Great Grandfather William Francis Hallett was born in Adelaide, South Australia in 1866. His father, John Hayward Hallett, was a carpenter in the Adelaide area and was married to Ester (Clark). In 1887 young William aged 21 came to Melbourne to mainly ride in the Austral Wheel Race at the M.C.G. A professional bike rider and Stonemason he could see a future in Melbourne as the gold fields money was making Melbourne the boom city. With good money in the bike races and jobs aplenty, he knew Melbourne was the place to be.
Using his middle name, young Frank first worked for James Mc Ewan of Bourke St at his marble yard in Elizabeth St making marble mantel pieces. With some money behind him, he and a partner started their own business in a little yard behind the Herald office in Flinders Lane. Marble fire surrounds were their main source of work. Their partnership didn’t last long with his partner contracting T.B. This left Frank having to buy him out, and then with the land boom bust – his business and factory hit the dust, so to speak.
Selling up all stock and sheds and getting married to Sarah (Flanagan), with little money left, he started again under his own name F. Hallett in the back of their house in Lennox St, Richmond. This time making monuments, headstones, bluestone kerbing, marble crosses, even hand carved panels with flowers, shamrocks and lettering. Life was tough with all work done by hand. The stone delivered to cemeteries such as Kew or Carlton was by horse and lorry. This was hard work – not like today, with our cranes and trucks.
Some years later Frank and his family moved to Wellington Parade, East Melbourne, where he operated his business on the side block of the premises. In time Frank’s family increased to 8 children – out of the 8 children Stanley William Hallett (2nd Generation) was the only child to go into the family business.
In 1919 Frank and Stanley changed the company name to F. Hallett & Son and moved the business to 25 Bridge Rd Richmond, near the corner of Punt Rd.
During the early 1920’s, an importation company H. Cregington & Co of Elizabeth St Melbourne started importing fully finished marble altars, fonts, altar rails, etc from Cararra in Italy. This company contracted F. Hallett & Son to fully erect all the interior marble church work all over Victoria and interstate. From this work Frank and Stanley gained extensive knowledge of high class Ecclesiastical work. 1926 was a hard year for young Stanley with his father Frank passing away and the Customs Office raiding Cregingtons & Co. They found that the company was not paying the correct duty on the finished marble work and because of this Cregingtons went under and the owner disappeared. This gave Stanley a better chance to compete in the Ecclesiastical area of the trade.
Stanley had great stone designing ability. High altars, altar rails, baptismal fonts or monuments – his workshop drawings were always set out in full size on marble slabs so the workers understood the sections they were working on. When required, he had a draftsman named Kemp Mc Guiness who could adapt Stanley’s altar drawings and turn it into a full colour perspective of the church sanctuary. With this presentation Stanley hardly ever lost a prospective client.
During the depression the monumental work virtually slowed to a halt, only installing on average 1 monument a month. Luckily the business survived the depression thanks to the influx of church work. Much of this can be attributed to Archbishop Mannix, who used the excess labour to work on many Catholic churches throughout Victoria. This led to a lot of Ecclesiastical jobs coming Stanley’s way and helped keep his stonemasons and labourers employed.
After coming out of the Depression and with an abundance of work, Stanley upgraded the factory with a gantry crane, air compressor, Genny Lind polisher, marble lathe, and even a Stanley-designed cutting saw with a Carborundum cutting blade.
With H. Cregington not importing altars and Stanley’s experience in the church work including producing all the components, his business grew to 10 – 12 men. A second hand Chevy truck and a 4 wheel trailer was bought in 1937 as one of their jobs was in Port Adelaide and the need to pack and deliver the fine carved and breakable marble parts was essential to the growth of their business.
In early 1942, with no man power available, young Stan junior (3rd eldest son and only 15 years old) started his time in the business. A year later Felix, or as he is known, Phil (my dad) started. He was only 14 years old. Both boys had to pull their weight quickly, learning to design and set out the work, driving the truck, installing monuments and altars, turning columns, etc.
After the war, with the 2 eldest boys back, Stanley (senior) tried to get young George and Frank to join the family business. George instead went off to make his name in the KM window industry, but young Frank stayed to work with his dad and his younger brothers, Stan and Phil.
