Guest blogger: Julie Hornibrook - 2015 Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame Fellow
Betty Mansion was a marvellous doll’s house built for eight year old Betty Hornibrook at Clontarf in 1935. This was the same year as the opening of the Hornibrook Highway, built by her father Manuel Hornibrook. Betty’s birthday was in May, perhaps it was a birthday present from her parents. The doll’s house overlooked the northern portal of the Highway (designed by architect John Beebe) from the garden of the family holiday home. Seeing this sight on arrival over the Bridge would have added to the magic of the new Bridge and the world it was opening up for those who crossed it.
In a recent Heritage Talk I gave through my Fellowship with the State Library Queensland I realised many in the audience had memories of the doll’s house and that it had fired their childhood imagination. They wondered what had happened to it over the years and I was able to display some family photos of the doll’s house, now in this Blog.
The Brisbane Telegraph published an article and photos of the ‘Mansion’ on 15 January 1937, ‘Clontarf Palatial Doll’s House.’ Betty is standing with her brother Richard, called ‘Junior.’ The article described the doll’s house as being architect designed, built of wood and wunderlich pressed metal, six feet high and wide and twelve feet long. This meant it looked like it was two stories high but children and adults alike could stand up inside. The colours were cream with blue window boxes and a front panelled door with a rising sun design. The green roof was of ‘fish scale iron’, with blue guttering.
Betty and her brother Richard outside the doll’s house. This photo was printed in The Telegraph, Brisbane, January 1937 with an article on ‘Clontarf’s Palatial Doll’s House.’ Photo taken by The Telegraph 1937, held in collection of Julie Hornibrook
Inside the walls were of maple wood panelling and a fireplace of imitation bricks. The dinner set, described by the paper as ‘Lilliputian’ was from Melbourne, complete with a small set of cooking utensils, stove and sewing machine. Betty had a number of dolls in the house and a favourite called ‘Cuddles.’
The doll’s house with its visibility and wonder was widely known and tourists often stopped to take photographs. Betty donated her doll's house to the Bedford Playground in Spring Hill, Brisbane when she was nineteen. Manuel Hornibrook had built the park in 1927 and a war memorial there in 1945, so the location was well known to the family. In its new home many children had the fun of playing in Betty Mansion over the years, but in 1982 it was vandalised and burnt down. A smaller replica of the doll’s house was later rebuilt by the Playground and Recreation Association of Queensland and the Bedford Park and Spring Hill Playground. The playground was added to the Queensland Heritage Register in 1998, as it holds cultural significance in many ways, including being the location of Betty Mansion. This has helped to protect the park and children in the decades since then have had the joy of playing in the wonderful doll’s house.
The replica of the doll’s house was somewhat adapted for modern times and is described on the Heritage register as being a small ‘model play version of a two storeyed interwar house, built on a concrete slab with reinforced concrete walls and finely detailed openings including a moulded and panelled front door.’ The signage in front of the model displays the name of ‘Betty Mansion.’
Betty’s doll’s house is fondly remembered by her family and memories recalled recently when she passed away on December 17, 2015.
Julie Hornibrook was the Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame Fellow in 2015 and is the granddaughter of Sir Manuel Hornibrook.
Discover more of Julie Hornibrook’s research –
- Showcase – William Jolly Bridge – contains historical photographs and an in-depth essay about the building of the William Jolly/ Grey Street Bridge
- Showcase – Hornibrook Highway – contains historical photographs and an in-depth essay about the building of the Hornibrook Highway
- Showcase – Story Bridge – contains historical photographs and an in-depth essay about the building of this iconic Brisbane landmark
- Brisbane Mementos of Sir Manuel Hornibrook– article published in the John Oxley Library blog
- Hornibrook Highway – article published in the John Oxley Library blog
- Past and Present - William Jolly/Grey Street Bridge - article published in the John Oxley Library blog
- Sir Manuel Hornibrook - Father of the Australian building industry - article published in the John Oxley Library blog