Saturday, 26 January 2013

Sepia Saturday – Hattam’s Stores

Hattam's store, 33 Sackville St, Port Fairy, as depicted
on an advertising poster in an 1892 Almanac

My parents made their ‘sea-change’ to Port Fairy. Mum always knew she had links to this little seaside village – her great grandparents were one of the first couples to be married in the original St John’s Church in 1850.
Dad subsequently found his own family links to the town through Hattam & Hattam stores. His great great grandmother was Nanny HATTAM (1836-1915) who came to Australia with her husband James GRENFELL (1833-1896).

Almost all of Nanny’s siblings came to Australia from Cornwall in the 1850s and 1860s, and a number of cousins came too, including John HATTAM (c1824-1892).
From what I have discovered so far, John Hattam started Hattam stores and expanded his network with each of his sons moving to another town to start a store.

Store as it is today, showing the 2 small upstairs rooms
where the cash went via the overhead pulleys.
These are hidden by a false ceiling now.
His eldest son John HATTAM (c1853-1932) started a store in Sale (Gippsland, Victoria) in 1879.
William Thomas HATTAM (c1868-1929) moved to Port Fairy around 1890. 
His father died in May 1892 in Daylesford, and his mother was living with William and his growing family when she died in Nov 1892.

Hattam’s stores had a special feature – a cash railway system. This was a system of wires and pulleys that transported money around a shop. They were developed sometime in the 1880s and usually consisted of lidded pots or cups that were moved around by gravity or spring-loaded wire pulleys. 
You can see more about this system on this website.

Hattam's store as it is today - a sports store and real estate
There is still a room above the Hattam’s building in Port Fairy where apparently the system still ‘resides’. Dad is keen to get up and have a look – with his camera of course.

I believe there are still a couple of Hattam stores left in the Melbourne suburbs of Oakleigh and Elsternwick. One of them at least run by a descendant of John Hattam of Sale. I must try to visit next time I am in Melbourne.


  1. Fantastic heritage Jackie, and lots of clues there for further research. That advertising poster is a real treasure.

  2. Hi Jackie, I agree with Boobook - what a fantastic find that poster is :)

  3. Excellent story! I'm with your dad - get that camera and go!

  4. Fascinating family success story. Loved that poster.

  5. The pictures are wonderful, and I enjoyed learning of you family history relating to the building.

    Kathy M.

  6. Great job for this week's topic! I'm your latest follower.
    This is my first time posting at Sepia Saturday and I am excited.

  7. What a great piece of family history, and how nice to see that the shop is still there. I hope you update the post with your Dad's photos when he gets there :-) Jo

  8. I was wondering why the old store had "cash" in the name. The cash railway system is interesting.

    1. I assume cash stores didn't allow credit or 'on account' sales.

  9. A fascinating history tour. Local stores were such an important part of small communities - so different to the ubiquitous chain stores of the modern era.

  10. Possibly it is worthwhile to find out whether the store's archives from the early days have been saved. Here some of the older, well known shops transferred their old documents to municipal archives. In any case, it is very nice to have such a name in the family!

  11. Interesting the mechanisms that were developed to deal with cash in stores like these. I suppose these eventually developed into the pneumatic tubes that I recall had their last gasp during my youth in the 1960s. Now we send the cash electronically via the virtual banks in our wallets through the phone lines/cables/cell phone towers. What will be the next method, I wonder?

  12. You come from an interesting family full of entrepreneurs. That cash system is really something. I'm sure kids went to the store just to watch all the "cars", pulleys and wires. I wonder why they put so much emphasis on cash at that time - "cash grocers", "cash drapers". Were people extending credit or did they trade?

  13. Wow, what a wonderful connection! Now I'll have to google more about Port Fairy it has my complete attention!

  14. A wonderful bit of family history to have and I love the name Port Fairy, who could resist?