Monday, February 8, 2016

Goldsworthy & Perkins Boot Factory, Newstead

It seems that we have just about killed off manufacturing industries in Australia. The remaining local auto manufacturers - Holden, Ford and Toyota - will all be gone by the end of 2017. Jobs in the manufacturing sector will be as scarce as hens' teeth then, given that only 10% of current Aussie jobs are employed in manufacturing, down from 25% in the 1960s.

The reasons are varied, and the significance of each individual factor will depend on your political viewpoint as much as anything else. Space here is too limited to discuss this subject at any length, but I did want to mention it with respect to today's topic which is shoes.

Pictured here is a purpose-built shoe and boot manufacturing factory in the suburb of Newstead. It started life in 1889 as the Goldsworthy & Perkins Boot Factory and was subsequently known as the Federal Boot Factory and the Australian Boot Factory. The building maintained its connection to the leather manufacturing industry until it was sold in 1981. It still stands and it is included in the Brisbane City Council heritage list, although apparently vacant at the moment.

(Photo: © 2016 the foto fanatic)

And this photo shows the working conditions in a similar Brisbane factory, Astill & Freeman at South Brisbane, in the year 1900.
(Photo: SLQ 108318)

In 1900 there were about 1400 people employed by boot and shoe manufacturers in Brisbane. As well as Goldsworthy & Perkins, other notable firms were Hunter's, Dixon's and Lawrence's - they all had large premises and employed hundreds of staff.

Goldsworthy & Perkins were well-regarded by the local population. Here is an extract from The Queenslander, 28 July 1900: 
"... Messrs. Goldsworthy and Perkins, the well-known manufacturers at Newstead, Fortitude Valley, enjoy a high reputation, and deservedly so, their special lines of goods being fit for any showcase in the Australian colonies. The machinery used by this firm comprise all the latest novelties of American Ingenuity, which turn out boots either machine-sewn or "fair stitched," the latter  process showing a prettily-finished "stitch welt," equal in appearance to the best hand-made article, the difference in which no person short of an expert would be in a position to detect."
The introduction of mechanisation was a boon for the factory owners but problematic for staff. In those days it was common for female workers to do the finishing jobs that were largely done by hand while the machinery was usually operated by men. The boot making industry employed large numbers of female workers and they were significantly disadvantaged by increasing mechanisation. Added to this mix, the government introduced a tariff on imported footware, thereby creating a larger market for locally made shoes and boots. The increased demand had to be met somehow, and factory owners started to move towards payment by piece - they thought that full-time employment and payment of an hourly or weekly wage did not provide sufficient incentive for workers to increase production. On the other hand, employees wanted security of employment in a factory rather than irregular off-site piece labour, and the impasse was the cause of strikes within the industry in 1899-1900.

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Monday, December 7, 2015

Royal Bank of Queensland, George St

Have you ever thought about setting up a bank or an insurance company? When I first worked in the insurance industry I used to fantasise about starting a new insurance office, but that was merely the day-dreams of youth, largely based around the idea of making my then very tedious job redundant.

Yet in the earliest days of the Australian colonies that is what happened. Groups of men got together, pooled resources and kicked off these necessary commercial institutions. One such establishment was the Royal Bank of Queensland, set up under Royal Charter (how hard would it have been to obtain that from the farthest outpost of the Empire?) in Brisbane in 1886. The aim of these enterprises was to retain capital locally in the colony to provide further growth, rather than having profits repatriated to England. 

The Richard Gailey designed building that we are looking at today is in George St and was originally erected in 1885 as two shops, but leased to the Royal Bank of Queensland in 1888. Here is a current photograph of the building, the last structure in Brisbane with associations to the Royal Bank of Queensland, although some of their other buildings elsewhere in Queensland remain and are heritage listed. This building is listed on the BCC heritage register.
 (Photo: © 2015 the foto fanatic)
In the days prior to Federation banks issued their own currency. In fact they did so right up to 1910 when the Australian government legislated to prevent private banks from issuing notes. Here is a copy of one of the bank's own £20 notes from 1886.
In the years leading up to the 1890s Brisbane, and George St in particular, were in an expansionary phase, but the inevitable bust cycle arrived in tandem with the 1893 flood, a double-whammy that took Queensland many years to recover from. There had been heady days in commerce, but the boom and bust cycles that repeated themselves in those times made life very difficult for a fledgling bank.

