Hello and welcome

Brisbane History West is a collaborative resource set up to provide an internet presence for the history groups in the inner south western suburbs that don’t have their own dedicated website.  Its purpose  is to supplement existing activities and encourage community awareness and participation in the study and recording of local history.

Each of the groups focus on specific geographical areas which jointly cover the present day suburbs of Chelmer, Corinda, Graceville, Indooroopilly, Oxley, St Lucia, Sherwood and Taringa. Arbitrary boundaries aside, with some subtle variations the area shares a common history.

If you are unfamiliar with the blog format this Home page has all the articles uploaded to date in chronological order. Each has been categorised so if you are looking to minimise scrolling click on the relevant Topic (right hand side margin for PC users). The articles are a mix of frequently asked questions, meeting notices, research notes and papers,  and general news items.

Please feel free to contact us if you are working on a project and are wondering how to share your research effort, contributions are welcome. The site is self-funded and supported by the participating groups and societies which rely solely on volunteer resources. The individual groups retain their independence.

The publication Brisbane Spreads West– A local history 1840 to 1901 is the combined work of a number of local groups and societies, drawing on their research of the history of the western and south western suburbs of Brisbane. It is available from the participating groups.

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Indooroopilly & District Historical Society June Meeting

5 for 5.30pm Wednesday 14 June at the Meeting Room, Indooroopilly Library, Indooroopilly Shopping Centre, Indooroopilly.

For further details contact indooroopillydhs@gmail.com

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Oxley-Chelmer History Group June Meeting

9.30am Friday 9 June 2023 at the Sherwood-Indooroopilly RSL Sub-Branch, Clewley Street, Corinda. Our June meeting is our annual Members’ Day, where a few members give a short presentation on a topic of their choice to do with local history.

Thanks to Brian McNicol, Linda Conrad, Jan Freemantle, Doreen Draheim and Rosemary Jennings,  it looks as though we will have a very interesting morning of talks. Rosemary’s talk is about  St Matthew’s church, celebrating its centenary. She would like to know of any member who would be interested in a tour of the church that afternoon at 2.30 p.m. Let us know at the morning talk.

At this meeting, we will serve morning tea and offer opportunities for members new and long-term to mix and socialize a little more than usual.

For catering purposes please RSVP by Monday (5 June)  advising of any dietary requirements. Call Marion on 0420 350 351 or by email ochginc@gmail.com

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Taringa History Group June Meeting

Frederick Street, Taringa c1910 (SLQ)

3pm Saturday 3 June 2023 at the Community Meeting Place, Josling Street, Toowong. This month more on the streets of Taringa.  All welcome

For further details contact Bruce burrowesdaly1919@gmail.com

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Indooroopilly & District Historical Society May Meeting

5 for 5.30pm Wednesday 10 May at the Meeting Room, Indooroopilly Library, Indooroopilly Shopping Centre, Indooroopilly. This month our guest speaker is Dr Denis Cryle who will present  Long-range weather forecasting in Queensland:  the ‘Crohamhurst dynasty’ a talk based on his recent paper which documented the significant role played by long-range weather forecasters in Queensland during the 20th century, operating independently of Commonwealth and state meteorological bodies.

His talk will include examination of the assumptions and theories which underpinned the work of several Queensland forecasters, most notably that of Inigo Jones, including the extent to which his predictions came to exercise significant influence in state government and private industry circles over a sustained period.

Inigo Jones’ early training was under controversial Queensland meteorologist, and local Swann Road resident*, Clement Wragge. He subsequently established an observatory at Beerwah in south-east Queensland, the output of which served to perpetuate Wragge’s controversial methods and create a unique ‘Crohamhurst dynasty,’ devoted to long-range forecasting.

Denis will highlight some of Jones and his followers’ notable successes and failures in predicting seasonal weather over time, issued amid ongoing suspicion of their methods in scientific and government circles.

