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Launch of “Well Built: Simmie & Co Master Builders 1924 – 1978” exhibition

February 2, 2023 @ 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm


Join Dr Andrew Lemon FRHSV AM when he launches the exhibition, Well Built: Simmie & Co Master Builders 1924 – 1978 and book, Family Business: The Simmies of Simmie & Co and Harpsdale, both created by historian and curator, Dr Andrew Kilsby.

Simmie & Co was a prominent building company in Melbourne (1924-1978) and in Canberra (1926-1969).  In Melbourne the company was highly successful and built many iconic buildings, churches, monasteries, schools, housing, factories, defence works, the Shrine forecourt (1939-45), offices and theatres including some heritage-listed constructions (one designed by Robin Boyd).

In Canberra, Simmie & Co was responsible for building a wide range of iconic constructions, including the first Northbourne Avenue shops on London Circuit, Albert Hall, the Australian War Memorial, St Andrews Cathedral, Institute of Anatomy (now the Film and Sound Archives), US Embassy, several other embassies, R G Menzies Library, a range of housing from heritage listed homes in Forrest to worker’s cottages in Narrabundah, schools, halls, theatres and commercial sites.

The founders were three Victorian brothers, all born in the last decade of the nineteenth century and all worked at the Sunshine Harvester factory before World War One – William, Jock & George. All were World War One veterans (two were Gallipoli veterans). All were wounded and survived. Two were closely involved with the Master Builders Association in Melbourne.

See their story of a pioneering building company of the early to mid-twentieth century, of World War One veterans, of courage and a willingness to take a risk, of the beginning of the capital city of Australia and the workers, the unsung heroes, who made it all happen.

At the launch, Dr Richard Simmie, grandson of Jock Simmie, will announce a philanthropic gift to the University of Melbourne named for his grandfather.

Harpsdale is a substantial and elegant pastoral homestead at Yuroke, just outside Melbourne. Designed for David Brodie by JAB Koch in 1875, it is a large brick single-storey homestead with two-storey brick stables, extensive gardens with contemporary exotic trees, including an avenue along the driveway, and outbuildings. It was purchased by Jock Simmie in 1941, is still being farmed and is still in the Simmie Family.


The R J Simmie Collection has been put together over many years by Dr Richard Simmie, a grandson of Jock Simmie, one of the principals of Simmie & Co.  The Collection contains records of the Simmie family connected to Simmie & Co and also historic Harpsdale. These comprise an extensive collection of photographs, construction and farm business records, artefacts and ephemera, even historic farm machinery.  The R J Simmie Collection is the major sponsor for this exhibition, both in Melbourne and Canberra.


Dr Andrew Kilsby, is an independent historian (www.connect-history.com), and published author. He holds a PhD in history from UNSW. Dr Kilsby has a background in military and diplomatic service, public relations and corporate communications both in Australia and in Asia-Pacific.  Recent publications include The Big Garage: 65 Years of Motoring History;  The Case of Eichengruen-Edwards and Continental Tyres (Commendation Community History Awards 2019); The Forgotten Cruiser: HMAS Melbourne I, 1913-1928; The Riflemen: A History of the NRAA 1888-1988 and as co-author, A Reputable Set of Men: The Sandringham Club 1913-2013 and Sigma Pharmaceuticals 1912-2012. His new publication Family Business: The Simmies of Simmie & Co and Harpsdale, will be launched at the exhibition opening.


Refreshments are served from 5pm and the formal part of the evening will commence at 5:40pm.



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February 2, 2023
5:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Event Category:


Royal Historical Society of Victoria
03 9326 9288


RHSV Gallery Downstairs
239 A'Beckett St
Melbourne, Victoria 3000 Australia
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03 9326 9288