Large tracks of land were originally owned by notable pioneers such as Thomas Lodge Murray Prior, James Henderson, Richard Gailey and Robert Cribb until the 1870s when the land began to be subdivided. Taringa, situated between Brisbane and Indooroopilly, had a station on the Ipswich railway line from 1875, and land sales started from the late 1870s, situated among rural acreages. The suburb continued to be settled and had grown to such an extent by 1919 that the suburb was included in the Fire Brigade Act for property protection, and was incorporated into the Greater Brisbane Council in 1925. The construction of the University of Queensland at St Lucia in the 1930s positioned Taringa as a residential hub for students, and the suburbs’ close proximity to the Brisbane CBD (approx. 6km) made it a popular choice for professionals looking for an easy commute to work. This has increased steadily in recent years, with medium density dwellings becoming more prevalent in the suburb.
This property sits on subdivisions of the original portion 38 and portion 42a, purchased by Thomas Lodge Murray Prior in 1860 and 1865 respectively. Prior used the land to run his cattle from the Darling Downs through to his extensive holdings in Cleveland, and it remained unimproved. Significant subdivisions and resubdivisions had occurred from 1876 when Walter Horatio Wilson purchased the portions and resubdivided them. Graham Lloyd Hart purchased several subdivisions and largely retained them until the late 1880s when he sold off further subdivisions. Alexander John Turner bought four of these resubdivions in 1888, but did not build on them. Both men were professionals in their own fields and bought the land as an investment as they lived in other areas of Indooroopilly during their ownership of this property. Hart was a Partner at the Queen Street solicitors firm Hart and Flower, and Turner was a Partner of chartered accounting firm Turner and Strong, also based in Queen Street.
The Union Trustee Company of Australia Ltd obtained ownership of the property (Resub. 102, 103, 118 & 119 of Sub. 11-13 of Portions 38 & 42) in 1904, when large portions of Turner’s properties were sold off. It remained under Trust until June 1911 when Thomas Tonks purchased the property, however he then sold it to Jessie Marion Phillips (wife of Arthur Sydney Phillips) in February 1912. There is no evidence that Tonks built a house on the land prior to selling it. Jessie Phillips advertised for staff in May 1912, suggesting the very rapid construction of this house of that it was already started or completed.
It is therefore possible that Thomas Tonks either built the residence in the 8 months he owned the land, and then sold it to the Phillips family who were able to move straight in; or he started the construction and the Phillips completed it.
Arthur Phillips was born in Gloucestershire, England in 1866, and Jessie Collie in Falmouth, Cornwall in 1864. Although they lived in similar areas, it is highly doubtful that they would have immigrated to Australia together in the 1880s. They were married in 1890 in Queensland. Jessie and Arthur Phillips were socialites of high standing in the Indooroopilly/Taringa area, holding bridge parties and dances at their home. Their activities were covered extensively in The Telegraph, The Brisbane Courier and The Queenslander. Arthur Phillips owned the auctioneering firm A. S. Phillips & Sons Pty Ltd, based in Queen Street. Both Arthur and Jessie Phillips were staunch patriots and were very outspoken in their support of conscription during WWI - Jessie was on the working committee promote support for the referendum which was held on 28 October 1916. They were also very proud that, as advertised in the paper, their nephew had been given the rare opportunity to join the Australian Flying Corps and had obtained his commission.
The Phillips family remained in the house until 1939 when they moved to an apartment in Gregory Terrace. Prior to moving, Mrs Phillips held an auction of their household furnishings and “appointments”, which included a piano, gramophone, records, chairs, sewing machine, and large items of furniture, which were unable to fit in their new residence. The advertisement for the property indicates the lavish lifestyle which the Phillips’ enjoyed – 6 bedrooms, basins in the bedrooms, staff quarters, double garage (at a time when petrol was rationed and motor vehicles were still seen as a luxury), glass house, aviary, tennis court and putting green. Life at the Phillips is a snapshot into the lives of the social elite in Brisbane during the first half of the twentieth century.
There were two changes of owners over the war years until Thomas Cullinan bought the property in 1946. An advertisement placed by him in The Telegraph indicates one of the major social problems of post-war Queensland – returning servicemen who lost their jobs when they enlisted for war service and were unable to find a new position on their return.
Cullinan advertised for a handy man, but stipulated that applicants were to be “ex-servicemen, pensioner”, that accommodation and meals were included plus a weekly salary of £30, and directions on how to get to the property plus a promise to refund the bus fare. This was generous and telling of the socio-economic upheaval that the war had caused to working class Queenslanders.
Cullinan also added further luxuries to the property – lights to the tennis court and a swimming pool. He passed away in 1953, and his wife Kathrine sold the property to Allan and Eleana Humphries in 1955.