The Normanby Hotel:
The Normanby Hotel, located prominently on the Normanby Fiveways intersection at Red Hill, Brisbane, is a two storey brick building with a lower level, built in 1890 on a site used for hotel purposes since 1872.
Hotels have played an important role in the historical development of Queensland. Often the first places to appear along transport routes and at fledgling settlements, hotels have catered to travellers, provided spaces for communities to drink, socialize and conduct business and meetings, and have strongly contributed to local economies. Architecturally, hotels have ranged from ephemeral makeshift shanties to more permanent and imposing buildings that have competed with civic and commercial buildings to dominate their surrounds. In urban areas, street corners have been particularly favoured sites for hotels to emphasize their commercial presence.
Over time, legislative provisions for licensed premises influenced the architecture and layout of hotels, by requiring a range of minimal standards, including those related to the number of rooms, height limits of rooms, and separate entries for guests. Coupled with the domestic nature of the services provided, the requirement for licensees to reside on the premises shaped hotels’ characteristic internal mix of private and public spaces.
The area around the intersection of Petrie Terrace and Kelvin Grove Road, on the fringe of Brisbane’s town centre, began to develop from the 1860s. While land was initially surveyed for small residential allotments, the siting at a road junction and increases in traffic led to shops and other services gradually appearing along the road. The growth in the area saw the naming of the small suburb Normanby, after Queensland’s third governor (1871-1875) George Augustus Constantine, the Marquis of Normanby. The route of Brisbane’s first suburban railway to Sandgate (1882) went close to this junction, with a Normanby station for passengers operating until the early 1890s.
Musgrave Road, originally a continuation of Petrie Terrace toward Red Hill, had developed into a small business area by the 1880s. The forming of College Rd across the rail line (connected to Gregory Terrace) and Countess Street created the Normanby ‘Fiveways’, which became one of Brisbane’s major traffic intersections, especially following the introduction of horse-drawn bus services and trams (later electric-powered).
The original Normanby Hotel opened in 1872. The first owner and publican, Matthew Burton, purchased land on the corner of Musgrave and Kelvin Grove Roads in 1865. In December 1871 Burton (originally a carpenter) gave notice of his intention to apply for a publican’s licence for the Normanby Hotel, which was granted in January 1872. The original hotel, a two storey timber building was oriented towards Kelvin Grove Rd.
Following the death of Matthew Burton in 1873, the property and lease of the hotel was transferred to his wife Elizabeth Sophia Burton, who continued to operate the hotel. The lease was transferred a number of times from the mid-1880s until William Valentine signed a lease in 1888 for 14 years.
The 1880s was a boom period for Queensland, characterised by strong economic growth and a rapid expansion in population. In Brisbane, this growth was particularly pronounced, with the population more than tripling during the decade. Aided by public transport, suburban areas continued to expand. Many new substantial public and private buildings transformed the built environment, reflecting the confidence and prosperity of the era.
In late 1889, architect John Beauchamp Nicholson, engaged by leaseholder William Valentine, called for tenders for pulling down and rebuilding the Normanby Hotel. Arriving in Brisbane from England in 1876, Nicholson prospered as an architect and property speculator in Brisbane during the 1880s.The Norman Hotel and the Princess Theatre in Woolloongabba and the Alliance Hotel in Spring Hill were among the designs produced by his architectural practice. Nicholson formally went into partnership with Dutch-trained English-born architect Alfred Wright in early 1890, who had previously worked for Nicholson. Wright is considered to be responsible for the design of the Normanby Hotel and other similar styled buildings designed by the firm such as Chardon’s Corner Hotel in Annerley and Lady Musgrave Lodge in Spring Hill (both demolished).
The new Normanby Hotel was formally opened in December 1890, a large, ornate two storey brick building with a lower level to the rear. The hotel was built to face Musgrave Rd and its principal elevations were Musgrave Rd and its eastern side, facing a small reserve at the corner of Musgrave and Kelvin Grove Roads. Internally the hotel contained bars and parlours, drawing and billiard rooms, and accommodation for both guests and lessees/employees. The building was described in great detail in a Brisbane Courier article at the time of opening, while a sketch of the building appeared in the Building and engineering journal of Australia and New Zealand in 1891.The hotel was built at a cost of £4000, with Thomas Game the contractor.
