The Blakeneys of Highgate Hill

This is the story of one family and the two houses they owned in Highgate Hill. The first house was Cooltigue, owned by William Theophilus Blakeney and his wife Eliza. The second house was Beaumont, the home of William’s parents Charles and Ellen who followed their son to Australia from Ireland.

In the early 1930s, the journalist Florence Lord wrote a series of articles about the historic homes of Brisbane. A large proportion of these were on the northside of town, probably due to reasons described in a previous post, The Southside of Brisbane 1875.

Amongst those on the Southside was the Blakeney family home “Cooltigue” which stood on a rise just off Gladstone Road opposite Dorchester Street in Highgate Hill.

Cooltigue Highgatge Hill

A view of Cooltigue from 1931 ( Queenslander 26th November 1931) TROVE

Cooltigue is an alternate spelling to that of the townland of Coolteige in County Roscommon, Ireland. It was here that the Blakeney family had lived in a house called Holywell in the parish of Kilbride from the time of the marriage of Charles Blakeney to Bridget Gunning in 1761. Bridget had inherited the property from her father.

Charles William Blakeney was the grandson of Charles and Bridget. In 1826 he married Ellen Jeffries, one of the heirs of Blarney Castle, owned by her father John Jeffries.

Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle, Ireland (Wikimedia).

Charles inherited the Coolteige property of 1,681 acres in 1845. By this time he was a 43 year old barrister.

Amongst the children of Charles and Ellen was William Theophilus Blakeney born in 1832. He married Eliza Carr in 1853 and they emigrated to Sydney in the same year.

After spending some years in commerce, William entered the NSW Sheriff’s department in 1856. When the new colony of Queensland was formed in 1859, he took up a similar role in the newly established colony’s public service. By 1883 he had risen through the ranks to become Queensland’s Registrar-General as well as Registrar of Patents and Registrar of Friendly Societies.

In 1865, William was nominated as one of the four initial trustees of the South Brisbane Recreation Reserve, later known as Musgrave Park. This led to some conflict of interest as he was also a prominent member of the local Anglican congregation that successfully obtained a sizable slice of the park on which to build their new church ( see my post Musgrave Park – The Early Days ).

brisbane registrar generals office ca 1885

The Registrar-General’s office ca 1885. It was located at the corner of George and Queen Street and was demolished in 1923 to make way for the final stage of the Treasury Building.

William and Eliza purchased a number of blocks of land in the Highgate Hill area in 1860.  One of these of around seven and a half  acres, costing them just over £38, was where they built their family home “Cooltigue” some two years after. Florence Lord recounts a story of how William, after buying the land, climbed a tree to get an idea of what the view from the house would be like. The architect was Benjamin Backhouse who also was responsible for the nearby house “Toonarbin” discussed in a previous post (Toonarbin ).

They also purchased a further three portions totalling almost twenty-two acres further up the hill adjacent to Gloucester Street and around 10 acres on the corner of Dornoch Terrace and Boundary Street.

crown land grants. William Blakeney

Detail from a map showing crown land grants. William Blakeney purchased three portions along Gladstone Road. (State Library of Queensland)

Cooltigue was built around 1862 largely of cedar with a large shuttered veranda that served as a ballroom. The house was in the form of a square with an internal courtyard surrounded by verandas. This was later surmounted by the glassed tower seen in the photo below, built by a subsequent owner.

A view of Cooltigue from the garden, 193

A view of Cooltigue from the garden, 1931. (TROVE)

Eliza and William had one son who died young while they were still living in Sydney. Then followed a progression of 8 daughters, although two died as young children. Amy Emma, born in 1858, married Charles Ridley Smith, aide-de-camp to Governor Lamington when she was just 16. After they returned to England, she  became a suffragette and was the first woman to be elected to the Westminster City Council.

Another daughter, Kate, died at just 20 years of age while she was visiting friends on a property near Harrisville over Christmas. She was thrown from a horse and hit her head on a tree. A poignant memory of her remained in the form of the figures  “KB 78” scratched on a pane of glass on a French door in the drawing room. After attending her funeral, one friend was moved to write an acrostic, or poem with the initial letter of each line form words.

kate blakeney acrostic the week 31-12_1881

The Week, 31st December 1881.

