Coogee, Wellington Point
I was contacted by the owners of this wonderful house at Wellington Point a few months ago, as they wanted to find out its history and to check a few things that they had been told about it. They also wanted to find out when exactly it was built, as different sources recorded different dates, one in the 1870s and one in the 1880s.
The first thing I noticed when I visited the house, was the incredibly steep pitch of the roof - it's 45 degrees! The second thing I noticed is that what is now the "front" of the house, facing the street, would actually have been the back of the house originally. When it was first built, the front of the house (shown in the photo above) overlooked Moreton Bay to capitalise on the water views. The land originally ran all the way down to the water's edge, but subsequent subdivision of the land has changed the way the house is accessed.
The owners are lucky enough to have a few photos from a previous owner of the house, which show how it has evolved over its life time. It's often difficult to find old photos of houses, so I was pretty excited about that! They also had some photos of previous owners, which I also loved. It's one thing to find owner's names on old documents, but I especially love being able to put faces to the names!
So what did I uncover about this lovely old home? Well I found out it was connected to the birth of the sugar industry in Australia for one thing! I also found out a lot of other interesting stories, but you'll have to keep reading to find out what they were! But first, I'll start with a brief background history of Wellington Point to provide a context for the history of the house. I didn't know much about Wellington Point beforehand, so it was fascinating to learn about it and to discover that the name of the point, the suburb and the names of a number of the streets are connected to an English Duke!
Shortly after the Moreton Bay penal colony closed, Robert Dixon surveyed the coastline in preparation for opening the area up for free settlement. This survey was dedicated to the Duke of Cleveland and Dixon named Cleveland Point in his honour. He also named a small peninsula Wellington Point, after the hero of the Battle of Waterloo, the Duke of Wellington.
The Cleveland township was gazetted in 1850 and the surrounding district became known by this name. James Warner undertook a more detailed survey of the area in 1861. Three years later, the first land subdivisions around Wellington Point were surveyed and advertised for sale.
Cleveland and Wellington Point were originally part of the Tingalpa municipal division, before becoming part of the Cleveland Division in 1885. Wellington Point appears to have referred to only the point itself until the late 1880s, when the Wellington Point Estate was subdivided and sold. When the Cleveland railway branch was opened in November 1889, the station nearest the estate was named Wellington Point and it seems the adjacent area gradually became known by this name. By the early 1890s, Wellington Point seems to have become a township in its own right.
After the arrival of the railway, the popularity of Cleveland and Wellington Point as holiday destinations increased. The convenient and affordable train services also made the area more readily accessible for daily commuters to the city. As a result, in addition to the many holiday homes, a large number of Brisbane residents also chose to build their permanent homes in the district.
Wellington Point would remain a favoured holiday and recreational area for many decades. Although eventually succeeded by the north and south coasts as the premier holiday locations, Wellington Point remains a very popular picnic, boating and recreational destination. Given its picturesque bayside location and many amenities, it has also become a highly desirable residential suburb.
One gentleman who took advantage of the early land sales in the Cleveland area, was Thomas Lodge Murray-Prior. Thomas was an Englishman who immigrated to Australia in May 1839. He settled in Sydney and in September 1846, married Matilda Harpur at South Creek, near Richmond in New South Wales. The couple relocated to Queensland and initially lived on Thomas’ property, Bromelton, which remains the name of the locality near Beaudesert. Thomas had owned this property in partnership with Hugh Henry Robertson Aikman, since 1844. He sold the property in 1853 and the following year the couple relocated to his new station, Hawkwood, in the Burnett District.
From 1855, Murray-Prior began to purchase large allotments of land in the Cleveland district. This included the land that Coogee sits on today. He had first seen this area and recognised its pastoral potential in 1843, when travelling through Moreton Bay accompanying the explorer, Ludwig Leichardt. The Murray-Priors moved to Cleveland in 1858 and initially built a house called Creallagh. Thomas accumulated hundreds of acres of land in the district, including Wellington Point itself! After relocating to Brisbane and becoming postmaster-general and a Member of the Legislative Assembly, Thomas began to sell off his land at Wellington Point.
Another major early land holder in the Wellington Point and Cleveland area was Louis Hope. Before travelling to Australia in 1843, Hope was a Captain in the Coldstream Guards, the oldest regiment in the British Army in continuous service. Hope relocated from Sydney to Queensland in 1848, where he purchased Kilcoy station in partnership with Robert Ramsey. This property was located to the north-west of Caboolture, near today’s town of the same name.