Like many hotels of its era, the Normanby Hotel was designed to impress, with its ornate stylistic treatment employing elements of the ‘Queen Anne’ architectural idiom. The Queen Anne style was generally designed at a domestic scale with complex design details, such as an intricate roof structure, charming towers with conical or pyramidal roofs, and ornate tall chimneys. The style revived aspects of English architecture from the time of Queen Anne’s reign (1702-14) and was reminiscent of Tudor or Old- English rural designs. A picturesque, classical style free from the classical rules of proportion, it transformed traditional formal plans and symmetry into an intertwined assortment of detailed bays, dormers, porches and spires. Originating in Britain, the Queen Anne architectural style became particularly popular in the United States of America and Australia. Distinctive design features evident in the design of the Normanby Hotel include the red facebrick walls, a dominant steeply-pitched roof with subsidiary Tudor-style gables, tall chimneys, terracotta decorative details, fine finials, leadlight windows, and verandas with fretted ornamental woodwork.
In the decades after its construction, a number of lessees, including William Valentine, Castlemaine Brewery and Quinlan Gray and Company Limited and members of the Burton family operated the hotel. Sophia Burton died in 1901, with the property passing to her sons John, Francis and William Burton. Francis Burton became the sole owner in 1909. Castlemaine-Perkins Limited purchased the property in 1936 at a reported cost of ‘about £52000′, although the ownership was not formally transferred until 1944. This purchase by Castlemaine Perkins was part of a wider practice of acquiring hotel freeholds and leases throughout Queensland. This process of vertical integration continued through 1930s, ensuring the companies domination of the Queensland market. Castlemaine-Perkins sold the Normanby Hotel in 1986 and the ownership has since changed a number of times. The present owners (in 2014) acquired the site in 1999 and have since extended the hotel’s operations into adjacent property to the west (not included in the heritage register boundary).
Over time, extensions and alterations occurred at the hotel in response to the changing demands of its customers. Alterations designed by architect GHM Addison are recorded to have taken place in 1917, while other alterations occurred in 1933. The extent of these alterations is unclear. In 1937 the Licensing Commission approved alterations to the hotel and the addition of a bar, thought to be an extension at the rear of the building towards Kelvin Grove Road. The existing tiling in the entrance hall and on the façade on Musgrave Road date from this time. Two brick garages were also constructed in the 1930s. Both the bar and garages have since been demolished. Between 1958 and 1962 an earlier ‘bottle department’ was replaced with a drive-in bottleshop, which has also since been demolished.
On the reserve at the corner of Musgrave and Kelvin Grove Roads, a beer garden connected to the hotel was developed (date unknown). A number of fig trees and a jacaranda were planted in the reserve, of which only one large fig tree survives.
While the basic form of the 1890 hotel building remains unchanged, the internal layout of the hotel has been altered in places by new openings. In 2014, the ground floor comprises a bar, gaming lounge and service spaces, while the first floor comprises the public bar, configured into one large open space, and function rooms. The second floor, which formerly housed bedrooms and associated spaces, remains largely intact and is used as office and storage space.
This tram shelter outside the Normanby Hotel was erected in 1925 by the Brisbane Tramway Company. A tramway line, built along Kelvin Grove Road in 1897-1901, was expanded in the early twentieth century. By the 1920s trams ran along all five roads intersecting at the Normanby Fiveways, making it one of Brisbane’s busiest and most dangerous intersections. The shelter was constructed as a compromise between local authorities and the Brisbane Tramway Company, who had debated the position and safety of the tram stop outside the Normanby Hotel.
During the second half of the 1880s a more crowded urban core and a developing public transport system encouraged land subdivision and suburban expansion in Brisbane, including northwest to Kelvin Grove. By 1888 the Normanby Fiveways had become a busy centre. Tramlines were laid along Kelvin Grove Road during 1897 to 1901, and by the end of 1903 the tram service extended along Kelvin Grove as far as the corner of Edmonstone Road, handy to the Newmarket Hotel.
By the 1920s, trams ran along all five roads of the Fiveways and the growing popularity of the motor car made the Normanby Junction one of the busiest intersections in Brisbane. The Brisbane Tramway Trust received criticism from the Ithaca Shire Council for the unsuitability of its tram stops in September 1924. The Trust proposed to build a shelter shed outside the Normanby Hotel, pending approval by the Ithaca Council. After much debate about the safest position for the shed, approval was granted in April 1925. The shed featured in the local newspaper in July 1925. Originally it was raised and accessible by a short staircase. It was temporarily removed for roadworks in the 1990s.
Source: Queensland Heritage Register, Brisbane City Council Heritage Register.