Brisbane General Cemetery (aka Toowong Cemetery)

The Brisbane General Cemetery’s picturesque setting maintains the visual allusion of the Victorian concept of a mortuary park on the outskirts of the city. After a sizable portion of land was set aside for cemetery purposes at Toowong in 1861, the appropriateness of the site at Toowong for the purpose of a General Cemetery was an issue contested for the next two decades. Its isolation and doubts about the suitability of its site, with a lack of access and public transport, fuelled dissent and debate while the public continued to use the cheaper, more accessible familial grounds at Paddington.

The State government passed the Cemetery Act in 1866 providing the means to establish general cemeteries under the control of government appointed trustees. In 1868, a further portion of Crown land, 53 acres in area, north of the cemetery reserve was added to fulfil of the Trustee’s requirement for the entire cemetery to be surrounded with public roads. The reserve was gazetted and the Cemetery Trust established in October 1870. The grounds at the Cemetery were laid out by the prominent surveyor, George Phillips and the Cemetery was officially opened on 5 July 1875.

The first burial here was that of Colonel Samuel Wensley Blackall (1 May 1809-2 January 1871), an Irish soldier and politician who served as Queensland’s second Governor. He served from 14 August 1868 until he died while in office. As his health was declining, in 1870, he selected the highest burial site at the new Toowong Cemetery. Shortly after, he died in office on 2 January 1871. His memorial is the largest and most prominent in the cemetery with commanding views of the city and surrounds.

Between Governor Blackall’s burial and the official opening of the Cemetery, there were six burials. The next interment was Ann Hill, wife of Walter Hill, superintendent of the Botanical Gardens on 2 November 1871. Thomas and Martha McCulloch were buried in November 1873, Teresa Maria Love on 16 March 1875 and Florence and Ethel Gordon on 4 July 1875.

The distinctive Cemetery gates are an example of the Victorian concept of a mortuary park and were designed by F.D.G. Stanley, who later resided in Church (now Jephson) Street, Toowong. The gates were erected in 1873-74.

Just inside the gates is the Temple of Peace. This memorial was erected by Richard Ramos as a memorial to his four sons, three of whom had died in WW1. Victor Ramos died at Messines, his brother Henry died of wounds in Belgium, and the youngest son, Gordon was killed at Gallipoli. An adopted son, named Fred, was killed in an accident in 1923. Ramos’s grief was so profound he designed and built the temple for his sons in 1924, and also for the family dog which was poisoned.

 

Historic Toowong ABC antenna tower demolished

Historic Toowong ABC antenna tower demolished

That’s it—the ABC has really gone now!

While the ABC’s empty and neglected buildings and its transmission tower still stood on the Toowong site at 600 Coronation Drive after staff left the property in 2006 following a cancer cluster scare, locals still tended to associate the property with the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) and its activities.

So while the ABC may have physically gone, spiritually it was still here.

But on Monday, 2nd February 2015, the fact that the ABC had actually ceased to be a part of the fabric of the local landscape really sank in when the iconic ABC transmission tower was dismantled. The tower, symbol of more than fifty years of broadcasting, was pulled down in just one day!

The ABC’s transmission tower awaiting demolition amid adjacent partly demolished buildings.[Photo courtesy of the Sunland Group]

The ABC’s transmission tower was the visible symbol of the ABC’s presence in Toowong. It was one of a series of landmarks along Coronation Drive that greeted passers-by, whether travelling by foot, train, car, bus or ferry. But after the demolition of the Toowong Swimming Pool directly across the road, the tower was one of the few local well-known landmarks left within a block or two of the High Street rail overpass bridge. It announced that you had indeed arrived in Toowong. (Motorists too relied on the tower and the ABC buildings to warn them that the Toowong High Street traffic lights were just ahead, and to ensure they were in the correct lane before it was too late!) Others took advantage of the presence of the ABC’s buildings and tower as a place marker when giving directions to visitors to the suburb.

