Friday, October 29, 2010

Lochiel, Hamilton

I'm interrupting our look around Paddington and Bardon for this post, which is quite topical at present.

Apparently in days of yore, gentlemen's houses sometimes included a museum. This would be where the gentlemen kept those fascinating treasures one picks up on one's travel. Stuffed bears, lions' heads, elephant's foot umbrella stand - I think you are following me. Sort of like today's spare bedroom. Here's a picture from around 1895 of one such museum from a house in the Brisbane suburb of Hamilton.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #43930)

Admittedly, I can't see too many stuffed bears in there. It looks more like a collection of crystal, glass and pewter ornaments and so on. It is believed that the house that held these treasures was Lochiel, which was in the news recently. (No, they didn't find a stuffed bear!) Here is my recent photo of Lochiel.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

The reason that it made the news was that the present owners, who purchased the house for $6.4 million in 2006, had some alterations done to the residence, which happens to be heritage listed. Alterations (without prior approval by the Queensland Heritage Council) to these buildings is not allowed. When you purchase such a property, this information is part of the contract of sale. Further, the owners of this property own a business in the real estate industry, so it could be assumed that they would have been well aware of the rules protecting such a property.

Anyway, this happened; it was dealt with by the courts; the owners pleaded guilty; they were fined; it was reported in the Courier-Mail. What then really shocked me was the reaction of some people who wrote letters sent emails to the newspaper. Here is a selection of three from literally scores of similar ones.
(Courier-Mail 06/10/2010)

I confess to a loss of personal identity here, because I just don't get that reaction. Am I an "elitist" (sorry John Howard!) or worse still, a wanker? Or are these emailers merely bogans with no sense of history? It's no wonder that the state's heritage properties are going to hell in a hand-basket.

I admit that the house may not be everyone's cup of tea - it has been described as being of "eclectic design" and "idiosyncratic". But this house was built in the 1860s, should it not be preserved? And should we not enforce the laws that enshrine that preservation? Read
about the house and the lifestyle of its then owners in this article from the Brisbane Courier of Thursday 16th May 1907. And here's a picture of the area from 1868. It shows the original part of Lochiel (then known as Runnymede) in the centre of the photo, and the rocks to the right of it are named Cameron Rocks after the then owners.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #159742)

The social fabric of our history is in these buildings, we need to look after them.

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Next: High water

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Bardon House, Bardon

It is very satisfying when people take time out to let me know that they are enjoying reading about Brisbane's history in this blog. It is even more rewarding when they offer material for future blog posts. That is what has happened here - an email correspondent, Elizabeth McCray, told me of her family history with this building, Bardon House. Her family, the Exleys, lived here in the early twentieth century, up until the time it was sold to the Catholic church. She was also kind enough to supply the following image of the house, showing some people I presume to be family members, that must date from around 1920.(Photo: Kindly provided by E McCray)

And the following image shows what Bardon (the suburb was named after the house) looked like at that time - the picture shows the junction of Simpson Rd, Gordon Rd and Outlook Crescent, just a few hundered metres from Bardon House, situated on The Drive.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #133637)

Bardon House was built in 1863 by well-known Brisbane builder and early mayor of Brisbane, Joshua Jeays, whom we met in the last post. Jeays had developed a quarry at Woogaroo (now called Goodna), and this house was built from stone sourced there. Bardon House is a two-storey Victorian Gothic structure with a steeply pitched roof, gables and dormer windows. It is shown from a different angle in this photograph below, taken in 1930. You can see similarities with the building shown in the previous post, Romavilla at North Quay, which has unfortunately now been demolished.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #158570) 1930

It appears that Jeays never lived in this house, although that was his intention when building it. His wife Sarah, who apparently was never in the best of health, died before it was finished, and a heartbroken Joshua Jeays lived out the rest of his life at North Quay. However, his children used the residence. Daughter Sarah and her husband Sir Charles Lilley (future Queensland premier) were residents for a time.

