Henry Davy Chemist Melbourne


Up until April 24th 1877 Henry Davy and Herbert Rocke operated a wholesale chemist operation in Elizabeth Street, Melbourne. At that time they dissolved their partnership with Rocke starting a new business on his own and Davy continuing as Henry Davy & Co. Within a few months Rocke had gone into partnership with Henry Tompsitt and formed what would become a major Melbourne business known as Rocke, Tompsitt & Co. Meanwhile Davy teamed up with George Mansfield (business still known as Davy & Co) but this was to be a short lived deal and by May 1878 Davy was again the sole principal of the company. Throughout the 1870s and 1880s Davy & Co advertised various medicines such as Hart’s Asthma Cure and Canadian Cough Killer either of their own manufacture or as agents for others. Although by all accounts Davy’s business was going well he was apparently fighting some sort of demons and in 1889 Henry Davy was found dead from an overdose of morphia. The circumstances of his death leave it open as to whether he committed suicide or was using the drug recreationally but it caused a minor sensation in the papers of the day. The business was sold shortly after his death to W. M. Rowley for 4000 pounds and the name of H. Davy & Co gets some final brief mentions in 1890. Before this bottle we were unaware of any embossed items from Davy & Co. This is quite early for a Whitall Tatum made item in Australia probably dating to the last few years of Davy & Cos., existence. Very unusual Melbourne hair restorer with an interesting back story.

The Argus – 9th March 1889.

The Mysterious Death in Elizabeth-street.

There are no fresh details of any importance n connection with the mysterious death of Mr. Henry Davy, the chemist, of Elizabeth-street, whose body was found in a room at the rear of his shop on Thursday morning. Mr. C. R. Blackett, the Government analyst, was out of town, and only returned last night, so that his analysis of the various organs will not be commenced before to-day. Till the result of this researches is made known, no further action will be taken. Although Mr. Davy’s financial position was sound, it appears that he had got some idea into his head that his money matters were not what he would like them to be. About three or four weeks ago he confided these imaginary difficulties to Mr. Gray. At his request Mr. Gray went down with him to the shop, carefully examined all his accounts and showed him that his fears were almost groundless.

The Argus – 13th March 1889.

The Mysterious Death in Elizabeth-street.

The Cause discovered to be Morphia Poisoning. Mr. C. R. Blackett, the Government analyst, yesterday concluded his examination of the stomach and other organs of the late Mr. Henry Davy, chemist, of Elizabeth-street, whose body was found in a room at the rear of his shop on Thursday last. The result shows that death was due to poisoning by morphia. He has submitted a report to this effect to Dr. Youl, and the inquest will now be continued sooner than was previously arranged.

The Argus – 14th March 1889.

The Mysterious Death in Elizabeth-street.

The conclusion of the inquest.

The inquest on the body of Mr. Henry Davy, chemist, of Elizabeth-street, was resumed yesterday afternoon at the Post-office Club Hotel, before Dr. Youl and a special jury of five. Inspector Pewtress watched the case on behalf of the Crown. The following evidence was taken: – Cuthbert Robert Blackett, Government analyst, deposed that he had received various organs fo the deceased for analytical examination. From one half of the stomach and contents he obtained alcohol by distillation. The analysis for organic poisons was next proceeded with, and he then obtained about one grain of morphia form the same portion of the stomach. This was more than sufficient to cause death. Constable Cook deposed that he was called in on the morning of the 7th inst., and found the deceased lying on a table in a room at the rear of the shop. The table was 4ft. 6in. long and 3ft. wide. The deceased was lying on his right side, and was fully dressed with the exception of his coat. He was quite cold. He searched the body and found 2 pounds, 5s. 3d. In money, a bunch of keys, a knife, a matchbox, and a gold watch and chain. There was a glass or cup of a description in the room. There was a table-cloth on the table, and it was not disturbed in any way. Deceased’s coat was folded up and was lying under his body. His hat lay on the floor. There were no indications of violence in the room. Douglas Mackay Anderson Gray, chemist, carrying on business at the Melbourne Friendly Societies Dispensary, Bowen-street, deposed that he knew the deceased intimately. He went to the races at Oakleigh with the deceased on the 6th inst. They returned to the city about half-past 6 o’clock. They went to the Port Phillip Club, where they played billiards for some time. They left about 11 o’clock and went down Flinders-street towards Elizabeth-street. Witness wanted him to take the tram home, but deceased declined. They walked up the street slowly to the Post-office Club Hotel, where they had a drink. They then walked back to Bourke-street, and thence up to Swanston-street. After a long conversation, deceased got into a cab, and witness told the driver to go up the Sydney-road and deceased would show him where he lived, and witness saw nothing more of him. Deceased had had several drinks during the day, but was quite capable of taking care of himself. Deceased appeared to trouble himself unnecessarily about his affairs, which witness went into with him about a fortnight prior to his death,and found them satisfactory. Deceased however, continued nervous and anxious about them. Witness knew of nothing to induce him to take his own life. To Inspector Pewtress – They parted near the intersection of Little Bourke-street. Deceased got into the cab twice before he consented to go home. It was about 1 o’clock in the morning. The driver drove up Swanston-street. It was a waggonette. Witness had advertised for the cabman, but he had not been able to find him. Witness was not connected with deceased in business maters, and he was under no compliment to him at all. Deceased contracted for the supply of drugs to the dispensary of which witness was manager. Dr. Maudsley, re-examined, deposed that he had heard Mr. Blackett’s evidence and thought that poisoning by morphia was consistent with the state in which he found the deceased. His head probably got over the end of the table when he was in a state of convulsion, and this would cause suffocation. The Coroner, in summing up, said there could be no doubt that the cause of death was morphia-poisoning, and it was for the jury to decide how he came to take that poison. It could not have been given to him, for though one could lead 50 horses to water, one could not make any of them drink. There were two probabilities. On the night when his death occurred, although they had no definite evidence to that effect, the deceased was evidently very drunk. It might have been that his intoxicated condition had increased his anxiousness about his affairs, and led him to commit suicide, or it might be that he had gone into his shop with the intention of taking a small dose to steady him after his drinking, and had accidentally taken too much. There was no suspicion of foul play. The jury found that the deceased died from a poisonous dose of morphia, administered by himself, but there was no evidence to show whether he took it intentionally or not.


