John and Mary Soden

John and Mary Soden, were pioneers of South Brisbane and Coopers Plains, having migrated from Bedworth in England on the

"Chatsworth" in 1862. They had been ribbon weavers who were forced to find other employment when the factories faced an economic crisis. Like many others they opted to migrate. There was a severe shortage of labour in Australia at the time, and they were offered work on Grimes's arrowroot farm in Fairfield as soon as they disembarked. Eventually they had their own farm at Coopers Plains (where Aldi now is on Orange Grove Road). After some years they moved with their six sons and one daughter to Ipswich Road, where they built a house and named it "Clifton". In the surrounding paddocks the family developed a horse and carriage business. As well as maintaining private vehicles and shoeing horses, Soden's coachworks ran horse buses to the city, Rocklea, and Coorparoo until the electric trams took over at the tum of the 20th century.


Ernest and Mary Anne Soden

The extended family of our grandparents' generation was involved in the business and lived close to each other. As far as Ernest and Mary Anne's descendants were and are concerned, "Almora" was the scene of many family gatherings. We visited our loving grandparents, aunts and cousins frequently. Sunday night teas helped us keep up with what everyone else was doing. After the meal we children could try to play the piano, read some of the large collection of children's books, sleep on the sofa, admire the dolls' house, or just talk while the adults did the washing·up and talked adult business.


A Soden Christmas - 1950's

Every Christmas was magic! It began on Christmas Eve, when our aunts Gladys and Joyce cut a large branch from a Eucalyptus tree on the property, which had large gardens. On the built-in side veranda the tree was packed firmly into a kerosene tin wrapped in red crepe paper. In the early evening the children helped our unmarried aunts to decorate the tree. They had a large collection of decorations, including shiny coloured balls, silver tinsel, angels, expanding paper shapes, and any novelty they had found in the shops. On Christmas morning, after we had unpacked the pillowcase of toys at home, we got ready to go over to Grandmother's for Christmas Lunch. The wonderful smell of the Eucalyptus greeted us as we passed through the lounge room to the side veranda. Presents to and from every member of the family adorned the tree and the floor around it. We used to lie under the tree, look at our reflections in the shiny balls and try to guess what was in the wrapped parcels. Brought up as disciplined children, we were allowed to open only one of our gifts before lunch so that everyone could enjoy the opening of parcels after lunch. I think we accepted that as fair and reasonable. Moreover, Santa Claus (played by Auntie Joyce) always arrived after lunch, and that was exciting. She was supposed to be "feeding the ducks" at this time. Lunch was the traditional ham, turkey and chicken with vegetables and Christmas pudding with sixpences in it.

Grandmother cooked the pudding in the copper in the laundry. We liked also the coloured fizzy drinks and all the decorations in the dining room. Then the great moment arrived. After we had assembled around the tree, we heard Santa Claus coming. The presents were handed out by Santa and a small helper. Each person now had a pile, and the youngest guest began opening. Everyone was interested to see all the presents and thank those who had given them. The rest of the afternoon was spent recovering from the big meal, playing with presents, taking photographs, walking in the garden, or resting from the work involved.


Useful links



Soden residence, Ipswich Road, Annerley -  circa 1895 -