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Robert Smith

(b Maldon, Essex, Nov 8, 1831; d Melbourne, Jan 8, 1904).

Australian philanthropist and businessman of English birth. In Britain he was apparently apprenticed to an apothecary before migrating to Victoria in 1853, where he profited from transporting supplies to the gold-fields in a horse-drawn dray. This enabled him to go into business in Melbourne, where by 1857 he was established as an importer and agent, and four years later he was recorded as a wholesale pharmacist. In 1867 in partnership with F. Grimwade he acquired control of a chemical supply company of which Grimwade had been manager. They prospered as Felton Grimwade & Company, dominating the market and establishing subsidiaries in other Australasian colonies. They also expanded into related fields of manufacturing such as acid works, glass making, eucalyptus oil extraction and salt production. Felton also personally invested in several rural properties.

Although probably largely self-educated, Felton had a keen interest in art and literature. He is recalled as a moderately eccentric bachelor who lived frugally in modest lodgings at the Esplanade Hotel in St Kilda, where he kept his large collection of books and works of art. He was a dedicated philanthropist, and during his lifetime he regularly donated large sums to various charitable causes. He bequeathed his fortune for the equal benefit of the ...


Harley Preston

(b Sydney, Aug 15, 1835; d London, Dec 12, 1909).

British collector of Australian birth. He was the younger son of Danish immigrants to New South Wales, his father being a wealthy Sydney business man with agricultural interests. He was educated at Sydney Grammar School and, from 1848, at Eton College, Berks, returning to Sydney in 1853 where he studied classics at Sydney University (1854–7). The family returned to London, and after one term at Balliol College, Oxford University, George travelled with his father to Italy. He visited Rome in 1858 and the following year Florence and Naples, photographing archaeological monuments and visiting museums and galleries. After his father’s death in 1865 he devoted his life and inheritance of some £30,000 per annum to the dedicated collection of art of the highest quality and finest condition while living a life of noted austerity at the Thatched House Club in St James’s, London. Often using expert advice, he acquired Classical antiquities, small-scale sculpture and carvings in various media, Eastern and Western ivories, West Asian and European ceramics (including Italian maiolica, Hispano-Moresque wares, work by ...