From 1852, Hope began purchasing land in the Cleveland area. Over the next decade, Hope had amassed a huge pastoral holding, measuring about 325 hectares. He named his property Ormiston, after his home town in Scotland. It is thought that his first house on this land was a small brick one with a slab hut kitchen. In 1864-65, Hope built a much grander residence on the site of the earlier house and this slab hut was retained as the kitchen wing of the new house. This large new brick residence became known as Ormiston House and it survives in its original location. The new, larger house was definitely required, as Louis and his wife, Susan, would end up having nine children!
From 1865, a large amount of Hope’s land at Wellington Point and Cleveland was put under sugar cultivation using South Sea Islander (Kanaka) indentured labour. This became a successful operation, with Hope establishing the first sugar cane crushing mill in Queensland on this land. He was the first person to commercially produce sugar in the country and as a result, Hope is considered by many to be the father of the sugar industry in Australia. As well as overseeing his farm, he also served as a Justice of the Peace and Magistrate for the local district and was a Member of the Legislative Assembly.
In 1863, Louis Hope purchased the majority of Thomas Murray-Prior’s land at Cleveland to expand his operations. This land was on the opposite side of Hilliards Creek to Ormiston House and included Portions 58, 59 and 63, along the eastern side of the main road. Coogee is today located on part of Portion 59.
In the 1870s, a gentleman by the name of Gilbert Burnett was hired by Hope to manage his Ormiston Mill.
Gilbert was the son of John Burnett Esquire and Jane Kerle, of Swell House, Huntspill in Somersetshire. It was here that Gilbert was born on 12 May 1846. In 1866, he travelled to Australia with his family, on board the Eastern Empire. Gilbert then spent time seeking his fortune on the goldfields near Gympie, before relocating to Burpengary Creek (now part of today’s suburb of Burpengary, forty kilometres north of Brisbane).
In March 1869, Gilbert married Martha Ann Dawson and afterwards relocated to Manly. There he managed Martha’s father’s sugar plantation, Wundall. When Martha’s father died in 1870, the farm and mill were sold and Gilbert found work at another nearby mill, Newton’s Redland Bay Sugar Mill. He was employed as a sugar boiler there and after he provided advice to Louis Hope on this process, Hope hired him for his own mill.
By 1875, Glibert was working for Louis Hope and living at Ormiston with his family. He most likely lived in one of the worker’s cottages, located along the creek. The residences of the senior employees, such as Burnett, were kept separate from the more humble dwellings of the Kanakas.
When Louis Hope shut down his sugar mill in 1874, Gilbert purchased much of his equipment. The following year he leased the majority of Hope’s land to the north and west of Hilliards Creek. The lease term was seven years and he paid £60 per annum. This leased land included Portions 58, 59 and 63. Hope retained approximately eighty hectares and the main residence at Ormiston.
It was on these leased allotments of land on the north side of Hilliards Creek, where Gilbert built himself a timber house. This house and the sugar plantation he established for himself there, were known as Trafalgar Vale. This house was located where Whepstead is today and was most likely built between 1875, when Gilbert leased the land, and 1877, when he is recorded as living there.
In 1881, Gilbert purchased the land he was leasing from Hope. He continued to successfully develop his estate and by 1883, he had built himself a sugar mill and saw mill on his property. Originally established to process timber for extensions to his sugar mill, Gilbert’s saw mill serviced increasing demand from local residents. For a variety of reasons, including increasing protest against the use of indentured South Sea Islander labour, Gilbert decided to switch from sugar production to saw milling as his primary business.
This proved an incredibly astute decision and the venture prospered. By November 1884, he had converted his sugar mill to a saw mill and had acquired substantial machinery and installed a large boiler to produce the steam to drive the equipment. He also had a steam boat built to transport timber from where it was felled on the Moreton Bay islands and south coast, to the mill. This also required the construction of a wharf on Hilliards Creek and a crane and tramway to unload and move the timber to the mill.
In September 1886, Burnett established the Wellington Point Land Company, in conjunction with a number of other investors. The company was formed for the purpose of subdividing and selling Burnett’s Trafalgar Vale land at Wellington Point.