The ABC had been located in Toowong for over fifty years. The ABC (formerly known as the Australian Broadcasting Commission until 1983) had purchased both “Middenbury” and the adjacent property, “Sidney House”, in 1957 and established new adjoining Queensland facilities for radio and television production and broadcasting here. When the ABC commenced its television broadcasting activities, its Brisbane channel, ABQ2, was opened on 2 November 1959. Unlike the three commercial television channels, who had both their recording studios and transmission towers on Mt Coot-tha, ABQ2 established its studios in the suburb of Toowong, but located its transmission towers on Mount Coot-tha. The Toowong tower was used to connect to the actual transmitters on Mt Coot-tha.

The Sunland Group, creator of Palazzo Versace and Q1 on the Gold Coast, bought the property in 2013 for $20 million. The demolition of the ABC’s Toowong transmission tower is part of Sunland’s preparations to clear the site in readiness for its proposed $420 million “champagne flute towers” development to be named ‘’Grace on Coronation’’. Preliminary demolition work commenced in November 2014. It was expected that another two to three weeks of work remained to be completed.

It took the efforts of eight construction workers to bring down the tower. The nostalgia of the occasion was not lost upon long-time local residents. The dismantlement of the transmission tower was seen as an historic occasion as it meant it was actually the end of the ABC’s presence in Toowong. To these people, it is indeed the end of an era! Some also commented that they will miss seeing the tower while driving outbound from the City down Coronation Drive.

Equipment being positioned in preparation for demolition of the ABC’s transmission tower.[Photo courtesy of the Sunland Group]

Most will agree that it’s sad seeing the ABC’s buildings and its symbol go. Often, the ABC would need generic visuals as background for a story, and from time to time, filming would take place at locations in Toowong and nearby inner city suburbs. People experienced a sense of pride that the suburb was chosen for this purpose, and delighted in identifying the locales used in such stories. Therefore it is not surprising that residents felt a sense of ownership of the ABC. The locals here also missed the ABC staff, some of whom used to meet colleagues after work at the RE (Royal Exchange Hotel).

‘’Middenbury’’ [Photographed in 2003 by heritage architect Michael Michaux].

The former ABC site also features a single-storeyed brick house called ‘’Middenbury’’, which Sunland has promised to protect. This undertaking is in accordance with the ABC placing a condition of sale on the property requiring the home be nominated for listing on the Queensland Heritage Council. This listing is also in accordance with the BCC 2012 Toowong Auchenflower Neighbourhood Plan. The building was recognised by the National Trust in 1969, and subsequently by Brisbane City Council’s heritage register. In an interview with The Brisbane Times on 22nd July, 2014, Sunland Group Executive Development Manager David Brown said the company always wanted to preserve the home. “It was always our intention to do something that respected the heritage building within its original context,” Mr Brown said. “The listing boundary ensures ‘Middenbury’ will remain in a park setting—this is a great outcome for the city and the development.”

The stately Queensland villa-styled house, thought to be the oldest surviving residence of its type in Toowong, was constructed for Mrs Eliza Rogers, ca. 1865. The residence was designed by architect James Cowlishaw, who, after his arrival in Brisbane in 1860, had established himself as being one of Brisbane’s first private architects. ‘’Middenbury’’ is rectangular in plan and surrounded by verandahs on three sides. Mrs Rogers, the widow of an officer of the Tasmanian Commissariat who had moved to Brisbane with her four children after the death of her husband, purchased the site of just over 6 acres (2.4 hectares) in 1865. She resided in the house until her death in October, 1875 when the property passed to her four children, Eliza, Minnie, Frank and Lewis. It was subsequently let to a number of prominent Brisbane families.

The home and the property was eventually subdivided and bought by Brisbane merchant Timothy O’Shea in 1891. It remained with the O’Shea family for 59 years. The O’Shea family hosted the Price of Wales at ‘’Middenbury’’ in 1920, in an era when the home had become one of the most respected residential properties on Brisbane’s riverside.

After the deaths of the O’Shea family the property was sold. Since then ‘’Middenbury’’ has been used for a time as a meeting place of the Friends of the ABC, and also as offices for the ABC.

The top section of the ABC‘s transmission tower being lowered to the ground after being detached from the tower’s base. [Photo courtesy of the Sunland Group]

The ABC may have been physically gone from Toowong for some time, but now that the symbolic transmission tower has been demolished, with its rubble dumped into skips in readiness for disposal, the fact that an era has indeed come to an end, will begin to sink in. This will be reinforced when the rest of the buildings follow suit, and no familiar features are left on the site.