It is recorded that in 1911 the house was bought from the Jeays/Lilley family by Arthur Exley, the great-grandfather of my correspondent Elizabeth McCray; however it seems that the Exleys may have been living in the house prior to that date. Elizabeth writes that Arthur was a school teacher, and he was very instrumental in introducing superannuation for teachers. He was a fondly remembered headmaster of Ithaca Creek State School, and he was a founding member of the Fernberg Masonic Lodge. He and his wife, also called Elizabeth, had six children. Elizabeth Exley was the founder of the District Nursing Association which commenced in 1905 with just one nurse. I found the following advertisement in the archives of the Brisbane Courier, dated Thursday 23rd December, 1909:

  • "Wanted for Mothers' Union District Nurses' Home, trained maternity nurse. Apply Mrs Exley, 'Bardon' Upper Paddington."

This organisation, associated with the Anglican church, became St Luke's and is now called Spiritus. Elizabeth Exley was also a founding member of the Bardon Womens' Club and was involved in the Temperance movement. Here she is again, in the government notices in the Brisbane Courier of 29 October 1914, as having been added to the electoral roll:

  • "Exley, Elizabeth Francis, Bardon Estate, Upper Paddington, domestic duties, 7 Sep., 1914, F"
Brisbane's Roman Catholic Archbishop Duhig bought Bardon House from the Exleys in 1925. The following picture dates from 1959.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #74791)

Bardon House was used as a temporary church until an actual church was built in Bardon. It also served as the residence for the local priest and then as a school. Franciscan Sisters moved into the building in 1937 to run the school, St Joseph's. Bardon House is still part of St Joseph's School, which is now quite large. Here is a current picture of the entrance to Bardon House - unfortunately the school has parked a couple of huge white demountable classrooms right in front of the building, so a wider shot than this was impossible.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

The blue disk next to the door has been placed there by the Queensland Women's Historical Association and it reads: "This house was built in 1853 by Joshua Jeays an alderman of the first Brisbane Municipal Council in 1859 and Mayor of Brisbane in 1864. He named it Bardon after Bardon Hill in Leicesteshire England." (NB - The date of construction on the plaque (1853) differs from the date in other records. Upper Paddington wasn't surveyed until 1862, at which time land first became available for purchase, so the later date of 1863 is more probable.)

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Next: Heritage listed?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Who was Joshua Jeays?

What has continually been reinforced to me as I write this blog is how young Brisbane is. It's not so long ago that Brisbane was a squalid prison outpost known as Moreton Bay Penal Settlement, set up to hide from Sydney society the very worst of the convicts transported from England to New South Wales. There was little thought given to planning the town or providing even basic amenities for its residents. When the convict era ended and free settlement was proclaimed around 1842, there began a slow process of trying to make Brisbane a more habitable and attractive place.

Inevitably, this task fell to a few who had the foresight and energy to bring about the necessary changes. One such man was forty year-old Joshua Jeays (below), Leicestershire-born,
husband to Sarah and father of four children, who arrived at Moreton Bay in 1853. Jeays was a carpenter and builder, and although he had his own building business in London, he left that crowded and polluted city for Australia in order to provide a healthier way of life for his family.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #109863)

After renting in Albert St for a time, the Jeays family moved to a house at North Quay, also rented initially, but subsequently purchased in September 1854 and retained for the rest of Joshua's life. The house is marked in the photo below - it seems to be on George St, somewhere around the present Turbot St intersection.(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #64881)

It appears that Joshua Jeays hit the ground running. He became a member of the Brisbane School of Arts, a valuable networking tool, and commenced looking for work. His foresight became immediately evident in his searches for quarry sites to provide stone for the building boom that was about to take place in the settlement. Jeays ended up establishing a quarry on the riverbank at Woogaroo (now Goodna), producing excellent stone that was able to be sent downriver by barge to Brisbane.

Building projects soon eventuated too - in partnership with timber merchant JW Thompson, Joshua Jeays extended St John's Pro-Cathedral in William St, and constructed the second Wesleyan church (below) on Albert St and Burnett Lane.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #56618)

From here on, there was no stopping Joshua Jeays. Now in business alone, he built the new colony of Queensland's first major project, the original Government House in George St; he supplied the stone for the construction of Parliament House; he built churches and houses, including Bardon House and this one at North Quay called Romavilla that was to become a boarding house. Romavilla was demolished in 1974, but here is a photograph of it from 1875.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #63319)

As well as his hectic business life, Jeays also found time to serve his adopted community. An accomplished mathematician with a love of astronomy, he frequently gave talks at the School of Arts, and he was elected to serve on Brisbane's first municipal council. He became the fourth mayor of Brisbane in 1864. His political sphere was enlarged when his daughter Sarah Jane married Charles Lilley who was later to become Queensland's premier. During his time as mayor and councillor, Jeays was instrumental in providing the city with lighting, water and ferry services. He also served on the bridge committee that had oversight of the construction of the first bridge over the Brisbane River. As well as his thriving business, Jeays was also somewhat of a property speculator. He purchased large tracts of land at Bowen Hills, Upper Paddington (later to be known as Bardon, named after the house he built there) and Sandgate. To this day, descendents of Joshua and Sarah Jeays work in the family businesses at Sandgate and live nearby.

