John Sankey and Sankey Street

Brisbane Courier Friday 20 January 1899


A Soldier’s Career

Forty-Four Years’ Military Service

The death of Mr. John Sankey removed a well-known and highly respected resident from our midst. Mr. Sankey was born at Yalmpton, Devonshire, in 1819. He joined the 32nd Regiment at the age of l8. He saw service in Ireland from 1838 to 1842, where he was on one occasion a member of a guard appointed for the protection of the great Dan O’connell from Belfast to Dublin. In 1842 he was transferred to the 12th Regiment, which was  ordered to Mauritius ; the ship calling at Table Bay, the regiment was detained and sent up to the frontier to assist in quelling an extensive Kaffir rising. Here Mr. Sankey, then called “the boy sergeant,” for it was in the days of life service and old non-commissioned officers, first experienced the horrors of war, and received his first blooding from a Kaffir’s assegai, which lodged in his ankle joint producing an incurable wound. 

 He came to this colony in 1871. He was instrumental, together with Captain Bernard and Mr. Douglas, in forming the Brisbane Garrison Battery, which then consisted of old soldiers only. For many years he was chief clerk and storekeeper in the Queensland Defence Force, where his great and varied experience of Regular, militia, and Volunteer force B was of the greatest value, and his cheery presence at the military encampments of long ago is even now well remembered by those who took part in them. 

Since 1891 he has been a director in the firm of Flavelle, Roberts, and Sankey, Limited.


Sergeants from No. 1 Queensland Volunteer Artillery . State Library of Queensland

An  article  which appeared in the Brisbane Courier in 1930, described the history of Highgate Hill. It mentions that Sankey street was named after Sergeant-Major Sankey, who lived in a house off Dornoch Terrace in this vicinity.

After a long military career, John Sankey was Managing Director and from 1891 a partner in the retail and manufacturing jewellers Flavelle, Roberts and Sankey. Some of the firm’s work  was of high quality  as described in this post from the Queensland Art Gallery

Sankey Street is, according to this article, the 7th steepest street in Brisbane and the steepest Southside street. It has, depending how you like to think about these things, a 1 in 3.9 incline; 14.4 degree angle or 26 per cent slope. It leads down into the gully leading to the river which gave our house, Glenview , its name.

The steepest street in Brisbane is Gower Street Toowong, with a 1 in 3.2 incline.

Sankey Street Highgate Hill

Sankey Street in 2017

Sankey Street first appears in the Post Office Directory in 1916 at which time the steep slopes to the south of Dornoch Terrace were beginning to be subdivided. However it is shown on McKellar’s Street Map of 1895. suggesting that no houses were built on the street for some years.

mckellar close up sankey

An extract of McKellar’s Street Map of 1895 showing Sankey St, adjacent to undeveloped Portion 179.

An idea of the development that took place early in the twentieth century can be gained by comparing the two photographs below of Dornoch Terrace. The first was taken around 1901 and the majority of houses south of Dornoch Terrace are clustered near the  river bank. Sankey Street today runs down from approximately the bend in the  distant fence visible in this photo.

Dornoch 1901

Dornoch Terrace circa 1901, State Library of Queensland


Dornoch Terrace circa 1920. State Library of Queensland

In the second photo dating from around 1920, the slopes have largely been filled in. On the corner of Sankey street in the centre of the photo, the house “Lutmis” is visible with its pagoda shaped widow’s walk and verandah. It’s still standing today although it no longer sports the widow’s walk.

Sankey street Dornoch Terrace and Lutmis

‘Lutmis’ and the Corner of Sankey Street and Dornoch Terrace with a Warning Sign for Sankey St.

The name of this house is possibly a contraction of “Lutheran Mission” or “Luterische Mission”.  A social note in the Brisbane Courier of 23 April 1923 mentions that

“The Rev. Pastor F. Otto Theile, who has accepted the call as Director of Foreign Missions for the United Australian and American Lutheran churches, has taken up his residence at Lutmis, Dornoch Terrace, Highgate Hill, South Brisbane. Mrs Theile will not be at home to visitors until June.”

Frederick Otto Theile was born in South Australia and studied in Germany to become a Lutheran pastor. He had a long involvement with missionary work and was the Director of  Lutheran New Guinea missions from 1914 til 1945. He was interned during World War Two partly due to his sympathy for the Nazi regime and also for his criticisms of British rule. An interesting discussion of Otto Theile and the inter-war period can be found here. Interwar transformation of German-Australian identity: the case of Queensland pastor Friedrich Otto Theile, 2012

At the bottom of the gully, skirted by Sankey Street, is the delightful Lyon’s Playground. The land was sold to the council in 1938 by the Lyons family on condition that it be designated parkland.

The poster below relates to 1928 subdivision of land  a bit further down Dornoch Terrace  and originally part of the O’Reilly family’s Toonarbin property. In the historical photos above, this land appears in the background as the wooded area to the left of Toonarbin .


Riverview Estate Poster, 1928. State Library of Queensland

THE LATE MR. JOHN SANKEY. (1899, January 20). The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), p. 6. Retrieved February 3, 2017, from

SOCIAL. (1923, April 23). The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), p. 15. Retrieved March 6, 2017, from

2 thoughts on “John Sankey and Sankey Street

  1. Pingback: The Golden Casket Art Union | Highgate Hill and Its History

  2. Pingback: Animals on the Loose in Highgate Hill | Highgate Hill and Its History

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s