Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Every now and then I seem to get nostalgic about trams - perhaps it's a sign of old age! It's not as if trams had any exalted position in my life - they just were. I saw them as functional, albeit slightly dated in a romantic sort of way. I didn't live on a tram line when I was young, but journeys would often involve different modes of transport such as catching the bus to a hub like Woolloongabba, the City, or the Valley, and then the tram to the final destination.

As we have noted before, trams disappeared from Brisbane in 1969. In recent times various governments have intimated that trams might be reintroduced, but that never seems to eventuate. Rather we seem to spend increasing amounts on tunnels and freeways to serve the motor car.

But there are still traces of our tram history to be seen if one knows where to look. In no particular order, here are some reminders of the Brisbane tram system.

1. Stop 26.
On the corner of Old Cleveland Rd and Cavendish Rd at Coorparoo. This former tram stop is where people used to wait, on the footpath, for the trams that ran down the centre of the road. The trams would pull up opposite the stop, and all the motorists had to stop their cars at the rear of the trams to allow the passengers to walk in safety from the footpath onto the roadway and then board the tram.

2. Mail hitching post.
In Queen St, outside the GPO. People used to be able to post their mail by dropping it in a mail bag on the front of the tram. When the tram got to the GPO, the conductor would leave the mail bag on this post and it would be collected by post office staff.

3. Tramway substation.
On Ipswich Rd at Annerley, just before the Annerley Rd junction. This substation was built in 1936 to supply power from the grid to the electric tram network. It has been incorporated into the old Annerley Junction Hotel, now known as the Muddy Farmer. The top photo was taken from Annerley Rd, and the bottom from Ipswich Rd.

4. Tram shelter 1. 
Sandgate Rd Clayfield. It's hard to imagine a scene more in keeping with Brisbane than this tiny tram shelter. Built around 1946 and designed by then City Architect Frank Costello, it is sheltered from the hot sun by these giant Moreton Bay figs. If you look closely you'll find it!

5. Tram shelter 2.
On Chatsworth Rd, opposite Rossmore Avenue. A timber construction with a terracotta tiled roof built during WWII, this was the standard waiting shed for trams. It now serves the same purpose for the buses.
(Photos: © 2012 the foto fanatic)


Friday, May 25, 2012

WR Black Home for Children, Chelmer

This old house at Chelmer has many links to Brisbane's history - some fortunate and others rather less than fortunate.

The house, originally known as Hurlton, was designed by GHM Addison and built on the river in the late 1880s for Mr John W Sutton, proprietor of an ironworks and shipbuilding business at Kangaroo Point. A perk of this enterprise was that Mr Sutton had his own steam launch, which he used on occasion to take members of amateur photography and field naturalist groups on excursions. Sutton himself was a keen photographer and even dabbled in X-ray photography. The Suttons moved out after their family grew up and the building was rented out to a school for use as a boarding facility. This school was the embryonic Church of England Grammar School (known locally as "Churchie"), now one of Brisbane's elite boys' schools. Sutton's ironworks firm was virtually destroyed in the 1893 flood, and the remnants of the business were sold. Mr Sutton died in the early 1900s, and after his death, Mrs Sutton returned to live at Hurlton until her own death around 1928. Here are a couple of photographs of the house from around this time.
(Source unknown)
(Photo: The Queenslander, 1932)

Into the story of this house now steps Mr WR Black, a man born in Northern Ireland in 1859 and a Queensland immigrant in 1880. He first located himself in Maryborough, where he worked as a farm labourer, timber-cutter and fencer. Moving to Brisbane, Black was employed to deliver coal in a hand-cart, but he was intelligent and thrifty enough to be able to start out in his own right as a carrier in 1885, complete with a horse and cart.

William Robert Black must have been an industrious chap. Only fifteen months after starting his horse-drawn carrying business he decided that he would commence to transport goods via the Brisbane River, and he purchased the requisite vessels to do so. At one time he had six steam launches and twenty coal lighters at work on the river.