Joshua Jeays died at the age of 69 on 11 March, 1881 and was buried at Toowong Cemetery. His legacy lives on in his buildings that remain - Old Government House and Bardon House - and Jeays St at Bowen Hills, which contains Jeays Park, named in his memory.

© 2010 the foto fanatic)

There is also a Jeays St at Sandgate and one at Brighton.

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Next: Bardon, the house

Friday, October 22, 2010

Baroona Labor Hall, Paddington

For the next few posts we will be touring the Paddington and Bardon areas.
(Drawing: © S Woolcock; 1988)

Richard Gailey designed this building, built back in 1883/4, and I think that he would be quite surprised to see it now. It has had a number of incarnations, and the more recent ones are very different from its original purpose. Gailey's brief was to design a lodge for the Manchester Unity Society of Independent Oddfellows. As you may tell from the name, Oddfellows Societies were first formed in England, and they were a kind of community-based insurance scheme where members combined to provide funds for those who might suffer illness or injury. Manchester Unity commenced in Manchester in 1810, so there was a Manchester Unity long before there was a Manchester United :-) When I first started work, I joined the Manchester Unity health fund and was a member for 20 years or so. They are still a presence, as part of the large HCF Group. Anyway, they met in this hall until 1916, moving then into the BAFS building in the city.

The Society had always had tenants in commercial shops on the ground floor, but following the downturn of the 1890s, eventually had to lease the entire premises out to improve their financial position. In 1909, the shops and the hall were leased to young businessman Isidore Josephson, who came up from St Kilda in Melbourne at the age of 21 to establish a clothing factory, thereby employing many local workers. Josephson was innovative, introducing electric machines to increase efficiency. The photo below is from around 1910, and shows the signage for Josephson's factory on the exterior of the building, as well as one of the interior workrooms.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #177589)

The Oddfellows sold the building to the Labor Party in 1928, and they continued to lease it to Josephson's company until 1936, although Isidore himself died in 1933. After they left, the building was vacant until about 1949 except for the war years when it was used by the Defence Department.
(Photo: Courtesy DEWHA; #rt5105, J Houldsworth)

In 1949 the building became the Baroona Labor Hall, and one of the shops in the front was occupied by a tailor. During the sixties this building fell into disrepair, but then in 1976 it became home to the Caxton Street Legal Service who occupied it until 1988 when they moved to New Farm. The hall stood empty again until 1990, when it was converted to use as a nightclub. The photo of the hall as a nightclub (above) is from 1996, and the undated one below shows it as a market.
(Photo: DEWHA; #rt21527)

(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

I took a photo of it recently, and it is shown above. I didn't know who the tenant was at the time I visited, so I Googled it later. I was surprised to find that The Velvet Cigar is an adult nightclub - think Moulin Rouge - burlesque shows and all that. Imagine how surprised Richard Gailey would be! I also note that the next-door building from the original photo is still present in my recent photo. The sign on it says 1897.

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Next: J-J

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Torbreck at Highgate Hill, completed in 1960, was Brisbane's first multi-storey building comprised solely of home units. But in 1927, the structure below was being built to provide a combination of commercial suites and residences. It is Craigston on Wickham Terrace, right across the road from the windmill.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #64659)

Brisbane architects Atkinson & Conrad designed the building in Spanish Mission style for Sydney medico Dr SF McDonald, and the builder was Walter Taylor who was later to erect the toll bridge at Indooroopilly. Ballow Chambers, further down Wickham Terrace towards the Valley, was also built around this time. Developments such as these were allowed specialist doctors to gather on Wickham Terrace en masse.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

My photo above shows Craigston today. It still operates as Dr McDonald envisaged, with both medical offices and residences contained within.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Baroona Hall

