Charles Davis Limited

Charles Davis Limited was a department store company established in Hobart, Tasmania in 1847[1] and is one of Australia's oldest companies.[2] It had several businesses across the surrounding states in industries such as manufacturing, boating including yachts and races[3] and hardware and electrical equipment.

Charles Davis Limited
IndustryInvestment, manufacturing and interests
Founded1847, Hobart, Tasmania
FounderCharles Davis
DefunctFormally 1984 and merged in 1995
Ownersee below

The company was founded by Charles Davis, an Englishman who had been transported to the Tasmanian penal colony as a convict. He established a hardware, ironmongery and tinsmithing business[4] which grew to become one of Tasmania's major business enterprises including moving it to Hobart's Cat and Fiddle Alley where it remained into the 1970s. Davis fully owned the company until in 1911, at age 87, when he limited himself to a chairman, and his family continued to operate the company until the 1970s.[5] Sir Donald Trescowthick took over control of the business from the Davis family in the 1970s[6] and the company embarked on significant expansion and diversification under his management. At various times, the company had investments in wholesaling, retailing, car distribution, property, hotels and motels and mining. In 1971, Sir Donald Trescowthick gained a majority shareholding of 54 percent through his company Signet Insurance Group, which was a company with assets of $27 million an annual turnover of $35 million and eventually renamed as Harris Scarfe Holdings Limited in 1995.[7] The company factory and original shop closed in 1984.[5] After the church change of name, the company focused on its department store activities and divested all other business activities.

At its height, the company was Australia's third largest retailer (November 1989), after acquiring many significant regional retailers, including Harris Scarfe, Cox Foys, FitzGerald's Department Stores, Lloyd's hardware stores, Campbell's hardware stores and McEwans.[citation needed]

In 1970, Charles Davis Limited negotiated with American-based Kline Iron and Steel to bring lightweight steel roofing trusses to the United States.[8] Philips Industries of Launceston, Tasmania was acquired in 1974, giving the company presence in each of the state's three main regions, south, Burnie, Tasmania in the northwest.[7] In 1975, Charles Davis Limited was a sponsor of the Melbourne to Hobart Yacht Race.[9] The McEwans hardware stores group was divested in a management buyout in 1988.[citation needed]

At this time, the company merged its Harris Scarfe and FitzGerald's retailing operations, which continued to grow to become Australia's third largest department store group. It also once owned interests in Perpetual Insurance and Securities, owner of Eastlands Shopping Centre which increased from 83 % to 91 % in 1973-1974 and also in Co-Operative Motors Ltd, manufacturer of Toyota, Triumph Motor Company, Mercedes Benz and Rambler.[7][10]

After suffering financial difficulties, the company was placed in receivership in 2001 and the Charles Davis name was bought by Davis's great-great granddaughter for $A120.[11]


  1. ^ "CHARLES DAVIS, HARDWARE MERCHANT, CONVICT, LAY LEADER in HOBART". Australian Postal History. Retrieved 8 February 2014.
  2. ^ "Retailer has diversified". The Age. 29 May 1973. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  3. ^ "Top-Notch Top Hat...That's Ilga". The Age. 6 June 1969. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  4. ^ "Biography - Charles Davis". Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  5. ^ a b "Charles Davis". Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  6. ^ "Sir Donald waves the Games flag for his home town". The Age. 24 November 1980. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  7. ^ a b c "Charles Davis Group growing". The Age. 25 June 1974. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  8. ^ "Grubb's truss goes to U.S." The Age. 30 April 1970. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  9. ^ "Eighteen yachts to compete in West Coaster race". The Age. 19 December 1975. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  10. ^ "Charles Davis Group". The Age. 29 May 1973. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  11. ^ "Name of retail pioneer to grace the city again". Australasian Business Intelligence. 23 December 2001. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  • Harris Scarfe Holdings Limited Annual Report 2000.

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