Our house: histories of Australian homes

Patrick Mullins & Chris Kynaston
Australian Heritage Commission, 2001

11 - A Brisbane seaside cottage

280 Flinders Parade, Sandgate, Queensland

The house and its occupants, 1997.

The house and its occupants, 1997: Chris Kynaston (left), Pat Mullins (right), and their daughter, Caitlin (centre).

Sandgate is on Bramble Bay, 20 kilometres northeast of central Brisbane. Established in the 1870s as a service centre for primary producers, it also became a popular seaside town after the railway was opened in the 1880s. An independent township before the formation of Greater Brisbane in 1925, it now houses a mainly elderly, low-income, and declining population. Flinders Parade extends along the seafront from Shorncliffe to where the Pine River enters the sea. Number 280 is 1.5 km from Shorncliffe, and, as with the rest of Flinders Parade, it is low lying, being only 1.4 m above sea level.

The land on which this cottage was built was given in 1879 as part of a 18.2 hectare land grant to Joshua Jeays, a prominent Brisbane builder. In 1915, Henry Thomas Halliday, the proprietor of Halliday's Turkish Baths (Albert Street, City), bought a 0.2 hectare portion. Halliday had moved to Flinders Parade in 1912 and had started buying nearby land and houses. In 1922, he successfully applied to subdivide the 76 perches of land he had bought in 1915. He hired a local jobbing builder to construct two identical cottages on the front blocks, one being 280, on 19 perches (481 sq m) and the other 278. Each house extended the width of its block, with an easement dividing them, enabling access to their backyards. Easements are common along Flinders Parade, mainly for access to houses at the rear, but 280 is unusual in having them on both sides.

This house was typical of the Brisbane timber and tin cottages of the time. It stood 1.4 metres off the ground on wooden stumps, and the front wall, abutting the verandah, was of single skin tongue-in-groove boarding, while the back was of single-skin chamferboard. The outside sidewalls were also chamferboard, but lined on the inside with tongue-in-groove timber, and the roof was of corrugated iron.

A hallway ran down the middle, with tongue-in-groove walls dividing the six rooms; each having 3.8 m high ceilings. French windows opened onto the verandah from the front bedrooms, and the living room opened into the kitchen at the back (northwestern) corner, the hottest part of the house. Across from the kitchen was an enclosed verandah on which was partitioned the bathroom. Apart from a large coloured glass-sliding window on the back verandah, the windows were of a sash type.

The house was devoid of decoration except for a carved archway in the hall, and the building materials used provided poor insulation from heat, cold, and noise. The sash windows, moreover, prevented easy air circulation during the stifling summer months. The backyard was bare except for an earth closet and a clothesline. A water tank against the back wall was still in use in the 1950s, long after piped water was connected in 1924 (the same year electricity was first supplied).

The cottage at 280 Flinders Parade can be seen to the left of HT Halliday, the original owner.

The cottage at 280 Flinders Parade can be seen to the left of HT Halliday, the original owner, who is standing in front of his own house, 'Craan' (no 284) in c1935.

Like many Flinders Parade houses, 280 appears to have been rented to holidaymakers, although Halliday's daughter, Margery, seems to have been resident during the mid-1920s when her parents lived next door at 284 ('Craan'). The Hallidays may also have resided at 280 since they lived in several of his Flinders Parade houses. In 1938, Halliday sold it to Robert Turnbull, a commercial traveller, who took up residence and named the house 'Walla'. He also built a shed (which still stands) against the back wall. A year after Turnbull's death in 1941, William Morrison McIntosh and his wife, Ethel Mary bought the house. They resided at 250 Flinders Parade, and owned several rental properties along the front, and added 280 to this list.

Alexander Kochevatkin bought the house in 1954. He was also a small local landlord who lived at 204 Flinders Parade. He first rented the house and then sold it in 1956 to Cecil James Joseph Eley, a factory worker. While Eley and his wife (Emma) were resident, the front verandah appears to have been enclosed with chamferboard and shutter windows. The Eleys sold it in 1958 to Augustus Morgan who returned it to its rental status.

In 1959, Ernest Victor Amps bought it as a retirement house for himself and his wife, Olive Mary, having sold their general store in Sandgate. They installed a telephone, cultivated vegetables and fruit trees and kept hens. They sold the cottage in 1967 to their son, William Sydney, and his wife, Dawn Beverley, for a nominal amount. Bill Amps, a detective sergeant in the Queensland Police Service, made extensive changes. He built a new bathroom, located the kitchen in the enclosed front verandah, with the room behind it becoming the dining room and the room opposite, the living room. The verandah was refurbished with aluminium windows and a sliding glass front door.

Amps rebuilt the back shed as a laundry, erected a Hills Hoist clothesline, and hired a contractor to raise the house 1.6 m to enable his car to be garaged underneath. In 1969, the house was connected to the sewerage system, with the toilet installed in the new bathroom. A cyclone in 1970 necessitated a replacement roof. Disaster struck again in 1974 when the Australia Day floods inundated Sandgate. Water rose 0.7 m in the yard, but the house was unaffected because it was high-set. However, the vegetable garden and chook run were ruined.