The Royal Bank of Queensland built this head office in Queen St in 1891. It was replaced in 1930 by a new National Bank building that still stands in the Queen St mall. 
 (Photo: SLQ 66715)

Yet in 1893, only a couple of short years later, there was a petition to wind up the bank after it was forced to suspend business in a knock-on effect following financial problems at other banks. The Royal Bank of Queensland managed to survive that period and it existed for another two decades.

The Royal Bank of Queensland merged with the Bank of North Queensland in 1917, forming the Bank of Queensland. A mere five years later the Bank of Queensland was folded into the National Bank of Australasia.

The Bank of Queensland that exists today emerged in 1970 from beginnings as a building society and subsequent mergers with other institutions. It has no association with the Royal Bank of Queensland discussed here.  

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Dear readers: This is the last post for this year, but the blog will return early next year. I wish you all a safe and happy Christmas season and a healthy 2016. tff

Monday, November 30, 2015

Grosvenor Hotel, George St

Brisbane architect JR Hall designed this hotel, and it was erected in 1881-2 in the then increasingly popular George St. Its position on the corner of Ann St was close to the magnificent Supreme Court building of the day, and no doubt the court system contributed plenty of customers.

(Photo: SLQ 43455)

The hotel still stands and is still operating as a hotel, although I doubt that JR Hall could have envisaged the changes that have taken place. The roof line has been changed and, as with many of our older hotels, the lovely wrought iron balconies have been removed. I wonder who could possibly think that large air-conditioning units would look better than a balcony with wrought iron features.

And the exterior changes aren't the only ones that may have flummoxed JR Hall if he suddenly re-appeared in Brisbane. "Cold Beer Hot Girls" says the main sign above the awning. Yes, the Grosvenor promotes itself as having Brisbane's only topless bar. Other signs saying "Showbar" and "Gentlemen's Club" are also prominent, leaving us all in no doubt as to the type of establishment it is. Far be it for me to pass judgement on this place, but I am surprised that a T&A venue could operate so prominently in today's ultra politically correct environment.
(Photo: © 2015 the foto fanatic)

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Monday, November 23, 2015

McDonnell & East, George St

Brisbane seemed to have an abundance of department stores when I was growing up. We have previously looked at TC Beirne's and McWhirters in the Valley, and today's story is similar in many respects. Francis (Frank) McDonnell arrived in Australia in 1886 after having served an apprenticeship as a draper in his native Ireland.

McDonnell worked in the drapery businesses of Finney Isles and also Edwards & Lamb before establishing McDonnell & East in 1901 at a George St premises with another Irish immigrant, Hubert East. Initially they were assisted financially by the Godfather of George St, fellow Irishman Peter Murphy, the owner of the nearby Transcontinental Hotel and a well-known politician and businessman.

By 1911 this firm of importers, cash drapers, tailors, outfitters, dressmakers and milliners was doing well enough to erect its own premises and land in George St was purchased for this purpose. A three-storey building was designed for the company by TR Hall. The new building was called the White Store to differentiate it from the original leased premises and here is a photograph of it from around 1950.    
(Photo: SLQ 111988)

The firm of McDonnell & East continued to prosper through the early twentieth century and George St became a popular shopping precinct, no doubt aided by the advent of the trams to the area as well as the nearby railway station. The firm became a public company in 1920. By this time the sons of the founders were working in the business and were able to continue to manage the firm after Frank McDonnell and Hubert East died within six months of each other in 1928.
(Photo: DBHKer)

When Brisbane lost its tram network in 1969, McDonnell & East suffered a loss of custom and to counter this the company erected a large car park to counter the parking on offer at the burgeoning drive-in shopping centres. It became the largest car park in the CBD.