The decision arrived at by the jury at the inquest of the body of Henry Davy, whose death was shrouded in so much mystery, has not proved satisfactory to the police authorities, and Inspector Pewtress who was present to watch the case on behalf of the coroner, has determined to continue inquiries as to the movements of the deceased on the day before he was found dead. This resolution has been arrived at mainly owing to the unsatisfactory way in which the chief witness, Mr. Gray, has given his evidence. Mr. Gray repudiated the insinuation of the Crown that on the night before Davy’s death both of them were very much intoxicated, but his imperfect recollection of much that transpired seems to show that the coroner’s suspicions had some grounds. When Mr. Gray was questioned on the subject immediately after the discovery of the body, he made a statement different in many respects from the one sworn by him at the inquest yesterday. On the first occasion he denied having been with Davy at the races, and explained that he did not see him at all, until he was playing pool at the Port Phillip Club Hotel. About 10 o’clock at night, one of the players called his attention to Davy, who was lying asleep on a sofa in the room. They left almost immediately afterwards, and he parted from the deceased at the corner of Bourke-street and Swanston-street, where he took a cab to drive to his home in Parkville. He held to this until all the employees of the Post-office Club Hotel asserted that he had been in there with the deceased at about half past eleven o’clock. Then he admitted with some hesitancy that it might have been so. At the inquest yesterday, however, his memory had returned in a somewhat mysterious manner. He recollected that he had been at the races with the deceased, that he had come into town with him at half-past six in the evening, and had played billiards with him at the Port Phillip Club till 11 o’clock, when he walked down with him to the tram terminus in Elizabeth-street, and endeavoured to induce him to take a tram for home. The deceased however declined and they then went to the Post-office Hotel, where they had a drink, and afterwards made their way round to the corner of Swanston-street and Little Bourke-street. Instead of putting his friend into a cab at once, as he originally stated, he admitted that they remained talking till about 1 a.m., before the cab was procured. He still adheres to the cab portion of the story, but inquiries made by the police from all the night cabmen on duty in the city have failed to discover the driver of the cab into which Mr. Gray put his friend. It might be regarded as strange that, after experiencing so much difficulty in inducing Mr. Davy to get into the cab, he did not get in with him and drive to the top of Swanston-street, which would have been all on his road home, but the strangest circumstance of the whole affair is the statement now made by the barmaid at the Post-office Hotel, that when Mr. Davy came in with Mr. Gray on the Wednesday night prior to his death he had no coat on. As the coroner stated, there are no suspicions of foul play, but the police feel that something more definite can yet be discovered as to how and why the deceased took the morphia, and it is to this end that the further inquiries will be turned.

The Argus – 18th March 1889.

The Mysterious Death in Elizabeth-street.

To the Editor of the Argus.

Sir. – I read with great regret a paragraph in your issue of the 14th inst., under the head of “Further inquiries to be made,” relating to the death of my poor friend Mr. Henry Davy. There are many remarks in this paragraph which are certainly incorrect, and of which I should desire the public to be made cognisant. In the first place, I can see very little in my evidence before the coroner that could be called what you term unsatisfactory. It was plain, straightforward, indisputable and evidently satisfactory to the coroner and jury, and hence their verdict. You remark, “When Mr. Gray was questioned on the subject immediately after the discovery of the body, he denied having been to the races with Davy.” To this statement I give a most unqualified denial. No such assertion could ever have been made by me, and, therefore I take it as a misconception on the part of the gentlemen who waited on me. I was so much overwhelmed and shocked at the loss of my poor friend, that I could scarcely be held responsible for momentarily forgetting that I was in the Post-office Club Hotel, “all the employees” as you say of which place asserted that I had been there. I do not deny having been there, but all the employees happen to be embodied in one Ethel Lorne, Mr. and Mrs. Tippett, the landlord and landlady of the hotel having distinctly stated, before more than half a dozen witnesses, that they could not swear they had seen me. Your remarks also seem to convey suspicion as to whether of not Davy went into a cab, and you lay great stress on the fact that the police failed to discover him (the cabman) I can inform you that the cabman is known, and was down at the Post-office Hotel on the day of the inquest to prove that he took a gentleman at the very time mentioned by me and left him on the Sydney-road, near the Royal-park; but unfortunately, a quarter of an hour after the inquiry had closed, he not having known the time. I must conclude my remarks by stating that, if necessary, I can bring absolute proof that when I returned home at a little after 1 o’clock on that unfortunate morning, I was sober and in my full senses, and quite satisfied that I had acted my part to the full in seeing my friend safely into a cab, much as I regret now that I did not take him to his house. Trusting that in common justice to me you will insert the above. – I am, yours &c.

D. M. A. Gray
Bowen-street, March 17.

Please fill out all the fields marked with *
Looks good!
Please provide your first name
Looks good!
Please provide a valid email address
Phone: 0417 830 939
Call Enquire