Monday, October 18, 2010

Villa Maria Hostel

Yesterday, Blessed Mary MacKillop was canonised, the final step in her being recognised as a saint - Australia's first. Despite my indifference to organised religion, I have always had the greatest respect for holy people. The Dalai Lama, for example. And Baha'u'llah, and Mother Teresa. People who pay more than lip-service to their faith; people who actually live it without ambiguity or hypocrisy. It seems that MacKillop was one of these people.
(Photo: Courtesy State Library of South Australia; B 23825)

Mary MacKillop spent some time here in Brisbane. She arrived here in 1869 with five other sisters of the order that she had founded, the Sisters of St Joseph. They lived at South Brisbane and worshipped at St Stephen's (which now has a sign proclaiming that fact), and they started setting up schools in poorer communities. Unfortunately, she ran afoul of the autocratic Bishop Quinn about who was in charge of the sisterhood, and she was banished from her post in Queensland. Quinn wasn't the only temperamental bishop she was to face - later, Bishop Sheil in Victoria actually excommunicated her, that action requiring intervention from Rome to have her restored to the church. For greater detail on McKillop's story, take a look at one of my favourite blogs ART and ARCHITECTURE, mainly.

Mother Mary MacKillop founded the Sisters of St Joseph with Father Julian Tenison Woods, and here we have a further connection with Brisbane. Father Woods founded another order, the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, in Brisbane in 1874. This religious order cares for the aged and the infirm, but they also maintain "perpetual adoration"; that is 24/7 prayer (at least one of the order is at prayer at all times.) Because the small group of sisters was becoming even smaller as the nuns were ageing, perpetual adoration in the order's chapel ceased for a time, but now it has been restored with the assistance of other religious and laity. The order's chapel and headquarters are called Villa Maria, located at 167 St Paul's Terrace. It is a huge complex that was constructed in stages from 1924 through to the late sixties, the majority of it during the period that James Duhig was Archbishop of Brisbane. This photograph is from the St Paul's Terrace side and was taken in  1990.

Here's a current picture taken from the Warren St side, and below that is the chapel.

(Photos: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Craigston

Friday, October 15, 2010

Greenslopes Hospital

Recently my mother was on holidays on the Gold Coast, and as she is an age pensioner she was staying in some fairly basic, although quite comfortable, accommodation. Unfortunately, only a few days into her vacation, she woke up one morning with a sharp pain in one eye. After mucking around rather unsatisfactorily with unfamiliar medicos on the coast, she finally came back up to Brisbane and saw her own eye specialist. Diagnosis - shingles! Shingles is a viral disease similar to chickenpox that results in painful inflammation of nerve-endings. I have had shingles too - but only on the abdomen. It was a real nightmare, because I couldn't bear to have even a sheet touching my body. I cannot imagine how painful it would be to experience it on the face and in the eye.

The purpose of relating that story was to get to today's post, which is about the Greenslopes Hospital. That's where my mum spent a week or so under treatment for the shingles, including much-needed pain relief. I have to say that the hospital is superb. The rooms are bright and airy, the entry foyer is more like a five star hotel foyer than a hospital waiting-room, there's plenty of parking and the bus pulls up right outside. We joked with Mum that she had a more luxurious stay in the hospital than she would have had back on the Gold Coast! Here's a photo of the present entrance to the hospital.

(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

The Greenslopes Private Hospital is run by Ramsay Health Care, a large public company. However, it started life as a military hospital, conceived in 1940 to care for injured soldiers from WWII. Although a Melbourne architectural firm won the principal contract, local architects Hall & Phillips were involved with the site management and working drawings for the 200-bed hospital. The surveying work for the site was handled by Clem Jones, who later became one of Brisbane's longest serving Lord Mayors. Construction of the hospital did not start until 1941, and in the meantime injured soldiers in Brisbane were hospitalised at Yungaba. The hospital's first patients arrived in February 1942. In 1943, the Australian hospital ship Centaur was bombed by the Japanese just off Moreton Island, and the sole surviving nurse, Sister Savage, was transported to Greenslopes for care. Here she is in the hospital, being interviewed after her ordeal. (Photo: Courtesy Greenslopes Private Hospital)

And this is a photo of the old entrance to the hospital - it dates from 1952.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #201588)

As a kid, I lived not too far from the hospital. I was always aware back in those days that it was a facility for returned soldiers - it was known colloquially as "The Repat", short for Repatriation Hospital. In the late 1980s, the federal government made a decision to quit the veterans' hospitals that it owned and ran. The state government declined to take over Greenslopes, and so privatisation became the only other viable alternative. The RSL protested this decision, but in 1994 the hospital was put to tender, and Ramsay Health Care took over the running of the hospital in 1995. Since then the facilities and medical services have been expanded, and today, if my mother's recent stay there is any indication, the hospital is at the forefront of medical care.