In 1984 an investment company became the majority shareholder in McDonnell & East and set out on an expansion and acquisition strategy that was ultimately a failure. Large sums of money were spent trying to re-position the brand but this over-capitalisation and recessionary times led to insolvency. McDonnell & East closed the doors of its Brisbane building in 1994.  
(Photo: © 2015 the foto fanatic)

The building was listed on the Queensland Heritage Register in 1997 and won an Australian Property Institute excellence in property award for heritage property in 2007. It still stands in George St (above) with some retail tenants on the ground floor but there are "For Lease" signs showing above.

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Monday, November 16, 2015

Inglis Tea Building, Adelaide St

Over the weekend the beautiful mrs tff and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary and to mark that milestone we went to one of our favourite CBD restaurants, e'cco bistro. And co-incidentally that restaurant is housed in the building we are discussing today.

Firstly, a few words about the restaurant - not a review as such, but more of a recognition of its local importance. Chef Philip Johnson opened the restaurant in 1995, a time when Brisbane was hardly overrun with excellent eateries. In 1997 Johnson won the prestigious Australian Gourmet Traveller Restaurant of the Year and since then Philip Johnson and the restaurant have won a shedload of awards and Johnson has also knocked out six best-selling cookbooks. Philip Johnson is really a pioneer of the modern Brisbane food scene and has set a very high standard for local restaurateurs to emulate. Here's one person's view of Brisbane's current culinary capability.

The building that houses the restaurant dates back to 1919 and it was constructed as an office and warehouse for the tea merchants, James Inglis & Co. Situated right at the end of Adelaide St at the Boundary St corner, the site was close to the river and the Petrie Bight wharves, a definite advantage for the transferring of tea chests onto and off ships. This photo shows the Boundary St frontage of the building.

The name Inglis may not mean much to people these days, but most would have heard of their branded teas - Billy Tea and Goldenia Tea.

 (Photos: National Library of Australia)  

And this is the man behind the tea - James Inglis, a Scot who arrived in Australia around 1877 via New Zealand and India.
(Photo: nla.pic-an24219595-v)

Inglis's ties to India gave him the opportunity to promote Indian tea at the Sydney International Exhibition in 1880 and he went on to become the agent for the Indian Tea Association of Calcutta, before partnering with WP Brown to form Inglis, Brown & Co in 1883. That partnership was dissolved in 1887 and James Inglis & Co came into being. By 1893 the company was handling over 1,000,000 lbs (about 453,400 kg) of packaged tea per annum. Inglis was obviously a marketing devotee - he purchased the rights to "Waltzing Matilda" in order to wrap the words around each packet of Billy Tea. In fact the version of the song that is heard today stems from the rewrite commissioned by Billy Tea in 1903.

But it was not only tea for which Inglis is remembered. An accomplished and industrious man, he was a politician, a director of several companies, a writer and supporter of the arts. He died in 1908.

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Monday, November 9, 2015

Gordon & Gotch Building, Adelaide St

The digital revolution is well and truly upon us.

Television used to be the principal way entertainment was consumed in the home - these days you can stream anything from books to music to films and television shows at any time, right to your personal device for you to use at your leisure.

It's a long, long way from the way television appeared when it first arrived. It was only broadcast for a few hours daily, and it was very low resolution black and white images with viewing options being only a couple of stations.

Children in those days had to entertain themselves in different ways to the ways available today. These days if you ask kids if they'd like to play a game they head for their PlayStations whereas games in the past might have been draughts (checkers), Scrabble or Monopoly.

Another form of entertainment was comics. Here I'm not talking about cartoons on film or television, but magazines that usually set out a visual story-line using hand-drawn scenes.

Just as there currently seems to be a deal of criticism of computer games in terms of distracting or even corrupting today's children, there used to be similar criticism about comics. Many adults had the opinion that extensive reading of comics would result in their child becoming a delinquent. In my childhood neighbourhood many of us had comic collections and we would get together to swap titles in order to increase access. It was a hot trading environment too - popular titles could command a higher swap rate, as could the latest editions or special issues. Similarly, torn covers and missing pages would be marked down, so there was a lot for the young trader to be wary of. Here are some of the favoured titles of the day.

