Mercury Theatre: Kings Theatre

Sir Benjamin Fuller

(1875–1952).

Born in London on the 20th of March 1875, Fuller started his stage career at the age of nine as a member of a troupe of nigger minstrels and, later, as a young man, sang in the chorus of grand opera at Covent Garden.

In 1895 he worked his passage to Australia, where he joined his father’s touring variety show.

The show afterwards toured New Zealand, where the Fuller family settled, and John Fuller senior began in business himself by organising popular concerts in Auckland. The Fuller brothers [John and Benjamin] became involved in the management of touring theatrical companies. In 1914 Ben and John became joint governing directors of John Fuller & Sons Ltd and Ben was based in Sydney. This became a large operation which grew from just organising transportation for performers to include catering and excursion packages for the general public.

Eventually the novelty of the new Moving Pictures meant the company began to incorporate them as part of the evening lineup in their theatres. By 1927, Benjamin and his brother John (1879-1959) controlled 13 theatres in Australia, in addition to their New Zealand holdings.

With the advent of “Talkies”, the firm, in association with Henry Hayward of Auckland, went fully over to importing and showing Motion Pictures.

In the 1930s Sir Benjamin left the company in the hands of his son and retired to Great Britain. In 1946 the complete Fuller holdings in New Zealand, 64 theatres, were sold to Kerridge-Odeon. Sir Benjamin made large donations to many Australian educational institutions, and in 1921 he was knighted for his gifts to the University of Sydney to help young doctors.

Amongst his many charitable interests he was chairman of the Howard Prison Reform League, vice-president of the Sydney Industrial Blind Institution, and president of the Australian Council for International Social Service.

He was one of the people involved in the founding of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 1929, (a private radio service which was nationalised in 1932).

Benjamin had married twice. On the 6th of October 1900 he married Jessie Elizabeth Burton, née McDonald, a widow; she bore him a son in 1902 but died in May 1903.

By his second marriage to Elizabeth Mary Thompson of Auckland he had a son and two daughters.

Sir Benjamin collapsed on the 10th of March 1952, in a London tube train and died in St Georges Hospital.

He was survived by a son of his first marriage, and by his second wife and their two daughters. His estate was valued for probate at £173,180.

Benjamin Fuller was one of five children born to John Fuller and Harriet Jones ~ all of whom settled in New Zealand:

Benjamin Fuller

Walter Fuller

John Fuller junior

Hetty {Mrs John Hamer of Dunedin}

Lydia {Mrs Chief-Detective Boddam of Wellington}