12 February 2012

Reservation Life in Dutton Park

Dutton Park is only a small suburb, and many people around Brisbane don't know where it is (it lies between Woolloongabba, Highgate Hill and Fairfield), but it has a surprisingly rich and unique heritage because back in the 19th century the colonial government set aside most of the local land as reserves. Queensland was still a brand new colony and Brisbane was beginning to expand rapidly, and the government required land close to the city for a number of government facilities. The area they choose is shown here:

Original 19th-century government reserves (green) overlaid on modern suburb map of Dutton Park, Brisbane..
Original reserves (green) overlaid on modern suburb map.

A survey was undertaken there by Charles Rawnsley in 1863. A huge complex of reserves was created, covering almost 140 hectares between the modern Annerley and Ipswich roads and the river.

19th-century government reserves of Dutton Park, Brisbane.

There were up to ten different reserves, and I’ll run through a list of some of them and how they were used:

South Brisbane Cemetery (1866 - )
The first reserve to be actively used was the cemetery, which was reserved in 1866 and first used in 1870, and is now the oldest surviving municipal cemetery in Brisbane. About 100,000 people have been buried there.

South Brisbane Cemetery, Dutton Park, circa 1898. (John Oxley Library).
South Brisbane Cemetery, circa 1898 (John Oxley Library).

Deaf, Dumb and Blind School (1883 - 1988)
This school opened in 1883 as the 'Brisbane Institution for the Instruction of the Blind, Deaf and Dumb'. It later became the Queensland School for the Deaf and this old building was demolished when a new school opened on the same site (next to Dutton Park railway station) in 1973. The school closed in 1988 when the children were placed into the mainstream school system.

Queensland School for the Deaf, Dutton Park, circa 1935. (JOL)
Queensland School for the Deaf, circa 1935. (JOL)

Orphanage/Diamantina Hospital (1883-)
The Diamantina Orphanage was established in 1883, and after several changes of function it became a hospital for chronic diseases in 1897. After a major rebuilding programme it was renamed the Princess Alexandra Hospital in 1959. The Diamantina Museum, in the only original building left from the first hospital, is worth a visit.

On the verandah of the Diamantina Hospital, Brisbane, 1925. (JOL)
On the verandah of the Diamantina Hospital, 1925. (JOL)

The prisons (1883 - 2000)
There were a number of different prison buildings that came and went on this site over time. The first, shown below, was built in 1883 for male prisoners.And a new prison opened next door to the first prison in 1903 to hold female prisoners. This is now the only remaining prison building left at the site.

No.1 Division, Brisbane Prison, Dutton Park (replaced in early 1970s). (JOL)
No.1 Division, Brisbane Prison (replaced in early 1970s). (JOL)

Dutton Park State School (1884 -)
The school reserve next to the prison was cleared by prison labour, and the school opened in 1884 as the Woolloongabba Mixed School, later becoming the Dutton Park school.

Woolloongabba Mixed School, later Dutton Park, class of 1895.
The Class of 1895.

Dutton Park recreation reserve (1884 -)
This park is where the suburb gets its name from. It was set aside as a recreation reserve in 1884 by Charles Dutton, who was the secretary of lands, and was leased by the Brisbane Tramway company in the 1900s. Their trams ran to a nearby stop and the company tried to boost patronage by turning the park into a leisure resort by building kiosks and organising attractions such as the ‘Continentals’, outdoor shows which combined live acts and silent movie screening.

The park became so popular that nearby housing became known as the name ‘Dutton Park Estate’. This name was soon being used for the local train station and school, and although it became a distinct area within the suburb of Woolloongabba, the modern suburb was not formed until the 1970s.

Oddfellows' Village Fair at Dutton Park, 1909. (JOL)
Village Fair at Dutton Park, 1909 (JOL).

Animal pound (1887-1920s)
The next reserve to be used was the animal pound, seen below in green, which was used for confining stray animals, including stray cattle and horses which were wandering around the suburbs. This opened in 1887 across from the cemetery. This was under the charge of a police-appointed poundkeeper, a position originally paid for through animal sales. There was originally no water at the pound, and the animals had to be driven twice a day to nearby waterholes before a trough and water mains were installed in the 1890s. It was closed in the 1920s and its former presence is marked in the name of Pound Street.

Some other reserves
Other reserves included ones for the police, a school of arts, and a road metal quarry (now Quarry Street).

Government reserves at Dutton Park. Brisbane.
Yellow: School of Arts
Red: Road metal quarry
Green: Animal pound
Blue: Police reserve
Pink: Sanitary works

Although it was not on a reserve as such, the sanitation works are shown here as another interesting aspect of the local history. Operating from the 1880s until 1907, this was a large industrial facility where the 'night soil' from outside toilets in South Brisbane was destroyed in incinerators. Locals often complained of the smell arising from this facility, as you can imagine. Household waste was also dumped in trenches in the nearby park, which was the scene of an archaeological dig recently which turned up household objects from the 1890s and World War 2.

Some of the reserve land was later developed into streets, but places such as the hospital and school have survived and are still being used for their original purposes, as of course is the cemetery, which along with Boggo Road Gaol is one of Queensland's important heritage places.

It might only be small, and you can drive through it in 30 seconds, but when it comes to heritage, Dutton Park (and a bit of Buranda) is the mouse that roared.


  1. Great pics accompanying the article. Particularly like the school class photo. Thanks for the info.

  2. Very interesting Chris, thankyou. My family were very early residents and manufacturers in Dutton Park. My Great Grandfather, David Webster established his bakery in Boggo Road after an earlier business in Brunswick Street was closed. He and his wife, daughter of Charles Porter, architect and builder, initially lived above the bakery and later built a home on Gladstone Road, later building another next door on the corner of Gladstone Road and Annerley Rd, next to what is now Gair Park. My father grew up here. These two residences are now owned by the MS Society.