Beecroft-Cheltenham History Group

Samuel Higgins and his store

Glasgow-born Samuel Higgins came to Australia at the age of three with his family. In 1903, when Samuel was 27 years old, he married 23 year old Grace Brasnett of Pymble. After a year in Goulburn Samuel and Grace moved to Beecroft, where Samuel leased a small timber shop with attached residence on the corner of Beecroft Parade and The Crescent. (1905). Samuel re-stocked the store, turning it into a general store, the second one in the growing suburb after Thomas Stobo's 1893 store opposite the railway platform. A useful building on Higgins' large property was a shed in the backyard, a necessity for the storage of produce and general provisions and a stable for the delivery horse and cart.

In 1908, being successful with this first business, Higgins built a handsome, two-storied brick store and residence on Beecroft Road, a central position next to the school and opposite the Village Green. As was customary in the plan of a shop with a residence, the living areas and kitchen were immediately behind the store, with stairs leading up to four bedrooms and the front balcony. By 1916 the Higgins had four children, Alan (b.1905), Jean (1907), Marjorie (1910) and Ian (1916). A local girl lived in to help with the housework and the children. The children slept on the balcony all year round, conforming to the belief that the night air strengthened children’s lungs. As pneumonia was a frequent killer of the young, this sleeping-out practice was a wise precaution in its time.

Higgins sold foodstuffs, patent medicine, drapery and produce for the numerous horses and poultry in the district. had been Miss Ogden's small private school Stables were built for Higgins' three horses and two delivery carts. The store also acted as an agency for the Commonwealth Bank and the local newspaper, the Cumberland Argus.The bulky produce was stored in a small timber building which had been Miss Ogden's small private school Stables were built for Higgins' three horses and two delivery carts. The store also acted as an agency for the Commonwealth Bank and the local newspaper, the Cumberland Argus. The store prospered and Samuel was able to give his children a good education, something he had been deprived of himself. His two sons became solicitors, Jean trained as a nurse and Marjorie became General Secretary of the St John's Ambulance Association. After some years of this work she was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE), and was made a Dame of the Most Venerable Order of St John of Jerusalem, though this award does not carry a title In 1929 Higgins leased the store and the family moved to a house in Wandeen Avenue. They lived there for only three years, next moving to Manly. In those Depression years Samuel took whatever jobs he could find in the city. He was a kind and generous man, sharing what he had with those in more need than himself. He died in 1957, Grace in 1964.

The general store continued for many years with various owners. It had its share of the local limelight on at least two occasions. When a change from general store to liquor store was mooted in 1969, there was some local feeling about its proximity to the Primary School and the possible bad influence liquor sales might have on the children. There were predictions of binge drinking in the Village Green, but these fears proved to be unfounded. Later, after the building was placed on Hornsby Shire Council’s Heritage List, the painting of its side wall with flamboyant coloured spots caused some surprise and complaint. After the wall was repainted in more sombre colours, the business continued successfully. The site Higgins had chosen on the main road many years earlier has proved over many years to be a suitable business location, especially as a natural widening of the road at that point provided valuable parking space.

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