Highgate Hill Park

Highgate Hill Park is located on what was for many thousands of years an important pathway from the South Brisbane camping grounds to western districts. It’s hard to imagine that travellers did not stop to admire the view arriving and departing.

aboriginal tracks highgate hill mark up

Aboriginal pathways are marked in brown on this plan surveyed by Galloway in 1855. Highgate Hill Park is located at the junction of two of these. (Extract from Qld. Survey Plan B1234-28 Sheet 1) . (Extract from Qld. Survey Plan B1234-28 Sheet 1)

For generations now Highgate Hill residents and visitors have also enjoyed the views from the peak of the hill which is around 63 metres above sea level.

view brisbane ca 1867 joseph backler

This painting by Joseph Backler from 1866 is based on the view from the near the peak of Highgate Hill. (National Library of Australia)

There are in existence a number of photos taken from this vantage point in earlier days. For example, this one was taken looking towards the river and St Lucia during the 1893 flood. The three chimney pots of our house by the way, can be seen just to the right of the two women (see Glenview – A Highgate Hill House circa 1883 ).

View from Highgate Hill park looking down Dornoch Terrace 1893

Dornoch Terrace 1893, State Library of Queensland

This view today …

highgate hill park looking west

This view from around 1889 is towards the north- east, with Gardens Point and the Kangaroo Point cliffs visible in the centre distance.

View from Highgate Hill to north east ca 1889.jpg

View from Highgate Hill ca 1889, State Library of Queensland

The view is very different today!

Highgate hill park looking north east.jpg

For some years from around 1900, Alderman John Davies had been promoting the idea of the South Brisbane

alderman davies bcc

John Davies (State Library of Queensland)

Municipal Council purchasing vacant land at the top of Highgate Hill to create a park. In 1900, he had been successful in leading efforts to secure land on the river to create what later became known as Davies Park (see my post The Davies Park Story ).

In 1903, the South Brisbane  Council was made an attractive offer for 1 acre 23 perches (around 4,600 square metres) on the summit of the hill by James Wilson. The Wilson family were early European settlers on the hill and their house still stands adjacent to the park (see my post Alexander Brown Wilson, Architect. ) The council proceeded to buy the land however in August of the following year there is a newspaper report to the effect that the Council had still not finalised payment!

Luckily for Brisbane, the purchase was completed. The £1,250 paid is roughly equivalent in buying power to around $180,000 today – a good deal indeed although this calculation is based on the Retail Price Index and not on land prices specifically.  Another property bought at the time was around 12 acres at East Brisbane sold to the Council by John Mowbray for £6,000 to establish today’s Mowbray Park.

In 1911, the shelter which still graces the park was erected. The required funds of around $30 had been raised over a few years by a group of South Brisbane ladies who held a series of concerts in the West End School of Arts (see my post The West End School of Arts).

highgate hill park shelter 1920s slq

Highgate Hill Park in the 1920s. (State Library of Queensland)

Highgate Hill Park shelter built 1912

The park shelter dates from 1911. (P. Granville)

The prominent position of Highgate Hill has lead to its suggested use for various purposes.

In the years immediately after the end of World War One, communities throughout Australia began planning the erection of memorials to those who served and in particular to the tens of thousands of dead.  In 1919, Highgate Hill Park was the main contender for the erection of a memorial in the Kurilpa State electorate which encompassed West End, Highgate Hill and Dutton Park.

This proposal never proceeded however a clock with Westminster style chimes  was installed in the clock tower of the Kurilpa School of Arts (now the Kurilpa Library) in 1928 as a war memorial. Funds were raised by the Kurilpa War Memorial Ladies Committee. For more on the library and School of Arts building which stood next to it, please see my post The West End School of Arts .

west end school arts

The clock tower of the then West End School of Arts under Construction ca. 1928

Kurilpa Roll of Honour World War 1

The Roll of Honour in Kurilpa Library. (P. Granville)

For a glimpse into the impact of war on Highgate Hill, please see my post Lest We Forget – Highgate Hill .

There was another proposal in 1933 to erect a beacon on Highgate Hill as a memorial to Bert Hinkler. Whilst the premier, William Forgan Smith, was in favour of the proposal , it never proceeded. Bert Hinkler was a pioneer Australian airman. He made the first solo flight between England and Australia in 1928 in just under 15½ days. The Avro Avian aircraft he flew can be seen hanging in the entrance to the Queensland Museum at South Bank. In 1933, he crashed in the Apennines near Florence, Italy on an attempt to regain the world record for the England to Australia route.

In 1920, during a tour of the Empire to thank those who had served in World War 1, the Prince of Wales, later briefly King Edward the Eighth and then the Duke of Windsor, paid a visit to the park as described in a previous post, The Prince of Wales Visits Highgate Hill 1920.