Spencer Browne in “A Journalist’s Memories”  says that William “was a big strong man with a family of beautiful daughters and had been known in cricket and rowing circles but in later days it was a case of ‘drat them rheumatics’ “. He travelled into work by either hansom cab or by his own “well horsed wagonette”.

The only photo of the family I’ve been able to find is the rather indistinct one below of the youngest daughter Gertrude on the occasion of her marriage in 1904. “Gertie”, as she was popularly known, featured heavily in the social pages for some years before her marriage.

gertrude blakeney new version

Getrude Blakeney. The Week, 8th July 1904 (TROVE)

In 1853, the same year that William had left for Australia, his father Charles had been forced to sell the family property at Coolteige in Ireland through the Encumbered Estates Court. Whilst some accounts state that this was due to profligacy and gambling debts, the Famine meant a sharp fall in rental income for many landlords as poor tenants were forced off the land. This could have exacerbated the situation.

Charles and Ellen then decided to join their son William and other family members in Australia. They eventually settled in Brisbane in 1859 where Charles continued his work as a barrister. He was elected a member of the colony’s first Legislative Assembly in 1860 but resigned from this position when he became the first judge of the Western District Court in 1865.

judge blakeney 1865

Charles Blakeney in 1865, unusually for the time without a beard. (State Library of Queensland)

In 1873, Judge Blakeney presided over the notorious Bowen Downs cattle-stealing case at Roma courthouse.  This involved the theft of over 1,000 cattle near Longreach. The case against the accused, Henry Redford, was strong and yet the jury returned a verdict of not guilty, eliciting widespread critical comment.

Bowen Downs rustling Case 1873

Sydney Morning Herald 1st March 1873 (TROVE)

The verdict was probably due to the great admiration felt for the accused by the jurors due to his outstanding bushmanship in driving the stolen cattle to South Australia for sale. Rolf Boldrewood based a story in “Robbery Under Arms” on this event and based his character “Captain Starlight” on Redford.

From around 1872 Charles Blakeney’s health began to deteriorate and he had frequent fits. This lead to his retirement in 1875. A year later he went missing and his walking stick was found near the river bank at the rear of Judge Sheppard’s residence (see my post The Hazelwood Estate, Highgate Hill 1885 ). A few days later his body was found floating in the river near Indooroopilly. It was thought that he had suffered a fit and had fallen into the river. Ellen survived him by 21 years and died in 1897, aged 96.

Charles and Ellen lived a home called “Beaumont” which was built in the early 1860s on the land purchased by their son William at the corner of Gladstone Road and Gloucester Street. They rented it out for periods of time from 1865 when they were residing outside of Brisbane during Charles’ career as a judge. Their first tenant was in fact Judge Shepperd, before he built his own home across the road.

The site of Judge Blakeney's house "Beaumont" on Gladstone Road.

The site of Judge Blakeney’s house “Beaumont” on Gladstone Road. (P. Granville)

After Charles’ death, Beaumont had been rented again out by the family. On the afternoon of the 10th of January 1884, the two storey wooden house was destroyed in a spectacular fire , visible all over Brisbane. One can imagine the horror of the family watching the conflagration from their vantage point at Cooltigue just down the hill. Ellen lost furniture and other valuable items stored in the house.

coolitgue early 1860s slq arrows

Detail from a view of Highgate Hill ca 1864, Both “Cooltigue” and “Beaumont” are visible.. (State Library of Queensland)

The fire brigade could do little as there was no reticulated water on Highgate Hill. This situation persisted until the construction of the service reservoir just across the street from the location of Beaumont, as described in a previous post, Highgate Hill Reservoir 1889

Beaumont flats were eventually built on the house site, and were in turn replaced by a unit complex in recent years.

Aerial view Torbreck 1960

The second “Beaumont” is visible in the top right corner of this aerial photograph (State Library of Queensland)

Shortly after the house “Beaumont” burnt down, the Blakeneys subdivided and sold most of the property as Beaumont Estate.

