Toowong District Historical Society - High street and Sherwood road Toowong Brisbane c1890

Compiled by Philippa Stanford for TDHS

A brief history of Toowong

In 1842, the former Moreton Bay Penal Settlement (est. 1825), was made available to free settlers with land in the CBD offered first. These early colonists did not recognise that the penal colony occupied key Meanjin land and waterholes which lead to numerous conflicts.

The 1850s saw the auction of land in what became the Toowong shire and the construction of several grand houses. On 8 July 1851 the first parcels of Crown Land along the river bank in the Milton area of the Parish of Enoggera were proclaimed as Freehold. Between 1 March 1852, when the first blocks were sold in Milton, and May 1854, all the allotments along the Milton and Toowong Reach of the Brisbane river that had been offered for sale had been purchased. Among those to first purchase land made in the district were James Charles Burnett, Ambrose Eldridge, Isaac and John Markwell, James Powers, Michael O’Neill, James Henderson, Henry Buckley, Robert Towns and George Christie (tenants-in-common) and Robert Cribb.

In Toowong, parcels of Crown Land were freeholded on 10 June 1853. Robert Cribb purchased the first block, an area of more than 38 acres, 3 rooms and 30 perches and described as Allotment 28, on 16 December 1853. There were also other sales of land further away from the river bank offered in the Toowong and Auchenflower area. Gradually settlement spread further westwards in the district. Much of the land was purchased by people who became well known figures in Queensland such as Robert Towns (after whom Townsville is named), Arnold Weinholt, and WC Bellbridge, the government printer.

By the 1860s Toowong is a recognisable place within the settlement of Brisbane. However there is a severe economic recession in Queensland affecting growth and development which is linked to the economic crash in England, May 1866.

The 1870s sees considerable change and growth in Toowong brought about primarily by the opening of the Brisbane Ipswich Railway line with a station opened at Toowong. The Toowong cemetery is established and a number of businesses and churches are developed along the commercial Centre of Toowong (Moggill Road between the station and Burns Road Bridge and also along Sherwood Road). Shops included a grocery, butchery, an ironmongery, a bakery, a drapery meant there was no need to travel further for necessities. There were also carpenters, contractors and stone masons. New housing estates of Sylvan Grove and Kensington are released for sale.

By the mid 1870s much of these large blocks were subdivided. Properties were purchased by people who became well known figures in Toowong such as architect, Richard Gailey and Professor Samuel Kaye, the musician and music teacher for whom Kaye’s Rocks is named.

In the 1880s the Shire of Toowong was created. Milton and Toowong are early village business centres with schools opening in 1889 and 1879 respectively, and each with railway stations (Milton station opened in 1884). The shopping precinct at Toowong features ribbon development, which is typical of rural pioneer times with the shopping strip strung along the main road, then called Moggill Road, but later renamed in 1885 as High Street.

The Brisbane economy is booming as is immigration and new commerce and this is reflected in Toowong which expands enormously as land estates are subdivided and put up for sale. Estates known as Villa Estates are established. These are sizable rural properties with farms and vegetable gardens, staffed with cooks, maids and grooms, large enough to feature a stable for a coach or horse and sulky to facilitate transport to the city where many were employed in government or banking roles.

The nature of residents in Toowong changes as many more working class families move into the area which had previously only housed wealthier families on large estates. This is assisted by the growth in public transport from Alfred Roberts Omnibus and the railway line.

Following the economic boom of the 1880s Toowong is now a significant size and continues to develop with a number of fine houses were constructed in the shire including Dunmore, Fairseat, Moorlands. Davies states that, “Toowong was a satellite suburb favoured as a residential area by many politicians, civil servants, business leaders and professionals. As their large homes were set in spacious grounds, there were only 950 houses spread over four square miles. More than other suburbs, Toowong was a community in its own right with churches, private schools, sporting clubs and choral society.”

However the economic boom/excesses of the previous decade leads to a financial crisis with a decline in real estate and economic activity. Several banks suspend business and this combined with the floods in 1893 make it a difficult decade for Brisbane and consequently Toowong.

Queensland weathered this economic downturn better than its Southern counterparts and by 1895 there were signs of improvement, the colony was growing, unemployment had decreased, public works recommended and commerce revived. Davies p 142 The following decade saw a number of developments in Toowong including the electric tram, gas lighting and a pool established. In 1895 Pugh’s Almanac described the area as a ‘fashionable township’ with gas and water at the principal shops and villas.

