Lynne Grove House, Corinda
By Marianne Taylor
I love what I do. I am a ‘house detective’, which means I get to trawl through old records piecing together our heritage, one small bit at a time. One of the things I love most about researching homes is that I uncover the histories of so many fascinating people. I also never know where my house-detective work is going to lead me!
One fascinating home that I’ve been researching is Lynne Grove House, a stunning old home located on Lynne Grove Avenue in the suburb of Corinda and, in doing so, I’ve discovered the story of an incredible woman who converted the building into a nursing home for babies during World War I. Despite the fact that I went to the neighbouring Corinda State High School, I’d never even noticed this amazing home! No doubt my teenage interests were otherwise engaged!
Finding out about a house and its former inhabitants can be time consuming; it needs a methodical approach, but it is really worthwhile, because it roots the home in the district’s history and gives us a small glimpse into the lives of former residents. These days quite a lot of information is available online, but I can still often be found hanging out at the State Library, or at the State Archives out at Runcorn. Some owners want to know purely about their home’s history, while others want to know what it looked like so that renovations can be undertaken sympathetically. Whatever the motive, it is exciting to delve through the records and piece together the jigsaw of information.
When I begin my research, my first step is to visit the owners and take a look at the house, up close. When I pulled up outside Lynne Grove to meet Sari, the home’s present custodian, I was surprised by both its size and its unusual design. It appears to have been extended multiple times, but it has been done in such a sympathetic way that it’s difficult to tell how the house would have appeared originally. The interior of Lynne Grove is just as impressive, with many of its beautiful heritage features intact. My favourite feature would have to be the mysteriously inviting, narrow and steep timber staircase up to the attic rooms. Who wouldn’t want to explore an attic?
I was pleasantly surprised to see that Lynne Grove has been adapted for a modern family while retaining much of its old fabric and character. Chatting to Sari over tea and cake, she told me that Lynne Grove is on Brisbane City Council’s Heritage Register. This gave me my first useful reference to begin my detective work.
When I got home, the first thing I did was study the home’s entry in the Register. There, it mentions two former owners: Robert Hassall and Thomas Murray Hall. But this information doesn’t mean that either of these men necessarily lived there. So, to confirm this information and find out more, I searched through the Australian Electoral Rolls and the Queensland Post Office Directories (which are the early equivalent of the White Pages). Both men had, indeed, lived at Lynne Grove. To work out exactly when they had owned the house and to discover the names of other owners, I purchased the Certificates of Title for the land. These went all the way back to the original land grant, which was made out to James Carmody in 1862. The grant even bears the signature of the first Governor of Queensland – Sir George Bowen, after whom our famous mangos are indirectly named! This date is not long after the Municipality of Brisbane was proclaimed, on 6 September 1859, and Queensland was formally established as a self-governing colony, separate from New South Wales.
Robert Francis Hassall, the owner mentioned in the heritage entry, purchased five acres of land on Oxley Creek in September, 1882, which included the current location of Lynne Grove House. A search of newspaper articles from around this date shows that in February 1883, Robert advertised for farm labourers while still living at Wharf Street in Ipswich. Then, by June 1883, mail was being addressed to him at a place called ‘Lingrove’, Oxley. At that time, the land extending from today’s Chelmer south to Oxley was known as Oxley.
By 1887, this same Lingrove is described as being on Oxley Creek and a short walk from South Brisbane Junction (renamed Corinda Station in 1888). All this information confirms to me that I have the right house!
By using the dates from the newspaper articles, I can deduce that Robert must have moved into Lingrove between February and June, 1883. The Post Office Directories show that the previous owners of the land had not resided there; it had been used only for farming. This means that Robert built the house between the date he bought the land in September 1882 and when he is recorded as living at there in June 1883. Robert died in June 1888 at just 33 years old, and his wife Helena Hannah Hassall, too, at 34 years old, in January 1889, leaving behind three orphans – two girls and a boy, Emily, Robert and Helena (known as Maud). Robert and Helena were buried in St Mathew’s Sherwood Cemetery, where Robert’s father Reverend James Samuel Hassall was rector. The family name lives on in nearby Hassall Street.
Ad for sale of Lingrove contents, June 1887 (left) and Lingrove itself, November 1887 (right).
Frustratingly, I couldn’t discover why the Hassalls gave the name Lingrove to their new house, but the spelling appears to have changed to the current version, Lynne Grove, when Thomas Murray Hall purchased the property in August, 1889.
The Hall family called Lynne Grove home for a quarter of a century. In that time, like any house of the era, Lynne Grove witnessed many births, deaths and marriages. Old newspapers are a great way to find out more about a family, especially wealthy families, because they often show up in the social pages or in the family notices. Indeed, a search of these showed that in March 1890, Thomas’s wife, Annie Eliza (née Hulle) gave birth to a daughter, Doris Hilda, at the house. The following year, the Hall’s eight-year-old daughter, Leila May, died of croup there. Thomas and Annie’s daughters, Ethel Annie and Eda Marion were both married at St Matthew’s Church, Sherwood, and held their receptions at Lynne Grove. No doubt it also saw many other family celebrations and tragedies over the years, that weren’t recorded in the newspapers.
By 1913, some of the large farming allotments around Lynne Grove were sold off as estate developments. One of these was the ‘Lynne Grove Estate’, which consisted of 40 residential lots on Lynne Grove Avenue.
In 1914, Thomas Hall sold Lynne Grove to Laura Duncan, the remarkable woman I mentioned earlier. Laura was born on 25 August, 1875, to an English solicitor, Charles Davis and his Australian born wife, Maria Finch, née Heney. After growing up near Sydney, in the late 1890s, Laura lived with her sister Millicent on a property out at Birdsville, Queensland, that Millicent owned with her husband. Here, Laura met her husband, William Duncan. William was a Scottish immigrant, who managed an 881 km2 cattle property west of Windorah, called Mooraberrie. Laura and William married in 1898 and purchased Mooraberrie in 1906. After her husband’s death in 1907, Laura took over the running of the cattle station, as well as raising the couple’s three surviving children.
Laura strove to develop a first-class Shorthorn herd, as well as pioneering other aspects of the beef trade in south-west Queensland. In 1917, she took on the Queensland government, challenging them in court over the mandatory acquisition of over 500 cattle from Mooraberrie. The case was eventually decided against her in 1919, but she had established her reputation as a determined woman, willing to fight for justice. In 1940, she transferred the property to her daughter, Laura Lothian Duncan, and the two women ran it together. Laura purchased Lynne Grove as her city residence, staying there when she came to town, but otherwise remaining at Mooraberrie.
Shortly after purchasing Lynne Grove, Laura hosted a Red Cross day for children at her residence. This event was a sign of things to come, because in 1915, she made the philanthropic decision to offer the use of Lynne Grove for the establishment of a home for infants. One imagines that the loss of her first-born child, her only son, when he was four years old, must have influenced her. The Corinda Infants’ Home was managed by a committee, with Laura acting as patroness. Its goal was to save the lives of children and, although the exact criteria for admission is not recorded, it seems to have been established in response to many parents being unable to care for their children during the war. The home developed an excellent reputation for saving the lives of infants over the four years it operated out of Lynne Grove.
Who knows what, and who else, I will discover as my research of this incredible house continues, but one thing’s for sure, Laura Duncan and her inspiring story need to be added to the Heritage Register entry for Lynne Grove House.
If you would like to know more about The House Detective, or would like me to delve into the history of your home, give me a call. Not only will you be learning more about your home, you will also be adding to the wonderful heritage of Brisbane.