Beaumont Estate

A poster for the sale of the Blakeney estate in 1884. (State Library of Queensland)

It’s interesting to note from the poster the creation of Gertrude, Louisa and Mabel Streets at this time. These are the names of William and Eliza’s three youngest daughters. Gertrude Street has featured in two previous posts in this blog –  The Enigmatic Ebenezer Thorne  and  A Highgate Hill Con Man   .

In this photo taken six years later in 1890, looking down Gloucester Street from Gladstone Road, a cluster of houses built on Beaumont Estate are visible on the right of the photo.

gloucester street 1890 Highgate hill

Looking down Gloucester street in 1890. Beaumont estate is on the right side of the street. (State Library of Queensland)

William Blakeney passed away at home in 1898 at the age of 65 years whilst still employed as the Registrar-General. Eliza received a widow’s payment from the Queensland Government. Its size of £800 was greater than the total of £500 assistance given to the mining industry that year resulting in critical comment.

Elizabeth Blakeney payout

A cartoon comparing Elizabeth Blakeney’s payout  with assistance to mining. The North Queensland Register, 14th November 1898. (TROVE)

The family decided to break up the Cooltigue estate in 1901 and the real estate agents used novel advertising for the time.

Blakeney estate advertising 1901

Brisbane Courier 21st October 1901. (TROVE)

A total of 47 allotments out of the 51 offered were sold on the auction day for a total of  £4,424. The house itself was sold with 2 roods and 36 perches (approx. 3,000 square metres) of land for a thousand pounds.

Over the years, Cooltigue had various owners. There was a Cooltigue Tennis Club for a while before the First World War based at a tennis court in the grounds.

The house suffered fire damage on at least two occasions. When we first moved to Highgate Hill, a part of the house was visible from Westbourne Street behind a brush fence. A large modern house now occupies the site but much of the land seems intact.

Cooltigue site highgate hill

The site of Cooltigue today with Gladstone Road at the bottom left and Blakeney Street running left to right at the back of the photo.. (Google Earth)

Judge Charles Blakeney has his final resting place in a grave in the South Brisbane cemetery. Later his wife Ellen, son William Theophilus and his wife Eliza as well as two of their daughters Ellen Frances and Kate Mary and a niece Gracie were also interred there.

Blakeney Family grave in South Brisbane Cemetery.

The Blakeney Family grave in South Brisbane Cemetery. (P. Granville)

Today Blakeney Street, which runs through the southern part of the original Cooltigue estate, reminds us of this interesting family for many years prominent in many aspects of Brisbane life.

Further Reading

Irish Landed Estates database entry

Judge Charles William Blakeney biography

Wikipedia entry for William Theophilus Blakeney

© P. Granville 2019

22 thoughts on “The Blakeneys of Highgate Hill

  1. Pingback: Toonarbin | Highgate Hill and Its History

  2. Pingback: The Hazelwood Estate, Highgate Hill 1885 | Highgate Hill and Its History

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  5. I live at Torbreck Home Units and am the editor of the Torbreck Times, a newsletter for residents and shareholders, which focusses on our people, our building and our community.

    I am wondering if I can share some of your informative posts in upcoming editions of the newsletter, with disclosure that they are your work.

    Kind regards
    Noela O’Donnell
    jodnod@bigpond.com

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  7. The arial photo of the ‘Cooltigue’ site shows a large block of lawn running to Gladstone Road. A large old timber house stood here till it was destroyed by fire with loss of life in 1980 or 81. Am I correct to presume that it was the original ‘Cooltigue’ house?

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      • I remember that the house had been divided into flats or perhaps run as a boarding house.I moved to Dorchester St early ’79 and my impression was of it as having been a grand Queenslander but like so many houses in the area had been divided into very low cost accommodation. I remember the fire late at night but not sure if it was 1980 or 81. The noise of the flames was loud and like nothing I had heard before.

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  11. These pieces are well written and thoroughly engaging. I came looking for sports clubs for kids in Highgate Hill and fell down this rabbit hole instead! What a lot of effort you’ve gone to. Very factual work with great links supplied. Thanks so much!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks very much for the kind comments Bree. I’m glad you enjoyed the posts you’ve read. You can follow the blog to get notifications of new posts ( about once a month) if you feel so inclined. Paul

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  13. William Theophilus Blakeney was my great grandfather, his daughter Louise Grace was my grandmother and I have better photo of Gertie but would you have a photo of Eliza Blakeney (nee Carr) who was my Great Grandmother. I and my husband have written a book about the Blakeney and Carr families.

