Frederick and George Francis Bullen were from Fullham, Somerset, England. Their brother, J.A. Bullen, visited Australia in 1849 and convinced his brothers that there were opportunities to be had in Melbourne. They arrived in January 1854 aboard the Chance.
Frederick and George had worked in the softgoods trade in London and they brought a large stock with them when they arrived. They also imported a galvanized iron store, but that was never used by them. In 1854 a Melbourne Directory gave their address as 127 Russell Street. The brothers must have just arrived in Melbourne and been able to secure premises in time for their address to be included. Their premises were located on the corner of Russell and Little Bourke Streets, known as Sebastopol House. The brothers were running their business from 131 Russell Street in 1855, and by 1857 they had also taken up possession of No.133. From 1857 to 1870 they advertised their business in Melbourne Directories as drapers and clothiers at 'the corner of Russell and Little Bourke Street East.'
The brothers were, according to Gardner, remembered for their advertising poster with the image of a man on horseback. The text read: 'I'm off to get a new suit at F. and G.F. Bullen's, Sebastopol House, etc.' From an 1861 advertisement (see below for more detail) it appears that the brothers mainly sold men's clothes.
Gardner states that the brothers sold their business in 1861 and moved to Dunedin. If this is true, the new owners kept the business in the former owners' name, and the brothers kept 131 Russell Street as their Melbourne address. A large advertisement, found on the front page of The Mount Alexander Mail, a Castlemaine newspaper dated 26 August 1861, gave price lists for the 'clearing out of the whole of the stock,' at Bullen's Russell Street premises. The text declares that 'every article will be sold at fully 40 per cent. below that of any other house in the colony'. Just a few months later the Bullens advertised that they had unloaded 60 cases of 'New summer clothing' and that 'under the personal inspection of the firm, a large and superior stock of first class clothing to suit the requirements and taste of every class.' The range advertised included 'Painters and Carpenters short linen and duck jackets 3s. 11d' and 'Deerstalkers, soft crowns, English make, 2s. 6. worth 12s. 6d.'
In 1868 Sands and McDougall's Melbourne and Suburban directory lists Fredrick as a resident of the city, but George Francis' address is given as 'New Zealand'. Gardner states that in 1866 G.F. Bullen moved to Kaikoura, north of Christchurch, and became a successful farmer, and a leading member of the pastoral community and the Presbyterian church (both in Melbourne and in New Zealand). It seems likely that he in fact moved to Kaikoura in 1867. He married and had two sons and five daughters. Frederick Bullen did not marry and returned to England. In 1913, when Gardner published his history of the business he was living at Goldsbrook House, Crewkerne, Somerset.
The brothers had one halfpenny token struck bearing their name, but it is not listed by either Sharples or Andrews in their catalogues, as it is not known to have circulated widely and is hence regarded as a check. No date is supplied by Gardner or Heyde in their references to the single halfpenny. However, given the address, it must have been issued between 1854 and 1862.
Gardner, F. (1913). 'Trade tokens and the firms who issued them,' in The Australian Storekeepers and Traders Journal, 30 April 1913, pp.10-11. (photocopy)
Public Records Office of Victoria internet index of Unassisted Immigrants to Victoria, 1852-1923, VPRS 7666.
Sharples, J. (1993). 'Catalogue of Victorian Trade Tokens' in Journal of the Numismatic Association of Australia, Vol. 7, December.
Andrews, A. (1921). Australasian Tokens and Coins.
Heyde, G.C. (1967). Renniks Unofficial Coins of Colonial Australia and New Zealand, p.30.
Butterfield's Melbourne Commercial, Squatter's and Official Directory, 1854.
Sands and Kenny Melbourne Directories, 1857-1861.
Sands and McDougall Melbourne Directories 1862-1870.
Advertisement, The Mount Alexander Mail, 26 August 1861, p.1.
Advertisement, The Argus, 10 December 1861, p.3.