The Wellington Point Estate was sold in stages. The land around today’s Arthur Street was the first section, sold from 1884. Some of the streets in the later sections were named after Burnett’s children, including Matilda, Edith and Alice Streets. However, the street names in the first section of the estate seem to be related to the Duke of Wellington, who the point is thought to have been originally named after. The first Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, was hailed a hero after commanding the English forces that defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. He also became famous for his brilliant battle strategies, many of which are still studied as part of military training around the world.
The Wellington Point estate was advertised purely as land allotments and the map from the 1884 flyer shows that no houses existed on the land in 1884. This contradicts previous histories of Coogee, which claim it was built by Gilbert Burnett in the 1870s.
The successful sale of the Wellington Point Estate land added substantially to Burnett’s finances. In 1889, Burnett’s house, Trafalgar Vale, was demolished to make way for a much grander house. This new house was christened Fernbourne and demonstrated the wealth and prominence Burnett had achieved. A larger house was no doubt also required to accomodate the Burnett’s growing family: they had ten children!
Burnett’s success was short-lived however, and after the economic downturn at the end of the nineteenth century, he was declared insolvent. In what must have been a heart-breaking decision, the family sold Fernbourne and built a much smaller house nearby. They also called this house Fernbourne and it would eventually give its name to the road.
The first Fernbourne was renamed Whepstead by a later owner. After being used as a reception venue and restaurant for many years, is again in use as a private residence.
THE HILEY FAMILY
One of the purchasers of land in the Wellington Point Estate was Fred Hiley. In July 1885, he purchased four subdivisions in Burnett’s Wellington Point Estate. These were in two separate locations, subdivisions 174 and 175 were on Arthur Street, roughly where number 17 is today. He also had two subdivisions on the corner of Apsley and todays’ O’Connell Parade. The following year, Fred added two more subdivisions to his holdings. These were subdivisions 176 and 177, which were adjacent his existing lots in Arthur Street.
In 1886, Fred’s brother, William, and his wife, Louisa, also bought land in the area. His other brother, Percival, also lived at Wellington Point. William was an engineer and he and his family lived at South Brisbane prior to moving to Wellington Point. Interestingly, Louisa was the sister of Gilbert Burnett’s wife, Martha. They initially purchased six allotments adjacent the southern side of Fred’s land on Arthur Street. These were subdivisions 163, 164, 170, 171, 172 and 173. A few months later, they also purchased a large portion of Burnett’s land to the north of the estate. William and Louisa Hiley then enlarged their property even further in 1889, by purchasing two of Fred’s lots along Arthur Street. William and Louisa now owned Subdivisions 163, 164 and 170 to 175.
The Hileys had a house at Wellington Point by 1888. Since the land appears to have been vacant when they bought it, they must have built their house between 1886 and 1888. It is very likely that this house the Hileys built is the current house, Coogee. The couple had had six children by this date, however only two survived. The family of four would easily have been accommodated in the four room cottage.
On 20 August 1887, William was appointed to the Queensland State School Committee for Wellington Point State School. School committees were appointed for State Schools to basically keep an eye on their operation. In 1880 new regulations under the State Education Act 1875 came into effect and included duties such as:
a. To take care that the school buildings are not used for any unauthorized purpose;
b. To observe and report upon the state of the school buildings and premises;
c. To inspect periodically the school registers and records;
d. To use their influence with parents to induce them to send their children regularly to school;
e. To report the conduct of the teachers to the Minister when they are in fault, and to protect them from frivolous and vexatious complaints.
William was also a Justice of the Peace and served as a magistrate for Wellington Point from December 1888.
THE HARPUR FAMILY
In April 1899, the Hileys sold their Wellington Point property to Richard and Frances Clara Harpur. Richard was a pioneer of the Gladstone district, settling there in the 1860s. He was a grazier and for many decades he managed a large property called Barmundoo on the Boyne River. He later purchased another property in the area called Hybla.
Richard was related to a well known identity in the Wellington Point area, as his sister was Matilda Harpur, the wife of Thomas Murray- Prior. This connection may well be how the Gladstone couple found out about the land at Wellington Point. Interestingly though, Richard and Frances don’t appear to have ever lived at their Wellington Point house. They remained in Gladstone, so perhaps the house was used for holidays or was an investment property.
