The broken lands of Toowong

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A survey plan of the Milton area in about 1850 (B.1234.14), held by Queensland's Museum of Lands, Mapping and Surveying.

Figure 1. A survey plan of the Milton area in about 1850 (B.1234.14), held by Queensland’s Museum of Lands, Mapping and Surveying.

In an earlier post called The Waters of Milton, I explored a survey plan of Milton drawn in 1850 (Figure 1). Survey plans are valuable historical artifacts because they generally represent the first efforts to capture the landscape on paper. They reveal natural features that have long since vanished, such as creeks, swamps and even hills. They also provide insights into how the colonists saw the land, indicating its potential uses and specifying how it was to be divided up among its new owners.

Since writing that post, I have obtained several more digitised survey plans of the Milton Reach and Western Creek areas, thanks to the assistance of the Museum of Lands, Mapping and Surveying, which is part of the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines. I look forward to featuring them all in articles in the future, but today I will explore just one of them. This particular plan carries the catalogue name of M.31.65. I have no idea what that means, but then there is a lot about these plans that I am still fuzzy about. Some of the surveying markings may as well be hieroglyphs to me, but thankfully there is much that can be gleaned even without specialist knowledge.

Unlike the Milton plan, this one depicts an area inland from the river. I’ll get to the precise area shortly, but first we need to dispense with some formalities.
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Detail Plans on Google Earth

Having recently Google-Earthified several historical maps of the Milton Reach and surrounding suburbs, I thought I’d apply the same technique to some of the City Council’s ‘Detail Plans’. These plans were produced prior to sewerage being installed in Brisbane, and they depict the built environment at a much finer spatial scale than the maps I have used previously. The plans from the Milton and Rosalie areas date primarily from the 1930s, while those further up the Western Creek catchment were made later on, mainly in the 1940s. Each plan covers no more than a few blocks, as in the example below.

Detail Plan no. 771, showing the area between Baroona Road and Elizabeth Street.

Detail Plan no. 771, showing the area between Baroona Road and Elizabeth Street.

These plans show the outline of every house, down to the exact position of its front steps and out-door toilet. They also show things like house names, retaining walls, tram lines, watercourses and drains. Exploring them in Google Earth provides a fascinating way to engage with the history of our built environment.

Rosalie Village as depicted on the City Council's 'Detail Plans' from the 1930s.

Rosalie Village as depicted on the City Council’s ‘Detail Plans’ from the 1930s. The concrete drain is covered except for a small section near Baroona Road. The tram line is also visible.

The complete set for Brisbane contains over 3,000 detail plans. I’ve prepared a sample of just 24 in order to explore the course of Western Creek. The results can be found on this page in the form of a gallery of Google Earth screenshots as well as a link to a file that will enable you to explore the plans directly using Google Earth. If you live in the area, you may be able to find the original outline of your own house, and even the location of the outhouse in the backyard.

Digitised versions of the original plans can be obtained from the Brisbane Images section of the City Council’s library catalogue. They are part of the collection of the Brisbane City Archives. I would particularly like to thank Annabel Lloyd from the Archives for providing me with the plans and answering my many questions about them.

The Waters of Milton

I’ve expressed previously my enthusiasm for old maps. The older they are, the more they tend to reveal about the original landscape.

Until recently, the oldest map that I had found of the Milton area dated back to 1859. That map (‘Plan of Portions 203 to 257 in the Environs of Brisbane, Parish of Enoggera, County of Stanley, New South Wales) covers the area between Boundary Creek (which flowed between Cribb Street and Boomerang Street) and Toowong Creek. It depicts several features I had not seen on other maps, such as Red Jacket Swamp spilling over into Frew Park (later maps just show it covering Gregory Park) and a large lagoon between Cribb Street and Park Road.

But now I have an even older one, courtesy of Magnus, who writes the blog ‘A House in Auchenflower‘. Magnus went digging in the Queensland Museum of Lands, Mapping and Surveying and struck gold in the form of the map you see below.

Surveyor James Warner's plan of the Milton area in 1850, held by the Queensland Museum of Lands, Mapping and Surveying (B1234 14).

Surveyor James Warner’s plan of the Milton area in 1850, held by the Queensland Museum of Lands, Mapping and Surveying (B1234 14).

This map looks old enough to have fallen off a pirate ship. The various annotations on it show that it has been used and re-used for various purposes, and at different times, but the original drawing appears to date from 1850, when the assistant surveyor-general, James Warner, surveyed the area. Warner’s description of the map appears at the bottom-right corner: Continue reading