The history of the Coronation Drive Office Park - Part 3
A place of residence
By Angus Veitch
The photograph below is probably the earliest that shows the Coronation Drive Office Park (CDOP) site in any detail. The State Library’s catalogue suggests that it dates from 1874, but it could be up to ten years older than that.(1) The road in the foreground is Boundary Street, and the land immediately beyond it is the CDOP site — or about two thirds of it anyway, since the site also extends beyond the right of the frame. The thick grove of trees beyond the fence hides the S-bend of Boundary Creek, while the straighter portion of the creek flows somewhere between the fence and the cottages in the right of the picture. In the centre of the picture is Ambrose Eldridge’s ‘Milton Farm’, while the white triangular roof is that of his residence, Milton House (which still stands today). Further in the distance is the distinctive profile of Robert Cribb’s house, Dunmore.
Edward James Bennett and the Poplars
In this photo, various buildings are visible on the CDOP site, most of which look like little more than huts and sheds. In the foreground, however, is a more substantial cottage. This is the residence of Edward James Bennett, who came to Brisbane in about 1860 when he was appointed as Chief Draftsman of the Surveyor General’s Department, a post which he held until he retired in 1889. Bennett moved into this corner of the CDOP site in the early 1860s,(2) and except for a few years that he spent in Toowong,(3) he remained there until 1914, when his later residence, named the Poplars, was acquired and demolished by the Brisbane Tramway Company.
I have not determined exactly when Bennett built the Poplars, but I suspect it was in the 1880s. The photo below showing Bennett and his family at the house dates from around 1895, as does the map drawn by A.R. McKellar which shows the lot on which the Poplars was located. However, an advertisement in the Brisbane Courier reveals that he was already living in the house in 1889. He built it to replace Sparkford Cottage, which was his first residence at the site, and is probably the one visible in the photo above. Bennett died at a residence in Annerley, also named Sparkford, in 1920.
John George Cribb and Fairholme
In 1917, a Toowong resident named John O’Neill Brenan presented his ‘Reminiscences of Early Toowong’ to a meeting of the Queensland Historical Society, describing his first journey out of town to the western suburbs along the River Road in 1872. As he passed the CDOP site, he saw E.J. Bennett’s residence as well as that of the CDOP site’s other long-term resident, John George Cribb:
Going back to my first journey to the neighbourhood—descending the hill from North Quay brought one to Bennett’s Bridge. This crossed a creek (long since filled up) which bounded part of E. J. Bennett’s property, hence the name given to the bridge. Mr Bennett’s house has been demolished, and the Tramways Co., I think, owns the land. Many of the trees still stand there, among them one of the very few English oaks growing about Brisbane.
Crossing the bridge, you were upon the Moggill-road, now mostly referred to as the River-road, and entered the suburb of Milton. Immediately to the right was the residence of the late John Cribb, accountant to the Bank of New South Wales. The old house stood upon the site of the present two-storeyed building in the middle of a large area, the property fronting the Moggill-road on the east side, Cribb-street on the south, and partly Little Cribb-street, the Milton-road on the west.(4)
Born in London in 1830, John George Cribb was the eldest of three sons of Robert Cribb, with whom he came to Brisbane on the Fortitude in 1849. He found work with the Bank of New South Wales within a few years of arriving, and remained with the bank until 1893, for most of that time as an accountant.(5)
Cribb was listed in the electoral roll as a householder at Albert Street in 1854, and as a freeholder in the western suburbs in 1856. Presumably, he had acquired some or all of his father’s land fronting the river at the CDOP site. He had taken up residence there by 1858. Cribb and his wife Lucy were heavily involved in the Milton Congregational Church, which was located near the corner of Baroona Road and Haig Road. His other great passion was horticulture, and he had a special interest in acclimatising new fruit varieties to Queensland. In a tribute written shortly after Cribb’s death in June 1905, the Colonial Botanist Mr F. M. Bailey recalled:
His garden at Milton when I first saw it in 1861 contained a goodly number of plants of an economic character, and since then he continued year after year introducing plants of the same description … it is to him we are indebted for the introduction of many varieties of American grapes which of late years have been cultivated far and wide in this State. Another valuable introduction was a full collection of the best kinds of apples produced in America. These, like the grapes, have in many instances proved of great service to the fruit-growers of the State. From the same country he also obtained many varieties of the pear, quince, plum, cherry, fig, walnut, peccan-nut, blackberry, &c. In a small scrub which stood near the creek in his garden was the only place in which I have seen the mangosteen make an attempt to grow about Brisbane. The plant grew for a few years, but soon after the removal of the scrub it died. Mr. Cribb was probably the first to fruit the litchi here, and also that curious so-called fruit, the Chinese raisin (hovenia dulcis). He was the introducer of the ‘Irish peach’ apple for stock, upon which to work various varieties of that fruit; and also of that desirable stock for roses, the ‘Manetti’.
