Philip Le Cornu

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Philip Le Cornu


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Jersey emigrant Philip Joshua Le Cornu founded a furniture business in Adelaide which was still in family ownership over a century later, but has now closed


Philip Le Cornu's furniture warehouse in North Adelaide, Australia

Family

Philip Joshua Le Cornu (1836-1921) was the son of Philippe Le Cornu and Marguerite Douce, nee Marett. The couple married in St Helier in 1930 and had 16 children, of whome Philip Joshua (baptised Philippe Josue) was the sixth.

Philippe and Marguerite emigrated to Australia with their seven surviving children, among them Philip Joshua, then 17, and his 12-year-old brother John.

However, Philip Joshua does not appear to have travelled with the rest of the family. He, alone, is listed among the passengers on the Evening Star, which made its maiden voyage from Jersey to Australia, leaving the Channel Islands on 22 August 1854 with 200 emigrants. She was owned by Jean Le Bas from 1854 to 1858 and was under the command of Capt de Ste Croix on her maiden voyage, arriving in Port Adelaide on 24 November after her three-month voyage.

Was Philip Joshua travelling after the rest of his family, who perhaps sailed from Jersey to Port Adelaide on the Maria in 1851 or the Syren in 1853. Or did he go first, to be followed by his parents and siblings?

His father was a shipwright and he followed him into the world of shipbuilding as a ship's carpenter. Perhaps he was even responsible for working on the Evening Star which was to take him to the other side of the world. He carried on in the same trade on arriving in Australia, but he was soon to go into business as a furniture manufacturer and dealer.

Philip Joshua became a successful businessman in Adelaide, as well as a Sunday school teacher and owner. His obituary in an Adelaide newspaper in 1921 described him as a 'grand old colonist' of South Australia.

The arrival of the Evening Star in Port Adelaide was a major event and the local newspaper report included a full list of passengers, Philip Le Cornu among them, and every item of cargo being carried

Business

In 1861, seven years after arriving in Adelaide, Philip Joshua went into business in a small way as a furniture manufacturer, working as an undertaker and coffin maker on the side. His business grew rapidly but he suffered a major setback in 1885 when fire destroyed his premises. Undeterred, he set about rebuilding and the business enjoyed continued growth over the next 20 years.

His son Philip took over control from him in 1908, and the business continued to expand, despite another disastrous fire in 1927.

In 1954 Lance Le Cornu, great grandson of the founder, decided to go into retail and sell direct to the public. The business grew and grew, on the back of a press and television advertising campaign which became famous in South Australia, and at its peak the showrooms were easily the largest in the estate.

The business was sold in 2008, to a former employeem after Lance Le Cornu had been in charge for 58 years, but closed eight years later after a downturn in trade.

Marriage

In 1856 Philip Joshua married Caroline Wheatley, daughter of James and Mary Ann, at Pirie Street Methodist Church, Adelaide. They had 11 children between 1858 and 1879. Caroline died in 1925, four years after her husband.

Obituary

"Mr Philip J Le Cornu, a grand old colonist of South Australia, and a highly esteemed resident of North Adelaide, died on Saturday in his 86th year. He arrived from England in 1854 at the age of 18, and entered business as a shipbuilder. Right in the boom days of the Burra copper mine, 58 years ago, Mr. Le Cornu went to the northern town.
"He was a Sunday school worker for over 60 years, and until comparatively recently Mrs Le Cornu was engaged in similar activities. Mr Le Cornu was first in the Franklin Street Wesleyan school, after that at Burra, then at Archer Street Methodist Church, North Adelaide. He opened the Highbury Street, Prospect school in 1864, was superintendent for 10 years, and in Melbourne Street, North Adelaide, he filled a similar position for a long term.
"Mr and Mrs. Le Cornu completed their sixty-fourth year of married life on Christmas Day last.
"As the founder of the well-known firm of furnishers and undertakers at North Adelaide, he was well-known throughout the district. He was the essence of kindness, and was beloved by young and old.
"He was one of the oldest Rechabites in the State, having joined the order in 1864.
"There are six sons — Messrs P H and E L Le Cornu (Prospect), C Le Cornu (North Adelaide), H W Le Cornu (Hyde Park), W F Le Cornu (Underdale), and A W Le Cornu (Western Australia) — and two daughters — Mrs H E Read, of the Point McLeay Mission Station, and Miss Le Cornu. There are 26 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren."

Brother

John Le Cornu, five years Philip Joshua's junior, was also to make a name for himself after emigrating, albeit in a totally different field. He was the long-serving clerk of Prospect Council.

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Obituary for Philip Le Cornu's father

Pictures of the Le Cornu self-service furniture store. How reminiscent is this of today's Ikea stores? But Lance Le Cornu had the idea in 1954, four years before Ikea opened its first store

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