Brothers George and William Henry (W.H.) Rocke came to Victoria in September 1852 on board the Jane Pratt. The Rockes came from Wrexham in northern Wales, where W.H. was born in 1836. (H.M. Humfrey). In 1860 W.H. married Salisbury Anne Buchanan at the Wesleyan Church, Lonsdale Street.
There are two versions of the story of the business, one given by a numismatist writing around 1910, the other in a dictionary of biography written during the late 1870s.
According to numismatist Gardner, the brothers began a business together in 1855 or 1856, importing furniture from England. It seems unlikely that this is true, as the first listing for the Rocke brothers' business is in the 1859 Sands and McDougall directory: 'Rocke, Geo & Wm. Henry, Furniture dealers and Importers, 12 Lonsdale Street East.' Their partnership lasted until 1862, when George returned to the United Kingdom. At that time W.H. entered a partnership with Horatio Beauchamp , listed as 'Beauchamp and Rocke, Auctioneers, 38 - 40 Collins Street East' . That business was begun by J.W. Bell, who came from Launceston to Melbourne in the early years of the settlement. Bell was joined by Beauchamp, and when the founder retired, Mr. Byrne joined the company. Rocke joined the company after Mr. Byrne retired. The partnership between Beauchamp and Rocke lasted until 1875, when Mr. Beauchamp retired. In the following year Rocke was listed at 40 Collins Street East, describing his business as a Furniture and Carpet warehouse. Gardner states that he ran the business there until his death in 1883, when it was taken over by B.J. Fink and Maurice Arrons, who ran the firm as W.H. Rocke & Co..
Gardner also records that the business was twice almost destroyed by fire: 'First in 1869, when a great portion of the warehouse was destroyed…On the second occasion, in 1889, the top floors were seriously damaged by fire through a lad who was lighting the gas dropping a match into a heap of fibre.' John Hope remarks that at this time the business 'had been one of Melbourne's finest furnishing warehouses.'
According to Humfrey's biographical summary, W.H. Rocke was 'for many years manager for Hyde and De Carle, wholesale grocers, Elizabeth-street. In 1857 he visited England for a short time, and on his return opened a furniture warehouse in Great Lonsdale-street. Joined Mr. Beauchamp in Colllins-street in 1863, and dissolved partnership with him in 1868, and has carried the business on ever since in his own name and on his own account. Resided up to 1870 at Emerald Hill, and took an active part in politics, generally on the Liberal side. Since that date has resided at Ivanhoe, near Heidelberg, and taken no further part in politics, but is one of the most earnest supporters of coursing in Victoria, always keeping a large kennel of the best blood to be had either here or in England.'
From 1863 to 1869 Rocke's private address was Howe Crescent, 50 Cecil Street, Emerald Hill. In the 1870 Sands and McDougall directory it is simply given as 'Ivanhoe.'
G. & W.H. Rocke placed nearly identical advertisements in the Sands and Kenny Melbourne Directories for 1860 and 1861. They read: 'G. & W.H. Rocke, Importers of English Furniture, and Furnishing Warehousemen, 18 Lonsdale Street East (Opposite Catholic Cathedral.) A Large Assortment of Bedsteads and Mattresses always on Hand.'
It seems likely that Humfrey's version of events is the more accurate, as it more closely matches evidence given by the available sources. Gardner records that at the time of Rocke's death (after Humfrey's Cyclopaedia was published), that Beauchamp still had an interest in the business, and that the premises were split and two buildings were built .
Mrs. Rocke died circa 1895. They had two sons and three daughters.
G & W.H. Rocke issued four penny tokens in 1859, struck by Heaton and Sons in Birmingham.
"The names in full are George and William Henry Rocke. The firm is still in business at 247 Collins Street Melbourne" - Alfred Chitty, Museum Victoria Numismatic catalogue p. 88, written in 1922.
Gardner, F. (1912). 'Trade Tokens and the Firms who Issued Them', The Australian Storekeepers and Traders Journal, 30 March, p. 10.
PROV internet index of Unassisted Immigrants to Victoria, 1852-1923.
Humfrey, H.M. (1878). Victorian men of the time , biographical entry on W.H. Rocke, pp.177-178.
Sharples, J. (1993). 'Catalogue of Victorian Trade Tokens' in Journal of the Numismatic Association of Australia, Vol.7, December, pp.53-54.
Melbourne Directories, 1851-1870, Collection of the State Library of Victoria.
Advertisement, Sands and Kenny Commercial and General Melbourne Directory for 1860, advertisements, p.47.
Advertisement, Sands and Kenny Commercial and General Melbourne Directory for 1861, advertisements, p.30
Hope, John (2005). 'G. & W. H Rocke', unpublished MSS, 3pps.