Interesting Facts about Toowong part 1

by Leigh Chamberlain
The first block of freehold land was sold to Robert Cribb in December 1853. It was named Lang Farm in honour of John Dunmore Lang who brought out immigrants on the Fortitude, Chaseley and Lima as ‘Lang Farm’. At times it was leased to various people such as Mr Payne, Mr Adsett, and then later for a while by Robert Cribb’s son, William.
When Separation of Queensland from NSW was announced, Robert Cribb traveled to Sydney to escort Governor Bowen to Queensland prior to Governor Bowen’s taking up office as Queensland’s first governor. To ride out along the Moggill Road (now called Coronation Drive) to as far as Taringa was a favourite weekend pastime for Governor and Lady Bowen.

Robert Cribb is featured in TDHS’ logo

Toowong has been described very as ”an eclectic and interesting socio-economic and ethnic mix” and is widely regarded as a nice place to live. But in the late 19th Century, 19 year old Millias Culpin, the son of the Taringa doctor who had emigrated to Queensland and who had settled in Taringa with his family, wrote to a friend in England that Toowong was the place ‘where the nobs live’. Upon reflection one would have to agree that, while succinct in nature, this comment was at the time very apt.
It is one of the preferred areas where the socio-economic and political leaders of our state lived, such as T.E. White, of Mercantile Insurance, and his extended family; the East family; Hon. W.H. Wilson and his son W.F. Wilson, and their numerous descendants, the Mayne family, the Kibble family; the Darley and Armstrong families, including Government Printer Mr Belbridge, who had married into this family group; Mrs Mr & Mrs William Landsborough; William Richer and his family; Mr William Pears and his wife, son and daughter, and sister-in-law Miss Maria Carver; the sapsford family; Sir Ernest Savage; the Bennett family; the Morrows (of Morrows biscuits); and the Morrises of Morris’s Boot Factory). The Elliot family, stockbrokers, lived here, as did Commissioner Ryan, of the Police Force and the Macdonnell family.
Queensland premier Sir Thomas McIlwraith lived in the district. His residence Auchenflower gave the name to the subsequent suburb. His brother-in-law Sir Arthur Palmer was also a premier of Queensland and lived at Easton Gray, now the site of the Toowong Science Mathematics and Technology Academy (SMT Academy). A third premier of Queensland was Sir Robert Philp. Sir Robert and Lady Philp lived at Mallow on Kensington Terrace. The property and house was later donated to Brisbane Boys College by his daughter, Miss Ivy Philp. In 1969, Mallow was subsequently burned down.
Sir Arthur Fadden, a former Prime Minister of Australia and also Treasurer for numerous years, lived in Aston Street, and his home was built upon the site of the first Toowong State School (which later relocated to Kate Street).
Politically the district is of significance. Nigel Drury was elected as the first member for the newly created electorate of Ryan and held it for the Liberal Party for over 20 years. He became the Speaker of the Federal Parliament. Former alderman Denver Beanland became Brisbane’s Deputy Mayor and then ousted sitting MLA Earle Paige to become our state member. He subsequently held the office of Attorney-General.
The area, once a blue ribbon stronghold, is changing demographically. This is evidenced in the fact that Toowong became the electorate of state treasurer and Labor politician Andrew Fraser. Former Federal member for Ryan, Leonie Short was the first Labor politician to hold the Ryan electorate federally, being elected after John Moore, the former Liberal Party Defence Minister, resigned from parliament after a falling out with John Howard. Labor politician Ronan Lee changed political sides to become the first Green MLA to sit in the Queensland parliament.
In the history of early Queensland, many government heads of department lived either in the Toowong area or in nearby suburbs. These include Richard Langlar Drew, the first Shipping Master: William Leworthy Drew (Treasury Department); Ramsay Macdonnell (Education).
Citizens display an immense energy in establishing and supporting local community organisations, schools and churches. Brisbane Boys College, Sommerville College and the Anglican Grammar School all have their cradle in Toowong and its nearby district. There were several private schools as well, such as Linville; a private school operated “near to the Toowong Railway Station” by Mrs Williams and her daughter in ca. 1878; another school later operated at the Toowong Institute by Miss Althea Fewings, daughter of JB Fewings (headmaster of the school on Milton Road); and of course, the famous Miss Brown’s Kindergarten.
Wests Rugby Union Club is the crèche of many a Rugby career internationally; Toowong Senior Citizens Club was the first such organisation to be set up by Rotary International; and Toowong Bowls Club celebrated their century milestone in 2003, and before its closure in 2019, was the oldest affiliated bowls club in Queensland.
One of the suburb’s main streets was called Church Street, due to the fact that all the churches were either in it or just around the corner from it. The street was later renamed as Jephson Street, after Mrs Jephson, a widow who built Mallow, later purchased by Sir Robert Philp. One local wag said that ‘the affairs of Queensland were often settled while standing on the steps of St Thomas’s Anglican Church after service of a Sunday.’
With the strong historic link to Lang’s protestant activities, it is of no surprise that Temperance issues were on the political must-do list for a long time in Toowong. In the 1890s Sir Alfred and Lady Cowley were on the receiving end of a determined and concerted public campaign during a state election to prevent hotel hours being eroded by Temperance supporters. While one could espouse Temperance ideals, it didn’t do to be too impractical and local Temperance supporter William Winterford had to choose between his Temperance beliefs or a livelihood derived from operating the exclusive Regatta Hotel. Winterford family members were subsequently denied membership of the Temperance League, a fact that family bitterly regretted. (Temperance beliefs did not save William Winterford from alcoholism and ironically he died as a result of this affliction.) A hotel application for Taringa in the 1920s was defeated by petition, and Taringa has never had a hotel since the Robin Hood Hotel on Moggill Road burned down in around 1865-66.
Local Baptists ran foul of the Wests Rugby Union Club in the mid-60s when a complaint from them regarding Bingo being held on Friday night resulted in the Toowong police force conducting a raid. Many of the club’s elderly grandmothers either spent the night ‘locked up’ or had to apply for bail. Questions asked in parliament the next Monday brought uncalled for scrutiny upon the police force, and shortly after the policeman who called the raid received a punitive transfer out west.