I’ve always enjoyed a walk down Norfolk Road in South Brisbane. Passing by no fewer than 6 heritage listed houses as well as a number of other 19th century dwellings, it’s not hard to imagine yourself transported back in time.
Norfolk Road descends from a ridge towards the river where thick rainforest once lined the riverbank. The area was for millenia an abundant hunting ground for its traditional owners.
At the time of the commencement of free European settlement in 1842, the land was recognised as being fertile with good fresh water supply and was subdivided into small farming blocks. Numerous market gardens, orchards and dairies were soon established.
The birth of Norfolk Road
With no bridge across the river to the town centre, suburban growth in South Brisbane was slow and further inhibited by the extensive mortgage of land to fund the bridge and an international financial crisis in 1866.
Finally in 1874, after a decade of fiasco and disaster that I’ve described in my post The Fascinating Story of the First Victoria Bridge, the first permanent crossing was completed. Shortly after, an omnibus service to the city commenced and South Brisbane became a steadily growing suburb (see my post Omnibus Families of the Southside).
Norfolk Road began to be mentioned in newspapers from 1876 and McNaught’s Directory of 1878/79 lists ten residents. The name possibly derives from one of the first dwellings built nearby named “Norfolk Cottage”.
In this 1890s view, Norfolk Road is marked with the arrow. Montague Road runs across the bottom of the image. (State Library of Queensland)
Sarah Coleman married Thomas Else, a coachman, in 1851. The couple had two sons and the eldest, 18 year old Tom, emigrated to Australia in 1869. At that time, Sarah was living with her younger son John in London and working as a dressmaker. She later described herself as a widow but I have yet to find details of her husband’s death.
In early 1874, Sarah and John also arrived in Brisbane. They travelled on the “Winefred” in the second class cabin, in conditions far superior to the 466 Government immigrants below.
By the end of the year, Sarah had purchased large blocks of land on both sides of Norfolk Road. She built a number of houses there, including “Rangeview”, where she ran a boarding house from 1876. Where her money came from remains a mystery.
In 1883, Sarah sold “Rangeview” and moved across the street to a smaller house “Camden Villa” where she also rented out rooms. Here she lived out her days, dying in 1898 at age 76 and leaving an estate worth the considerable sum of £2,700.
Sarah’s youngest son John, who was working as an accountant in Charters Towers, committed suicide a few years previously by shooting himself in the head. As a result, her other son Tom inherited a large part of her wealth1, with some also going to Tom’s two children and Sarah’s widowed daughter-in-law. Tom was admitted to Goodna Mental Hospital a year later.
According to Tom’s wife Alice, he spent all of his inheritance on drink2. Another block of Sarah’s land was found at Rockhampton but the court process to sell it was drawn out. Alice wrote to the Queensland Trustees on several occasions asking for money as she was destitute. In December, 1900 she wrote
“I do ask you to send me some money. I cannot come to the office as my boots are worn out and I also like to look respectable.”2
In the end she received £2 and a similar amount was given to Tom when he was discharged from Goodna after three years.
Sarah Else’s involvement in the development of Norfolk Road is mentioned in various house descriptions below.
Let’s take a walk down Norfolk Road and meet some of the people who lived here. Their stories tell of lost occupations such as dandelion ale brewer, candle maker and lithographic artist, large families, high child mortality and the impacts of war. There are also stories of births, marriages, family celebrations and long lives.
Read about a particular house by clicking a button below, or simply scroll down the page.
Note : Many of these houses have had multiple names over the years given by the various families that made them their home. Whilst I’ve spent many hours researching, there may be some errors and I’d be very appreciative of any further information.
Number 4 “Bulwer”
English master mariner Richard Sholl and Charlotte Milton from Kilkenny, Ireland met and married in Sydney. In 1859, after serving as master of various coastal steamers, Sholl took a job as a pilot, based on Moreton Island. The family lived at the Bulwer Pilot Station from then until Sholl’s retirement in 1881.
Richard and Charlotte’s daughter Louisa trained as a telegraph operator and in 1874 was appointed operator-in-charge of the Bulwer telegraph office. This was work essential to the pilot station operation and to dealing with emergencies.
In 1883, the Sholl family built their home on Norfolk Road which they nostalgically named “Bulwer”. Richard died in 1892, but his daughter Louisa, who never married, and his wife Charlotte continued living in “Bulwer” until 1900.
The house passed to Thomas Just, an accountant. Late in 1900, his 9 year old son Oliver Just was found to be suffering from the bubonic plague, then spreading through Brisbane. He was too sick to be moved to the Colmslie isolation facility and the house and school were disinfected. Oliver recovered and lived until 1952. There were only a few cases in Brisbane in that year but the plague returned in 1903.
