th, 2024 - Felicity Jack
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