Clifton Hill Estate (Balmoral Park Estate) or Group 103, Yeronga - Bill Elliott - 18 Oct 2015
The Clifton Hill Estate, originally planned as the Balmoral Park Estate, was developed by the War Service Homes Commission which was formed in 1918 with the intention of developing affordable home sites for returning servicemen, anticipating the demand for men wanting to marry, buy houses and start families after the war was over. The Balmoral Park Estate was one of the first to be planned and by late 1919 the commission announced its decision to proceed with the Balmoral Park Estate, in the Commonwealth Gazette of the 4 December, 1919. The intention in 1919 was that the estate would be available for land sales in approximately 5 years.
The title for the estate for the purposes of promotion was the Balmoral Park Estate, however the unromantic official name within the commission throughout the period of development and sale of the estate was Group 103, Yeronga. Throughout the development of the estate and for some years after Clifton Hill was part of the suburb of Yeronga.
In the First World War, Australian troops were easily the highest paid in the world with a Private receiving 6 shillings per day in comparison with a Private in the British Army who received the ”King’s Shilling” – one shilling per day. A minimum of one shilling per day had to be retained for payment upon return to Australia, and this was subsequently made up with extra monies granted by the Australian Government. The reality was however, while Australian troops on their brief leaves in the UK were renowned for spending up big (there were many complaints about prices doubling when people in the UK saw Australians coming down the street) the typical Australian soldier who had enlisted between 1914 and 1916, returned to Australia in mid to late 1919 with savings in excess of 300 pounds. Blocks in the Balmoral Park estate (later Clifton Hill) were eventually sold for between 35 and 80 pounds per block, leaving a lot of potential for returned servicemen to build an affordable home out of their savings. The development of estates by the War Services Homes Commission and others, led to a postwar housing boom that helped keep Australia out of the recession that hit Britain and Europe after the First World War.
Slightly less than 40 acres were purchased by the commission from landholders in the area including the Soden, Mayne, and Law families (Patrick Earner was Trustee for the Law Family). It is interesting to see in the National Archives the instructions given to the negotiators for purchasing the land, and to assess the effectiveness of the landowners in negotiating the best price. For example Commonwealth authorised payment of up to £1300 to the Soden family, but they initially agreed to settle for £1150, though because of the time delay they then every negotiated a price of £1250. Patrick earner on behalf of the Law family immediately negotiated a price of £2275 for land of the Law family where the maximum allowed by the Commonwealth was £2300.
Most of the area covered by the new estate had previously been approved for subdivision, but little or none of the work had been undertaken. The purchases were described as “heavily wooded” with “new sapling growth” though there were a few houses built along Ipswich Road at the time. Where the Matilda service station now sits, was the Soden blacksmith.
The archive shows that after purchase of land from John Soden, he was attempting to use land he still owned to seal of Clifton Street and thus frustrate the access of residents of Balmoral Park Estate to the to Ipswich Road and the tram stop at Yeronga Park. There was a exchange of correspondence and the issue was only solved when the Commonwealth compulsory acquired land from John Soden to secure access to Ipswich Road. Another access issue was resolved with the purchase of a property from Miss A Mayne which ran between Ipswich Road and Wadley Street near strong Street. Her property allowed the development of Bohain Street to provide another access to Ipswich road and the Tram Terminus at Yeronga Park.
A number of streets had been gazetted – subdivision of Clifton St had been approved in 1864 but no development had occurred. With the exception of Clifton Street, all were given new names as part of the Balmoral Park Estate plan. Longueval Street was originally planned to be named Wellington Street; Waterlot Street (Waterlot Farm Street) was originally to be Strong Street, and the section of Delville Avenue that runs roughly parallel with Ipswich Road was called Wadley Street. The street that ran between Longueval and Waterlot Street in the east was called Moreland Street, and beyond there in brackets and beyond the area of the original estate was the Mayne Quarry, owned by the Mayne family, as was much of the land to the south of Delville Avenue.
The original estate ran from Clifton Street in the north, through to Delville Avenue in the south and west and to Mametz Street on the eastern side of the estate. Before the estate was developed, Aubigny Street had been developed and Clifton Street was gazetted but without any development. Streets that should be considered part of the Clifton Hill estate include Clifton, Fleurs, Heilly, Zonnebeke, Longueval, Waterlot (originally Waterlot Farm Street) Dickebusch, Delville Avenue and Mametz Streets. A total of 113 building blocks were developed, though 2 were subsequently provided back to the Council for provision of a children’s playground.
Missing from the National Archives is the justification for the street names which are overwhelmingly British rather than Australian battle honours from the First World War.
Development was delayed by a series of disputes with adjacent landholders, and attempts were made to close off the existing Clifton Street and the proposed Bohain Street, as a way of limiting access to Ipswich Road and potentially of extracting more money from the commission. The War Services Homes Commission had strenuously promoted the estate as being adjacent to the tram terminus which from 1916 finished at the gates of Yeronga Park. “Only 3d by Tram to North Quay” was one of the boasts put at risk by these threats to access. Eventually these were solved, though, with the threat of compulsory acquisition prompting landowners to be more reasonable. John Soden then sort to have “Grazing rights” over the estate until it was fully developed and vigorous discussion occurred about this issue, provision of fences etc.
Interest in the new estate was strong and many groups tried to influence decisions by the commission about who should be allowed to purchase. For example the tramways sub-branch of the predecessor of the RSL sent a delegation to the commission asking that 10 blocks be put aside for tramways employees who were returned servicemen. The commission rejected this suggestion.
Disputes with the Stephens Council also delayed development as the council had originally quoted 1000 pounds to develop roads in the estate whereas the final bill came to 1158 pounds. The absorption of the Stephens Council into the Brisbane City Council in 1925 also made complications.
From 1925 construction of homes was in progress, and by 1927 a large number had been completed. However at a time when much of the land had been sold, the newly amalgamated Brisbane City Council decided in 1926 that they wanted the name of the Balmoral Park estate changed as it may provide confusion with another area known as Balmoral within the new city area.
The council proposed to alternate names “Canberra Park” and “Dernancourt Park” to name the area after either the new federal capital or an important battle in which Australians took a key role near Amiens in April 1918.
Finally after more than 7 years as the Balmoral Park Estate, and being threatened with being called Canberra Park or Dernancourt Park, the area was named Clifton Hill in December 1926.
From 1926, the area was quickly settling down to the normal pace of suburbia, and the commission which still had control of the area was being plagued by complaints from residents about people ring-barking trees, problems with drainage, the need for the facilities for children, and all the normal issues which the archive showed hastened the desire of the commission to hand over the area fully to the responsibility of the Brisbane City Council. For example in 1927, some 61 residents petitioned the commission and then were referred to the Brisbane City Council in their desire to have the Waterlot Farm Street renamed to Waterlot Street, as they complained that people had trouble with the name and that their mail frequently went astray. From then on the commission had a limited role in the management of the area, though in 1934 they provided 600 pounds to improve drainage ahead of the planned extension of the tramline through to the Moorooka Shopping Centre. A proviso was that this work was to be done by unemployed workers during this time of depression.
We are fortunate that the Balmoral Park or Clifton Hill Estate has largely been preserved so it can be enjoyed by residents today as much as those who looked forward to moving into the area as a sign of settling their lives after the horrors of First World War.