The Healy family made “Bulwer” their home for some 40 years from 1904. James Healey trained in printing technology in London before the family migrated to Melbourne. They moved to Brisbane in 1886. Healy then had a 38 year career as Chief Engineer of the Telegraph newspaper.
Ellen Healey lived as a widow at “Bulwer” until her death in 1944. The house had several further owners until it was resumed by the Queensland Government in 1988. ‘Bulwer’ has since served as the ‘West End Community House’ supporting community based initiatives which address a range of issues and social disadvantages
Number 6 “Clydeville” and Number 7 “Brayton Cottage” – houses lost over time.
The Barclay family
At number 6 now occupied by a block of flats, stood “Clydeville”, the home of the Barclay family for almost 50 years. When the Queensland Government purchased the yacht “Lucinda” in 1884, John Barclay became the Chief Engineer and was still in that position when he died in 1904.
John and Ann Barclay, courtesy of Ron Barclay
Barclay was on board the Lucinda on the fateful day in February of 1896 when the steamer “Pearl” sank with the loss of at least 80 lives. She had been pressed into service as a ferry after the Victoria Bridge had been damaged by flood waters. Barclay was an eyewitness and gave evidence at the magisterial inquiry.
Ann Barclay lived in “Clydeville” until 1931 when she moved to Sydney to be with her daughter for her final months of life. She was a stalwart of the nearby Park Presbyterian church.
The Lucinda’s Chief Officer Alexander Junner, lived for a few years across the street at Number 7 “Brayton Cottage”.
Junner had an eventful career. As a 14 year old, he was washed overboard in the Bay of Biscay and pulled out of the sea by the hair of his head. Two years later, he took charge of a ship and sailed it from Cuba to England after most of the crew were struck down with yellow fever.
Captain Alexander Junner and the 1960s house that now stands on the location of his cottage.
Junner later became Master of the government steamer “Otter”.
Number 10 “Ailsa-Craig”
Scots John Macfie, a shipwright, and his wife Christina nee Smith, purchased this block in 1876. They were living here in 1878 when their 6 month old daughter, also named Christina, sadly passed away. Five of their 7 children reached adulthood.
After John’s death in 1890, the family continued to live in the house. Another daughter, Mary, married Robert Macmillan in 1898 and it became their family home. They gave it the name “Ailsa-Craig”, derived from the Gaelic for “Fairy Island” which lies off the western coast of Scotland.
Robert came to Australia by himself as a 16 year old, although his father later joined him. He had a career working with the building supplier James Macmillan in Charlotte Street and was a noted rugby player and later bowls enthusiast at nearby Musgrave Park (see my post Musgrave Park – The Early Days).
Remarkably, “Ailsa-Craig” remained in family hands for over 110 years, until the death in 1990 of Robert and Mary’s daughter-in-law, Mary nee Cory. She had married their only child Robert.
Number 11 “Dockerie”/”Crofthead”/”Inverness”
“Dockerie” was built for Robert Love, a tailor, who lived here with his wife Margaret for just a few years before he died in 1883. Margaret left later in the decade and let the property.
Albert and Anne Augstein were long term tenants from 1895 until 1913. Albert Augstein was born at Oxley in 1865 and worked as a clerk for Hoffnungs for 61 years. His brother Gustaf lived at nearby “Wendouree” and Albert and Anne married there in 1889.
Anne was a widow before marrying Gustaf. Her first husband, Henry Houghton, was master of the hulk “Baron Slack von der Bede” which was used as a floating dock at Thursday Island.
On a hot October day in 1886, Houghton had been feeling unwell. That evening, he left the couple’s cabin to sleep on deck due to the heat below and was never seen again. It was thought that he had slipped and fallen overboard and that his body had been swept away by the strong tides.3
Mary Macmillan, who with her husband Robert occupied “Ailsa Craig” across the street, bought “Dockerie” in 1919. Various tenants rented the house until the Bergin family took up residence.
Mary McNamara and Michael Bergin married in Warwick in 1895. Michael was a police officer and during his 40 year career was posted all over Queensland. In 1924, he was promoted to sub-inspector in charge of the Roma Street Police Station and the family moved to Brisbane from Rockhampton.
By 1927 the Bergin family were living in the house that they renamed “Inverness”. Michael reached the mandatory police retirement age of 60 in 1930 and they purchased the house in 1936.
