John Sankey and Sankey Street

John Sankey was well known in Brisbane due to his connections with the Queensland Defence Force and was a long term resident of Highgate Hill. Here’s an extract from his obituary.

john sankey obituary

Brisbane Courier Friday 20 January 1899 (TROVE)

John Sankey continued his service in Africa for some years. He was offered a commission as a officer, but in those days only men from wealthy backgrounds could afford this. In 1859 he returned to England on a pension after 22 years in the army.

He travelled to Queensland in 1871 where he was part of the team that established the Brisbane Garrison Battery. For many years he was chief clerk and storekeeper in the Queensland Defence Force.


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

Following his 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.

John Sankey and his wife Sarah were laid to rest in the South Brisbane Cemetery.

john sankey gravestone

John and Sarah Sankey’s grave at South Brisbane Cemetery

The inscription of his gravestone reads :

“The tired soldier bold and brave
has seen his last campaign.
And from the shelter of the grave
he’ll never march again”

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.

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.

I’ve described the fascinating origins of this house in my post The Mistresses’ House  and another post, The Pastor’s House ,continues the story.

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

4 thoughts on “John Sankey and Sankey Street

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

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  3. Pingback: The Mistresses’ House | Highgate Hill and Its History

  4. Pingback: Doctor A. Jefferis Turner – “Gentle Annie” | Highgate Hill and Its History

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