Many of the comic titles that were available in Australia in those days were imported from overseas, and the main importer was the Melbourne firm of Gordon & Gotch. John Gotch arrived in Australia in December 1853 chasing gold. That was unsuccessful and Gotch found himself selling newspapers for Alexander Gordon, an association which grew into a partnership. When Gordon retired in 1859 and returned to his native Scotland, Gotch bought his share and continued the business which by then was the main importer of newspapers and magazines from Britain.

Branches in Sydney and London followed, and in 1875 Gordon & Gotch opened a Brisbane branch. The business continued to flourish, being incorporated in 1895 and listed in 1897. The six-storey building below was erected in Adelaide St in 1926-7, and the size of the structure is an indication of how successful the company had become.
(Photo: BCC)

(Photo: © 2015 the foto fanatic)

The building is still standing in Adelaide St, populated with commercial tenants. Gordon & Gotch left the building in 1957 but they are a continuing player in the world of printed media, distributing more than 130 million items each year. They are now part of the PMP Group.

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Monday, November 2, 2015

JPC Building, George St

While today's post will have the usual discussion points around people and buildings, an outdated item of ladies underwear will also feature prominently. What underwear exactly?

Of course - it's corsets. 

Put your hand up if you have never seen a corset. Leave it up if you don't know what a corset is. Just as I thought - not too many of us have a clue! I do remember advertisements for corsets in Women's Weekly and in newspapers; also my mother had undergarments that she referred to as "step-ins" that were corsets. In the 1950s she wouldn't go into town without wearing a hat, gloves and, under a smart dress, a corset that also held up her stockings!

This isn't the forum (and indeed I don't have the space) to discuss corsets at length. Suffice it to say that a corset is an undergarment for females designed to enhance a woman's figure. Some corsets were medical devices that provided support for the spine, but the majority were worn for aesthetic reasons. If you want more information than that, here is a link to a Wikipedia article and below is an advertisement that shows you what they looked like.
(Photo: nlapic-vn6255300)

And why is it that I am talking about corsets at all? Well, there are a couple of buildings that we are looking at today that are closely involved with the manufacture of corsets. And there is one rather extraordinary woman involved, too.

Firstly this building - a house on Ipswich Rd at Annerley. Unfortunately it no longer exists, but in its day it was quite spectacular. The photograph dates from 1910.
(Photo: JOL 601977)

The house was named Huntingtower, and between 1920 and 1958 it was the home of Mrs Sarah Ann Jenyns, who was a Brisbane corset manufacturer. The man at the front door is William Hood, a former owner who is not connected to today's story.

Sarah Jenyns (née Thompson) was born in New South Wales in 1865, married Ebenezer Randolphus Jenyns in 1887 and moved to Brisbane in 1896. They had eight children, and things were tough for this large family initially. Ebenezer made cutlery and surgical instruments, but preferred to expend most of his energy preaching the gospel as a part-time evangelist. At the start Sarah assisted in her husband's business but in 1911 she commenced her own business making surgical instruments, corsets and belts. In fact Sarah patented a series of corsets designed for various body shapes and she travelled overseas marketing them.

And this is the second building - it was designed by architects Chambers & Powell, built for Sarah Jenyns in 1916, and still exists on George St in the CBD, right next to the BAFS Building. If you look closely you might see the initials JPC in a logo on the pediment - they stand for Jenyns Patent Corsets, Mrs Sarah Jenyns's corset manufacturing business. This addition to her business was finalised after her recovery from a stroke. 

(Photo: © 2015 the foto fanatic)

Although her business was moving along smoothly, the same cannot be said about Sarah's family life. Ructions developed through the 1920s as Ebenezer handed his business to son John and Sarah was joined in her business by another son, Herbert. It appears that Ebenezer was more interested in preaching on street corners than running a large business, but Sarah was able to grow her own business into a leading company that survived for almost a hundred years. Some of the children were aligned with their father and others with their mother.

