Timber Cottage, Dutton Park

Certificate of Title for land at South Brisbane, purchased by Edward Deighton in 1876. The land would eventually be subdivided into the Deighton Estate and a worker's cottage built on one of the allotments about 1883. This house still survives today, on Tillot St at Dutton Park.

I learnt a lot about Dutton Park and Boggo Road Gaol whilst researching this timber cottage. In some ways, it was a bit trickier to find out information about the early residents of this home, as they were largely working class. When researching large fancy houses of wealthy families, I glean a lot of information from the social pages and notices of births, deaths and marriages in the newspapers of the time. Working class families were not as well documented however and often could not afford to advertise life events in the papers. I was still able to uncover many details of the residents though and the history of this cottage is just as fascinating as that of any grand home! 

Map from 1844, showing the extent of development on the south side of the Brisbane River

Vulture Street was originally the southern boundary of Brisbane Town, but gradually the settlement expanded outwards. Classified variously as part of South Brisbane, Woolloongabba and Boggo Road, the suburb of Dutton Park was eventually established and named after the Dutton Park reserve to the north of the South Brisbane Cemetery. The park had been gazetted in 1884 and was in turn named after the Secretary of Public Lands, Charles Boydell Dutton.

An 1895 map of Brisbane showing reserves for Dutton Park, South Brisbane Cemetery and Boggo Road Gaol.

In February 1861, sixteen portions of land at South Brisbane, varying in size between approximately nine and twenty one acres, were advertised for sale. Edward Deighton Esquire, a clerk in the Colonial Architect’s Office, took advantage of these early land sales in March, purchasing eight of these allotments, covering almost 79 acres. Deighton therefore owned the majority of the land within the triangle formed by Old Ipswich Road (now Gladstone Road), Boggo Road (now Annerley Road) and Gloucester Street.

Advertisement for sale of land at South Brisbane, February 1861

Edward Deighton, Esquire

At the time he purchased the land, Deighton was leasing a house on Stanley Street at South Brisbane from his brother-in-law, and future mayor of Brisbane, Thomas Blacket Stephens. However, by October 1861, he and his family were living at a residence, “Wahcumba” on his new land, along the Old Ipswich Road (now Gladstone Road). Wahcumba was a large, eight-roomed house, on a large amount of land. When advertised for lease in July 1867, it is still situated on 42 acres. Today’s Deighton Road and Wahcumba Street at Dutton Park get their names from the family and the residence respectively.

Sometime around June 1876, Deighton subdivides Portions 215 and 216 into the “Deighton Estate”. He gives family names to the new streets in his estate, including Deighton Street (now Denbigh St), Nelson Street (his second wife’s maiden name) and Tillot Street (his mother’s maiden name). Sales of the suburban - sized allotments begin in July 1877 and continue until at least 1885. However, Edward never lives on the estate, remaining at Wahcumba until his death in July 1894.

1895 map showing the Deighton Estate at South Brisbane

On 20 August, 1883, labourer Robert Finney purchases Subdivision 67 in the Deighton Estate, on the northern side of Tillot Street. It is a long, narrow block, with a frontage of 61 feet (18.6m) and an area of 21 and 1/10 perches (549m2), which remain the dimensions of the current lot. He obviously wasn’t put off by the proximity of the new gaol, which had opened only the month before. Finney is living on Tillot Street by 1885, so presumedly the current house was built sometime between when he bought the vacant land in 1883 and this date.

In December 1891, a new railway extension from Melbourne Street (now South Brisbane station) to Boggo Road opened. There were stations at Gloucester Street (no longer there) and Park Road, and the line crossed Boggo Road on the same alignment it does today, quite close to Tillot Street. One wonders if Finney was happy with the convenience of living close by it, or disgruntled at the intrusion! Robert transfers the property to his son, John, in August 1899, however he only holds onto the house for a few months, selling it to John Gaffney in October. Robert Finney continues to live there until 1900, however he and his wife, Alice, remain in the South Brisbane area until his death on 7 February 1911.

1897 map showing the location of the new railway line extension

The new owner of the property, John Gaffney, appears to have been an interesting character. He was an Irish immigrant who became a police officer, was an alderman and then Mayor of South Brisbane, had interests in multiple race horses, was president of the Tattersall’s Club and eventually bought and ran the Ship Inn on Stanley Street. He owned various investment properties in South Brisbane and it appears he also purchased the house on Tillot Street as a rental property, as he never lived there.

