Old Brisbane comes to life through the history of its houses. Each house provides a wonderful example of life in an earlier time, with a worker’s cottage able to yield as much interesting information as a grand house. State Library’s resources provide wonderful ways to grab a sneak peak at the past by searching for the life of a dwelling and those who sheltered in it. If only those walls and floorboards could speak! Well, they can!
As an example, I will look at a house in Windsor Road, Red Hill. Named “Westwood”, the Post Office Directories indicate that the Spink family lived there from the turn of the century to the mid-1920s.
Step one – Searching the Certificate of Title
The cost of a single Certificate of Title is $17. However, there may be six or eight (or more) historical titles to make the journey back to the original Deed of Grant. On the title for “Westwood”, it shows that originally there were two blocks of land, numbers 524 and 525, on the same title.
Later two separate titles were created, and the one that we are interested in following, number 525, was sold to Mr A Robinson, a grocer in Red Hill. It then became the property of the Spink family in 1901, with a notification on the title that the ownership was transmitted in 1946 upon the death of Andrew Spink’s wife, Martha, to the executor of her estate.
Step three – Look at the construction and plans
Step four – Find out who lived in the house
But who was Mr Andrew Spink? Andrew and Martha Spink came from Beverley in Yorkshire in 1883, where he had trained as a coachbuilder. In the late 1880s, the Spink family moved to Red Hill, where they raised five children. They named their home “Westwood” after the grazing common near the town of Beverley in Yorkshire.
A tireless worker for the rights of the working man, Andrew Spink was instrumental in proposing that the first Brisbane Trades and Labour Council Building be erected in Turbot Street. In 1902, he ran for the seat of Toowong for the Labor Party. The seat of Toowong was important to both sides of politics in the 1902 election, following the historic seven day period of the world’s first Labor Government in Queensland in 1899. The key was to secure Brisbane seats, which were mostly held by the conservative government of the day. Although he came relatively close, Mr Spink accepted his defeat graciously. Andrew Spink was the Grand Master of the Grand United Order of Oddfellows in 1903, the first President of the Friendly Society Association of Queensland in 1905, the President of the Brisbane Associated Friendly Society Dispensary and Medical Institute, and a Council Member for the new University of Queensland. He represented Queensland at the opening of the first Federal Parliament in Melbourne in 1901.
This rich story emerges from the undertaking of a house history. On 3 July, State Library of Queensland is holding a public seminar on how to undertake the history of your house. What could you learn about your dwelling and the wonderful stories from the families who sheltered in it?
See our website for more information or to register now.
Senior Librarian, Information Services
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