LAYTON'S BUILDING -  TRARALGON

(Valma Plant)

A brief history of the Layton's Building situated at the corner of Franklin and Hotham Streets, Traralgon.

Ratebooks for 1904 held by the Shire of Traralgon show that the land was owned by Emily Wright; also in 1904, the rate valuation changed from 30.0.0 N.A.V. to 105.0.0 N.A.V., so it is presumed that shops were built on the site in that year. F. & E. Grubb were the builders.

In 1905, Emily Wright was still the occupier but ownership had passed to Thomas and George Grogan.

In 1906-1907, the rate books advise that Layton Bros, were paying rates and it is presumed that they had purchased the shops adjoining the Grand Junction Hotel in Franklin Street, Traralgon. This was the beginning of Layton Bros.' association with Traralgon and district. The site on the comer of Franklin Street and Hotham Street was still vacant at this time.

In the Gippsland Farmers Journal, dated July 2, 1907, there is a very descriptive news item referring to a handsome new brick shop adjoining Messrs. Grogan brothers' (later to become Layton Bros.') premises in Franklin Street. The shop was built by Mr. J.G.King for Mr. E. Grubb and it is believed that the business conducted there was a plumber and hardware store.

The premises were later purchased by Layton Bros., making them the owners of the three shops from the Grand Junction Hotel to Hotham St. Tine has not permitted me to research the occupiers from this time, but we came to Traralgon to live in 1938 and the shops were then occupied by W.A.Purvis' Stores and Mr. A. Errington. W.A.Purvis conducted a General Store with hay and grain, etc.; Mr. A. Errington, in partnership with Layton Bros., operated a drapery store with ladies' fashions, etc. Mr. A. Errington came to Traralgon in 1934 to work for Layton Bros, as manager. He married Vera Anderson, head of showrooms for Layton Bros.

In 1936 he was offered a partnership in the Layton Bros, business; this was to be a very harmonious relationship for 31 years. Mr. Errington vacated the premises in 1965 when he sold the business to Rockmans.

From 1967 there has been a variety of tenants and businesses occupying these shops but the ownership has only changed twice from 1907. Manson Dermax purchased the property in 1973 and Mr. Quigley became the owner in the early 1980's.

In 1994, Mrs. Quigley, the present owner, had the shops restored to their former (original) elegance. 1993The parapet was removed, the beautiful arched windows were again visible and the much coloured glass ornamentation in the 1907 addition to the building could now be admired by the public. The ground floor is occupied by three retail outlets and the upstairs section is open office space.

Mrs. Quigley is to be commended for her foresight and enthusiasm in bringing back the elegance of early century architecture to the commercial area of Traralgon and restoring some of our of our heritage.

ALFRED ERNEST LAYTON and ARTHUR LAYTON

A brief history of Alfred Ernest Layton and Arthur Layton, businessmen in Traralgon from 1906 to 1936.

Joseph Layton, father of the two boys, had interests in wearing apparel in Flinders Lane, Melbourne. Alfred and Arthur Layton were both working in large warehouses in Flinders Lane; both men were in their Twenties, and their father decided to purchase a business for them.

He purchased the premises and business in Franklin Street, Traralgon, adjoining the Grand Junction Hotel, where they conducted a drapery and general store. Later, the property on the corner of Franklin and Hotham Streets was purchased and added to their real estate, the grocery and general store operating from these premises being incorporated into the existing Layton business. This continued until 1936 when the partnership with Aubrey Errington was established and the Layton Bros., with their families, retired to Melbourne to live.

Alfred (referred to as Bass, as he had a good singing voice) and Arthur had living quarters above the shop until they married and lived in houses situated in Traralgon. They both married women who were in charge of departments in the store, so the interest of the shop was retained by the combined members of the family.

Arthur Layton lived in a home, "Tarrangower", on the corner of Ethel and Henry Streets, and Bass Layton lived in the big brick house (still standing) on the corner of Albert and Seymour Streets, opposite the swimming pool.

Bass had a family of 4 girls and 1 boy, while Arthur's family comprised 2 girls and 2 boys. The Layton brothers were held in high esteem by everyone and they gave valuable assistance to the farming community, especially the "hill people". Credit was never refused and they helped many farmers through bad seasons with their credit system.

There were big timber mills in the Callignee-Balook-Carrajung areas. Layton Bros. purchased a large bus and literally took their store to the people. They also opened branches of their general store at Tyers, Gormandale, Glengarry and Yarram.

By 1936 the children of both families were growing up and they discussed selling the business, leasing the property and moving to Melboume to live. W.A.Purvis Stores had purchased the grocery, hardware and grain store but they were not interested in the drapery section. As recorded in the history of the building this was leased to Mr. A. Errington who was the occupier until 1965.

It is typical of the Layton tradition that the brothers founded the business on an equal partnership, but they never considered it necessary to have any document or signatures to bind them.

Alfred and Arthur were respected members of the Traralgon community and their musical talents were always in demand at social functions in the Gippsland area. The families were also ardent supporters of St. James Church, and were regular attendees at church functions.