His next venture was to buy some land and to commence mining for coal. The land was at Bundamba, south-west of Brisbane, and the mine he established was the Blackheath Colliery. With modern machinery, the colliery was soon producing around 600 tons per day - the most of any mine in the state. Black extended his interests with the purchase of more coal mines, and he eventually retired in 1920. Once retired, he set about dispersing his fortune to the needy. He had never married, and throughout his life he had made many bequests to the Presbyterian Church. His biographer says that he saw his wealth as a trust, and believed that "much had been given so that by him much might be done". A great supporter of education for children, he was involved with many such enterprises through the Presbyterian Church. Here is a brief and by no means exhaustive list - Fairholme ( a girls' school near Toowoomba), Scots College ( a boys' school at Warwick), Somerville House (girls, Brisbane), Brisbane Boys' College. The Townsville Daily Bulletin described Black as "one of the greatest, if not the greatest philanthropist in Queensland".

Not long after the death of Mrs Sutton, WR Black purchased Hurlton and presented it to the Presbyterian Church - it opened on 24 November 1928 as the Presbyterian Home for Children. At various times it has been a girls' home as well as a home for disabled children.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #2898)

From here on the story is rather difficult to tell. I can only say thank goodness that modern child welfare protocol is rather different than it used to be. Here is a heart-wrenching story, found online, of one of the children who stayed here. I can't vouch for its veracity, and I don't want to imply that every case was like this - clearly I wouldn't know that. Even one is enough, but other similar stories about the home can also be found on the internet. It seems a shame that a place that started as the result of such altruism and generosity could have had such sorry outcomes.

What of the building? I took this photograph at the location, and it doesn't look like Hurlton at all. Whether that structure was demolished and another erected, or the original building has been modified out of recognition, I cannot say.
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

Click here for a Google Map.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Windsor State School

After the opening in 1860 of the Bowen Bridge across Breakfast Creek, the near northern suburb of Windsor was able to develop. The first state school in the area was built in 1865 to a design by Charles Tiffin. It was known as the Bowen Bridge Road National School, and was situated on Bowen Bridge Rd in an area that is now a memorial park. This is a photograph from 1910 that shows the school - it was taken from the site of the Windsor Town Hall.The school was a simple wooden building with an adjoining headmaster's house.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #10145-0001-0001)

Of course the surrounding suburb kept growing, and attendance at the school kept increasing. A railway line connecting the area to Brisbane was opened in 1898, allowing for even more development. As a result, it became necessary to improve the school facilities. In 1916, a new school building was opened across the road from the original. It was called the Windsor State School, and the headmaster, Dr F Papi, marshalled the students across the road to the new premises. Here is a photograph of it from a 1921 publication, The Pocket Queensland.
(Photo: Queensland Government Intelligence and Tourist Bureau)

Newspaper reports indicate that the school originally opened with 816 pupils, and that by 1931 the number had increased to 1211. In the same year, nearby schools at Wooloowin and Wilston had enrolments of 1437 and 773 respectively, indicating that the population of these northern suburbs was rapidly increasing.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #121372)

During WWII, a portion of the school grounds was given up by the school to be used as a parts storage depot for US submarines. That portion of land was never returned to the school and is now the site of an office equipment warehouse. Here is a current photograph of the school. There is now a statue of a digger standing in front of the school buildings.
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

Just by coincidence, I recently met a man named Stuart who was a pupil at the school during the years of WWII. His father was the district warden, and had air raid trenches dug to provide protection for the staff and students should it be required. Stuart remembers drills where they all had to practice evacuating the school to hide in those trenches. 

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Friday, May 18, 2012

The Grange, Windsor

It is interesting to think about how the convict outpost of Moreton Bay grew into the modern city of Brisbane. After transportation stopped, free settlers arrived here to fashion a new life for themselves. Many brought skills with them - carpenters, farmers, bakers, butchers. All of the requirements to build a town from a settlement, and then a city from the town, had to be imported in those early days.