THE HURST FAMILY
Eight years after purchasing the property at Wellington Point, Richard and Frances Harpur sold it to Annie Hurst, in February 1907.
Annie Hurst was the daughter of James Hurst and Sarah Haydock, English immigrants who arrived in Australia in 1884. Very little could be uncovered about Annie. Although the post office directories and electoral rolls from this period show that Annie and her parents lived at Wellington Point, they do not provide a street address. Although it couldn’t be confirmed, it seems likely that although the land was in Annie’s name, they would all have resided at the house on Arthur Street.
Annie’s father, James, and her brother, John Haydock Hurst, were grocers. From about 1898, they ran a store in the area, called Hurst and Son. There is an oral history which states that this business was originally run from Coogee, however this could not be confirmed. However, they did build a store called Hurst and Son, on the corner of Apsley Street and Main Road about 1909. They may have run it out of their house prior to this.
After James Hurst died in 1921, John partnered with another grocer to form Hurst and Simmons. In 1947 this business was taken over by the Kratzmann family, who ran the shop at Wellington Point until the 1990s.
Annie never married and lived in the house until her death on 14 August 1913. Her funeral notice is the first reference that could be found of the house being called Coogee House, so it is likely the Hursts who christened it thus. When Annie died, the house was transferred to her brother, John Haydock Hurst and solicitor for her estate, Patrick Joseph O’Shea.
The following year, the property was transferred into the name of John Haydock’s wife, Sarah. It would appear that the couple never lived at 25 Arthur Street after they inherited it, however. Their address is recorded as the corner of Apsley Street and Main Road, from 1943 until their deaths in the 1950s. Since the Kratzmanns took over the Hurst’s store in 1947, this suggests that there was also a house on the same lot as the shop. An aerial photograph from 1946 shows a building next door to the shop on Main Road, but it seems strange that the address of this house would have been given as the corner of the two. If the house was built the same time as the store, John’s parents may have lived there from when it was built in 1909. John and Sarah were married the same year, so perhaps Coogee became their family home, whilst John’s parents moved to the corner of Apsley Street and Main Road. John and Sarah may then later have relocated to that house, leaving Annie to reside in Coogee on her own.
THE McLEOD FAMILY
In June 1916, John and Sarah Hurst sold Coogee to John McLeod. He was a master mariner, who had retired to Wellington Point with his wife, Lilian. He only held onto the property for two years however, selling to Harry and Janet Daughtrey in November 1918.
THE DAUGHTREY FAMILY
Before the Daughtreys bought Coogee, Harry was a fruit grower at Thornlands and Janet ran a boarding house at Wellington Point. The couple were living in Wellington Point in 1919, however it is not clear whether this was at the boarding house or at Coogee, as there is no street address. Whichever house it was, they didn’t reside in Wellington Point long, as by 1925 they were living at Stanley Street East, Buranda. Harry is recorded as a fruiterer by this date and the couple’s son, Victor Charles, as a fruit hawker. It seems that Harry retired from farming and turned his hand to selling fruit instead. The family may have continued to use Coogee as a holiday house after they moved to Buranda, but this could not be confirmed.
Janet died in 1926, however Harry remained the owner of Coogee until he sold the house in 1943.
THE CLOSE FAMILY
On 30 November 1943, Ernest Close purchased subdivisions 163, 164 and 170 - 175 from the Daughtreys. These lots were all adjacent and measured just over an acre in size.
Ernest and his wife, Bessie Annie Jane (née Lang) were Welsh and were married in Cardiff in 1911. They emigrated to Australia in July 1922, with their two sons, Neil and Laurence. The boys were aged nine and seven respectively, when they arrived in Queensland. The family initially settled at Wellington Point, although most likely not at Coogee, before relocating to Wynnum South by 1928. Ernest was a motor assembler and may have relocated due to his work. By 1937 however, the family has moved back to Wellington Point and are living at Coogee. Since Ernest didn’t purchase the property until 1943, they must have rented the house initially.
Ernest and Bessie’s son, Laurence, was a motor painter. He and his wife, Hazel, also settled in Wellington Point after their marriage. Both Laurence and his brother, Neil, served in the Second World War. Neil was a farmer at Wellington Point and it seems he never married.