Gail Rutherford at the gate of the Sandgate cottage in 1974 before renovation.

Gail Rutherford at the gate of the Sandgate cottage in 1974 before renovation. Bill Amps installed the front windows and sliding glass door.

Shortly after the flood, Bill Amps was transferred and the house was sold to Peter Sherwood, a public servant. With his partner, Gail Rutherford (a graphic designer), he lived there for four years before moving next door and renting out 280. Following a devastating hail storm in 1980, the roof was again replaced.

Chris Kynaston rented the house in 1981 when she and Peter Sherwood were on the academic staff of North Brisbane College of Advanced Education. In 1981, she bought the house and it is now jointly owned with Pat Mullins. In anticipation of the birth of our daughter, Caitlin, we decided in 1984 to extensively renovate the house. Kevin Hayes - then completing his BArch, after running his own building firm - undertook the redesign and rebuilding.

The old house was lifted to form a second floor, and a new ground floor was constructed. On the ground floor is a two-car garage and a laundry, and on the other side, raised 0.75 m and above the 1974 flood level, are a study, guest bedroom, bathroom, and storeroom. On the upper floor is a new kitchen and bathroom. The front was opened out, and large sliding windows installed on the enclosed verandah. A new weatherboard front wall was built, and a large deck and a smaller roofed deck were constructed at the back. Paving was laid and new fences and gates were built. Trees and shrubs were planted around the boundaries of the backyard to enclose and shade it, and a retractable clothesline replaced the Hills Hoist.

The life of this house has progressed through three main stages. Over the first 15 years it was rented mainly to holidaymakers. From 1938 to 1959, it was rented privately to local householders. From 1959, it became owner-occupied, and underwent two major phases of structural change. To date, we have lived longer at 280 than any other residents.

A range of interesting methodological problems arose as we researched this paper. Firstly, the ravages of past fires and floods in Brisbane meant that there were often huge gaps in all the relevant data sources, the sole exception being the Title Deed. Aggravating this problem was the apparent mass dumping of many records in 1925 when numerous councils were amalgamated to form the Brisbane City Council. The difficulties of trying to piece together snippets of information were further compounded by the fact that houses in Sandgate were not systematically numbered until the late 1950s. Until then houses were haphazardly identified according to the name of the occupants and by the use of house names. Both forms of identification, however, were apt to change over time. Researching the history of 280 thus became akin to trying to piece together a large jigsaw puzzle which had some critical pieces missing.

Kevin Hayes' 1984 design for the Sandgate house.

Kevin Hayes' 1984 design for the Sandgate house.

Note: All but the gazebo was built.

Acknowledgements and Bibliography

Grateful thanks to Bill Amps, Dawn Cook, Joyce Green, Kevin Hayes, John Keilly, Caitlin Mullins, Gwen Russell, Gail Rutherford, Peter Sherwood, and the Sandgate and District Historical Society and Museum. Photographs: Pat Mullins (11.1), Dawn Cook (11.2), and Gail Rutherford (11.3).

Bartlett, GS, Greater Brisbane Area Atlas Directory of Residents and Streets, Brisbane, 1931, 193?.

Certificate of Title, Queensland Department of Natural Resources.

Cook, Dawn, 'Mr Henry Thomas Halliday', October 1990, MS in Sandgate and District Historical Society and Museum, Brisbane.

Fisher, Rod and Brian Crozier (eds) The Queensland House: a roof over our heads, Queensland Museum, Brisbane 1994.

Interviews: Bill Amps (resident, 1967-74), Dawn Cook (granddaughter of HT Halliday), Joyce Green (resident, Flinders Parade), Kevin Hayes (architect), Gwen Russell (granddaughter of Halliday), Gail Rutherford (resident, 1974-78), and Peter Sherwood (resident, 1974-78).

Post Office Directories, Brisbane (1918/19-40), State Library of Queensland, microfiche.

Queensland (Commonwealth) Electoral Rolls (Electorate of Lilley) (various, 1910-59), State Library of Queensland, microfiche.

Queensland (State) Electoral Rolls (Electorate of Nundah/Sandgate) (1910, 1912, 1913, 1925; missing 1914-24, 1926-61).

Rate Ledger Accounts, Nos. 1501-1750 (1940-51), Brisbane City Archives.

Registers of New Buildings (various, 1926-41), Brisbane City Archives .

Valuation Register/Rate Book, Town of Sandgate (1924-25), Brisbane City Archives.

Brisbane City Council, Department of Water Supply and Sewerage (contour map, and drainage and sewerage map), Brisbane.

The history of your house: a step-by-step guide Brisbane City Council Heritage Publication n.d.

The Authors

Patrick Mullins is Reader in Sociology at The University of Queensland, and the Director of the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute's University of Queensland-Queensland University of Technology Research Centre. He is currently involved in an Australian-South Korean collaborative project on consumerism and sustainable urban development.

Chris Kynaston is Lecturer in Sociology at the McAuley Campus of the Australian Catholic University, and is currently undertaking a project on women's role in sourcing household income in Australia and Britain. They contributed a joint chapter to P Troy, A history of European housing in Australia (2000).