Click here for a Google Map.


St Mary of the Cross

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Main Beach Pavilion

Here's another of those delightful bathing pavilions from the Gold Coast. Like the one we saw previously, this one was also designed by Hall & Phillips. It is situated at Main Beach, just south of Southport, and this photo comes from 1935.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #189024)

Once people could get from Brisbane to Southport by train and then by motor car, public bathing became more acceptable and more popular. In fact, Southport was competing with Cleveland, Sandgate and Redcliffe for the tourists who wanted to bathe in healthy salt water. Southport embarked on an ambitious beautification program to attract day-trippers and holiday-makers. Instead of the privately-owned bathing sheds that it had previously allowed to dot its beaches, the Southport Council decided to build pavilions to enable people to change in comfort and privacy. Hall & Phillips designed the pavilion at Southport and this larger one at Main Beach in Spanish Mission style. The pavilions were opened conjointly on 22 December 1934, with an opening ceremony held at the Main Beach pavilion.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

The Southport lifesaving club was established back in 1923, and in 1937 it opened a new club house next to this pavilion. The two have operated in tandem ever since.

For those interested in bathing pavilions, a blog favourite of mine, ART and Architecture, mainly, has examined the Sydney Beach Pavilion here.

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The Repat

Monday, October 11, 2010

Anzac Square 2

This is a straight "then and now" comparison of photos. Here are Anzac Square, Central Station and Wickham Terrace, as captured by Australian photographer Capt Frank Hurley. The colour version is from a fold-out presentation pack of 10cm X 15cm photos that came into my possession recently. It was published by John Sands in Sydney, but I have no date. The black & white version is from the National Library of Australia's archive.
(Photo: Capt Frank Hurley)
(Photo: nla pic-an23478003-v)

Hurley was a prolific photographer, and he has left a large legacy of photographs, both black & white and colour, for posterity. Many of them are war-time photos, but there are also many scenic views of various parts of Australia too. There are 11,000 photographs at the National Library of Australia alone, with other significant collections elsewhere.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

My recent photograph of the same scene shows the dramatic change in the Brisbane skyline (click it to see a larger version). The government offices on either side of Anzac Square would have been present when Hurley took his colour photo, but he chose not to include them. But it's behind the Shrine of Remembrance that we can see all the development. The buildings on Wickham Terrace, including Trades Hall, the Baptist Tabernacle and the United Services Club, are now completely hidden, and Central Station is dwarfed by the Sofitel Hotel that looms over it. Well, Trades Hall has actually been "redeveloped" (meaning knocked down), so you actually wouldn't be able to see it anyway, but that's beside the point :-)

I prefer the earlier pictures. Anzac Square is more open and welcoming. The tall buildings have cut down on the light in the park, and even the growth in the trees has reduced the view of the memorial.

Time doesn't always do us a favour.

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Next: Seaside pavilion

Friday, October 8, 2010

St Martin's House, Ann St

Architect Lange Powell (BAFS Building, Masonic Temple) was born in Rockhampton in 1886, a descendant of early free settlers to the state. He died in 1938 at the building below, St Martin's War Memorial Hospital in Ann St Brisbane, situated next door to St John's Cathedral and part of the cathedral precinct. Powell himself had designed this building for the Anglican Church. The following photograph shows the rear, or Adelaide St side of the building.
(Photo: Courtesy DEWHA)

St Martin's Hospital was built as a memorial to those killed in WWI, and it opened in November 1922 and was run by the Anglican Sisters of the Sacred Advent. It was so named because the day that celebrates the armistice that ended WWI (11 November) is also St Martin's Day; St Martin of Tours being a soldier who became a saint. The hospital was not funded by the state - the necessary funds were raised by public subscriptions from both the Anglican and the wider communities. This private hospital served Brisbane faithfully for fifty years, and during its time it provided the highest standard of care to patients, extended free of charge to returned servicemen and women.

