The Hazelwood Estate, Highgate Hill 1885

The break up of large blocks

In the 1880s, fuelled by increasing immigration and investment, Brisbane was growing at a colossal rate. Immigration from Britain to Queensland was second only to Canada.

In the 10 years between 1881 and 1891, the population surged from 37,000 to 88,000, an increase of 137%. There was a resulting ongoing strong demand for residential land and the large blocks purchased back in initial land sales in the 1860s were gradually broken up. These were typically around 6 to 9 acres. Some owners owned adjacent blocks giving rise to larger subdivisions.

Usually sales were by auction with most lots sold on the day. Lunch was often provided.

Crown Land Grants in Highgate Hill

Original Crown Land Grants in Highgate Hill showing the large size of blocks. Hazelwood was originally one of the many purchases of T. B. Stephens.(State Library of Queensland)


Typical of this was the large block situated on Highgate Hill owned by Edmund Sheppard, subdivided into 215 allotments. It occupied the land between Gladstone Road, Dornoch Terrace, Dauphin Terrace and the river including today’s Hazelwood, Brydon, Beaconsfield, Roseberry and Derby Streets.

Judge Edmund Sheppard was born in Somerset, England and came to Queensland via Sydney. He was Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of Queensland from 1874 until 1882. He lived in his house “Hazelwood” until he returned to England on absence due to ill health. The house was located well back from Gladstone Road on today’s Beaconsfield Street, with fine views of the Brisbane River.

The court complex in Townsville, opened in 1975, was named after Sheppard in recognition of his being the first Northern Judge of the court.

The land sale took place after his death and the estate and associated street took their name, Hazlewood, from that of his house.

Mr_ Justice Edmund Sheppard ca_ 1874

Mr Justice Edmund Sheppard 1874

Typically, a sale took place on the weekend with all blocks being up for auction.

Queensland Figaro and Punch (Brisbane, Qld. : 1885 - 1889), Satu

Queensland Figaro and Punch, Saturday 17 October 1885. (TROVE)

The advertisements made a feature of the fine views across the city, of the river and of distant mountains. The copywriter, who I doubt was one who walked around town, hopefully stated that “The distance from Victoria Bridge is no more than a comfortable 15 minutes’ walk”. Luckily, there was also the omnibus service operated by James Clarke that travelled along Gladstone Road to Bower Street (see my post Omnibus Families of the Southside  for more). This service continued until the introduction of electric trams on the route in 1901 (see my post  Tram Assists Horse Drawn Dray Highgate Hill 1926 ).

Horse bus owned by John Clark awaiting departure Brisbane 1890s dutton park

One of James Clarke’s omnibuses, 1890. (State Library of Queensland)

Terms for purchase of the blocks on sale were one quarter cash with the balance to be paid in 6 payments to be made over 18 months, with outstanding amounts subject to 8% interest.

On the day, 52 of the 215 allotments were sold at an average of £73. The sale was one of 5 similar ones reported in the following Monday’s newspapers. Further sales took place in 1888 and 1889.

Often street addresses retained the estate name for many years. Twenty years after this sale, for example, there are still references to Hazelwood Estate, Highgate Hill.

The Bell family

The house “Hazelwood” was purchased by R. A. Skinner after Judge Sheppard’s departure for England in 1882. It seems to have been demolished in 1888 as it was located where it had been decided to build a water service reservoir (see my post  Highgate Hill Reservoir 1889 ).  A house located just behind the reservoir in Beaconsfield Street, also called “Hazelwood”, was occupied by John Bell and his family for many years. It was built for the Bell family by architect Alexander Wilson in 1889.

After being in business in Scotland for some 33 years, the Bell family migrated to Brisbane. Bell ran a wholesale woollen and soft goods business from his warehouse in Elizabeth Street. The building was the work of noted architect Robin Dodds. Another of his Highgate Hill designs is discussed in my post James Allen, Brisbane Retail Pioneer  .

John Bell and warehouse indent merchant and warehouseman 149151 Elizabeth Street 1907

John Bell and his warehouse, Brisbane Courier,6 December 1907 page 16. (TROVE)

According to his 1911 obituary, Bell was also a widely acknowledged expert on birds.

The Bell family put the house up for sale in 1925.

hazelwood 1925 sale

The Telegraph (Brisbane), 31 December 1925 page 16. (TROVE)

It seems, however, that the house was not sold at this time as members of the Bell family were living there until at least 1938. The house appears in aerial images up to at least 2002, but was demolished sometime after then.

site of hazlewood

The site of the house “Hazelwood” is today occupied by a large single dwelling.

Growing Pains

The break up and sale of large blocks in Highgate Hill continued for many years. For further examples, see the posts in this blog  The Blakeneys of Highgate Hill and Westbourne St. 1930s Architecture

With the high rate of growth in the city, adequate services often lagged behind. Roads were a major problem. The two items below, for example, appeared in the list of correspondence to the Woolloongabba Divisional Board a few years after the estate sale.

Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 - 1947), Friday 22 July 1887, p

Telegraph (Brisbane) 22nd July, 1887. (TROVE)

Water was also a major problem until the completion of the Highgate Hill service reservoir two years later in 1889, located adjacent to this particular estate (see my post  Highgate Hill Reservoir 1889 ).

6 thoughts on “The Hazelwood Estate, Highgate Hill 1885

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