Their small home would have been overflowing on the February day in 1945 when the family celebrated Mary and Michael’s golden wedding anniversary. Present were their 7 sons, 5 daughters-in-law, 18 grandchildren and other family members and friends. Two of their sons had served in World War One and another two in the war that was finally drawing to a close in that year.
A recent newspaper article reported on a recently sworn in police officer who is a great grandson and the fifth generation of Bergins to serve with the Queensland Police.
The couple continued to live in “Inverness” until they passed away. Mary died in 1956 and Michael in 1966 at age 98.
Number 12 “Pickwick”
John Costin married Margaret Johnson in 1873. In 1878, John purchased a block on Norfolk Road across the street from his elder brother William and the couple built their home here soon after.
John trained to be a lithographer, had a 52 year career with the Government Printing Office and for many years managed the lithographic department.
The Costins lived here until 1883 . The house then became a rental property for many years with various owners. For a period of some 30 years until 1952 it was owned by the Commonwealth.
Number 13 “Greenvilla”/”Werdau”
The Costin family
William Costin, born in Sydney in 1838, arrived in Brisbane with other members of his family in 1845. He trained as a pharmacist and started his own business in Queen Street at age 17. In the 1860s Costin became heavily involved in property speculation. A notable development from 1863 was a row of terrace houses on Petrie Terrace, still standing today.
Along with many others, he went through liquidation after the financial crash of 1866. He and his wife Mary and the first four of their twelve children then moved to Gympie, where the gold rush was underway. After returning to Brisbane, they purchased property on Norfolk Road and in 1878 built the house at number 13 which they called “Greenvilla”. By this time the couple had 9 children.
Costin went through another financial crisis in 1887 and again in 1889. Despite transferring the Norfolk Road property to William’s mother Maria, the family lost ownership. William continued working as a chemist and when he died in 1921, his obituary noted that his career had lasted for 70 years.
Maria and William Costin. (Queenslander 7 August, 1909)
The Heathwood family
The Heathwood family rented the house from around 1890 and purchased it in 1902. William Heathwood was the son of a gentleman farmer in County Armagh, Northern Ireland. There he worked as an instructor in the cultivation and preparation of flax to the make the linen for which the area was famous.
Tragedy struck the family in 1899. Sarah Hendry, the Heathwood’s daughter, had given birth to a son just a week earlier. Her nurse came into the bedroom with a kerosene light and accidently set fire to the bed’s mosquito net. Sarah died from burn injuries the next day and baby David died a few weeks later.
William and his wife Sarah moved to Casino where two of their sons were running a drapey and grocery store. Sarah lived to 95 years of age and her 1936 obituary remarks how she was still reading several books a week and could recount the plot of each after reading them.
In 1913, the Heathwoods sold the property to Hans Kunze who lived in nearby Morrison Street, where he worked as a bootmaker. Kunze moved into the Norfolk Road house in around 1918, renaming it “Werdau” after a town in Saxony.
The Boyle family
In the early 1930s, Kunze moved to Cooper’s Plains and rented out the property to the Boyle family. One charming memory of their domestic life is a letter written in 1931 by 12 year old Estelle Boyle to a children’s newspaper column.
“We have a little puppy named Rex. One day he killed our little kitten. He tears up paper around the yard and then we have to pick it up”
Like so many Norfolk Road families, the Boyles were impacted by war with three sons and a son-in law serving during World War Two.
The Boyle family purchased the house in 1951 and retained ownership until recent years.
Number 14 “Tolcarne”
This house was built in around 1880 by John Reynolds and had a variety of occupants including a carpenter, draper and dandelion ale brewer.
In 1900, sisters Florence and Catherine Reynolds moved here. They had lived with their widowed father John in nearby Jane Street until he died in 1897. John also built the house next door at number 16 and had a printing business in Telegraph Lane off George Street.
In 1909 Florence married George Corbett at “Tolcarne”. Catherine then lived here alone until her death in 1944.
Number 16 “Wendouree”
Along with number 14 next door, this old dwelling was probably constructed in around 1876 by John Reynolds, a printer, as an investment and rented out. In 1887, it became the Reisky family home.
The Reisky family
Hungarian born Leopoldine Novak and Austrian John Reisky married in Vienna in 1843. After a few years in New York, the Reisky family, with three daughters, arrived in Melbourne, at the time of the gold rush. They lived in Wendouree, Ballarat until around 1886. John tried various occupations. After a failed restaurant venture, he worked as a paper hanger and also gave guitar lessons.
