Built in the mid 1860s Middenbury House has been a family home for the well-to-do, a boarding house and since the 1950s, home to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in Queensland.
Middenbury House is on the heritage register because it is thought to be a significant example of a fine quality 1860s Queensland residence of masonry construction.
The register notes it is one of the few 1860s brick suburban villas to have survived in Brisbane, and one of the oldest surviving residences in Toowong.
Apart from its ongoing connection to the ABC in Queensland, the house is associated with some prominent Brisbane families, including the Finneys and the Murray-Priors.
The house was also owned in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by the O’Sheas who entertained Edward, Prince of Wales, in 1920 during his visit to Australia.
Middenbury was built in 1865 for Mrs Eliza Mary Rogers, a widow of an officer of the Tasmanian Commissariat. Mrs Rogers moved to Brisbane with her four children after the death of her husband.
Following her death in 1875, the house was let to, or owned by a number of prominent Brisbane families including Thomas Finney, founder of the successful retail firm of Finney Isles, Hervey Murray-Prior, barrister and son of Thomas Lodge Murray-Prior, Queensland’s first post master general, and Timothy John O’Shea, a successful merchant who had begun his business life as a cabman in the Valley.
The O’Sheas owned the house for 59 years before it was auctioned off and used as a boarding house in 1949.
In 1957 it was bought by the then Australian Broadcasting Commission and has been used since then primarily as offices. This has resulted in a number of alterations including partitioning of rooms, removal and enclosure of fireplaces and the replacement of some joinery items.
Renovations in the 1980s and 90s have seen the slate roof and the verandah columns being replaced, along with the verandah floorboards and concave corrugated iron on the verandah roof.
Today Middenbury House is used as the administrative centre for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s operations in Queensland.
Its wide verandahs maintain their views through to the Brisbane River, and to the east can be seen the city skyline, much changed from its original perspective 139 years ago.
This article was originally published as part of abc.net.au/built, a project from the 2004 Year of the Built Environment
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