One such arrival was William Williams, who came here from England around 1864 and in 1865 settled in the area of Lutwyche, named after Judge Alfred Lutwyche, in 1865. Not long after that, Williams started a brickworks at Lutwyche, with one of his earliest contracts being the making of bricks that were used in the construction of the Old Government Printery. Bricks from Williams' brickyard were also used in the construction of the residence in our last post, La Trobe.

It is also assumed that bricks from Williams' business were used for the construction of his own house, The Grange, built around 1874. It is a neat English-style cottage with a steeply pitched roof, seen below. Under that roof is an attic, reached by a narrow staircase. A Queensland touch is provided by the shady verandahs around the residence.
(Photo: © 1979 National Trust of Queensland; R Stringer)

Williams must have been a successful businessman. His original brickworks, on two acres of freehold land, became the highest producing brick manufacturer in the area, and by 1888 Williams owned a further three brickyards.

A standalone kitchen scullery was added to The Grange in 1877, and still exists today. The Williams family sold the property in 1904, but it is still present in a leafy environment in this near-northern suburb.
(Photo: © DSEWPaC; rt21761)

(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

Something that struck me as I wrote this piece is the name of the house - The Grange. That has to be one of the most used place names ever. There are houses, suburbs, even golf courses named The Grange in Australia, let alone in the UK where the name originated. It means "the dwelling of a gentleman farmer". In my house it also means a wonderful Australian red wine that has a stratospheric price tag, thereby putting it well and truly out of reach.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

La Trobe, East Brisbane

Oftentimes we find that a suburb or a street has been named after an early house or property in the area. Here's one that seems to have taken the reverse course, with the house being named after the street.

The street is Latrobe St in East Brisbane, and it was created when land originally owned by Rev Thomas Mowbray was subdivided during the 1880s. This house, called La Trobe, was owner-built around 1886 by William Henry Genn, who was described as a plumber, iron worker and wood carver.
(Photo: © 1982 National Trust of Queensland, F Bolt)

Genn reportedly carved much of the timber work in the Treasury Building. I haven't been able to find much more information about him except that by 1898 he was registered to vote as living in the suburb of Coorparoo, so he may possibly have sold La Trobe by then.

The house itself is different to the grander residences that had been built earlier in the area, such as Eskgrove and Hanworth. It was built using bricks from the Lutwyche brickyards, and has rather ornate window frames and door lintel visible in the photograph above. The two storey residence originally had four rooms on each level, but there may have been alterations to that configuration over time. Here is a current picture of the house.

(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

La Trobe is included on the Queensland Heritage Register.

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Friday, May 11, 2012

Bryntirion, Spring Hill

Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is now a backbencher, sitting in parliament as the member for Griffith. Although he has been mentioned in this blog before, he has nothing to do with today's piece. But his electorate does.

The seat of Griffith was formed in 1934. Before that, it was known as the seat of Oxley, having been formed in 1900 for the original parliament. (The current seat of Oxley was only formed in 1949, and is in a totally different locality.)

The first member of the seat of Oxley was Brisbane businessman Richard Edwards, pictured below, who held the seat until he retired in 1913.
(Photo: wikipedia)

Prior to entering parliament, the Welsh-born Edwards had been a gold miner in Victoria and a shopkeeper in Brisbane. Around the year 1884, he bought a house on Wickham Terrace that had originally been designed by architect James Furnival and built in 1861 for Edward Southerden, a successful Queen St draper. This is an early photograph (C1859) of Southerden's drapery store that was situated on the Queen and Edward St corner now occupied by Tattersall's Club.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #8299)

Edwards named the residence Bryntirion, apparently after a Welsh village. In 1876, extensions to Bryntirion which included the rotunda and the detailed entry porch (both seen below) were designed by Richard Gailey .
(Photo: DSEWPaC #rt51071; 1996)

(Photo: National Trust of Queensland, 1979; R Stringer)

For many years, the house remained in the Edwards family, mirroring the trend on Wickham Terrace by becoming a doctor's surgery.
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

I believe the building was then sold in 2004 for about $2.8 million, and is now home to a specialist paediatric dental practice. It remains one of the few remaining Brisbane buildings from the 1860s, and is included in the state's heritage listing.

