History Matters: Rules' mart built from humble origins

Manchester House: John Rule's imposing store on the western side of Grey Street.

Manchester House: John Rule's imposing store on the western side of Grey Street.

John Rule, at the age of 22, came to Australia from Cornwall in 1874. Ten years later he was advertising as a storekeeper in Glen Innes where he had built and opened new premises - “John Rule’s Produce Mart” on the site of Kwong Sings’ in 1885.

A very basic structure, it had wooden slab walls, wooden shingled roof, and was adorned with pigeon boxes with seemingly, many pigeons in residence.

To start with it is said his business returned only 10/- a week, but by 1888 as business had improved he was able to import 200 tons of flour annually from Adelaide.

In 1885 he built an imposing new  store on the western side of Grey Street, originally called “Cornwall House”, but by the 1890s it had the words “Manchester House Estd. 1883” on the upstairs façade.

It was described  architecturally as, “A two storey late Victorian rendered brick, high balustrade parapet with central pediment and decorative urns.”

In 2018 this vastly changed building now houses Government offices including Centrelink -  many people will remember it as Fosseys. (Are there any former Fosseys employees who have  photographs or stories of their time working there?)

As merchants and importers John Rule and Co (his brother Thomas Henry Rule, Marjorie McCulloch’s grandfather, had by now joined him) prominently advertised Grocery, Ironmongery, Crockery, Drapery, Millinery and Hosiery (and Cadburys Cocoa)  on their building.

Millinery, (headwear),  drapery (cloth or textiles, curtains etc., etc.) Manchester (generally sheets and towels), haberdashery,(ribbons, tapes, buttons etc.) hosiery (stockings), and  ironmongery (hardware or iron ware) are terms we rarely hear these days. Indeed general stores are now rare.

John Rule and Manchester House managed to weather the depression years of the 1890s.

His main business rival was Utz’ store.

An active member of the local community, John was a popular performer in concerts and plays, he was on football and cricket committees, was president of the Hospital Board and treasurer of the Church of England.

George Gissing who had been in charge of the drapery department, took over the  store in 1906 in partnership with Douglas Rutherford, and they ran it as Gissing and Rutherford.

Robert S Fulton bought them out in 1920.

John Rule's first store.

John Rule's first store.