For further details contact indooroopillydhs@gmail.com

[ * If you are interested in the history of his residence, follow this link to Capemba ]

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St Lucia History Group May Meeting

Paddington Maternal & Child Welfare Centre courtesy QSA (Still searching for a photograph of the St Lucia Clinic)

1pm Saturday 6 May 2023 at the Toowong Community Meeting Place, Josling Street, Toowong. This month we will take a look at Maternal and Child Welfare services. And if luck has it, with the benefit of access to the files for the St Lucia Clinic.

For further information contact Andrew Darbyshire slhgcoordinator@gmail.com

Looking for somewhere to visit during winter ? Perhaps select one from the Brisbane Living Heritage Network recently released Guide


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Chelmer School of Arts and The Centenary Theatre Group

Part of the 1859 original survey and subdivision plan for the area. The School of Arts was built on the north west corner of the ‘Recn & Water Res’ used during the 1870s/80s by government for experiments in stock and plant life (Museum of Lands, Mapping and Surveying)

1906 ‘Rural Scene’ looking north along Oxley Road. Chelmer ‘swamp’ on the left, future east-west Queenscroft Street in middle distance (State Library of Queensland)

The Chelmer Community Centre, once the Chelmer School of Arts, has been a vital part of the local community since it was opened on 15 May 1923. In early Queensland, schools of arts buildings were regarded as a status symbol and sign that a town or suburb had achieved a certain level of progress.

Residential subdivision and marketing of estates in the district had started in the 1880s, prompted by the building of the railway, connecting Brisbane to Ipswich which before this was the terminus of the Southern and Western Railway. The building of new homes and influx of families gave rise to the establishment of the suburbs we know today. Often centred around a railway station. Chelmer was no exception, the local community banding together to promote or provide community infrastructure.

On 30 March 1915 the Chelmer Progress Association took the opportunity to request the government to reserve land to build a community hall. Chairman John Cannan wrote to the Hon DF Denham MLA, requesting his assistance in securing:

‘For School of Arts purposes about ½ acre of land out of the Recreation and Water Reserve … the site is the corner of the Reserve immediately opposite Mr Ewing’s residence on the south side of the railway line, such site being between the station master’s residence and Mr Ewing’s residence.

The progress of Chelmer has been to a large extent blocked by not having a suitable Hall in the locality, and my Committee are of the opinion that by the establishment of a School of Arts, a suitable Hall could be erected, and made revenue producing, which could further the School of Arts’

The Sherwood Shire Council supported Continue reading

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St Lucia History Walks

As ‘on and off’ Covid restrictions continued to interrupt our ability to meet in person, and the floods in early 2022 knocked out our usual gathering place, it was decided to take the opportunity to undertake a couple of outdoor events this year. These took the form of two guided history walks in the suburb.

For some of those who gathered it was a case of deja vu, as similar tracks were followed in events held two decades ago. This time, however, the commentary was enhanced in part arising from the benefit of a few years additional research.

Both walks were well attended, and will likely be repeated. For those who expressed an interest, but were unavailable on the day, an attempt has been made to document them as a self guided walk. The two guides consist of a series of the illustrations used at each waypoint on the day, accompanied by notes which informed the commentary. They are summary notes, based on the various SLHG Papers/Research Notes/Meeting Records included elsewhere on this site, supplemented by more recent research. For further reading on any particular topic refer to the Topic Finding Aid.

The Macquarie Street Walk commences in Guyatt Park. It is not arranged chronologically so can be conducted in any direction or order. The selected topics covered focus on aspects of our history since European settlement.

The UQ Campus Walk is presented as more of a timeline, covering aspects of the initial  development and relocation of the university from the city. It has a St Lucia flavour.

Keep you whits about you and enjoy your walk. Feedback, as always, is welcome.

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Station Road, Indooroopilly – behind the facade

Indooroopilly’s first purpose built Post Office in Station Road, slipped back on the block and extended in the early 1970s, and a view today illustrating the transition to high-rise behind (NAA and Author)

Indooroopilly became a destination when the railway arrived in the early/mid 1870s. Isolated, the new station had to be connected with a new road running down from Moggill Road. Station Road quickly became the commercial focus of the district (apparently with a preponderance of butchers’ shops).

