Tucker, Charles

Charles Churchill Tucker was born in 1857, the third son of James Cawley and Elizabeth Tucker and one of a family of seven boys and three girls. His father James and his uncle William Tucker had emigrated from England in 1834 and 1845 respectively and had founded a liquor importing business. James, a master mariner, sailed his own ship to bring the goods to Sydney and by the late 1840s Tucker and Co. was flourishing. Two sisters of James and William also emigrated and within a generation there was a large Tucker family in Sydney. Successful speculation in land further increased the finances of the Tucker family and its standing.[1]

Charles went into the firm but had ample opportunity to travel and play sport. When 26 years old he and a few companions reached the summit of Mont Blanc, he reputedly being the first Australian to achieve this.[2]

In 1887 Charles married Mary Paige of Annandale, giving to her as a marriage settlement the 19 acre property on Murray Farm Road, Beecroft, which he had purchased two years previously. Mary found the seaside favoured her health and while their home ‘Plympton’ in Beecroft was being built they lived for a short time in Manly.  ‘Plympton’ was a large sprawling brick cottage with an iron roof, of an appropriate rural style for their orchard property. 10 acres of orchards had been planted by September 1888 and Charles began his lifelong interest in orcharding, both the growing and the sales promotion of fruit, especially apples.[3]

Three children were born at ‘Plympton’: Doris in 1888, Florence in 1890 and Rupert in 1892.

Upon moving into ‘Plympton’ Charles Tucker at once began his energetic and enthusiastic involvement in Beecroft civic affairs. In July 1888 he was one of a deputation to the Minister for Works requesting a goods siding at Beecroft station. The following year he wrote a petition to the Postmaster-General for a post office at ‘this growing and important township’, collecting the signatures of 36 residents. In 1890 he became a trustee of the new St John’s Church of England and in 1894 was appointed churchwarden and treasurer.[4]

In 1894 the two bridges across the railway line were completed and a race on horseback between Charles Tucker and William Chorley across the Copeland Road bridge resulted in a win for the latter. In that year Tucker was appointed one of the four trustees of the 25 acre Park and Recreation Reserve along Devlins Creek.[5]

Mary Tucker did not enjoy good health and in 1896 Charles again took his family to Manly, leasing ‘Plympton’. They returned to Beecroft in 1898, setting up home in a cottage, ‘Rockleigh’, on a four acre property on the south-eastern corner of Kirkham Street and Boronia Avenue which Mary Tucker had purchased in 1893. Frederick William Biden of Hurstville had purchased this grant in 1888 for £145. The property was transferred to Alfred George Biden, fruitgrower of Beecroft, in 1890, and when he sold it to the Tuckers it was largely an orchard of lemon, orange, quince and loquat trees. The improvements of a weatherboard cottage, orchard and fences made by Biden brought him £410 for the property.[6]

In 1894 Charles Tucker purchased the two adjoining portions, ‘unimproved forest land’ of four acres for £80, the lower price resulting from half the land being rocky and of little value as orchard. The Government Surveyor reported on nearby land as ‘good reddish loam. Thickly wooded with turpentine, blackbutt and stringy bark gum. Tall, straight trees.’[7]

In December 1894 a road 50 links (10 metres) wide was gazetted through Tucker’s orchard (the present western end of Boronia Avenue). Tucker claimed that the £30 compensation paid to him for the loss of one rood of land and cost of fencing was an underestimation by half. Another road saga was born. In 1898 W. Berry, a landowner nearby, claimed it was not fair that the end of the road was still blocked by Tucker’s fence, and therefore unusable. In 1903 Tucker passed a motion at a local Progress Association meeting that ‘a request be made to have the unemployed in the district put on to clear and form Boronia Avenue without delay’. In 1918, when the widowed Mary Tucker was preparing to sell her property, she asked the Hornsby Shire Council that ‘the present roadway in Boronia Avenue be extended to its full width and in other respects improved to the benefit of the property’. Fortunately for the later residents of Boronia Avenue, the council decided there were no funds available for the work.[8]

In 1906 the small cottage in which the Tuckers were living was moved on to other land which they owned in Welham Street, and a ‘fine brick villa residence’, ‘Oaklands’, was commenced. It was of modern design, with a many-gabled tiled roof, partially two-storeyed, and with tall chimneys and several small verandas. The large gardens included rose beds, oak trees along the Boronia Avenue boundary and a Chinese elm at each side of the entrance gates. A tennis court, much used by the young people, was also constructed.[9]

Florence in her diary for 1905 and Doris in her reminiscences recorded about 1965 gave a picture of life in Beecroft for well-to-do young people. Tennis was played almost every day either at home, at friends’ courts or on the Village Green courts. Evening meals with fourteen people at table were common and visiting after dinner was frequent. Train trips were often made to the city for musical performances and for shopping. They went on trips to the South Coast, the Blue Mountains and to some of the numerous Tucker relatives in other suburbs and in the country. Sunday attendance at church and Bible class was regular.

