Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Mowbray Park, East Brisbane

This recent story in a local newspaper alerted me to the fact that there is growing support for a name change in the suburb of East Brisbane. Proponents say that an area of the suburb between Lytton Rd and Mowbray Terrace formerly known as Mowbraytown should be returned to its previous status as a suburb. Having only recently been through the same process where I live, I wish them every success.

Mowbraytown was named after the Reverend Thomas Mowbray, a minister who arrived in Moreton Bay in 1847 to start the first Presbyterian church in the little town. The church's archives show that Mowbray and eleven others met at Kangaroo Point in December 1849 to discuss the establishment of the church. These embryonic actions led to Rev Mowbray being known as the "father" of the Presbyterian congregation here. In 1851 Mowbray and his wife purchased a fairly sizeable plot of land to the east of Brisbane, and there they built their large stone house Riversdale - just downriver from Ravenscott (now known as Shafston House), the Kangaroo Point residence of Anglican cleric Robert Creyke. The Rev and Mrs Williamina Mowbray are pictured below.
 (Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #64775)

Thomas Mowbray died in 1867, aged only 55. He was buried at the Paddington Cemetery (now Lang Park), but his remains were later transferred to the cemetery at South Brisbane. Mowbray's poor health had been the reason for leaving his native Scotland with Williamina to emigrate to Australia, where they produced nine children; the last four of them being born at Riversdale. His obituary in The Queenslander of 28 December, 1867 indicated that his health had deteriorated over the previous twelve months, so much so that he was unable to go outdoors.  After Thomas's death, Williamina sold the area of land south of Lytton Rd up to Mowbray Terrace for subdivision, with the estate being named Mowbraytown.

The family retained the residence and the land between Lytton Rd and the river until 1904, when it was offered for sale to the South Brisbane City Council. The riverfront property, until then known as Mowbray's Paddock was renamed Mowbray Park. The house was demolished in the same year.

Since then, Mowbray Park has assumed a recreational air. Croquet and tennis lawns were produced initially, and later came a lawn bowls club. It is pictured here in  1925.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #109585) 

In the early 1920s, the council constructed a swimming enclosure in the river next to the park. It became very popular to swimmers of all ages. A manager was appointed to run the pool and the nearby kiosk, as well as to supervise the separate bathing hours for males and females. 
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; # 68958)

The swimming pool led to the formation of a surf life-saving club that still exists, now associated with Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast as the Burleigh Heads Mowbray Park SLSC.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #59938)

As befits Brisbane's climate, boating and sailing regattas became popular, and many of these events were held in the Humbug Reach of the Brisbane River, right at Mowbray Park. This photograph is from 1913.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #24217) 

These days, the bowls club has prospered and been enlarged. The swimming pool enclosure has gone as has the kiosk. What remains is a lovely verdant riverfront space, complete with a children's playground. One hundred and sixty years ago, Thomas Mowbray could not have imagined how the house that he built for his young family would have become one of Brisbane's favourite recreation spots.
(Photo: John Mowbray; panoramio.com)


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