In common with other stations along the line, railway staff took on the role of ‘Receiving Office Keeper’ on behalf of the Post Master General. Combined with their ‘day job’ the service was limited, they received and issued mail, could sell stamps and receive letters for posting.

In 1911 the ‘post office’ moved out of the railway station and into leased premises where it would stay until the 1920s when it was decided to purchase a plot of land and construct a new building. Plans were prepared, a tender called and a contract awarded. The new Post Office opened in 1926 and with minor enhancements served the local populace until the late 1960s. By then new business practice and technology required a rethink and an update of the accommodation. The 1920s building was eased back on the block and a large extension constructed on the street frontage.

The original facade can still be seen peeping above the roofline of the ‘new’ extension, already itself over 50 years old. A walk around the rear of the property suggests that there is still life in the old 1920s structure yet, even as it approaches its centenary. It is not alone along this stretch of Station Road, many of the single storey buildings are of a similar and older vintage.

Further reading https://brisbanehistorywest.files.wordpress.com/2017/07/07-posties-cops-and-ferrymen.pdf

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Thomas Lodge Murray Prior – early 1860s St Lucia land owner

Thomas Lodge Murray Prior’s local landholdings in the early 1860s (Parish Map base QSA)

By the early 1860s the majority of the land in what are today’s inner western suburbs had been surveyed, auctioned and sold with freehold title. A continuation of the ‘terra nullius’ doctrine. As part of a larger government offering of ‘Country’ lots surrounding Brisbane, the size of the ‘Portions’ offered in today’s St Lucia averaged around 40acres. With some exception it was offered with a reserve price of £1 per acre.

Government’s intent was to quickly release land for farming to encourage settlement and a degree of self-sufficiency for the newly created Colony. Concurrently it was encouraging immigration from overseas with various inducements including land orders and grants for those individuals and families that could afford to contribute to the cost of their own passage.

There was also latent demand from established businessmen looking for investment opportunities, newly released land had potential, and it was individuals from this cohort who initially purchased most of the St Lucia land. One such individual was Thomas Lodge Murray Prior (TLMP) who purchased seven portions, in the order of 290acres Continue reading

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War and family – childhood recollections

These two personal recollections provide an insight into family life on opposite sides of the world, and on opposite sides of the conflict, leading up to, during, and after the 1939-45 War. One is based in Brisbane, the other in a farming community in northern Germany.

From Migrant Kid to Community Leader outlines the life of Walter Marggraf as seen through his son Eric’s eyes. Born and spending his first Christmas in Berlin, this was the extent of Eric’s life in Germany. He could neither read nor speak German and spent his early life, where this story is based, in Taringa. His father Walter was a long time Secretary/President of the Brisbane German Club.

The son of German immigrants, Walter received his secondary education in Southport, his father establishing the Boot and Shoe Emporium in Nerang Street. After studying accounting he joined the family business which prospered, expanding into property. In his teens Walter had established a six piece band which played at various venues on and around the coast. It was at one of these that he met the local girl he would marry.

Capitalising on their investments the family moved to Taringa, his parents into Princess Street, Walter and family into Manchester Terrace. It was during the mid 1930s that Walter became more involved with the German community, becoming Secretary of the Brisbane German Club. It is this association that resulted him being interned during the 1939-45 War.

By contrast the setting for In the Company of Widows is a long established family farm 70km west of Hamburg. It is the story of Irma Muller’s childhood. She was born during the 1939-45 War and brought up by the women members of her family, her father, grandfather and two uncles all being the casualties of war. She can recall life under Allied occupation, and the waves of refugees, initially escaping conflict and then as the Iron Curtain descended.

Her mother and father, lined up as manager for an agricultural drainage scheme, planned to marry in the autumn of 1939, however, these plans were brought forward following the receipt of his orders to report for active service. He remained on duty to within weeks of the end of war, being killed in action defending the Vistula Peninsula on the Baltic Coast as the Russian Army advanced.

