James Watson Rosier


 BORN 22 December 1834 at Langham, Suffolk, England.
 BAPTISED 1 February 1835 in Wattisfield, Suffolk, England.
 DIED 30 June 1920 at South Yarra, Vic.
 BURIED 2 July 1920 at Boroondara Cemetery, Vic.
 FATHER James Rosier (1811-1852)
 MOTHER Elizabeth Watson (1811-1858)
 MARRIED Nancy Thomas Richards (1835-1900) in 1856 at Heidelberg, Vic.
 CHILDREN   James Watson Rosier jnr (1858-1945)
Elizabeth Annie Rosier (1861-1942)
Rebecca Rosier (1863-1929)
Vara Rosier (1865-1937)
Eda Rosier (1866-1866)
Eda Jane Rosier (1867-1946)
Agnes Mary Rosier (1869-1953)
Louisa Adina Rosier (1871-1942)
Samuel Horace Richard Rosier (1874-1956)
Ethel Ruby Rosier (1878-1952)

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The Harpur Trust Elementary School register (boys), Bedford, shows that James Watson Rosier (aged 7), son of James and Elizabeth Rosier, Watchmaker, Pilcroft Street, was admitted to boys elementary school 7 March 1842 and left on 10 March 1845, employed by his father. [The Beds & Luton Record Office] The same source shows that James’s sister Ann left school on 26 September 1849. The family embarked at London for Australia on 14 October 1849.

The Rosiers arrived in Melbourne by The Brothers (a Barque of 368 tons) on 10 March 1850 from London via Adelaide. James Rosier Sr (father of JWR) bought 265 acres of land out at Diamond Creek with a friend from back home in Bedford, Humphrey Peers, who had arrived in the Colony two years earlier. The two men purchased land on behalf of Dr John Blakemore Phipps. Unfortunately, James père died in 1852 and his wife, Elizabeth, and two sons, Thomas and George (JWR’s brothers) followed soon after in the late 1850s from tuberculosis.

James and his brother John Rosier moved in to Melbourne to start up business—James as a gunsmith, like his father, and John as a well-known chiropodist. (John’s son and grandson also followed in this line of work: see photo of these three generations.)

JWR’s obituary in the Melbourne Argus of 2 July 1920:

An old colonist, Mr James Watson Rosier, died on Wednesday at Altona, Hawksburn Road, South Yarra. Mr Rosier, who was of French descent, was born at Langham, England, on December 23, 1834. After being educated at the Bedford Grammar School, he with his parents left for Australia as passengers in the ship The Brothers, the voyage taking five months. They arrived in Melbourne in the early fifties, and engaged in agricultural pursuits. On the death of his father, Mr Rosier came to Melbourne, and established a gun merchant’s business, in which he continued until his retirement four years ago. His wife predeceased him. He leaves a family of nine children.

Ben Thomas reports that JWR had several contracts with the Victorian police: one in the early 1870s to convert some 250 of their Colt ’51 Navy revolvers to accept metallic cartridges under the Thuer patent (see 1869 tender) and then later during the Kelly Outbreak to supply them with Webley revolvers and double-barrelled .50 calibre rifles, often mistaken for shotguns. There is a photo of Sergeant Steele (the policeman who felled Ned Kelly with a shotgun hit to the legs) posing with his men at Wangaratta after the Glenrowan Siege; it is quite likely the shotgun he is holding was supplied by Rosier. In June 1879 Rosier supplied Ned’s sister, Maggie Skillion, and his cousin, Tom Lloyd, with ammunition. Tom had purchased ammunition in the morning but returned in the afternoon on the pretence of needing more ammunition as part of a hunting party heading to French Island. Rosier supplied some useless examples of the required ammunition, but stated that the remainder was not in stock and would have to be brought in for the following day. The pair left a two pound deposit with the promise to return the following day. Rosier notified the police who staked out the shop, but the couple never returned, having caught the previous evening’s train to Benalla. Although the train was searched, and Skillion and Lloyd detained and searched upon their arrival at Benalla, no ammunition was found — the ammunition having been passed to one of Lloyd’s friends who had accompanied the pair to Melbourne.

There is also an 1873 offer from Rosier (page 1 and page 2) to supply the Police Department with 100 new revolvers, strikes by the suppliers in England permitting. We also have an 1896 example of a Rosier invoice and receipt.

J. W. Rosier probably started his business in 1856, though he advertised est. 1850, the year the family arrived in Melbourne. His business addresses (from the Sands & McDougall trade directories) were as follows:

125 Little Collins St. East (1857—1858)
140 Brunswick St., Fitzroy (1863)
32 Little Collins St. East (1864—1866)
45 Little Collins St. East (1867—1870)
66 Elizabeth St. (1871—1888)
63 Bourke St. West (1888)
432 Bourke St. (1889—1916)

[The 63 Bourke St. West in 1888 is a little misleading, as it is in fact the same address as 432 Bourke Street as a result of renumbering.]

Four generations: JWR with Rebecca, James & Tom Johnston

JWR advertised extensively during his time in business. A collection of hundreds of press mentions can be seen here. Faced with insolvency in 1916, J.W. Rosier sold his business (to Donald Mackintosh, a fellow gundealer who had a shop located a few doors east on Bourke Street, Melbourne, and Australia’s first gold medalist Olympian for shooting at the 1900 Paris Olympics. See the auction advertisement in The Argus of 23 Oct 1916) and home Roselea at 52 Fitzwilliam St, Kew (where he had lived since 1871), and moved to Sandringham and then South Yarra in his last two years of life.