During WWII Jenyns had large contracts with the army and navy, and in 1946 Herbert became managing director. Unfortunately, not long after, Sarah's health was affected by dementia and she was placed under a protection order. The divided family was to cause further problems - disaffected family members prompted the Public Curator to initiate proceedings against Herbert, alleging undue influence over his mother during a business transaction. The case was won by Herbert on appeal, and it became a precedent in the areas of undue influence and unconscionable conduct. Herbert continued to run the business and branched into foundation garments and underclothing. The Jenyns factory at Ipswich employed over 1100 machinists at its peak. In the 1960s Herbert, by then a millionaire, sold the business to the well-known Triumph brand.
(Photo: Whiteheads via

Sarah died at Huntingtower in February 1952. But that's not the end of her story.

In July 2014 Sarah, pictured below, was elected to the Queensland Business Hall of Fame. This is what was said about her at her induction:

The early hardships she had experienced forged an independent spirit with a can-do attitude making her one of the few significant business women of the early 20th century. She created a business involving four generations that lasted nearly 100 years and a product that continues to be produced in Brisbane today in line with her original patent. Sarah Jenyns will always be remembered as a courageous, astute and creative business leader.

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Monday, October 26, 2015

St Michael & All Angels Anglican Church, New Farm

As you drive down Brunswick St into New Farm you see this most striking building on the right, just near Balfour St. Eventually the sign out front gives it away - it is the local Anglican Church, St Michael and All Angels. Here is a current picture of it.

This brick structure was designed by Brisbane architects Conrad and Gargett, and it dates back to 1958-9. It was consecrated by the Anglican Archbishop Dr Felix Arnott in December 1974, although the foundation stone had been laid in 1957. Here is an older, but undated, image of the church. 
(SLQ 586913)

The history of the church and its congregation is far older than this, however.

Way back in 1890 a group of New Farm residents met to discuss the erection of a church on land owned by the church in Brunswick St. At the time New Farm Anglicans were members of the congregation at Holy Trinity Anglican in Fortitude Valley. That first church was completed in November 1890 but was almost immediately destroyed by fire. A successor church was rebuilt straight away and dedicated in March 1891. This is what it looked like on completion.


When the new brick church was proposed the old timber church was moved to another area of the grounds and placed on top of the newer brick Sunday School. It seems that this building has been separated from the church grounds and sold, now being privately owned. This is what it looks like today.
(Photo: © 2015 the foto fanatic)
There are a couple of other points of interest about this church. Firstly, the bell used in the lookout tower of the New Farm Fire Brigade was donated to the church and it now sits in the church's tower, although I doubt that it is still used - the pealing bells that I have heard appear to be a recording.

Secondly, the church has a columbarium. Don't worry - I had to look it up too. It is a memorial repository for cremated remains. The church's web pages say that it sits behind the church building.

I also read on those web pages that the church roof was hail damaged in a recent storm and services are currently being held elsewhere. Let's hope the congregation can get back home as soon as possible.

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Monday, October 19, 2015

Jacaranda in bloom

The jacarandas are in bloom - finally. Arborists are a bit concerned about them this year because they are late to bloom for the first time in twenty years. News like this always makes me wonder what dire thing mankind has perpetrated on the planet this time. I also think of students, who for generations have had the blooming of the jacarandas to prompt them that end of year examinations are imminent. Does a late blooming jacaranda season completely disrupt all of those planned late-night swats?

A jacaranda in bloom is a thing of beauty. Back in the fifties former Brit turned Brisbaneite William Bustard painted this example of a large jacaranda, and you can see it at the "Painting with Light" exhibition at the Museum of Brisbane. The exhibition runs through to the end of January 2016 - don't miss it!

The notes with the painting mention Farsley, Hamilton Hill. Hamilton Hill is one of Brisbane's most exclusive residential areas with outstanding views of the Brisbane River and the city skyline. Farsley is the name of a heritage listed property perched on the hill that when sold in 2007 was Brisbane's most expensive house.