However, in 1967, the state and local governments started to talk about enhancing the cathedral precinct, apparently agreeing that several buildings including St Martin's would need to be demolished to improve the view of St John's Cathedral. The Anglican Synod approved the demolition of the hospital shortly afterwards.

And then the fun started.

Doctors, nurses, the Sisters of the Sacred Advent and the public all realised that the hospital, built by public subscription and providing valuable care for acute patients, would be lost to Brisbane. The Save St Martin's Hospital movement started, and endeavoured to have the decision to demolish the hospital overturned. The resultant clamour, including legal action, is too detailed to cover here, but it culminated in the closure of the hospital in 1971, with patients transferred to another hospital at Zillmere.

But the Anglican church's plans to demolish the building were stayed by the persistent public protest - the building remains today as administration offices for the church. My photograph below shows a current view of the Ann St frontage of St Martin's.

(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

The front wall contains the following inscription (see photograph below):
"In humble thankfulness to Almighty God for the blessing of victory in the cause of justice and freedom 1914-1918. This hospital was dedicated by the churchmen of the diocese of Brisbane."
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Frank Hurley

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Webber House, Ann St

William Webber came to Australia from England in 1885 as the third Anglican Bishop of Brisbane, and was enthroned in November of that year at St John's Pro-Cathedral in William St. Webber was an adept administrator and a canny fund raiser. He raised around £100,000 for his church, with a third of that going towards a new cathedral to be built in Ann St. Webber died in 1903. The following building, designed by Robin Dods and John Murdoch, was erected in the precinct of the new cathedral in 1904. It was to be a school and church institute building, and after renovations in 1969, it was renamed Webber House in honour of the bishop. The photograph below is from 1983.
(Photo: Courtesy DEWHA; rt2091)

Stone from the demolished pro-cathedral was used in the construction of the Gothic building. The Sisters of the Sacred Advent conducted a school there in the late 1930s, and during WWII the building was used by the Army engineering corps. It currently houses a church mission book store, and probably has other church uses as well.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

My current photograph (above) shows the building today. Hasn't the skyline at the rear of the building changed in the ensuing thirty years?

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Soldier/Saint

Monday, October 4, 2010

Brisbane CityCycle

Just to prove that there's nothing new under the sun, here's a photograph of the Brisbane Ladies Bicycle Club in 1897, ready to set off on a trip from the Queensland Club.
(Photo: Brisbane - Our Town, H Dash; UQ Press)

Despite my recent misadventures with cycling and the fact that I have had to give up on riding around Brisbane because I am experiencing episodes of vertigo, I quite like the pastime/sport. And I believe it to be good for general health and well-being.

That's also the line being taken by Brisbane's lord mayor, Campbell Newman, as the city is about to embark on his CityCycle scheme. To counter Australia's burgeoning obesity rate, while also striking a blow against global warming, the city council is introducing about 150 bike stations all over Brisbane. These will be stocked with bicycles for hire - the idea being that you pay a nominal fee to pick up a bike from one location and ride it to another where you dock it back in. It is supposed to save on short car trips, reducing the number of vehicles on our roads. Will they be kept a bit tidier than this one outside my building? It is sitting under a row of Moreton Bay fig trees, and the dead leaves are the least of the problems here. In summer, these trees fill with flying foxes, and the bikes that are parked here overnight will be covered in flying fox faeces every morning! Can't see too many commuters using those bikes.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

I hope it works. But I have my doubts that it will. So does the Courier-Mail, and so do many of us, apparently.

Melbourne has recently introduced a similar scheme, and so far it can only be described as a dismal failure. That city's Bike Share
plan had only managed a paltry 70 rides a day after its first couple of months of operation. Why? The locals reckon it is because of having to bring your own helmet - see this story from the Herald Sun. However, this scheme is much smaller in scope than the one here, and the promoters say that the higher number of stations in Brisbane will make a difference.

But I'm willing to bet that we'll have the same problem here with helmets. Our road rules stipulate that a helmet must be worn whilst riding a bike on our roads, but hiring a helmet is problematic - would you wear someone else's sweaty helmet? Particularly here in hilly, humid Brisbane? And lugging a helmet around while shopping or going to a meeting doesn't seem too attractive either.