In 1924, the South Brisbane City Council  installed a ”Direction Dial”. This was a brass plate mounted on top of a plinth with arrows pointing towards various land marks such as the Glasshouse Mountains, Flinders’ Peak and Moreton Island and showing the distance to each of these. The dial was subsequently stolen several times  however it must have been recovered or replaced as I remember it well from the 1980s when we moved into the suburb. Today unfortunately only the plinth remains as the plate disappeared sometime around 1990.

highgate hill park plynth

The direction plate disappeared from on top of this plinth around 1990. (P. Granville)

Today the park continues to be a popular place to catch the cooling breezes, admire the view, and to hold parties and weddings. It is at its most busy during fireworks displays such as New Year’s Eve and River Fire.

Hopefully continued high rise development of the area won’t eventually destroy these views, which was a fear as far back as 1913 when the South Brisbane Council considered how development might be curtailed to maintain the views to the south from the park.

highgate hill park view

© P. Granville 2017 – 2022


SOUTH SIDE PARK LANDS. (1903, December 15). The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), p. 7. Retrieved March 9, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article19256033

HIGHGATE HILL PARK. (1911, January 30). The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), p. 2 (SECOND EDITION). Retrieved March 9, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article183350009

DIRECTION DIAL ON HIGHGATE HILL. (1924, April 11). The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), p. 6. Retrieved March 9, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article20677314

Work of Vandals. (1929, May 25). The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), p. 16. Retrieved April 4, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article21409592

KURILPA WAR MEMORIAL. (1919, April 10). The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), p. 4. Retrieved March 9, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article20358317

WEST END CHIMES. (1929, February 2). The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), p. 16. Retrieved March 15, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article21372435

DIRECTION DIAL ON HIGHGATE HILL. (1924, April 11). The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), p. 6. Retrieved March 9, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article20677314

HIGHGATE HILL BEACON. (1933, December 2). Daily Standard (Brisbane, Qld. : 1912 – 1936), p. 5. Retrieved March 9, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article186132259

All Round The World. Premier Forgan Smith Favors Highgate Hill Site (1933, June 2). Daily Standard (Brisbane, Qld. : 1912 – 1936), p. 5. Retrieved March 9, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article185464975

SOUTH BRISBANE COUNCIL (1913, April 22). Daily Standard (Brisbane, Qld. : 1912 – 1936), p. 2 (SECOND EDITION). Retrieved March 9, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article179884696

10 thoughts on “Highgate Hill Park

  1. Great blog Paul..

    Will send you the description I found in Trove of the hill and its health benefits.. Around when our estate was subdivided in the 1860s.. Bit over the top but still true today.



    Sent from my IPad



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  6. The direction dial was stolen twice and retrieved once, not stolen several times !! Which make it sound like it happens all the time which it hasn’t.
    The council makes this suggestion so they can get out of replacing it !

    Michael Stirling a long time resident of Highgate Hill, in his will he bequeathed a huge amount of cash to have the Direction plate remade (as Brisbane City Council still has the molds for all the direction dials it could easily be made).
    Michael Stirling made it a requirement in his will that the Direction Plate be remade and placed back on the pedastal and the EPILIPSY ASSOCIATION was responsible for this request to be made to get all the rest if Michaels’ money. For some insane reason The Epilepsy Asssociation asked council to place what looks to be a $30 SUNDIAL under the roof (where no sun could ever show the time) to get the Millions of dollars Michael had in TRUST. The trustee signed off on the Sundial and BRISBANE CITY COUNCIL ALSO SIGNED OFF THAT THE SUNDIAL COULD BE PLACED UNDER THE ROOF ON THE PLINTH !!!
    To me this is an abomination !!
    Ripping off a mans last request in death !!
    I had to ask council to remove the sundial as kids stand on the plinth to watch riverfire and could be impaled by the spike, Brisbane City Council removed the spike the next day.

    Why wont council replace the direction plate?
    A Future King Visited this park and touched the plate , No Plaque for King George ?
    At the very least a statue to Daphne Mayo In the park would be nice since she put Australia on the world map for Art !!
    But No Brisbane City Council wants the plinth with a stupid $30 broken sundial on it ! That is how much respect for history the council has NONE !


    • Hi, if you click on the hot link in my blog post, you’ll be able to read the newspaper article from 1929 that states that the direction dial had been stolen several times back then. It was first installed in 1924. A replacement was there when I moved into the suburb in 1986 and I remember it being stolen so it’s been stolen at least three times and replaced at least twice. Perhaps you know of other instances or were you thinking of the 1920s? I hadn’t heard of the Michael Stirling story. I remember the sundial. It was ridiculous.


      • Both times it was stolen originally in that 1929 article it was FOUND retrived and reinstalled. So it was the original disk that was stolen from the park in the 80s.


  7. The Brisbane City Council doesn’t care for reinstating Heritage in Highgate Hill . Improvements have been made in the way objects can be mounted so that they can’t be stolen but the council relys on this stupid argument that it may get stolen again so they don’t have to put a copy back in place, even thou they have the molds for the direction disk stored at the works dept.


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