Friday, February 10, 2012

Hanworth, East Brisbane

One of the things that intrigues me as I research these blogs is the relativity of class to where and how people live. For example, the type of house that a school teacher might buy; or a bank manager. These occupations seemed to be rather further up the social ladder than might be the case today.

Today's building is another that piques my interest. It was built in 1864-5 for Captain George Poynter Heath, RN.
 (Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #18171)

He purchased a sizable block of land on Lytton Rd in 1863, and had prominent architect of the day James Cowlishaw design this U-shaped single-storey house that was named Hanworth after the town in Norfolk where Heath was born. The house was built using hand-made bricks. Here is a photograph of the residence from 1930.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #114857)

After George Heath left the Royal Navy he applied to become the marine surveyor in the brand new colony of Queensland and moved to Brisbane in 1860. He then became Queensland's first port master in 1862. Evidently, he made a fair fist of that job, overseeing the construction of 13 new ports and 33 lighthouses (like this one at Cleveland), as well as the marking of the navigation of the inside of the Great Barrier Reef. Legend has it that Heath used to watch for sailing vessels coming up the Brisbane River from the dormer windows in Hanworth's attic.

(Photos: © 1982 National Trust of Queensland; R Sumner, F Bolt)
George Heath and his family became fairly well-connected in Brisbane's social life too. At the marriage of his eldest daughter the guests included the governor and the premier, as well as the state's treasurer and the auditor-general. This piece in The Queenslander of 27 May 1930 painted a quite romantic picture of entertainment in those times: 

As was customary with the prominent residents in old Brisbane, Captain Heath and his wife held enjoyable social gatherings in their big home, to which the guests hied them in carriages, gigs, and dogcarts, and some on horse-back. 

(I had to look it up in the dictionary, but the verb "to hie" means "to go in haste".)

Hanworth was home to the Heath family for almost 25 years until Heath retired from his position as port master. He packed up and returned to the old country, leaving Hanworth to be leased out to tenants. After tenant Alexander Hudson, a bank manager (see what I mean!) left the house some 22 years later, the surrounding land was subdivided and Hanworth was put up for sale. The following report of the auction appeared in the Brisbane Courier on 25th March 1912:

Sale of Hanworth Estate:  

Messrs. Cameron Bros., auctioneers, report the successful sale by auction on Saturday afternoon of the Hanworth Estate, East Brisbane. Every allotment, with the exception of the house, was disposed of for a total of £2807. The highest price reached was £163, which was realised for lot No. 1. The best offer for the house was £1280, but it was passed at £1400. There was a large attendance of buyers and spectators at the sale.

In the following year, the house was sold. It was purchased by Mrs Mary Weinholt, a member of the Theosophical Society and a philanthropist who, in memory of her mother, established a home for elderly women called The Hospice. The property was later handed over to the Theosophical Society, and then in 1995 was bought by the Anglican Church, who renamed it the Hanworth Home for the Aged. It still operates as a home for women only. Here is a photograph of it, but the high wall and mature trees that shelter the residence from the heavy traffic on Lytton Rd hide much of the property.
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

Click here for a Google Map.


Edit: This house caught fire in the early hours of Tuesday 19 March 2013 - see this newspaper report. The extent of damage is not yet known.The owners had intended to pass the house on to the people of Queensland. 

Further Edit: Restoration to Hanworth following the disastrous fire have now been completed by present owners, the Vecchio family. In fact they have won an award from the National Trust of Australia. Further details here.


  1. I love reading your blog; it is just so interesting! I recently used the electoral rolls on to 'track' my father (and eventually my mother) throughout Qld. I discovered the number of the property on Latrobe terrace Paddington where we lived in the 1950s and as it's now a B&B, there were interior shots on the internet...So from fairly basic ground floor flat to very nice looking accomodation...great memories

  2. Hi Maria
    Thanks for the kind words about the blog.
    It is fun uncovering the mysteries of the past isn't it?
    Good luck with your research.


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