I set out to see if I could recapture the Bustard vista with a camera. Finding the location wasn't too difficult, but the actual perspective of the scene could not be replicated. There has probably been some change since the fifties as far as the buildings are concerned, but also Bustard's painterly eye has recomposed the scene somewhat. Here is the best I could do. The front hedge and gatepost of Farsley is visible in the back of the picture as it is in Bustard's work, and the jacaranda in the foreground of the picture is nowhere near as lush as that in the painting.
(Photo: © 2015 the foto fanatic)

Here is another photo of Farsley, also previously known as Eldernell and Bishopsbourne, and you can see some elements of it in the painting.
(Photo: Drew Fitzgibbon; Courier Mail)

William Bustard was a Yorkshire-born painter, stained glass artist and book illustrator. After studying art at Battersea Polytechnic, Putney School of Art and Slade School of Art he learned stained glass techniques that enabled him to work in cathedrals in England, Ireland and USA.  Following meritorious service in the Royal Army Medical Corps during WW1 he studied at Oxford and went to Europe to repair stained glass windows in France and Belgium. He married in 1918 and in 1921 he and his wife emigrated to Queensland. As well as painting, he taught art and worked on stained glass windows in both the Anglican and Catholic cathedrals in Brisbane. He also illustrated works such as Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe. A truly versatile artist, he was also proficient on violin, piano and accordion. He died on the Gold Coast in 1973.

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Monday, October 12, 2015

Elder Smith Wool Store, Teneriffe

Here is a view from the river of the Teneriffe Wharves area taken in 1991. In the left background is the Elder Smith Wool Store. Brisbane's urban renewal is about to commence - the wharves will be demolished and the warehouses converted to other use.
(BCC-C35-15662.27) - 1991

And now a picture from 1997 showing the wool store in its then life as a large furniture complex. The three floors of the former wool store have been converted to retail space, and if that is not sufficient for shoppers, the next wool store down is also a furniture retail outlet. Further down the street the Mactaggarts Wool Store has already been converted to residential space, and the buildings in this photograph are about to follow suit.
(BCC-S35-97188) - 1997

And here is a more recent image. The Elders building has been converted into an apartment building known as Ansonia. In twenty-five years this once industrial area has been transformed into a medium density residential area, as well as commercial space featuring restaurants and cafes.  
(Photo: © 2015 the foto fanatic) - 2013
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Monday, October 5, 2015

James Campbell & Sons

In my youth I frequented an area known to all as Ballymore. It was the headquarters of the Queensland Rugby Union, situated at Kelvin Grove, and I went there often to play and watch football. I started going there almost as soon as the facility opened in 1966 and I have many memories of the place, from the heart-breaking penalty try that referee Kevin Crowe awarded in the dying moments of the 1968 test match that provided the All Blacks with a win over the Wallabies, to the crowd chants of "We want 50!" in the heady days when Mark Loane's Queensland Reds thrashed the NSW Blues 48-10.

All of that is a preamble into the Campbell family headed by Brisbane businessman James Campbell, who built a house in Kelvin Grove and called it Ballymore because it was adjacent to Bally and More streets. That name was subsequently given to a street and then to the football complex known today. Here is a drawing of the house, and also a photograph of the large Campbell clan gathered outside their residence. Unfortunately the house no longer exists.
(Photo: SLQ 190011)

(Photo: SQL 47510) 

James Campbell was a Scot who came to Brisbane in 1853, and finding no work in his trade as a plasterer, started his own business in George St as a merchant dealing in building materials. That early store shifted to larger premises in Creek St and from there became James Campbell & Sons, one of Brisbane's largest diversified companies that included thriving timber, cement and shipping businesses.
(Photo: SQL 171010)

James Campbell died in 1904, leaving the business in the hands of his eldest son John Dunmore Campbell who is pictured above with his wife Minnie, daughter Molly, and his mother Isabella, the wife of James. John Campbell was chairman and managing director of the family business as it became a limited company in 1896, and he was also a politician at local and state levels as well as having many other interests. He was vice-president of the Queensland Rugby Union from 1894 to 1905.  

In 1889 John Dunmore Campbell had a large building erected on land he owned on the corner of Brunswick St and Annie St at New Farm. The two-storey combined retail and residential structure, known as Brunswick Buildings, still stands there today. 
(Photo: BCC 2011)

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Monday, August 10, 2015

Taking a break

Dear readers

My wife and I are travelling overseas for a month.

Posts will resume in early September.

Thank you for your ongoing interest in the blog.

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