From 1864 onwards, Cribb’s name appeared regularly in the newspaper as a prizewinner at exhibitions of the Queensland Horticultural Society(6) and the Acclimatisation Society.(7) He was still winning prizes, not just for his produce but also for his pioneering use of new types of ploughs and other equipment, as late as the 1880s.(8) Through Cribb’s efforts, it is probably safe to say that the CDOP site saw just about every type of fruit tree that could be grown — as well as many that couldn’t — in South East Queensland.
Cribb’s first residence at the CDOP site is probably the small house in the middle-right of the above photo of Milton. By 1881(9) he had replaced this house with a much grander residence named Fairholme. The State Library’s catalogue details for the photo on the right notes that ‘[t]he Queenslander, two-storey home was encircled by a wide verandah on three sides decorated with intricate iron lacework and topped with a widow’s walk’. Fairholme was built on the highest piece of ground on the CDOP site, more or less fronting the southern edge of Little Cribb Street. The exact location can be seen on an estate map made in 1914 when the surrounding land was subdivided and sold.
The location was well chosen, for the surrounding land was prone to flooding. A photograph of the site in the 1890 flood (which was about a metre higher than the 2011 flood) shows Fairholme in the distance as the only property untouched by the floodwater. The house stayed dry even in the flood of February 1893, which was about three metres higher than that of 1890. A report in the Queenslander observed:
Who does not know Cribb-street, Milton, with its white terraces, its trim front gardens and its general air of comfort and cleanliness? The flood water on Saturday night swept down on the locality, and before midnight the only house out of the water was Mr Cribb’s.(10)
Fairholme was a hub of social activity, being the venue for numerous parties, garden fetes, weddings, and funerals, including John Cribb’s own funeral in June 1905. John Cribb was survived by seven sons and two daughters. Fairholme remained in the family until at least 1924.(11) Making the records from this period somewhat confusing, one of John Cribb’s sons, also named John George, built another house named Fairholme in Sherwood.(12) Who says history never repeats?
Aside from E.J. Bennett, J.G. Cribb and their families, many other people would come to call the CDOP site home, though generally not for as long as Bennett or Cribb and not in such handsome accommodation. The first Europeans to live there were probably farm labourers. Many later residents also had employment on the site, working in businesses that included sanitary stables, an incinerator and tram workshops, all of which will be discussed below.
The majority of residences at the CDOP site were on Cribb Street. Before the Fairholme estate was subdivided in 1914, most residences were on the lots between the railway and Little Cribb Street. After 1914, other uses occupied this area, and the majority of houses were to be found at the other end of the street. Houses remained on this part of Cribb Street until at least the 1950s.
- A newspaper feature about the site published in 1930, with input from a member of Bennett’s family, suggests that the same photo dates from 1865.
- The Courier reported the birth of one of his children at Milton in November 1862.
- The Queenslander, 24 September 1931.
- Brennan’s reminiscences were published in The Sun over three weeks beginning on Sunday, 1 July 1917. Extracts are also reproduced in: John Pearn (1997). Auchenflower: The suburb and the name. Amphion Press, Brisbane.
- Sourced from J.G. Cribb’s obituary in The Queenslander, 17 June 1905.
- The Courier, 18 January 1864.
- The Queenslander, 27 July 1872.
- For example, The Queenslander, 30 August 1884.
- The Brisbane Courier‘s notice about the marriage of Cribb’s eldest daughter, Lucy, in March 1881, mentions Fairholme.
- The Queenslander, 11 February 1893.
- The house is mentioned in a the engagement notice for J.G. Cribb’s son (or possibly grandson) in 1924.
- See J.G. Cribb Jnr’s obituary, printed in the Queenslander May 1926.