From about 900 dwellings, the number grew to about 2500 by the early 1920s. In 1925 Toowong municipality was incorporated into the Greater Brisbane council.


ARCADIAN SIMPLICITY. J.B.Fewings memories of Toowong. Edited by Helen Gregory.
FEWINGS, John Bowden.Published by Bowen Hills. Boolarong Library., 1990
Auchenflower: the Suburb and the Name, John Pearn, Amphion Press, 1997
Brisbane Diseased: Contagions, Cures and Controversy, Brisbane History Group papers no. 25-2016, 2016
‘Historic Auchenflower’, The Brisbane Courier 21 Feb 1931,
Historic Brisbane: Convict Settlement to River City, Susanna and Jake De Vries, 2013, Pandanus Press.
Lang Farm Estate Toowong: An 1877 subdivision and the people who made it home, Bull. L, 2019, Toowong and District Historical Society.
Milton, Queensland Places website, 2018, Centre for the Government of Queensland – University of Queensland,
Surveying Success: The Hume Family in Colonial Queensland, Davies, HJ, 2011, Brisbane History Gorup, Boolarong Press.
The 1893 Financial Crisis in the Colony of Queensland. Stanford, Jon. (2012).
Toowong, Queensland Places website, 2018, Centre for the Government of Queensland – University of Queensland,
Warrior: a Legendary leader’s dramatic life and violent death on the colonial frontier. By Libby Connors, Allen and Unwin. (;

Toowong Key dates

1839 – surveyor Robert Dixon and assistants Granville Stapleton and James Warner map land in the area (creating the Parish of Enoggera) for sale to new arrivals. He cleared land on Mt. Coot-tha of trees leaving only one as an anchor point. This gave the area its name of One Tree Hill. 1843 – one of the first major roads out of Brisbane is the one to Moggill with a stretch along the river later known as River Road and then Coronation Drive (1937)

1862 – Richard Langler Drew bought land on the outskirts of Brisbane and set up a signboard to describe the area: ‘This is the village of Toowong’

1864 – William Shaw apples for a licence for the Toowong Retreat Hotel which he formally purchased off Drew in April 1865. The Hotel is situated on Moggill Road consisting of six rooms as reported in the Brisbane Courier, 19 Sept 1864.

1865 – The Reverend M. Bell applies for land at “One Tree Hill” later known as Mount Coot-tha said to be an Aboriginal word for honey.

1871 – Toowong is chosen as the site for a new Brisbane General cemetery to replace the burial centre at Milton.

1872 – Alfred Roberts establishes a form of public transport, a horse omnibus between Eagle St in the city and TARINGA allowing people of more modest income to travel between these areas.

The new Brisbane General Cemetery (also known as the Toowong cemetery) is officially opened.
First Indooroopilly Bridge is constructed.
the Brisbane to Indooroopilly (and Ipswich) railway line was opened, with a station at Toowong and Milton. The naming of the station at Toowong caused the whole district from Patrick Lane to the intersection of Moggill Road and Stanley Terrace to adopt the name.
The Regatta Hotel was opened on River Road (Coronation Drive) overlooking Toowong Reach.
Toowong Post Office established and operates out of Toowong Railway Station.
1877 – Toowong Town Council acquires the land to establish Anzac Park opposite the Toowong Cemetery. This land was originally gazetted as part of the Toowong Cemetary (Brisbane General Cemetary) in 1871.

The Toowong Division was established on 11 Nov 1879 under the Divisional Boards Act 1879
Toowong State School opens in Aston St

the more populated part of Toowong Division ( population 1000) was proclaimed the Shire of Toowong, while the remaining part of the Toowong Division was renamed as the Indooroopilly Division. The Shire of Toowong included Torwood and Milton (south of Boundary Road), Auchenflower and Toowong southwards to Toowong Creek. The western boundary approximated the summit of Mount Coot-tha.
Mt. Coot-tha area was gazetted as a public park/reserve

Patterson’s Sawmill, the Bon Accord, moved to a site near Toowong Station which used to be a waterhole.
Hiron’s Biscuit Factory established in Sherwood Road

One Tree Hill name is changed to Mt. Coot-tha (said to be an Aboriginal word for honey).

The first Regatta hotel building is replaced by the present Regatta Hotel building which was designed by Richard Gailey .
The Royal Exchange Hotel in High Street, Toowong was initially known as the Railway Hotel, and it is also believed to have been built in the 1880s and designed by Richard Gailey.
Toowong Post office relocates to High Street. A purpose built facility was opened in High St in 1899.

