Joseph Bidencope

JOSEPH BIDENCOPE,  (1837-1915), tailor and mercer, was born in 1837 in Poland, son of David Bidencope, tailor, and his wife Caroline. He lived for a short time with a sister in Paris before going to London in 1846. In 1857 he signed as crew in the Trade Wind and sailed for Tasmania. During the voyage he was flogged by the first mate but was defended by the carpenter, who was greatly praised by the passengers.

Arriving in Hobart Town in February 1858, Bidencope was employed as a tailor by Henry Cook in Elizabeth Street. Soon he opened his own business in Collins Street, moving in 1860 to new premises in the same street. At St David’s Cathedral on 15 January 1861 he married with Anglican rites English-born Emma Jane Booker. She died in 1892. On 21 March 1894 in the Wesleyan Church, South Yarra, Melbourne, Joseph married Somerset-born Emily Maggs.

By 1862 the firm had become a well-known fashion house, with naval and military uniforms a continuing feature. In 1869 Bidencope established new premises in Murray Street, Hobart. That year hats were added to the business and in 1874 £3000 worth were manufactured and sold in Tasmania and Sydney. At first felt was imported from England. Later, hats were made at a Battery Point factory, where rabbit skins, purchased in hundreds of thousands, were made into felt. Orphaned boys were taken on as apprentices.

The fashionable and the fastidious shopped exclusively at Bidencopes. In 1874 the family moved to Barton Vale, Salvator Road, close to the foothills of Mount Wellington, where the garden became a showpiece, visited by many prominent Hobart residents. Bidencope’s hats gained medals, awards and compliments for samples he sent to exhibitions at Philadelphia, United States of America, in 1876 and in Sydney in 1877. Duties imposed by other colonies forced him to close the hat factory before Federation.

In 1878 the firm had tendered to the Tasmanian government to make 470 scarlet patrol jackets, leggings and caps for the Volunteer Rifle Regiment, at a price of £2 per suit. Bidencope continued to prosper with government tenders for uniforms for the police, rail and tramway workers and for miners. Two sons of his first marriage worked in the company: Joseph Zelly (1866-1940) and Richard Booker (1868-1942), both educated at The Hutchins School, Hobart, and Horton College, Ross.

The Hobart store was modernized in 1924 and a ladies department established. During World War II the firm made uniforms as it had in the Boer war and World War I. Joseph’s grandsons sold the business in 1977. Its founder had been one of the best-known and respected businessmen in Hobart. A Freemason, sometime worshipful master of the Tasmanian Operative Lodge and an office-holder in the Grand Lodge of Tasmania, he was appointed a justice of the peace in 1902. Survived by two sons and two daughters of his first marriage and by his wife and their son and three daughters, Bidencope died in North Hobart on 19 February 1915, after his usual day at business in Murray Street.

Lived at top of Goulburn Street

Drove to store in Hobart punctually each morning in horse drawn carriage which became trade mark of business.

From The Mercury (Hobart, Tas 1860-1954) Saturday 20 February 1915



Very general regret will be felt in  the community on hearing of the death of one of Hobart’s most esteemed and valued citizens, the late Mr. Joseph Bidencope, who for over 50 years has occupied a prominent place in the  commercial life of the city.

Mr. Bidencope was born in Poland, and he left the land of his birth for England at the age of eleven years.  Six years later, he came to Tasmania, his journey from England being taken in the sailing barque Windward. He started business first as a tailor in Collins Street, and many of the residents of Hobart will remember his establishment there. By dint of great energy and perseverance, he built up a large business, and established what was really the first hat manufactury in  Australia in Hampden Road, in the large building, now used as a malt-house. As his business developed, he removed to larger premises in Murray Street where the business is still carried on.  Although he occupied only a small part of the building at first, the extension of his business made it necessary for him to extend, and finally to buy the adjoining premises. His business wasthen a flourishing and substantial one, and he extended it to Launceston, but,after carrying on there for some years, he decided to devote, all his energies to his Hobart concern. He continuedthe Murray-street business with his son, Mr. Z. Bidencope, who for some years,has been the manager and a few years ago formed it into a limited company.

Mr. Bidencope’s interest in public affairs was confined to a term as chairman of the Mount Stuart Town Board. He was also a justice of the peace He was always ready to support any movement which had for its object the  betterment of the conditions of the city or its people, and he was a most  enthusiastic florist, and his chrysanthemums, begonias. carnations, and sweet  peas have been the delight and envy of visitors to many a horticultural show. He was very liberal with the products of his garden and to anyone interested in his own hobby – horticulture – he was unsparing in his gifts of plants and seeds.

Mr. Bidencope was one of the oldest  Freemasons in Tasmania, and was at onetime a Worshipful Master of the lodgewhile he also held office in the Grand Lodge of Tasmania. He was in his 79th year at the time of his death, which took place at 5 a.m. yesterday. Up to the time of his death he enjoyed the best of health, and was at his business until noon on Thursday. He was twice married, the first timeto the daughter of the late Mr. Richard Norton, who hold the position of printing overseer in “The Mercury” Office.    He had by his first marriage a family of two sons and two daughters, all of whom are married, and a family of oneson and three daughters by his second  wife. He was of a most kindly nature and endeared himself to a wide circle of friends.


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