Click here for a Google Map.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Police College, Chelmer

One of Brisbane's best known streets is Laurel Avenue at Chelmer. In fact, because of its river frontage and large allotments, it was voted Brisbane's best street in 1999. An early house built there was Waterton, owned by local insurance executive Thomas Beevor Steele, who bought one and a half acres of land in March 1900 and erected the house shortly afterwards. Here is a photograph of it from 1906.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #69578)

Waterton still stands, but has had several identities since it was built. In 1913 it was acquired by AE Harding Frew, a prominent local engineer who was later to design the William Jolly Bridge and also to work on the Hornibrook Bridge. He lived in the house until around the year 1939, when unfortunately he was bankrupted and the house was sent to auction by mortgagors. It did not sell, and was subsequently picked up by the Australian Red Cross Society for the ridiculous sum of £2000. They intended to use the building as a convalescent home for WWII's returning service personnel, and the building was renamed as the Lady Wilson Red Cross Convalescent Home. Here is a photograph from 1944.
(Photograph: Australian War Memorial; 017476. RJ Edwards)

The convalescent home was closed in the early 1950s, and the property was leased to the Australian Military Forces from 1953 for use as a barracks for the Women's' Royal Australian Army Corps. The Red Cross retained ownership, and during 1965-6 they cut off much of the surrounding land for subdivision into housing allotments. After a new facility was built for the WRAAC at Kelvin Grove, they moved out of this building in early 1969, and the building was sent to auction by the Red Cross in May of that year. Once again it did not sell, but at the end of the year it was purchased. The new owner was the Queensland Police Force, and they opened it as a training facility in January 1970. It is now known as the Queensland Police College, and here is a current photograph.
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

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Friday, May 4, 2012

Daphne Mayo, MBE

Is it unfair of me to think that the rest of Australia considers Queensland as a home to rednecks and that it lacks culture? Only recently Philip Adams in The Australian, on some weird explanation of how Anna Bligh lost power, was likening Queensland to the Deep South of the USA - a sledge that both communities should take umbrage at. Queensland does not have a monopoly on those with extreme viewpoints either right- or left-leaning, and has fostered its fair share of artists too. Today we are looking at one of Queensland's most prominent artists, the sculptor Daphne Mayo, pictured below around 1912 with her work Winged Victory
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #72615)

I suppose we could have the whole state of origin debate, because Daphne Mayo was born in Sydney but educated in Brisbane where her father was an insurance executive. She attended Brisbane's Central Technical College from 1911, where she met Lloyd Rees who later became her fiancé, although they were never to marry.

Mayo was originally an artist, but turned to modelling (i.e. sculpture) during her time at the college. She was awarded Queensland's first ever travelling art scholarship, which enabled her to sail to Europe at the end of WWI. Once in London she studied at the Royal Academy of Arts, graduating in 1923 with the gold medal for sculpture, the highest honour on offer there.  She won the prize with this work, Return of the Prodigal Son.
(Photo: "The Daphne Mayo Collection" UQFL 119_014. Fryer Library, University of Queensland Library. Used by permission.)

This prize enabled her to move to Italy for further study, but the death of her brother hastened her return to Brisbane. This awful event, however, came at a propitious time for her, as Brisbane was about to enter a building boom.

Her headquarters was in Ascot Chambers, a Queen St high-rise formerly at the corner of Queen and Edward Sts (now the site of Tattersall's Club), and that was also fortuitous as architects Hall and Prentice were located there. 
(Ascot Chambers: Painting by Keith Sullivan; Tattler Magazine)

It was Hall and Prentice who designed Brisbane City Hall, where Daphne Mayo sculpted the tympanum.  
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

Mayo also worked on Tattersalls Club, another Hall and Prentice design, where she provided friezes representing the horse in sport.
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

But of course she did wider work than that. Take a look here to see a neat interactive presentation about the front doors of the Library of NSW where she created a work representative of Australia's indigenous people. She made statues for St David's Cathedral in Hobart, a WWII Memorial for The King's School, door panels for the North Gregory Hotel in Winton and many other commissions in Australia.