Even the much-vaunted Paris bike scheme ran into problems. After eighteen months of operation, the contractor said it was going broke and could not afford to continue. It seems that half the bicycles provided for the Paris scheme were vandalised or stolen, according to a BBC report. The Parisian bicyclettes have been turning up all over the world, apparently. I even heard of one being found in Sydney. The contractor for the Paris scheme, JCDecaux, will also be the operator here in Brisbane.

One of the other bugbears is what the plan is doing to the city's road users. Parking spots have disappeared in the city and suburbs. In my neighbourhood, residents and businesses alike have been critical of the reduced car spaces in an area of high-density living and commercial activity. My own street has residential apartment blocks, restaurants and cafes, a gym, as well as other small retail businesses - all of those depend on people being able to have access to them.

My street is only 420 metres long, and yet the city council is installing three bike stations in that small distance. What - we want people to get fitter by riding bikes, but we can't let them walk more than 200 metres to get to the bike station?

A bit silly, don't you think?

And that has come at the cost of a dozen or so car spaces in a street that has no off-street parking for the public. Four or five car parks have disappeared from outside my building alone. My wife's parents, who are in their late eighties and do not live near public transport, could be faced with a walk of over a kilometre when they come to visit, depending on where they can find a car park.

So, to reiterate - I hope it works. I hope Bribaneites are as keen as mustard about the scheme; I hope it single-handedly solves the obesity crisis; I hope it reduces our carbon footprint to the size of a pre-schooler's sandal. Because if it turns out to be a turkey, the ratepayers of Brisbane might be a trifle unhappy.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: William Webber

Friday, October 1, 2010

Trolley bus

As well as losing its trams, Brisbane also lost its trolley buses in 1969, because they were powered by the same grid as the trams. A trolley bus is an electrically-driven vehicle, a bit like a tram in that it draws power from overhead wires, but it does not run on rails; the "trolley" that connects to the overhead wires can swivel from side to side, therefore allowing slightly more freedom of movement. The buses run in normal traffic lanes and pull in to the curb to pick up and drop off passengers, so they don't hold up cars the way the trams did.(Photo: Courtesy flickr; lindsaybridge)

Above is a photograph from 1963 of a tram and trolley bus side by side in Stanley St, right outside the Gabba Cricket Ground; and below is a photo of a brand new Brisbane trolley bus in 1954, taken even before the BCC livery was applied. (Photo: Courtesy Brisbane City Council; #BCC-B54-1569)

Trolley buses were introduced to Brisbane in 1951 to help cater for a rapidly expanding post-war population. They were comfortable, they were efficient and they were quiet. Instead of running on expensive diesel fuel and spewing foul-smelling gases into Brisbane's traffic, trolley buses used electric power supplied from Brisbane's powerhouses. I loved them, although their silence on the roads could sometimes be a problem for pedestrians who might not hear them coming. One nickname they attained was "whispering death" for this reason. This is the trolley bus route I used to get to my aunt's place at Norman Park - the 8A to Seven Hills on the bus pictured below, passing Queens Park on the corner of George and Elizabeth Sts. From there it would turn right into William St and pick up passengers at the North Quay stop, which is where I normally caught it. I could also catch buses on the 8C route that ended up at Carina.
(Photo: Courtesy

If you have ever wondered about that circular garden bed at the Edward St entrance to the Botanical Gardens, here is one of the reasons for it - it was a trolley bus terminus, allowing the buses to turn around for the return journey up Edward St.
(Photo: Courtesy BCC; #BCC-B54-3557)

So why don't we have trolley buses now? I suspect that there are several reasons. The cost of infrastructure would be one; raising those wires across all the routes and then providing power would be fairly expensive. Diesel engines have improved a lot - they are now smaller and more efficient. Of course, trolley buses can only travel where the overhead wires are, while diesel buses can go on almost any modern road. But for known high-density runs, trolley buses would still be a viable option. They continue to be used in some places - here is a picture of a modern trolley bus that will be introduced in Leeds, in the UK.

(Photograph: Gary Stevenson)

In Brisbane we are doing a lot of talking about mass transit, but not much action is occurring. Light rail (another name for trams!) was proposed, dropped and proposed again. Diesel bus routes were expanded instead. Now we are being sold an underground rail network with tunnels under the city and under the river, as well as additional city railway stations. Sounds nice - but it is very expensive. I hope that something transpires in my lifetime.

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