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The Life and Times of Florence Broadhurst

  • Birth

    Florence Maud Broadhurst (1899-1977), designer, businesswoman, singer and banjolele player, was born on 28 July 1899 at Mungy Station, near Mount Perry, Queensland, fourth surviving child of Queensland-born parents William Broadhurst, stockman, later a grazier and hotelier, and his wife Margaret Ann, née Crawford.
  • Miss Bobby Broadhurst

    At age of 17 she changed her name to
    ‘Miss Bobby Broadhurst’ and toured with opera singer
    Dame Nellie Melba and ballet dancer Robert Helpmann.
    followed by a dancing troupe called ‘The Smart Set Diggers’.
  • Performance beginnings

    After winning prizes in local eisteddfods, Florence joined 'the Diggers' and sang at the Princess Theatre, Toowoomba, in 1918
  • International

    On 4 December 1922 she left Australia to perform with a musical comedy sextet, the 'Globe Trotters' (to be later known as the "Broadcasters"), in South East Asia and China’. She became well known for her singing and Charleston dancing. She also performed with the 'Broadcasters', 'Carlton Follies' and 'Carlton Sparklers', and was photographed for the English-language newspapers—including the Eastern Mail (Delhi) and the South China Morning Post.
  • The Broadhurst Academy

    In 1926 she established the Broadhurst Academy in Shanghai, offering tuition in violin, pianoforte, voice production, banjolele playing (taught by Florence), modern ballroom dancing, classical dancing, musical culture and journalism.
  • Queensland car accident

    Returning to Queensland in July 1927, Broadhurst was involved in a car accident.
  • Onwards to England

    After her car accident in Queensland, Florence travelled to England in October of 1927.
  • Period: to

    English Life

    Kann soon departed and she and her second husband Leonard Lloyd Lewis, a diesel engineer, lived at Banstead, Surrey, from 1939. During World War II she joined the Australian Women's Voluntary Services, offering hospitality to Australian soldiers. In 1945 the Lewises moved to Worthing, Sussex, where Florence obtained fishing and passenger boat licences. She became honorary secretary of the Art Women's Movement Against Socialisation.
  • Marriage # 1: Percy Kann

    On 22 June 1929 at the Brompton Oratory, South Kensington, she married with Catholic rites Percy Walter Gladstone Kann, a stockbroker.
  • Madame Pellier

    After marriage, she began a new career as a designer-cum-dress consultant for Pellier Ltd, Robes & Modes, in New Bond Street, Mayfair and changed her name again to "Madame Pellier"
  • Return to Australia

    n 1949, she returned to Australia with Leonard and their son Robert. It was here that she took up painting, and toured around northern and central Australia. Still untrained as an artist, she began to paint landscapes and portraits.
  • Period: to


    In the 1950s, as Mrs Lewis, she became involved in charitable and fund-raising activities. In 1954, the David Jones art gallery in Sydney, held solo exhibitions of her work. There followed further exhibitions, including group shows, in various galleries. During this time Florence became a founding member of the Art Gallery Society of NSW (1953), and a member of the Society of Interior Designers of Australia (c1954)
  • Australian (Handprinted) Wallpapers

    At the age of 60, in 1959, florence broadhurst founded the
    company for which she became famous :
    Australian (Handprinted) Wallpapers. in premises behind the motor business. With a small staff, she designed, manufactured and marketed locally produced, high-quality, handcrafted wallpapers. She sourced special papers from america and norway, and had cedarwood frames, made in switzerland. She used vivid colours, printed onto metallic textures, made her paper stain-resistant and longer lasting.
  • Wallpapers - details

    Luxurious, oversized patterns with vivid combinations of colours, inspired by an eclectic range of sources, were used. Brightly coloured peacocks were a feature, as were bold geometrical, striped and floral designs. Innovations included printing onto metallic surfaces, the development of a washable, vinyl-coating finish and a drying rack system that allowed her wallpapers to be produced in large quantities.
  • The Paddington Factory

    Moving to Paddington in July 1969, the company became known as Florence Broadhurst Wallpapers Pty Ltd, advertised as 'the only studio of its kind in the world' and exporting to North America, England, Hawaii, Kuwait, Peru, Norway and Paris.
  • New International Reputaion

    In 1972 the Australia News and Information Bureau issued a press release claiming an international reputation for the designer. By then her wallpapers reportedly contained around 800 designs in eighty different colour ways.
  • Murder

    Broadhurst worked until she died dramatically, and mysteriously on 15 October 1977 - in an unsolved crime.
    Her murderer bashed her to death and shoved her head into
    a toilet bowl. Police speculated that she knew her killer.
    Her fondness for young men, and the fact that she supported
    her friends financially, may offer some clues.
    After her murder the business was run by wilson's fabrics
    and then bought by signature prints who continue to market
    a small range of her designs today.