In 1950, Ernest Close subdivided his land roughly in half, creating blocks that fronted both Arthur and Duke Streets. He transferred the Duke Street portion of land to his son Neil, who continued to farm it. By 1954, Ernest and Bessie had retired to Tugun on the Gold Coast.
The remaining part of Ernest’s subdivided land, fronting Arthur Street, contained Coogee in a generous garden setting. This meant that for the first time, what was originally the “back” of the house was now its main entry from the street. Ernest sold this part of his land to the Director of War Service Homes in January 1951.
The War Service Homes Commission was a Commonwealth Government division, which was first established in 1918 to enable returned servicemen to obtain affordable loans for the construction of homes. The commission then oversaw the design and building of the individual houses, which were built on land purchased by the individual. This process continued after the Second World War and well into the 1950s. By this date however, the Commission had progressed to also buying large allotments of land and building large estates of housing, which they then sold as house and land packages. It is likely that the lots on Arthur Street were purchased from Ernest Close for this purpose in January 1951. For some reason construction never began however, and Coogee survived on its large parcel of land.
THE CALVERT FAMILY
From 1963 (and possibly earlier), Coogee was home to Harold Maurice Calvert and his wife, Stephanie, née Mackone, who went by her second name, Ivy. Ivy and Harold had married in Manly, New South Wales, in 1942 and moved to Queensland about 1945. By 1948, the couple had two children, Margaret and Harold junior.
As the Calvert’s didn’t own the house when they lived there initially, they may have rented the house from the War Service Homes Commission. Both Harold and Ivy served during the Second World War, Ivy in the Citizen Military Force and Harold in the Second Australian Imperial Force. This would have qualified them to rent or buy a War Service Home. Harold junior recalls that the son of the former owner of Coogee, Neil Close, also boarded with the family for a while.
Harold worked as a truck driver before and after the war, but later became a sailor. Ivy was left a widow in 1965 when Harold died suddenly of a stroke, at the age of only fifty. Harold had reached the rank of Captain by the time of his death and one family record states that his ashes were scattered at sea, as was the tradition for mariners. The year after her husband’s death, Coogee was officially transferred to Ivy Calvert.
In July 1970, Ivy subdivided off a small section of the northern end of Coogee’s land. She transferred it to her son and his wife, Clair Olive Calvert, the following year. It is likely that they built a new house on the land around this time, which is now number 17 Arthur Street.
THE MELTON FAMILY
Ivy sold Coogee to artist, Leslie “Les” Albert Melton, and his wife, Irmingard Elizabeth Anna Melton in February 1976.
Les was born in Yorkshire, England in 1933. It was here in the north of England that he undertook an arts degree, focusing on painting and lithography. He also studied graphics in London, where he later undertook freelance commercial work. He then dabbled in teaching and sculpting and in August 1958, relocated to Trinidad. Leslie lived and worked there for just over three years and returned to the United Kingdom in January 1962. He lectured at numerous Art Colleges and established his own Department at Redcar College, back in North Yorkshire.
In 1975, Leslie immigrated to Brisbane, Australia and continued teaching, as a Senior Lecturer at the Queensland College of Art. Les and Irmingard purchased Coogee about a year after arriving in Queensland. Leslie remained a lecturer at the College of Art for twenty-two years and throughout his academic career, Les continued to paint and hold exhibitions of his work. It was during the Melton’s period of ownership that the studio was added to the south of building (now the kitchen and a bedroom).
The Meltons resided at Coogee until 2008, when they sold the house to the Kerrisons and relocated to Switzerland. They sold the house to the current owners, who have done a wonderful job of restoring the house to its former glory.
Three of Les Melton’s paintings of Coogee
Coogee is a lovely example of a late nineteenth-century house. It possesses many of the elements that are synonymous with Queensland houses built during the Victorian era. These characteristics include the “timber and tin” building materials, construction of the house on timber stumps, the steep pyramid roof, and the wide, shady verandahs.
The floor plan of the house, the steep pyramid roof, the single skin walls with external cross-bracing and the style of the verandahs, with their roof separate from the main one, all indicate a date of construction in the late 1800s. This is consistent with the date obtained from the historical research. It is probable that the house was built from timber processed at Gilbert Burnett’s nearby sawmill.
Although extensions have been added to the house and the Arthur Street elevation has been changed slightly, early photos show that the exterior of the main house remains relatively unaltered. The interior of the house also retains many original features.