BRIGHTON TERRACE, WEST END

This residence was a bit different to any I had researched before, as it is not actually not a free-standing house. Instead, it is a wonderful and incredibly unusual example of a nineteenth-century pair of duplexes, originally known collectively as Brighton Villa, but later called Brighton Terrace. Built in 1888-1889, the duplexes initially offered up-market accommodation for the “professional” class. Over the decades, the demographic of the tenants changed, reflecting wider changes in the whole West End area. The buildings were also the epicentre of protests against forced evictions in the suburb in the lead up to Expo 88. They narrowly escaped demolition during this period and were renovated in the 1990s, breathing new life back into them and ensuring their conservation into the future. My research focused on one of the residences within the complex, known as "Verona".

An artist's impression of the duplexes when built

SOUTH BRISBANE EUROPEAN HISTORY

The first development along the southern side of the river, opposite the main Brisbane Town settlement, was primarily wharves. Following this, a township formed alongside the wharves and a commercial strip centred on Stanley, Grey and Melbourne Streets gradually evolved. There was also a dry dock, fish market and a flour mill in the area. 

In 1863, the first subdivision for residential development occurred, when the West End Estate was surveyed to the west of the main South Brisbane township. It is likely that the geographical location of this area to the west of the main South Brisbane settlement led to it being called the “West End”, although other sources attribute it to being named after the West End in London. Eventually this name would come to describe a much larger area than the original estate.

An 1865 map of South Brisbane, showing the Brisbane Town boundary.

In the 1880s, Brisbane experienced an economic and building boom and South Brisbane's population trebled, reaching 22,849 in 1891. Initially the location of the houses of tradesmen and the working classes, by the 1880s, West End was beginning to be seen as an appealing and picturesque location to live by the more affluent. Initially ferries carried passengers across the river to South Brisbane, but the construction of a new Victoria Bridge across the Brisbane River in 1874, made access easier and increased the appeal of the area. As a result, the wealthy began building their large villa houses in South Brisbane. 

This increasing popularity of the area is reflected in the large number of estates that were developed and sold in the late-1880s and early-1890s. These included Whynot Estate (1881), Barron’s Hill Estate (1882), Montpelier Estate (1883), Dornoch Terrace Estate (1890) and the Regatta Estate (1891). Partly as a result of this growth, in 1888, South Brisbane became its own municipality and in 1903 it became the City of South Brisbane. The areas now known as West End, Highgate Hill and Hill End were all initially part of the City of South Brisbane.

The extent of development in South Brisbane by 1881

(State Library of QLD)

Some of the grand homes along Brighton Road, West End in 1892

(State Library of QLD)

In addition to residential development between the end of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth century, South Brisbane and West End became the major industrial areas in Brisbane. The majority of this activity was concentrated on the western side along the river and along Montague Road.

In the 1950s there was a massive increase in Greek immigrants to Queensland, many of whom settled in the West End area due to the affordable accommodation and availability of nearby, unskilled factory jobs which didn’t require speaking fluent English. They were mainly refugees from the destruction and upheaval of both the Second World War and from the Greek Civil War (1946 - 1949). In the 1970s, as a result of the Vietnam War, an influx of Vietnamese immigrants settled in the West End area for the same reasons.

West End retains traces of each phase of its history and remains a culturally and demographically diverse suburb.

A map from 1895, showing the large amount of residential subdivision and development at South Brisbane and West End by this date

THE LAND

At the time of the closure of the Moreton Bay Penal Colony and opening up of the district to free settlers in 1842,  the area was still a remote outpost of the Colony of New South Wales. This administration began to survey and sell off the "vacant" land, without any recognition of its First Nations People, the Jagera and Turrbal groups, who had been the custodians for tens of thousands of years before Europeans arrived. 

On 26 June 1856, a gentleman by the name of Thomas Grenier took advantage of the government land sales at South Brisbane. He purchased a number of portions of land, including Suburban Allotments 160 and 163. Queensland was still three years away from becoming an independent colony and so Grenier’s Certificate of Land Purchase was issued by the New South Wales Government.

