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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Bushell, Philip Howard (1879–1954)

by G. P. Walsh

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

Philip Howard Bushell (1879-1954), tea merchant, was born on 14 September 1879 at Liverpool, England, youngest child of Alfred Thomas Bushell and his wife Agnes, sister of Arthur Brooke, who founded the tea firm Brooke Bond. On his mother's death he was brought up by the Brooke family and educated at Burnham College, Somerset. His father migrated to Brisbane with his three older sons in 1883 and set up as a grocer and tea merchant. At 11 Philip joined them and attended Brisbane Grammar School in 1891-93.

Philip became a taster but, disagreeing with his father's methods, joined his brother Alfred Walter (d.1955) who had established a Sydney branch in 1895, extending to Victoria in 1899. Bushell & Co., 'The Tea-men', moved to George Street North in 1904 and suspended operations in Victoria. Concerned that his youth and inexperience might alienate the conservative tea-drinker, Bushell put his bearded father's picture on his packets and business flourished. On 13 February 1912 a public company, Bushell's Ltd, was formed, with Bushell as chairman. In 1920 the firm was reconstructed to finance a new building in Harrington Street and extend operations to Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania, and to Victoria in 1922. Over-extended, it was soon in severe financial trouble, but Bushell persuaded his employees to lend cash and the firm was saved; in 1924 he promoted its products by distributing a free half-pound of tea to every home in Sydney. He restarted direct operations in Brisbane in 1929 and opened a branch in New Zealand in 1937. World War II brought problems of supply and rationing in the tea trade and from March 1942 to 1953, when controls were lifted, he was a member of the (Commonwealth) Tea Control Board. In 1957 Bushell's Investments Ltd was formed to acquire Bushell's Pty Ltd with a nominal capital of £3 million.

Bushell was a man of striking physical appearance and great personal charm. He had a lively mind, read a lot and loved conversation and acquiring knowledge. Energetic and enthusiastic, he travelled widely including a three-year world tour during which he visited the Soviet Union. On his return in January 1936 he averred there was no communism, only state capitalism, in Russia which he predicted would be a huge success. In 1947 he represented the Institute of Industrial Management, Australia, at the eighth International Management Congress, in Stockholm. He was a member of Royal Sydney Golf Club, Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron and the Australian and University clubs in Sydney. His personal friends included Sir Victor Coppleson and (Sir) William Morrow, both of whom helped administer the Bushell Trust, set up by the family in the 1940s to give immense sums of money anonymously to medical research and education.

Bushell died at his home, Carthona, Darling Point, on 29 March 1954 and was cremated with Anglican rites. He was survived by his wife, Myrtle Dolce, née Stewart, whom he had married in Sydney on 12 February 1916, and by two daughters. His estate was valued for probate at £666,695. His wife, a retiring person, served on various committees supporting the arts; she died on 8 September 1959 leaving an estate of £2,558,921. Bushell Place, a public plaza, commemorates the firm's long association with The Rocks area of Sydney.

Select Bibliography

  • Bushells Employee Report 1977-78 (np, nd)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 11 Oct 1924, 22 Apr 1930, 18 Nov 1931, 2 Nov 1932, 30 Jan 1936, 11 Jan, 3 Nov 1939, 12 July 1947, 25 Aug 1948, 10 Apr, 9 Sept 1954, 19 Nov 1957, 5 Feb 1960
  • Australian Financial Review, 25, 26 July, 2 Aug 1978
  • Australian, 26 July 1978
  • Bulletin, 8 Aug 1978
  • private information.

Additional Resources

  • will, News (Adelaide), 8 September 1954, p 31

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Bushell, Philip Howard (1879–1954)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 28 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

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