Short Histories #2, Rebecca's Bungalow on Henzell Hill



Rebecca pinged me with a question regarding her recently acquired 1920's house in Greenslopes. The property came with a 120 meter access road to the back and she was keen to understand the original reason for this unusual and quite substantial appendage.

The house itself is a roomy chamferboard bungalow, typical for its age and high-set on the southern slope of Henzell hill. The original layout comprised four bedrooms, separate living spaces and a large, U-shaped veranda which was later built in. The old lady was in a sorry state but is now undergoing a complete rejuvenation including removal of some unwanted modifications (and materials) from the 50s and 60s. All of the below pictures were taken pre-renovation, but perhaps we'll return one day to do a glamour shot of the final product. I have no doubt that it will turn out great.

Street facing facade with entry stairs and porch (left), and hooded 
rear window (right)

Kitchen and bedroom. The original (and widespread) pastel pink and green 
scheme continues from the veranda throughout the interior.

The European history of this part of Greenslopes begins in the 1860s when Robert George Rowton, a  builder hailing from Coventry in England, and Thomas Mulhall King, the Colonial Treasurer and later Auditor General of Queensland, each bought a portion of adjacent lands covering 60 or so acres with excellent views across the river plains to the north and west. Rebecca's land spans the mutual boundary and incorporates both of these original land grants.

R. G. Rowton's and T. M King's portions of land on
Henzell Hill. Click to enlarge.

By the 1880s the land was owned by the land agent and speculator Frederick Henzell, who gave name to the hill, and in 1904 it passed to Edward James Curd, a schoolmaster living in nearby Thomas Street. By late 1925 the southern section had been subdivided into the Curd's Hill Estate comprising 23 lots of twenty to sixty perches each. The blocks were supplied with electric light and water and were located only a street away from the Greenslopes tram terminus -  a very attractive spot for suburban development. The Brisbane Courier reported that all allotments sold under "keen competition and spirited bidding" for sums ranging from £70 to £360.

1925 estate sales brochure for "Curd's Hill". Click to enlarge.

The buyer of the biggest block of land was John Reid Still, an engine driver (synonymous with machinery operator), his wife Ivy and two daughters Gladys and Vivian. The house was probably built soon after the purchase and in 1929 the social column reported a party at the Still's residence, where:

"The spacious verandas, where dancing took place, were decorated with multi-coloured
lights, streamers and balloons, and supper was served in the veranda lounge at tables 
beautified with tall crystal vases of golden snapdragons"

A surveyor plan from the 1930s reveal some of the original features of the house, including a front yard tennis court and the usual dunny and water tank to the back. Many of the neighbouring properties also had tennis courts -  a sign of the comfortable, middle class neighbourhood that it had become.

1930s surveyor plan of the house and land, including tennis
court and outbuildings. Click to enlarge.

The Stills sold out in 1942 and the girls left home. Vivian married an American soldier in Melbourne in 1945, but beyond that I haven't been able to trace the fate of these two ladies, which is a shame as their descendants may have photos and information about the early days of the house.

So what about that long easement to the back? Well - if you look closely at the 1925 estate sales brochure you will see that the access road was already planned as part of the subdivision design. Rebecca's property, being the largest plot of land and located at the end of the easement, became the legal owner of the road and other properties along its path were granted unrestricted access. The reason was probably pure convenience - providing easy access for deliveries and the unglamorous visitations of the "nightman". The Council records show that the northern part of the hill was sewered by the 1940's but inhabitants of the southern slope were confined to using their backyard dunnies well into the 1950's.

Good luck Rebecca and family with your renovations, and let us know when we can come back to take a second look at your charming, fully restored home.

The 150 meter easement - part drivable, part 
"secret garden". Click to enlarge.

Key sources:
- Deed of Grant and historical Title Deeds for the property, sourced from Queensland DNRM
- TROVE historical newspaper archives
- Genealogy.com, for family trees, census records and electoral rolls
- Post office directories from the 1870's through to the 1940's
- Pugh's Almanac, 1859-1927
- Queensland Government Gazettes, 1836-1900
- Queensland Education Gazettes, 1899-1959
- Aerial photography, BCC PDOnline
- Miscellaneous texts on Queensland history
- Parish and miscellaneous maps, courtesy of the Queensland State and BCC Archives
- Brisbane House Styles 1880-1940, a Guide to the Affordable House, J. G. Rechner
 - Brisbane 1859-1959 : a history of local government, Greenwood and Laverty

6 comments:

  1. Brilliant work, Magnus! Thank you so much for delving into the history of my house! It's amazing how much it helps to know some of the house's history when formulating a plan to renovate it respectfully. I can't wait to share the finished product, although there's a bit of hard work to go to get there.
    Rebecca

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  2. Thanks, Magnus, I too am really enjoying your work. Ruth

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  3. Very cool information you found there Magnus! x

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  4. Thanks for your encouraging words folks

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  5. Thanks GR - and congratulations to your engagement!

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