Grenier’s large blocks measured nine acres each and were bordered by Vulture Street to the north and Boundary Street to the west.  Grenier paid £26 2s for each of them. He was one of the earliest settlers in Brisbane. He purchased land on Grey Street at South Brisbane in 1842 whilst still living in New Zealand. He then relocated there in 1845, following a Maori attack on his New Zealand town of Kororareka. His wife and children followed shortly after. He initially established a butcher’s shop in Queen Street, but in 1848, he took over the license of the Brisbane Hotel at South Brisbane. This establishment was located on the south-west corner of the intersection of Russell and Grey Streets and would become known as “Grenier’s Inn”.

Grenier’s Certificate of Land Purchase from 1856 

A portrait of Grenier when he was Alderman for South Brisbane

Grenier was also a prominent member of the local community and was involved in championing a variety of causes and petitioning for the improvement of the South Brisbane area. In 1868, he became an Alderman on the local council.

In the mid-1870s, Grenier subdivided his Allotments 160 and 163 into residential sized lots. Sussex Street, Franklin Street and Brighton Road were all laid out around this time. The street names all had personal connections, with Brighton being his birth town, Sussex his birth county and Franklin the name of his son. He began selling the individual lots of land in January 1876. In addition to the land at West End, Grenier also owned many other investment properties in South-East Queensland.

Grenier passed away in October of the following year. His obituary in The Queenslander newspaper declared that, “As a kind-hearted neighbour, sincere friend, and affectionate parent, Mr Grenier had few equals in the colony.” His remaining unsold land at West End was inherited by his sons, Henry John Grenier and William Leichardt Grenier.

Grenier’s land purchases at South Brisbane

An advertisement for Grenier's hotel

Grenier’s obituary

In November 1878, part of the land, measuring just over two acres, was transferred into the ownership of Grenier’s daughter, Sarah. This land included the lots where Brighton Terrace would eventually be built.

Sarah had married Joseph Wonderley in May 1860. At the time Sarah took over ownership of the land a West End, the couple were living in Toowoomba, where Joseph ran a chemist and druggist store. An advertisement for his business states that he was “the oldest duly qualified chemist in Queensland”. As was the case with chemists at the time, he offered a huge range of ready-made powders and potions, as well as those he made himself. It was also very common for chemists to undertake basic dentistry at the time, with a dubious claim of “almost painless” extractions being included in his ad.

Sarah took out a mortgage of £150 on the land in April 1880. It seems she could not repay it however, as the property was sold by the mortgagee later the same year. It was purchased by Edward Taylor and Thomas Bird. Shortly after, they split the land approximately in half and on-sold it.

An advertisement for Joseph’s business

THE HOUSE

Emile Adrien Gaujard bought half the land from Taylor and Bird on 25 May 1880. He purchased five subdivisions, which measured just over an acre in total.

Emile was from Orleans in France and arrived in Australia in 1853. After being involved in a number of business pursuits on the Victorian goldfields, he relocated to the newly formed Colony of Queensland in about 1859. He initially established himself as a general merchant before becoming a tobacconist. He had a shop on Elizabeth Street in the 1870s and on Queen Street in the 1880s and became a partner in the firm, Gaujard and Elson. He retired from this business in 1884.

An advertisement for the sale of his wares on retirement showcases the variety of goods he stocked in his store.

Gaujard's subdivisions

Gaujard's shop on Queen Street

(State Library of QLD)

A record of some of the wares Gaujard had for sale in his shop

On 28 July 1887, Gaujard took out a large mortgage of £2000 on the property. The following month, architect John B. Nicholson advertised for tenders from contractors to construct “Four Two-story VILLAS” built of brick and wood.

Construction of at least one of the pair of semi-detached residences must have been finished by March 1888, as Gaujard advertised them to let. They are described as “commodious and well finished” and with water and gas connections, they would have been the latest in luxury.

Other residents in the street at the time reflect the demographic of the area. They included clerks, an engineer and a surveyor and are what would probably be classified as the “professional class”.