Irma kindly offered to recount her memories of this period during a series of interviews in 2020. She has spent most of her adult life in Australia.

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Commonwealth Rehabilitation Centre, Swann Road, Taringa

May 1977 Front-page story of the St Lucia Gazette. c2018 aerial view of the old Rehabilitation complex site (looking south) bounded by Swann Road, Whitmore Street, Seven Oaks Street and private property. [SLHG archive, Google Earth]

Some time ago a bundle of local newspapers was donated to the St Lucia History Group, copies of the The St Lucia Gazette with various dates from 1975 to 1980. Tabloid size, it was prepared and published by the St Lucia Community Association which was established and evolved from the community effort and response to the 1974 Australia Day floods. Christ Church Hall on Central Avenue became the centre for both immediate and longer term flood relief and welfare for the affected residents. It was ‘manned’ by volunteers, not finally closing until October of that year. Active for a number of years the SLCA would eventually go into hibernation, the current iteration formed in 2002 as a response to the uncertainties surrounding the intended function of the BCC proposed UQ/Dutton Park bridge. SLHG had its initial tentative gathering following the first public meeting of the reinvigorated SLCA.

The Gazette, ‘delivered free to all homes in St Lucia, Indooroopilly East and Taringa East’ had a circulation of 4,500 and provided the opportunity for the Association to promote its agenda to a wider section of the public. In addition it included items of local news, community activities and advertising by local businesses which would have supported its publication.

Armed with the rather grainy image Continue reading

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The Bridges of Radnor Street

Camera shy, a good proportion of Radnor Street can be seen (LHS foreground) on this 1957 image. The main focus is the near completion of the additional railway bridge, part of the upgrade of this section of the railway to provide two further tracks, and prepare for electrification of the suburban system. Downstream (top) on the LHS is Witton Barracks, used in conjunction with the Neilson house on the opposite bank by the Intelligence Services during the 1939-45 War. The barracks was a mix of temporary hutting, purpose built facilities, and existing residences including Tignabruaich and Witton Manor, the L shaped building next to the railway. This had  previously been relocated from the riverbank, a kilometre or so upstream (SLQ IE16732_FL22157) 

Servicing just two driveways, the name Radnor ‘Street’ at Indooroopilly is perhaps a little misleading, particularly as this relatively short roadway, carved out of the riverbank for a good proportion of its length, is used primarily as a shortcut. This was the reason it was constructed, to service the early  residential development of the Witton Flats. Continue reading

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The Dell – A house in Toowong

Author Ruth Sapsford signing copies of her book at the recent launch (John Carter)

What makes this ‘timber and tin’ riverside residence different ? The fact that it has been owned and lived in by by four successive generations of one family. In The Dell author Ruth Sapsford presents its 130 year history, over which time it has been enlarged, modernised and adapted for modern living. She has dipped into the house records and covers its story from the installation of gas lighting to WiFi and the internet.

For further details and how to obtain a copy of the book please refer to the flyer

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Brisbane CBD/Valley 1950s snapshot


Interested in a mid 20th Century snapshot of businesses and buildings in the City and the Valley ? Brisbane City Archives has recently had the Malhstedts Brisbane fire maps digitised and they are available online through the Map room on Brisbane Images https://library-brisbane.ent.sirsidynix.net.au/client/en_AU/BrisbaneImages/?rm=MAHLSTEDT%E2%80%99S+BR0%7C%7C%7C1%7C%7C%7C1%7C%7C%7Ctrue (better quality than the above snip)

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Laurence and Mary West and West’s Furniture

The West’s Furniture showroom on Wickham Street, built in the early 1950s, was so striking the Duke of Edinburgh stopped the royal cavalcade as it passed for a closer look. Functional and eye catching it was constructed for Laurence and Mary West as a purpose built showroom to display their range of contemporary furniture.

Designed by family friend Karl Langer, it was open plan with an abundance of natural light, reflecting the evolving adoption of the ‘modern’ architectural movement. The ideal setting to showcase their array of imported, made under license, and in-house designed furniture. Continue reading

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