In pondering this event, one could ask whether in another fifty years locals will continue to identify Toowong with the presence of the ABC, symbolised by its tower, or will time replace it with another ‘’iconic’’ symbol?

References:
Commonwealth Heritage List, Australian Government Department of the Environment, Australian Heritage Database, extracted on 3rd September, 2014 from website at:
http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/ahdb/search.pl?mode=place_detail;place_id=105421
Department of Environment and Heritage Protection; Queensland Heritage Register entry for Middenbury (as published in The Government Gazette, 1 August 2014).
Queensland Heritage Council, Media release, extracted on 11 November 2014 from website at: http://www.qldheritage.org.au/600330-middenbury.html
Michael Michaux, Toowong – Heritage Architecture and Street Art: A self-guided tour of Toowong, 2003, Toowong and District Historical Society Inc., p. 19.
Jorge Branco, Historic Toowong ABC antenna tower demolished published in The Brisbane Times, 3 February, 2015 and extracted on 3 February 2015 from website at:
http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/historic-toowong-abc-antenna-tower-demolished-20150202-1340d1.html
The Courier-Mail, Thursday 7 July 1949, p. 4.
The Queenslander, Thursday 21 January 1932, p. 35.
Written by Leigh Chamberlain. Thanks to Ruth Sapsford for her assistance with proofreading. Thanks also to the Sunland Group for their assistance and for providing photographs, and to Michael Michaux who also provided a photograph.

Trees in Toowong in 2014

The Coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth took place on Wednesday May 12th 1937. This was the date set for the Coronation of King Edward VIII, but upon his abdication the date was retained for George VI’s Coronation.

Australia was then part of the British Empire, and the King’s Australian subjects looked forward the forthcoming Coronation, embracing the occasion warmheartedly. Patriotic fervour ran high as people enthusiastically planned projects to commemorate the historic occasion, and the occasion was underpinned with widely-held notions of ‘’God, King, and Country’’. One such project — that of the Queensland Tree and Forrest League — was described in The Courier-Mail:

The Queensland Tree and Forest League decided last night to suggest to the Lord Mayor that a comprehensive scheme of tree planting be undertaken by the council to mark Coronation week, such as an avenue of shade trees along the highway extending from North Quay to St. Lucia. It was also recommended that citizens should apply to the council for trees, and that at least one be planted in front of each home as a Coronation commemoration. (1).

On the day of the Coronation a tree was planted by the Governor, Sir Leslie Wilson, on North Quay, Brisbane on Wednesday, May 12th, 1937 at the commencement of the River Road. The name of the River Road was also changed from then on to Coronation Drive (2).

Prior to the Coronation the Brisbane City Council had agreed to provide trees to be planted in avenues along Brisbane streets or in local reserves by the Girl Guides (3). Approximately 1400 trees were to be planted by the Guides in Brisbane and 4000 throughout Queensland (3). The council also agreed to supply relief staff to dig the holes, to set up stock-proof tree guards and provide assistance, when necessary, to plant the trees (4). The trees to be planted included bauhinia, bottle brush, tulipwood, tamarind, Indian laburnum, Buchinghamia celsissima, hibiscus, Bat’s wing coral tree and jacaranda (4). Tree planting was to be commenced around 2pm on Saturday, May 15th, 1937(4).

In Toowong, 61 red bottlebrush trees (Callistemon Viminalis) were to be provided and planted along Sylvan Road and Church Street (4). Church Street had its name changed to Jephson Street in 1940. A report in The Courier-Mail on 17th April, 1937 mentioned only Sylvan Road for the proposed plantings in Toowong (3).

Trees were also planted in the grounds of St John’s Cathedral, with assistance from the Guides’ State Commissioner, Lady Macartney, and the State Secretary, Miss N Edwards (5).