Gaujard was living at Orleans Villa, Grey Street, South Brisbane at this date. However, by September 1887, he was living on Franklin Street. An advertisement for plasterers for “Mr Gaujard’s residence on Franklin Street", suggests he also built a house for himself around the same time that he built Brighton Terrace.

The record of Gaujard’s mortgage

The call for tenders for building the villas, August 1887 

Brighton Villa to let, March 1888

By March 1889, Aaron Mirls was living in No. 1 Brighton Terrace when his wife gave birth to a daughter. However, working out which  residents lived in which residence is confusing. In 1888, John Elcoate is living in the first villa according to the order of residents in the Post Office Directory, with Mirls in the second villa, W. H. Robertson in the third and the fourth unoccupied. However, in other sources, Mirls is recorded at No. 1 Brighton Terrace from 1889 to 1891, however a Miss Hosick is also running a school from that address in 1889. In 1890, Ernest A. Wiesenthal has replaced Elcoate in the order of residents and other sources show he was definitely living at Brighton Terrace. One possible explanation is that the first villa was shared by a number of residents.

Mirls was a commercial traveller, or what would today be called a travelling salesman. Wiesenthal was also a travelling tea merchant. Elcoate was a one-time manager of the Queensland National Bank, but more recently worked as a mining agent and advisor. He was declared insolvent in 1889, so perhaps he was forced to move out of Brighton Terrace, as he is not living there the following year.

Mirls at No. 1 in March 1889

A school in the same location in July 1889

The residents on the street in 1889

The residents on the street in 1890

In December 1889, Gaujard advertised one of the villas to let. It was described as “new, elegant and cheap” with every convenience. It was initially assumed that this was one of the villas in the southern duplex, as they were thought to have been constructed second. However, an ad for a servant at No. 3 Brighton Terrace in April 1889 suggests that both duplexes were already built by this date.

On Gaujard’s death in October 1890, Brighton Terrace was inherited by his daughter, Helene Therese Nicol. She also inherited an estate worth £3747, a very large sum for the time. Helene was born in Melbourne in 1857. She was married to George Bruce Nicol in January 1884, at her father’s residence, Orleans Villa, at South Brisbane. Her mother, Sarah née Curtis, had passed away five years prior.

Nicol had had a diverse career, including working on mail steamers between London and Calcutta and then London and Brisbane. He also worked for the Queensland National Bank and was the co-founder and director of the West End Brewery. At the time of his sudden death, he was still involved in the management of the West End Brewery, although his occupation was cited as the somewhat more humble “brewer”. The Nicols lived on Franklin Street, at Eversley and later at Marly. The latter may have been the house Gaujard built at the same time as Brighton Terrace. 

Villa to let, December 1889

Servant wanted at No. 3, April 1889

Gaujard’s obituary, 1890

Helene Nicol owned Brighton Terrace for thirty-two years. It seems to have been during her period of ownership that the villas began to have individual names.

Newspaper advertisements from as early as 1916 begin to refer to them by name, rather than by number. From north to south, they were Verona, Glenore, Istria and Lyndor, all of which are still in use to this day. 

Istria and Verona are both places in Europe, however the significance of the names Lyndor and Glenore is unclear. 

In June 1917, following her husband’s death, Helene sold their home, Marly, on Franklin Street and most of its contents.  However, Helene continued to own Brighton Terrace for another six years.

The tenants of Brighton Terrace changed regularly in the early-twentieth century. They included Mrs Florence E. Clark, Mrs Bertha Cumming and Mr Frederick H. Chapman.

"Verona" used in an ad in 1916

The names of the residences shown on a 1926 map

"Verona" used in an ad in 1917

One of the long-term tenants of Verona who took up residence during Helene’s period of ownership were the Ryan family. Thomas and Annie lived there from at least 1920. Perhaps to help make ends meet, they let out one of the bedrooms at the house.