In 1951 Stanley (senior), 2nd Generation, passed away at only 57 years of age. This left the 3 boys (the eldest was Frank who was only 27 years old) to pay the debts and costs incurred by his death. The factory was run down and needed new machinery, a truck and car. The boys took a pay cut and with a large job at St Patrick’s Catholic Church in Albury as their 1st major works, they were off and running.
The years passed with Frank, Stan and Phil making granite monuments for the local cemeteries, marble floors and bathrooms in a lot of the fine Toorak homes and, of course, the Ecclesiastical work. Their factory in busy Bridge Rd Richmond was too small for their expanding business. They purchased a large block of land on a dirt track called Mahoney’s Rd, Thomastown. The year was 1960. The new factory, with its new wire saw, would give them the chance to cut down their own granite and marble blocks brought from around Australia, such as Harcourt Grey, Adelaide Black Imperial, as well as stone sought from overseas including Belfast Black Granite, Zimbabwe Black Granite, Balmoral Red Granite, White Carrara Marble, etc.
The company continued to grow with a gantry crane, polishing machine, new diamond saw. Stan ran the Factory at Thomastown and produced mainly all the monumental work. Frank and Phil ran the Richmond factory continuing on the marble work. The years passed again and their families grew with Phil and wife Nance having 9 children, Frank and wife Joan having 8 children and Stan and wife Cathy having 2 children.
In the mid 1970s with the business still going strong, Phil’s two older sons had a couple of goes at the trade. Gary and Chris would walk in one door of the factory and out the other. It wasn’t their cup of tea so to speak. In later years, Gary would come back to help his brothers when needed and Chris would dabble in the marble fire place part of the trade.
At the end of 1976, the next to start in the family business was myself (Paul) who, at 17 and just out of school, I was more keen on playing sport (basketball) than focusing on the job. Six months later my cousin Francis (Frank’s son) started and a short time after that my other cousin Mark (Stan’s son) came into the firm. With dad and a top tradesman (Bert Mullens) teaching me the finer points of the trade, as well as the experience I had obtained from helping dad on jobs during school holidays since I was young boy, I finished my Stonemasonry Apprenticeship and became a stonemason.
Francis and I worked under the direction of our fathers at the Richmond plant, concentrating on the marble work and Mark went out with his father to help run the Thomastown factory. A few years later Philip and then Wayne (my younger brothers) joined the firm and did their Apprenticeships. With the marble work still coming in at a steady pace and the monumental side of the business booming, both factories were at full capacity.
In 1985 I left the family firm. With my love of sport and having played N.B.L basketball, I tried to get into the Air Force as a physical education officer – only to be told that I had slight hearing loss and would therefore not be accepted. I changed careers to a sales representative for two and half years but was still installing marble fire surrounds on weekends. I then returned to the stonemasonry industry full time.
Several years later the Richmond factory was acquired by Vic Roads in order to widen Bridge Rd and the firm had to move the office, machines and material to the factory at 280 Mahoney’s Rd Thomastown. At this point in time the 3rd generation owners (Frank, Stan and Phil) retired. Mark decided that he wanted to leave and went in his own direction which left only the 3 boys, Francis, Philip and Wayne. Philip took on the office, Francis and Wayne ran the factory and with long hours and hard work the three boys improved and expanded the factory with a new diamond block saw, a flat bed polisher, another diamond cutting saw and an edge polisher/bullnoser.
At a later date, Francis made the decision to leave the family firm, but continued working within the stonemasonry industry.
I started my own business a couple of years after leaving F. Hallett & Sons. With young children and a mortgage to pay off, I had grand expectations of working for myself and having more time and money for my family. In addition, several Antique dealers were pressuring me to restore and install antique marble fire surrounds for the Victorian and Edwardian homes. Similar to my great grandfather, for the first couple of years, I was working out of a small shed in the back of the family home in Diggers Rest.
The years passed again, with the business growing as well as my three boys: Jamie, Scott and Timothy. The jobs were getting larger and F. Hallett & Sons were concentrating on the monumental work, thus I started to take on the marble floors, fireplaces, bench tops, vanities and the Ecclestical work. Over the years I have worked in with my 2 brothers at F.Hallett & Sons on some large jobs:
After starting his apprenticeship with me at 17 (a mad basketballer too like his dad) and then trying several other different jobs, my eldest son, Jamie, came back into the business to work with me . After a bit of a slow start and a lot of catching up, Jamie has become a stonemason that I can depend on. He and I have become a good team and he is an asset to the business.