The girls attended Miss Ogden’s school at Beecroft (later to be Miss Sampson’s ‘Ravenhurst’) and ‘finished’ their schooling at Normanhurst College in Ashfield. Subjects studied at these schools included mathematics, history, French, elocution and drawing.[10]

Holidays at Newport were popular as Charles had purchased land there in 1912 and moved a small cottage on to it. He added to this beach house to make it a comfortable family holiday home called ‘The Ness’.[11]
Tucker and Co. dealt in wines and spirits and there was a plentiful supply of wine at the Beecroft home. Beecroft friends recalled that Mary Tucker would send a box of wines to friends who were ill. They also recalled that Charles on occasion took one of his homing pigeons to work with him, to be released as he left the city as a message to his wife that he was on his way home.[12]

Doris married her second cousin Arnold Hirst in 1913 at St John’s, Beecroft. Rupert, who worked at first in the family firm and later moved to Narromine for health reasons, married Rita Blair. Florence was unofficially engaged to Charles Nixon of Malton Road when he joined the Australian Imperial Force in 1917 but he was killed in France shortly before the end of hostilities and Florence remained unmarried.

Charles Tucker’s energy appeared inexhaustible as he chaired and attended numerous local meetings of the Progress Association, the Literary  and Debating Society, the School of Arts committee, the Parents’ and Residents’ Association, the Joint Committee and the Fruitgrowers’ Union of New South Wales . He also had time and energy left to attend prize-givings at the local public school, to sing at schools, to give lectures on his overseas trips of 1882, 1909 and 1913 and to play in billiards tournaments. All these involvements were additional to managing the family firm and supervising his orchards.[13]

An additional responsibility was Charles’ appointment by the government as a provisional councillor of the new Hornsby Shire in March 1906. He was elected a councillor in December of that year and continued as a vocal advocate for the Beecroft district in this larger forum. In 1909 he sent a trial consignment of apples to Britain and also represented the Fruitgrowers’ Union of New South Wales at a conference in Western Australia.[14]

In the city he was a member of the Sydney Cricket Ground and the Sportsmen’s Club and a judge of the fruit and wine exhibits at the Royal Agricultural Society Easter Show.[15]

This vigorous and enthusiastic life was cut short in 1917 when Charles suffered a sudden stroke while attending a pomological conference in Bathurst. He died shortly afterwards. Into his 60 years he had packed much personal and public achievement. He was a great joiner and doer and the warmth of his personality sat comfortably with his plans and ideas. Jarratt spoke of Charles Churchill Tucker as being ‘known and respected as a man of great civic responsibility and considerable joie de vivre’.[16] The local paper recorded: ‘Mr Tucker won very many friends by his geniality and courtesy and his very good citizenship.’[17] Beecroft would be the poorer without him.

In 1918 Mary Tucker sold a large portion of the land around ‘Oaklands’, and also property she owned on the western side of Kirkham Street. Oaklands Avenue was made through the former subdivision. By 1919 her health had worsened and she and Florence went to live with Doris and Arnold Hirst in Strathfield. In 1938, while on a family outing to Orange, Florence stepped onto the road to take a photograph of rhododendrons in a park and was knocked down by a car and killed. Mary Tucker died in Strathfield in 1947, aged 88, having been a widow for 30 years.

‘Oaklands’ was leased in 1919 and later sold to the Rev. Talbot Vivian Grey who began Cheltenham College there. After the college closed in 1924 the house became Oaklands Guest House. The property changed hands several times before a subdivision in 1947 created the blocks fronting Boronia Avenue and a second subdivision in 1961 led to the demolition of ‘Oaklands’ house and the creation of Parker Close.[18] The Churchill Tucker Reserve in Blaxland Road, Rhodes, commemorates Tucker and his one-time ownership of land there.


[1] Early family history from Phil Jarratt, Tucker and Co., the first 150 years, Sydney 1987, pp. 9-29.[1] Early family history from Phil Jarratt, Tucker and Co., the first 150 years, Sydney 1987, pp. 9-29.

[2] Cumberland Argus, 13 December 1902; Jarratt op. cit., p. 38.

[3] Land Titles Office (Old System) 305/663, 368, 701; Cumberland Argus, 22 September 1888.

[4] Cumberland Argus, 11 July 1888, 14 February 1891; National Archives of Australia: General Post Office, Sydney, SP 32/1, Post Office files A-Z, Beecroft PO, 1889; Cumberland Argus, 27 April 1895, 13 July 1907

[5] Cumberland Argus , 8September 1894, 3 February 1894

[6] Land Titles Office 989/54-5 Cumberland Argus 17 August 1895

[7] State Records New South Wales, 10/15365, File 194, Lands Department, Roads Branch correspondence.

[8] Cumberland Argus, 17 August 1895, 17 January 1903, 6 February 1918; State Records New South Wales, 10/15365, File 194, Lands Department, Roads Branch correspondence.

[9] Cumberland Argus, 5 May 1906.

[10] Florence Tucker’s diary, 1905 and Reminiscences of Doris Hirst (née Tucker) circa 1965, Beecroft Cheltenham History Group, 88/136 and 88/135

[11] Jarratt, op. cit., p. 59

[12] Personal communication from Mrs Nell Nixon.[13] Cumberland Argus, 13 February 1904,

[13] December 1902, 26 June 1909, 12 February 1910.

[14] Cumberland Argus, 27 November 1909.

[15] Jarratt, op. cit., p. 51.

[16] Jarratt, op. cit., p. 51.

[17] Cumberland Argus, 21 April 1917.[18] Land Titles Office 4395/31, 6075/73.