Mr and Mrs Gaffney in 1919 (State Library of Queensland)

Gaffney’s Ship Inn Hotel, Stanley Street, South Brisbane (now part of Southbank) (State Library of Queensland). Although this photo was taken in 1983, the hotel does not appear to have been much altered and so probably looks similar to when Gaffney owned it.

In 1901, Paul Petsch is renting the house from Gaffney. He is followed by Harry Valentine in 1902 and 1903 and Frank Mulhall for five years from 1904. Thomas Megann is only there for a year in 1911 and then Charles Henry Meggitt moves in. He is the longest tenant of the house, residing there with his wife, Rachael, from 1912 until his death in 1922. Rachael moves out shortly after and Mrs Florence Barton then lives there, initially with her husband, Charles Edward Barton. Mrs Barton is a bit of a mystery, as she seems to be living there on her own by 1923, but no record could be found of her husband’s death. Florence doesn’t appear in the records again until 1943, when she is living with her son at Wynnum. She remains in Wynnum until her own death in March 1954.

Post office directory from 1901 showing Harry Valentine living in the house

Post office directory from 1907 showing Frank Mulhall residing there

Funeral notice for Mrs Violet Barton, 1954

Mrs Sarah Tibbits (also spelt Tibbots) is recorded as living at the house from 1925 until 1933. As the property was still owned by John Gaffney during this time, Sarah was also most likely renting the house. Sarah and her husband, John, had lived in the South Brisbane and Woolloongabba area since at least 1896. They moved around often and were living on nearby Walton Street when John died in 1917. Sarah then moved in with her son, John Junior, on Annerley Road at South Brisbane. Around this time she was injured in a sulky accident, which saw her admitted to hospital with head injuries.

When Sarah moved to the house on Tillot Street in 1925,  she lived with her other sons, Norman and Richard, as well as Richard’s wife, Blanche. In 1929, the owner of the Tillot Street house, John Gaffney, died and the house passed into the hands of the Public Curator of Queensland. Sarah continued to rent the property however. Sarah moved out around 1933 and Francis Whitby was the new resident. He lived there until at least 1938.

The Public Curator of Queensland held onto the property for almost twenty years, and presumedly continued to rent it out. They sold it to Tadeusz Choros in June 1950 and less than a year later, Esme Elizabeth Vincenzi purchased the property.

Newspaper report of Mrs Tibbits’ accident, 28 December 1920

Sarah' Jane Tibbits' Funeral Notice, 22 May 1941

The House Style

The house on Tillot Street was most likely a basic “Colonial Gable” design, when built by Robert Finney. This style was common between the 1870s an 1890s in Brisbane. In its most basic form, this design has a steeply-pitched gable roof (with the ridge line running parallel to road), a verandah spanning the width of the house at the front, a floor plan that is only one room deep, and a skillion-roofed verandah at the rear. The houses would sometimes have a central living room with a bedroom either side, but more commonly had a central hallway with a living room on one side and a bedroom on the other. The front verandah usually had double hung sash windows, or French doors, opening into each room. The verandah would also usually have a separate, lower roof, which could be straight or curved. The balustrade of the front verandah was normally a simple timber design. The rear verandahs were often enclosed to house the bathroom and kitchen and varied in size and shape.

An example of a basic Colonial Gable style cottage, St. Paul's Terrace, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane (State Library of Queensland).

One of the floor plans for Colonial Gable style "worker's" houses.

One of the most common layouts for Colonial Gable style houses. Although altered and extended, this original floor plan is still visible in the Tillot St house.

An example of a surviving Colonial Gable style house at Sandgate.

It is likely that the current configuration of the Tillot St house, with the central hallway and rooms either side, is the original layout. By 1924, the house had been extended at the rear. It is difficult to tell from the quality of the image, but it appears to retain this size and shape until 1946 when an aerial photo was taken.

Outline of Tillot Street house c1924.

Outline of House 1946

The house has since been altered further, with the front verandah being partially enclosed, the rear of the house extended, the original galvanised iron roof sheeting replaced with tiles and the original double hung timber windows removed. The interior has also been modernised and reconfigured, however, it still retains many original features of a humble, Victorian-era, Queensland worker’s cottage.

Notes

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 like a fully referenced copy of the report, or if you want to know where to find the full size versions of the images and maps.

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