In an article concerning a disputed will, an 1882 Ballarat newspaper article mischievously and mysteriously commented that
“Mrs. Reisky is an exceedingly smart woman. Her husband cannot light a candle to her, but it is said that she can hold one to an exalted personage of dark complexion.”
The house was purchased by Leopoldine in 1887 and they called it “Wendouree” after their previous home town.
On the 4th of February 1893, the couple celebrated their golden wedding anniversary at “Wendouree”. The day after, Brisbane was inundated by a massive flood. Luckily they lived on the high part of the street, but many houses lower down towards the river were surrounded by swirling muddy waters.
Leopoldine passed away just six months later, leaving the house to her youngest surviving daughter, Ida.
The Augstein/Austen family
In 1889, Ida married Gustaf Augstein, another child of German immigrants, and the couple made their home at “Wendouree”. Gustaf was a telegraph operator.
They had two daughters, both of whom died before reaching one year old, and three sons.
Following the outbreak of World War One in July of 1914, many young men of German descent were amongst the first to volunteer. Ida and Gustaf’s second son Leopold signed up in August of that year, followed by their oldest son Rudolph in October. We can only image Ida’s anguish when her third son Gerrard also volunteered towards the end of 1917, a few months after her husband Gustaf had died.
After 3 years of war, the number of dead and injured had resulted in growing anti-German sentiment in Australia. The family decided to change their name from Augstein to Austen.
Leo had military experience in the militia artillery and was soon promoted to Quartermaster Sergeant. He served at Gallipoli and in France where he received severe gunshot wounds to the thigh. He finished the war as a Lieutenant.
Leo later studied anthropology, spent many years in New Guinea and enlisted again in World War Two. In retirement in Lismore, he became an advocate for Aboriginal rights.
Rudolph had been working as a librarian at the Brisbane School of Arts and had already made a name for himself as a promising poet when he enlisted at 20 years of age. He had become involved in the Modernist Church run by Douglas Price (see my post Douglas Price – Tragic Modernist) who became a mentor. Rudolph contributed poems and articles to Price’s “Modernist” magazine.
Rudolf served in the Field Ambulance at Gallipoli and in France, but was discharged in 1917 with a heart condition. After the war, he published two well received volumes of poetry under his new name of Peter Austen.
In 1920, he was drawn back to Egypt, where he worked as a freelance journalist. A year later he converted to Islam, changed his name to Ali Azir-el-Din and began a career as a carpet seller. He later worked as a teacher and editor. In 1939, on a visit to Lebanon for medical treatment, he slipped on a set of stairs and fatally fractured his skull. It was a while before the local press realised his identity due to the double name change.
The youngest Augstein brother Gerrard Novak Augstein enlisted as Gerrard Noel Austen and was required to declare the nationality of his parents. By the time he reached his artillery unit in France, the Armistice was just weeks away and he never saw active service.
After the war, the family sold “Wendouree” and moved to Sydney.
Number 18 “Rangeview”, now just a memory
“Rangeview” was built by Sarah Else in around 1876. She sold it in 1883 and it became the Clarke family home for over 30 years.
Born in 1839, Joseph Augustine Clarke trained at the Royal College of Art in Kensington, London, before living in India for a few years and then moving on to Brisbane in 1865. In 1873, he married Maria Donaldson and they had five children.
Maria’s sister Rosalie married teacher, public servant and poet Brunton Stephens. Clarke and Stephens together founded Queensland Punch and both contributed to it and other publications. Clarke also illustrated Brunton Stephens’ works such as the children’s story “Marsupial Bill”.
In 1882, Maria died. The following year, “Rangeview” was purchased by a third sister, Frances Donaldson, with a £600 mortgage. In 1885, Joseph and Frances married and with his three surviving children moved to “Rangeview”. Frances bore Joseph two more children.
Clarke undertook a range of commercial art work and taught at All Hallows School and the Brisbane School of Arts, as well as privately. He was a strong advocate of technical education.
Perhaps his best known work is the impressive large panorama of Brisbane completed in 1880 for the Melbourne Exhibition and now displayed in the Queensland Art Gallery.
After Joseph’s death in 1890, Frances continued to live in “Rangeview” until around 1920. She sold it in 1924 and eventually moved to Sydney. There she lived with two of her daughters until her death in 1937.
Two houses of 1930s construction style at numbers 20 and 22 now occupy the land where “Rangeview” stood.
Number 21 “Camden Villa”/Linnetville
After selling “Rangeview”, Sarah Else moved across the street to another of her properties “Camden Villa” which she ran as a boarding house until she died in 1898, aged 76.
Her son Tom and his family lived here for a few years before he sold the property.
