This week, through Councillor Peter Matic, Sunland the purchasers of the ABC site at Toowong extended an invitation to the local history community to view the residence known as Middenbury, the home built for Mrs Eliza Rogers in 1865.
Substantially intact, the house nestles cheek by jowl with buildings and additions constructed by the ABC during their 50 year tenure of the site. They originally purchased this property and the adjacent Sidney House to set up studios for that new-fangled broadcast medium, television.
Middenbury, together with two fig trees which marked the main entrance to the property off (now) Coronation Drive, has recently been re-instated onto the Queensland Heritage Register. Commonwealth owned historic properties had previously needed to be removed arising from legal opinion preventing co-existence on state and federal registers.
Built when most of the area we now know as the business district of Toowong was described as ‘unfenced paddock’ by railway surveyors establishing the route of the extension of the line from Ipswich to Brisbane (further west was simply ‘waste land’), Middenbury and the earlier Milton House are the only surviving examples of the substantial homes built along Milton Reach in the pre-railway era.
Following Mrs Rogers death, Middenbury was let for a period to a number of high profile tenants including Thomas Finney who lived there whilst having Sidney House built for him. The next owners, the O’Shea family, taking full advantage of the house layout, orientation and extensive grounds, made Middenbury a fashionable venue for Brisbane and wider society soirees and garden parties. The family occupied the house for nearly sixty years.
On the morning of the visit, with a view of the river from the main reception room, and a gentle breeze coming in through the french doors, it was easy to appreciate what a comfortable home this would have been to live in.
At the conclusion of the tour, Sunland shared their vision for the development of the site including the concept of Middenbury, set in gardens, being the centrepiece of the publicly accessible portion, which will be a first in its near 150 year life.
Toowong 1863-2011 published by the Toowong History Group in 2012, includes a more comprehensive background to the history of the house and its residents.