All avenues of trees were named with a tin plaque, but none of these have been detected on trees in Toowong. Only two plaques has been photographed — attached to hibiscus shrub branches, one of which was found in the Auchenflower Girl Guide Hut and another near to the Guide Hut at the time of the 1974 flood. These plaques were labelled St John’s, and one was reported to have been found in ‘Anzac Park’, Toowong. This may have been misreported as Toowong Memorial Park, and not Anzac Park in Dean Street, Toowong. There were Guide, Brownie and Ranger companies attached to the St John’s City Guide Group. That guide group were scheduled to plant trees to commemorate the Coronation in Gotha and Warren Streets in Fortitude Valley. It is a mystery how the plaque labelled St John’s found its way to Toowong.

Since that time the genus of the Callistemon Viminalis, which were planted in Toowong, has been reclassified as Melaleuca Viminalis. This has been confirmed by the horticultural department of the Brisbane Botanic Gardens.

So what has happened to those trees?

In November 2014 no bottlebrush trees could be detected in Jephson Street, but 28 have been counted along the footpaths in Sylvan Road. These trees are now between 4-6metres in height and many have been trimmed to prevent entanglement with power lines and road traffic. There are some large trees in adjoining gardens which may have been planted at the same time.

Trees have been recorded along the southern side of Sylvan Road between Jephson and Quinn Streets — 11 trees; western side of Sylvan Road between Quinn Street and Milton Road — 2 trees; eastern side of Sylvan Road between Milton Road and Quinn Street — 9 trees and northern side of Sylvan Road between Quinn Street and Jephson Street — 6 trees. An example of this type of tree, not in Sylvan Road, is included. Further photos will be taken of a representative Sylvan Road tree in the next flowering season in September, 2015.

I would like to thank Ms Annabel Lloyd, Archivist, Brisbane City Council for assistance with the research.

 
   
Sources:

Girl Guides of Queensland Annual Report of 1936/37.

Girl Guides of Queensland Archives – Ms Jill Hogrefe

Brisbane City Archives

  1. The Courier-Mail, Thursday, April 8th, 1937; p. 13
  2. The Courier-Mail, Thursday, 13th May, 1937
  3. The Courier-Mail, Saturday, 17th April, 1937
  4. The Courier-Mail, Friday, May 14th, 1937
  5. The Courier-Mail, Monday, 17th May, 1937

Compiled by Ruth Sapsford.

Recollections of Toowong Hardware in the 1950s and 60s

Martin Maguire

I have attempted to recall aspects of Toowong Hardware store owned and operated by my father, Alan Maguire, in the 1950s and early 1960s. After 50 years, my memory is far from clear. Apart from providing a snapshot of a Toowong business of yesteryear, I have presented an analysis of three important innovations during this time which have revolutionised the industry until this present time. I hope to prompt the memories of some of those who may have had dealings with or recollections of the store at that time. Those who remember ‘the way that it was’. With their input our understanding of the underpinnings of the present Toowong business precinct may be better understood.

My father was a metallurgist who worked in the steelworks in Port Kembla in NSW during the war years. After the war ended in 1945, he moved back to Brisbane with his new wife, Jean, and two young sons (Adrian and Martin). He took residence in the family home at Highgate Hill. There he worked in the air-conditioning industry, and then for the company which was the distributor of Kelvinator refrigerators. Within a year or two of shifting to Tarragindi in 1951, he made the  decision to go into partnership with my mother in his own business. By now three other children had joined the family (David, Helen and Judith).

From memory, my mother never took part in the actual hands on running of the business, so my (natural) understanding was that it was my father’s business. Only now while researching this account, did I notice that the photo of the sign outside of the Sherwood Road store was styled ‘AE & JE Maguire’s Toowong Hardware’. Forgive me then for using ‘he’ and ‘my father’ as the proprietor in the following account.

Toowong Hardware: Toowong Hardware was an existing business which came all stocked up and ready to run. It was operated by my father in three locations in Sherwood Road and Jephson Street, Toowong in the 1950s and early ’60s. Dad commuted each day to Toowong via Rocklea and Sherwood Road across the Walter Taylor Bridge. First of all he did this in his 1940s Wolseley 6 motor car and then later by his three-wheel Lambretta motor scooter, with a tray in the front to carry goods.