During the 1900s, the dwelling was the Brisbane residence of Walter Paget who gave it the name “Linnetville”. He was a pioneer of the sugar industry in Mackay and member of the Legislative Assembly for that electorate from 1901 to 1915.
Paget met an unfortunate end in 1930 when he suffered a stroke and fell onto a knife.
Number 22 “Balya”
The land that this house stands on was originally part of the “Rangeview” property. It’s possible that the Clarke family built it in around 1890, when they obtained a £120 mortgage. Frances Clarke split off the land and sold in 1920.
The house was rented by various residents over the decades. War touched Norfolk Street once again at the time the Halligan family were living in what they had named “Balya”. Their only son Jim Halligan enlisted in 1940 but returned safely to marry his sweetheart in 1944.
Number 24 “Reuben Cottage”
A 32 perch (800 square metres) block, now the location of numbers 24 and 26, was one of a number on Norfolk Road purchased by Sarah Else in 1874 . She built both houses and rented them out. After she died in 1898, her son Tom inherited the property, divided the land into two blocks and sold both.
Number 24 was the home of the controversial William Coote from about 1879 to 1884. He came to Brisbane in 1860 to carry out surveys for a railway from Brisbane to the Darling Downs. After the failure of this venture, he designed and built Brisbane’s first town hall in Queen Street.
After its completion well over cost and with design problems, his career as an architect was over. He had a successful start in developing a silk industry at Rocklea which was brought to a halt by a disease that killed all his silkworms. Coote later wrote a History of Queensland and worked as editor of the “Observer” newspaper.
His son William Jonas and Sidney “Siddy” Queale married in Brisbane in 1878 and the following year were living with him in the house where Siddy gave birth to their first child, Sidney. Coote junior was a surveyor in the Lands Department.
William Coote took up an offer to work as a journalist in Townsville where he became an advocate for the separation of North Queensland and by 1885 the family was no longer living here.
The next resident was Otto Mohr, a lithographic artist who worked for the Brisbane printers and publishers Watson and Ferguson. At that time, the firm was a major producer of the lithographic prints used to advertise land sales in the boom that was underway.
Mohr was also an artist and a judge of fine art at the Brisbane Exhibition.
The Goldstein or Goldstine family lived in the house through the 1890s and they called it “Reuben Cottage”. Rueben Goldstein had brought his family from Poland to London in the 1870s to escape the deteriorating conditions for Jews living in what was then the Russian Empire.
After Reuben died, his widow Sarah emigrated to Australia with her younger children. Her sons Louis, David and Marcus ran a jewellery business in Queen Street and later in Ipswich.
The Buskey family purchased the property in 1918 and retained ownership until 1973.
Number 26 “Inchcape”
This house first appears in the 1885 Post Office directory and was another of Sarah Else’s rental properties.
Charles Shepherd, a seaman, lived here in the early 1900s and gave his home the name “Inchcape”. He was one of three of the crew of the government yacht “Lucinda” who lived in the street, along with the Chief Engineer Barkley at number 6 and First Mate Junner at number 5. Shepherd later served as First Mate to Captain Junner on the Government steamer “Otter”.
The Mullins family were long term residents from 1907. James Mullins was born in 1875 on his Irish parent’s selection at Deutch near Warwick. The year 1900 finds him working in Cairns as a linesman for the Queensland Post and Telegraph Department.
There he met Annie Denford whose parents ran the Crown Hotel. They were married in the same year.
James would have spent long periods away from home, as telegraph and later telephone lines ran for hundreds of kilometers across remote areas and linemen camped out for weeks along the routes.
Later based in Brisbane, James was promoted to line foreman and later inspector.
A son Clinton served in the 2/15 infantry battalion that fought in North Africa as part of the “Rats of Tobruck” and later in New Guinea and Borneo. When he returned in 1945, he lived in “Inchcape” with his parents. James died in 1950 and Clinton stayed on with his mother until her death in 1962 and continued living here until soon before his own early death in 1966 at just 47 years old.
A teenage Clinton won a drawing prize in 1933 and 8 years later was fighting in the North African desert.
© P. Granville 2022
- Queensland State Archives, Item ID ITM2811511 Else Sarah Ecclesiastical File
- Queensland State Archives, Item ID ITM3311177 Else Thomas Insanity File
- Queensland State Archives, Item ID ITM272828 Henry Houghton Inquest File
2 thoughts on “A Walk Down Norfolk Road”
Paul, once again an excellent piece of work.
Dr William J Metcalf
Adjunct Lecturer, Griffith University,
Honorary Associate Professor, University of Queensland,
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