Vivian Lewis: biographical notes

One of the difficulties of writing history on the internet is the decision of when to make material publicly available. Below are some biographical notes regarding Vivian Lewis, interspersed with some milestones in his business life to give context. There are probably errors and certainly omissions in the material, but I hope that it helps to paint a picture of the life of Vivian Lewis. Like most of the other pages on this site, this is a working document and will be modified as new information comes to hand.

1865 – born at Epsom (just outside Bendigo, Victoria) with given names Louis Vivian. Fourth of eleven children born to William Lewis and Matilda Lewis (nee Colee)

Spent early years “in the northern districts of Victoria, and assisted his father and brothers in large coaching enterprises”

1889 – came to South Australia

1891 – listed in directory as “produce merchant” with an office at Hunter’s Chambers, 68 Grenfell St, Adelaide (thus likely established in 1890)

1893 – established Ormonde Bicycle Depot in Freeman St, first importing then later in the year manufacturing bicycles. Assisted by T.P. O’Grady. Elected to Committee of Adelaide Cycling Club.

1893 – living on North Parade, North Unley

1893 – marries Margaret Sangster in Victoria

1894 – first child Elsie Olive Margaret is born at Heathcote, Victoria

1895 – business expands with construction of Lewis Cycle Works, McHenry St (around the corner from Freeman St premises)

20 Dec.1895 – second child Vivian James is born at Unley

1896 – inaugural member of the League of South Australian Wheelmen; later to become Vice President, and one if its trustees

April 1896 – Prospectus issued for Lewis Cycle Works, Limited “… for the purpose of acquiring at valuation the lucrative business of Cycle Importation and Manufacture, established by Mr Vivian Lewis…” Unsuccessful.

February 1897 – purchased house on Oxford Terrace, New Parkside. Despite purchasing a home in Hyde Park in 1913, he still owned the Oxford Terrace property at his death in 1919.

7 October 1897 – third child Rupert Percy (known as Percy) born at New Parkside

May 1898 – Lewis Cycle Works becomes involved with the repair of the Gladiator motor tricycle belonging to visiting French cycliste Mlle Serpolette: thought to be the seed of the motor age at Lewis


October 1898 – organises cyclists to erect picket fence around Unley Oval

March 1899 – with T.P. O’Grady and Murray Aunger, builds first motor cycle in South Australia (a powered pacing triplet)

19 August 1899 – fourth child Cyril William born at New Parkside

December 1899 – became Councillor representing Parkside Ward of Unley Corporation, a position he held until Dec. 1903.

November 1900 – with T.P. O’Grady and Murray Aunger, builds first petrol motor car in South Australia

1 June 1901 – fifth child Jessie Muriel born at New Parkside

1901 – 1902 – motoring pioneer with many journeys in Adelaide and country South Australia in the Lewis car

3 April 1903 – sixth child Stanley Heathcote born at New Parkside

November 1903 – Participates in Opening Run of Automobile and Motor Cycling Club of South Australia as its first vice president. Mounted on a Lewis motorcycle, he is accompanied by four other Lewis motorcycles and a Lewis car, from a total entry of six cars, one quad, and thirteen motorcycles.

December 1903 – became Alderman (representing all wards) for Unley Corporation, a position he held until Dec. 1905

September 1904 – business expands with opening of Lewis Motor House on Victoria Square, and new factory adjacent in Molton Street

6 May 1905 – seventh child Marjory Isabel born at New Parkside

6 April 1906 – infant daughter Isabel dies

April 1906 – left South Australia “on account of illness” – reported to have travelled to England and France.


May - August 1906 – in Englang and France. "Many busy weeks were spent in visiting, inspecting, and testing the various makes..."

22 September 1906 – returns to Adelaide “slightly improved” and "looking all the better for his trip", having secured on-going agency for Talbot motor cars, and new agencies for Napier, Swift, Star, Allday (sic) and Minerva.

30 October 1906 – eighth child Arthur Sangster born at New Parkside

In this period (April 1906 – February 1907) he had “never gone near the office”

June 1907 – Vivian Lewis Ltd. formed, with Vivian Lewis as Managing Director


3 October 1907 – wife Margaret dies

December 1907 – Vivian Lewis Ltd. secures contract to clear mail from pillar boxes and suburban post offices using motor cars

July 1908 – overtaken by ill health while in Sydney, and spent 4 months in hospital there

September 1909 – had to go away and “was again under hospital treatment during 1910”

July 1909 – business expands with purchase of Joseph Florey’s Standard Shoe and Leather Co. factory on Gawler Place South

January 1913 – purchased house at 26 Commercial Road, Hyde Park, Unley, which he named “Karoonda”

1913 – relinquished role of managing director of Vivian Lewis Ltd to H.B. Crosby, M.P., on account of failing health and “… took up new country in the mallee, near Karoonda, and had a nice farm, Runnymede Park…”

1914 – involved with formation of Institute at Karoonda. Of the 300 cost for the building, Lewis loans 200. Opens the Institute on 12 August 1914

July 1915 – purchases several allotments of land in the township of Karoonda: one in his name, one for daughter Elsie and two for son Percy

January 1919 – travels to Melbourne “… to obtain medical advice…”, and because of quarantine regulations (influenza epidemic) returns home only days before his death

2 March 1919 – changes will to forgive debt owed to him by committee of the Karoonda Institute

Sunday 3 March 1919 – dies at his home “Karoonda” in Unley

Vivian Lewis is buried in the West Terrace Cemetery, together with his wife Margaret and their infant daughter Isabel.

Other activities to be investigated:

  • active member of the Sturt Cricket and Bowling Clubs

  • original member of the Adelaide Cycling Club (Li-Li’s)

  • took prominent part in the Australian Natives’ Association

  • supporter of the Manthorpe Memorial Church and Sunday School, Unley (Congregational)

Mr. Vivian Lewis | Lewis people index | Vivian Lewis in Karoonda

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