Lambretta colour

The Lambretta motor scooter with passengers

The original and largest store was located on the south-eastern corner of Sherwood Road and Jephson Street, hemmed in by a Shell Garage. The site was leased to him by the Shell Oil Company. When the lease expired and Shell took over the whole corner site, the business relocated to the opposite side of Sherwood Road to premises owned by a Mr Gittoes. Finally, as business declined further, Toowong Hardware moved to quite small leased premises in Jephson Street within the Jubilee Theatre building.

Childhood memories of roaming Toowong’s streets

Roden_smlStuart Roden’s family came to settle in Toowong in about 1919 or 1920 when his father Olof Clarence (‘Clarrie’) Roden purchased land at 8 Augustus Street, three doors up from Bennett Street, and had the family residence built on this land.

Starting with memories of his childhood home, Stuart recalls nearby local streets and the people who lived here, and concludes at Toowong Memorial Park, the source of many wonderful childhood memories for Stuart.

According to McNaughts, our topside neighbours, the 1893 flood just reached the bottom side fence. Extensions were later added to the house. It was the place of birth for all three of us — Clarence James, who was known as ‘Jim’, born in 1921 Stuart (me), born in 1925 and my sister Eleanor Vera, born in 1926. Dr Wheeler, of Sherwood Road, delivered all three.Sherwood_Road

Originally, there was an ‘out-house’ dunny in the backyard. Augustus Street was one of the earlier streets in Brisbane to be connected to the main sewer to Pinkenba. The street was bituminised during the Great Depression by ‘Relief’ workers. The milkman, whose name was Mr Shields, delivered milk in big quart metal pots and pint pot. He had a utility truck covered at the back, with two big milk cans with taps on them and he’d fill our containers.

Delungra Street, off the north side of Augustus Street, was an easement which was lined with huge old gum trees on its eastern side and belonged to the Swain family who lived in a large old house down the easement. There was a white picket fence with double gates on Augustus Street. The hearse with the body of the grandfather of my friend, Wally Swain (full name: Walter Edward Swain) came out those gates, probably around 1937.

In Golding Street, that part of the street east of Earle Street was opened up in the mid-1930s with five look-a-like houses built on the north side. The area covered by the five houses and the extension of Golding Street was previously a big paddock which belonged to the Swain Senior family.

My friend Wally lived in a house on the eastern end of the old Golding Street, on the topside, with their northern fence on what was then a paddock. Cowboys and Indians and building cubby houses out of small trees in the paddock were what sometimes occupied my friend Wally and me. My mother took me to school (at the Toowong State School) on my first day and I was expected to find my way home. But Wally’s mother brought me home on the first day of school (along with Wally) from Toowong State School through their yard, the Swain Senior’s yard, the easement and the double gates on Augustus Street. Wally was a life-long friend until the day he died! He was my best friend at school and later I was his Best Man.

Next door, on the top side of Wally’s place, were the Fardons. Then there was a pedestrian lane here between Golding Street and Augustus Street. The lane is now closed. Then there were the Cribbs (he was a dentist); the Steers (and this house was later bought by the McGregor Lowndes) and then Charles Elliott, who was on the corner of Golding and Jephson Street. The latter was a stockbroker. On the right-hand side was the fire station, which I will discuss later. There was an easement from the lower end of the new part of Golding Street to Standring Street, which ran eastward to Bennett Street.

Church_St_Toowong

Church Street, now Jephson Street

Earle Street ran from Golding Street to Sylvan Road. Sylvan Road met Croydon Street at the corner with Church Street (now Jephson) and ran westwards to Milton Road. Just near the corner of Croydon Street on Milton Road was the Elite Picture Theatre where I used to go to the pictures with the family on Saturday nights. My father used to ring up and book our seats and we used to walk down and home again. Your eyes became accustomed to the dark and you didn’t really need a torch. You could see the Milky Way clearly in those days and it was beautiful to see!

Lands’ Wholesale/Retail Butcher Shop and Ice Works was on the corner of Earle Street and Sylvan Road. Augustus Street and Golding Street joined Jephson Street, formerly Church Street, as did Sylvan Road, which continued westward to Milton Road near the Brisbane General Cemetery (or Toowong Cemetery).