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      • good morning Paul, I have copies of Birth, Baptism Marriage and death certificates of all my family I noticed that some one said there were 8 daughters, there were 7 and one son. the son Charles William Blakeney was born on Feb 24th 1854 and Baptised on March !st 1854. Ellen Frances born 1855 married Thomas Bowman Barron 1871 lived in Upper Edward St Spring Hill, died 1919 Burried in South Brisbane Cemete, daughter Lorna married Arthur Cecil Palmer son of the then Premier sir Arthur Palmer one son Arthur,, I did meet him when I was a child a lot of my mother’s cousins came to visit when on leave during the war.next daughter Elizabeth born 1857 NSW died 1858 NSW. Next Amy Emma born 1858 married when she was 16 to Charles Ridley Smith adjutant to the then Governor of Queensland went to live in England was presented at court by her mother in law, became a suffragette and became very involved in local government was the first woman to be elected to the London County council , had 2 daughters one of which died in UK probably from measles second daughter Rosamond was my godmother (she never married) but followed her mother into politics, Next daughter Kate Mary born 1860 died as result of a riding accident, the accident happened on the property of Percy Ricardo she was still alive but died during the transit via brake to Ipswich and train to Brisbane, because her two elder sisters had married young the press thought she was William’s eldest daughter, there is an unusual acrostic which was written by someone at her death and if I remember rightly is also on the side of the obelisk in the center of the family grave at the South Brisbane cemetery the next daughter Mable Henrietta,born 1865 married George Edward Elliott in 1892 and went to live at Redbank she had 4 children George William born 1893,married Gladys Buzza daughter Marie Elaine born 1985 married Vivian Phipps 1921,, another daughter Gladys born 1897 married Reginald Taylor and another son Clive about whom I do not have much Information. Mable Henrietta died in 1905 and George Elliott remarried Gertrude Haines in 1907, my aunts always said he married the housekeeper. Next daughter Louise Grace my grandmother born in 1866 went on a trip to England because she was suffering from a “broken hear” this according to the family she was madly in love with some one who was not madly in love with her, he married her niece Lorna, on the voyage the ship’s doctor Dr Sydney Legge fell in love with her in 1903 they were married had 2 children son Cecil and daughter Eileen ( my mother),, and the last daughter Gertrude Isobel born 1870 married Stuart Brownrigg Leishman 1904, they kept race horses I’m not sure if they bred them at their property Fasifern he left her and went back to Scotland, Gerty used to visit us and we corresponded for a long time, one of my other aunts June Garret married to the grandfather of Peter( from the Carr side of the family) saw a lot of he,r at one time I think they were both living in Surfers I think they both liked “the Social Life”.I also have things about the judge and his other useless son Charles John Blakeney and the Judge’s daughter Alicia married to William O’Driscoll had a son Charles who was born at the Judge’s house Beaumont. I also have floor plans of Cooltigue, the picture you have is when the house had been altered by Mrs Finlay made to look more like a California bungalow style of the 1920s, the house was then on 1.25 acres the roof shingles were replaced with tiles, ( I am pleased they did that as I used to live in a house with shingles and a former owner had covered them with sheets of tin )the atrium replaced by a lounge and mezzzanine picture gallery. I went to stay with my aunt at Surfers quite often and once on about 1970 we tried to find Cooltigue but it was not there any more. I must stop I have so much more I could tell you about the house etc; i am so excited you are the first person who has ever shown any interest, I shall be 84 in may and although I have sent copies to all my daughters and grandchildren even my sister in the UK have shown little interest, we did it for my mother (Louise’s daughter) bye for now Jo

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      • Hi Jo, thanks for the fascinating information. I’d love to get copies of some of the photos you’ve mentioned such as of your great grandmother as well as your grandmother and her sisters. Are you able to see me these by email ? My address is pdgranville@gmail.com.

        Thanks very much. Paul

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