1887 – The Metropolitan Rifle Range used by the Queensland Rifle Association was moved to Toowong (Anzac Park area) in 1887, then Enoggera in 1910 and finally Belmont in 1964.

1893 Floods in February and March devastate Toowong and see the railway line submerged and water rising 18 inches (45cm) over the second floor of the Regatta Hotel

1895 – Pugh’s Almanac describes Toowong as a ‘fashionable township on the Brisbane River’ where ‘gas and water are laid on in the principal shops and villas’

The Toowong Shire became the Town of Toowong.
An electric tram service began in 1903 along Milton Road to the cemetery, and then along Dean Street and Woodstock Road to the terminus.

Royal Exchange Hotel, established ca. 1908.
Gas lighting is established in Toowong., 15 Oct 1908 as reported in The Brisbane Courier.

1909 – Toowong Swimming Pool established on Coronation Drive by popular subscription on the western side of Coronation Drive.

1910 – new Toowong Rowing Club with boat sheds near the Regatta is formed. This replaced an earlier club based close to Park Rd Milton which was destroyed in the 1890 and 1893 floods

1911 – December – Toowong Pavilion opens – open air picture theatre around 51 Sherwood Rd

1913 – Picture Palace opens on Jephson Street (until 1916)

1915 – Anzac Park is established at Toowong opposite the Cemetery when the Toowong Shire Council purchases land previously set aside for the Cemetery

1918 – Toowong Memorial Park, Sylvan Road was officially opened in 1918 in honour of those who enlisted from the Town of Toowong during World War I

1920 – Stuartholme school opens in March with 5 pupils

the Soldiers’ Memorial on top of the hill at the Toowong Memorial Park on Sylvan Road was dedicated
Savoy Theatres built the Gaiety in Jephson street which operated until 1961. It was renamed the Jubilee in 1935 (celebrating 25 years since the coronation of King George V)

1925 – the Town of Toowong was one of many local municipal authorities that amalgamated to form the Greater Brisbane Council.

1931 – Brisbane Boys College, formerly a day boarding college in Clayfield est 1901, opens at Toowong

1937 – River Road is renamed Coronation Drive

1957 – ABC Radio station moves to a new studio at Toowong

1961 – The Toowong Municipal Library Building was built 1961 on Coronation Drive opposite the Toowong pool, and was formerly the district library for the western suburbs.The library was designed by Brisbane City Chief Architect James Birrell, and is one of the few remaining examples of his work. The library is now used as commercial premises.

1962 – over the 1962-63 period the bus services replaced the Toowong tram service, the first move in a process to retire the metropolitan tram service in 1969.

1970s – Woolworths takes over the Brisbane Cash and Carry site (High street & Sherwood Rds)

1977 – Wesley Hospital built in the grounds behinds Moorlands house

1986 – Toowong Village drive-in shopping centre built (1986)

2013– ABC Radio moves from its Toowong site to South Bank Parklands

2016 – Woolworths Toowong closes


ARCADIAN SIMPLICITY. J.B.Fewings memories of Toowong. Edited by Helen Gregory.
FEWINGS, John Bowden.Published by Bowen Hills. Boolarong Library., 1990
‘Auchenflower: the Suburb and the Name’, John Pearn, 1997, Amphion Press, p21
“Classified Advertising” The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933) 19 September 1864: 1. Web. 16 Sep 2021 <>.
‘Gentlemen of Honour – A history of Brisbane Boys College 1902’ – 2002 by Dr Noel Quirke.
Historic Brisbane: Convict Settlement to River City, Susanna and Jake De Vries, 2013, Pandanus Press.
“Historic Toowong ABC antenna tower demolished”, Jorge Branco February 2, 2015, Brisbane Times, Web 16 Sep 2021,
‘Honouring our history’, BBC website, 16 Sep 2021,
“LIGHTING OF TOOWONG.” The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933) 15 October 1908: 2. Web. 16 Sep 2021 <>.
“Milton”, Queensland Places. Centre for the Government of Queensland, University of Queensland, web, 16 Sep 2021,
The History of Mt. Coot-tha, Janet Spillman, 2013, Boolarong Press
Toowong: Bridging the Rail at Burns Road, Leigh Chamberlain
Toowong State School history, Toowong State School, web, 17 feb 2020,
“Toowong”, State Library of Queensland Blog, JOL Admin, 14 October 2008.
“Toowong”, Queensland Places. Centre for the Government of Queensland, University of Queensland, web, 16 Sep 2021,
‘Village of Toowong – Drew’,