The Ryans were still living there when Robert and Edith Morrow purchased Brighton Terrace from Helene in January 1923. They remained there until Annie’s death in March 1930. Thomas sold the contents of the house and moved shortly after.

Robert and Edith, née Johnston, had married in 1905 and by 1912, Robert was working as a locomotive driver in Chillagoe. However, from 1919 until 1921, he was the publican at the Exchange Hotel in the former mining town of Wolfram Camp (now Wolfram), 90km west of Cairns.

An ad placed by the Ryans in January 1924

Mrs Ryan’s funeral notice, March 1930

The sale of the Ryan's house contents after Mrs Ryan's death

Morrow transferred the license to the hotel in 1921 and the couple relocated from North Queensland to Brisbane shortly after. The hotel must have been a profitable venture for them to be able to afford to buy Brighton Terrace. Unlike previous owners, the Morrows actually lived there. They occupied Istria

Robert’s occupation is listed as “Labourer” around this time, however he also appears to have been involved in horse-racing. They would also have made an income from renting out the other residences at Brighton Terrace.

Transfer of license for the Exchange Hotel to Robert Morrow, 1919

The Morrows living at "Istria" in 1925

Robert Morrow listed at the property in the 1925 Post Office Directory

During the Morrow’s ownership, Verona appears to have been divided into small individual flats and/or bedsits. These were managed by a number of different women over the years. They included Mrs Gertrude Martin, Mrs Eliza Fraser, Mrs Alice May Richardson and Mrs J. Wilson. 

The limited floor area of Verona would suggest that to accommodate this number of people, the residents likely had communal bathroom and kitchen areas. However, some flats included stoves, so they may have had small kitchenettes.

The 1930s were another period of depression in Brisbane and affordable accommodation, close to the many factories and businesses in West End, would have been in high demand. An advertisement by one of the caretakers of Brighton Terrace in 1939, suggests that the management work was done in exchange for free accommodation. 

The tenants of Verona during the 1930s and 40s are difficult to uncover, as only the caretaker’s names are listed in the Post Office Directories. However, one tenant was Ethel George. She moved into Verona following the death of her husband, John, in May 1941. She lived there for a number of years until passing away in June 1944.

Eliza Fraser managing the flats in 1936 

Alice May Richardson managing the flats in 1938

Ethel George’s funeral notice, 1944

The Morrows lived at Istria until they sold Brighton Terrace to Robert Henry Smith in 1948. They then relocated to one of the units in a block of four flats they had built nearby, which they christened Morroville.

Smith owned Brighton Terrace for only a year. However, during that period, he applied to Brisbane City Council to convert the southern duplex villas into multiple flats. This was approved by council, but unfortunately no plans or details are available on how this work was carried out.

Smith sold to Herbert Edward Ladams in August 1949. Ladams had a varied career over the years, including labourer, newsagent and ice vendor. The later job likely involved delivering blocks of ice from Rogers Ice Manufacturers near where he lived at Sherwood, to local households. Before electric and gas fridges were widely available, ice boxes were used. These needed fresh ice added regularly.

Ladams owned both duplexes for twenty-three years, but never lived there. In 1951, he registered the northern duplex as tenements (flats) with accommodation for nine people. The southern duplex remained as flats, with permission for thirteen residents. As Verona was let as flats from the 1930s, it may be the case that they were just officially registered by Ladams, rather than him actually converting the building.

It is not surprising that the building remained split into flats, as not only was it likely more profitable for the owners, there was a severe housing shortage in Brisbane following the Second World War. West End became home to many immigrants from overseas, especially those from Greece. The local factories offered unskilled work and the flats at Brighton Terrace would likely have been in high demand.

The Morroville flats, built by the Morrows

Ladams’ registration of Brighton Terrace as flats from 1951

Ladams sold Brighton Terrace to Doreen Cooper and Dorothy Laurens in June 1972. A year later, Cooper applied to the Brisbane City Council for permission to construct an eight storey tower block with 22 units on the Brighton Terrace site. Presumably this also involved the demolition of both duplexes. This application was approved two months later, but for unknown reasons the work never proceeded.