The Brisbane Women's Club decided to commission a monument for Anzac Square in Brisbane, and although they engaged Mayo to prepare it, they rejected her original plans for emphasising the service and sacrifices of women for a more eclectic presentation involving all the armed services, represented mainly by men. Daphne Mayo included an image of her brother (who died of a war-related condition) at the head of the line of servicemen (and one woman) in this piece. This is it.
(Photo: "The Daphne Mayo Collection" UQFL 119_023. Fryer Library, University of Queensland Library. Used by permission.)
(Photo: "Daphne Mayo: Let There Be Sculpture", © Queensland Art Gallery/GOMA 2011; Robert McQueen)

And I love this statue of "the jolly swagman" that has been installed at Winton in north-western Queensland (above).

It should not be overlooked that Daphne Mayo was small and frail, suffering from chronic asthma. Yet she created these large works involving heavy physical activity, often outside in the harsh Queensland climate.

Mayo's contribution to the arts in Queensland was not restricted to her own work. She was active in raising funds for the establishment of the Queensland Art Gallery, and she was a trustee of the gallery for many years during the 1960s.

Daphne Mayo died in July 1982. Her name lives on in her work, and the Daphne Mayo Visiting Professorship in Visual Culture, which brings a world renowned art figure to the University of Queensland each year for lectures and master-classes.

If you click here, you will be transported to UQ, where the Fryer Library has a magnificent on-line exhibition of her work and life. I also recommend the book "Daphne Mayo: Let There Be Sculpture" published by Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art in 2011. It is available at your local library.


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Graceville Uniting Church

The growth of suburbs Indooroopilly, Chelmer and Graceville owes much to Walter Taylor, a man small in stature but large in character. It was Taylor who conceived, constructed and financed the building of the cross-river toll bridge at Indooroopilly that was opened in 1936 and now bears his name.

Walter Taylor was a devout Methodist, in fact a lay preacher in that faith. His brother Arthur became a Methodist minister, and his grandson Noel Davis, also a minister, is the author of a book about his grandfather entitled "The Remarkable Walter Taylor".

After Walter Taylor's father died as the result of an accident at his construction business, Walter and his family moved to England, where Walter learned about engineering, architecture and construction "on the job". Apparently he never had any formal training in any of these disciplines - he had been self-taught since working in his father's construction business in Brisbane.

After ten years in England, the Taylor family returned to Brisbane in 1912, and Walter started his own construction business.  As a member of the Sherwood Methodist community, Walter was invited to become involved in finding new accommodation for a Sunday school in nearby Graceville. Property was sought and bought, and Taylor was appointed Honorary Architect and supervisor of the project. A new hall, built by voluntary labour, was opened in 1917.

In 1928, Taylor was invited by the Methodists to draw up plans for a new church in Graceville. The foundation stone was laid in March 1929, and the building was opened by the governor in November 1930. Here is a photograph of it during construction.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #34095)

The construction of the Graceville church was achieved largely by donations of cash and materials, not to mention voluntary labour, during the Great Depression. In this project Walter Taylor used precast concrete, a technique that he had acquired in England. As well as his construction skills, Walter Taylor proved to be an innovative thinker about finance, and this attribute was to stand him in good stead in his later project, the Indooroopilly Toll Bridge.

Here is a photograph of the church as it stands today. Like the Walter Taylor Bridge, the church has been included on the state's heritage register.
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

But that was not all Walter Taylor was to do with this church. He prepared plans for the construction of the next door memorial hall in 1947, and it was opened in 1951. Walter Taylor died in 1955, and one of the provisions of his will was to pay out the church's overdraft and loans.
Recently the church celebrated its 80th birthday, and the current governor was on hand to formalise the occasion. Noting the beauty and poetry of the interwar Gothic architectural style, she pointed out "the 34 buttresses representing Christ's 34 years on earth and the ‘trinity' of light emanating from the 3 windows in each bay of the building" and paid homage to Taylor's achievement of completing the church within two years during extremely difficult times.

Click here for a Google Map.

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