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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Berry, Henry (1836–1923)

by J. Ann Hone

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

Henry Berry (1836?-1923), businessman, was born at Boughton-under-Blean, Kent, England, the second son of Thomas Berry, farmer, and his wife Elizabeth, née Parton. He was educated at Warman's Canterbury school. In February 1856 he arrived at Melbourne in the Nimrod and in 1859 after some unprofitable years as a grocer he joined John May, a salt and general merchant. Soon sole owner, Berry expanded the business and was the first to attempt the manufacture of salt from local deposits. His factory at Cundare, near Colac, absorbed £10,000 before he admitted defeat. Berry later developed the important deposits at Edithburgh, Yorke Peninsula, which were amalgamated with others at the end of the century to form the Castle Salt Co-operative Co. In 1878 Berry opened a branch of his general merchandise business in Adelaide. Other branches followed in New Zealand 1885, Sydney 1890, Brisbane 1891, and Perth 1896, and he opened offices in London and Toronto. In 1879 his brother Howard joined the firm and Berry's son, Henry Parton May, became a partner in 1888. By 1899 Berry employees numbered six hundred in Australia and New Zealand.

In 1888 Berry addressed the Australasian Commercial Congress in Melbourne, outlining his experiences of business efficiency in America and calling attention to the 'want of thoroughness in our Australian youth'. Berry's success was achieved, contemporaries declared, by grit, endurance, energy and straightforwardness. In addition, Berry was known for his philanthropy and his firm had a reputation for integrity. Berry was a Methodist lay preacher and for twenty years held services in the Kew Asylum for the children to whom he also gave a beach outing each Christmas. He gave £400 a year for a Queen's College scholarship and supported other church organizations. He was a justice of the peace and a trustee for the new Sailors' Institute in Port Melbourne.

A sick man for some years before his death at 86 on 10 January 1923 at Otira, Walpole Street, Kew, Berry had been married three times: first, to Elizabeth Hurst; second, to Louisa Delbridge, by whom he had five sons and seven daughters; and third to Mary Louisa Delbridge, widow of Dr Heffernan, who survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Sutherland et al, Victoria and its Metropolis, vol 2 (Melb, 1888)
  • Australasian Commercial Congress, Report of Proceedings (Melb, 1889)
  • C. Irving Benson (ed), A Century of Victorian Methodism (Melb, 1935)
  • Henry Berry & Co. (Australasia) Ltd, Birthday 100 (Melb, 1959)
  • Royal Commission on the Tariff, Report, Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, Victoria), 1883, 2 (S50)
  • Argus (Melbourne), 11 Jan 1923.

Citation details

J. Ann Hone, 'Berry, Henry (1836–1923)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 2 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

View the front pages for Volume 3

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