Interestingly, both Doreen’s husband, George, and Dorothy’s husband, Clarence, were real estate agents. It’s possible they purchased the land in their wives’ names for tax or business reasons. However, this may be selling the women short, perhaps they were astute property developers in their own right! Neither the Coopers or the Laurens ever lived on the property and it remained rented out as multiple dwellings.

Martin Joseph Gaffney was the next owner, purchasing the property in September 1978. It’s not clear if he ever lived there, but it seems unlikely as only three months later it was transferred into the ownership of a company, Hestroe Pty. Ltd. It remained in the ownership of this business for thirteen years.

The approval for construction of a high-rise on the property 

In the late 1980s, Brighton Terrace became a central site in a fight by West End residents against evictions in the lead up to World Expo 88.

Local landlords and developers saw the opportunity to make a substantial profit from properties during the event. They also anticipated a growth in the value of their West End real estate after Expo. As a result, many rental and boarding house tenants were evicted or threatened with eviction.

The owner of Brighton Terrace was one of the landlords who had given eviction notices to tenants. Rumours circulated that it was proposed to demolish the houses for redevelopment. A number of activists occupied the buildings and refused to leave until their issues were heard. It became the focal point for resistance, which included members of the House of freedom, The Waiters Union, The West End Socialist/Anarchists, The Greens, Catholic Workers (Anarchists), West End Community House and a number of members of the local community.

Around the corner from the Terraces, protesters set up camp on the footpath outside landlords’ private residences. On Christmas Eve in 1987, activists dressed as Joseph and Mary, with a donkey in tow, walked the streets of the suburb knocking on the doors of landlords asking for ‘a room at the inn’.

Expo protestors at the property

In December 1989, Julie Kaye Cullen and Archgold Pty. Ltd. became the new owners of the property. Around the same time, plans were approved by Brisbane City Council to undertake significant restoration and renovation work. 

After years of neglect and being split unsympathetically into numerous flats, Brighton Terrace was returned to four grand, semi-detached residences. The work involved removing the alterations made to convert the buildings to units, reinstating features such as the fireplaces and surrounds and inserting folding doors between the dining and living areas. In Verona, a bedroom on the upper level was sacrificed to install a bathroom and an internal staircase and the space on the lower level was increased and reconfigured. In addition the buildings were entirely repainted inside and out and front fences installed.

Following this substantial renovation work, the four individual residences were sold separately for the first time. This was made possible via the issue of a Group Title Plan for the property and creation of shared easements. Brighton Terrace was also added to the newly created Queensland Heritage Register during this time.

Brighton Terrace after restoration in the 1990s

HOUSE STYLE

The pair of duplexes that make up Brighton Terrace are very unusual examples of this type of dwelling in Brisbane. Unlike the southern states, terrace housing and semi-detached residences were comparatively uncommon. This was primarily as a result of the Undue Subdivision of Land Prevention Act, passed by the Queensland Government in 1885. This legislation set the minimum land subdivision size to 16 perches (405m2), in an attempt to prevent overcrowding and urban slums. It led to the majority of housing in Brisbane being detached homes on their own portion of land. Although the Act helped, it did not eradicate slums altogether. The inner city areas of Brisbane, including West End, were home to many impoverished residents, forced to share dwellings or live in sub-standard buildings.

Although the duplex configuration is unusual, the overall style and design of the buildings is characteristic of late-nineteenth century homes in Brisbane. The timber and tin materials, projecting gabled room, the front verandah with its separate roof and decorative cast iron and the narrow eaves are all common features found in houses of this era. Internally, the central hallway with its arch, high ceilings, panelled doors and decorative mouldings are also characteristic of late-Victorian style. 

The exterior of the house as it looks today

NOTES

This is only an extract from the full history I uncovered for this house. References citing the sources of  the information contained in this report have been omitted from this online version to make it easier to read. Some images and maps have also been cropped to show details more clearly. Please contact me if you would the details of any references, or if you want to know where to find the full size versions of the images and maps.

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