Uncovering Clovelly: A Journey through Time in Auchenflower

Clovelly in Auchenflower
Photo Credit: Google Maps

Clovelly is an early 20th century example of Queensland architecture, located on a ridge in the southeastern part of Auchenflower. Here’s a brief exploration of its past, revealing the stories and lives of those who called it home and chronicling the social evolution of the area from the early 20th century to the present time.

Facing Jones Street and shadowed by Dart Street, this house on 29 Kellett St represented the quintessential upper-middle-class residence of its era.

It has 11-ft, pressed-metal ceilings, spacious rooms, and wide verandas that characterise the architecture of its time. Its location on an elevated lot offers a glimpse into the societal stratification of the times, when larger homes enjoyed breezier, more scenic locations.

Early Twentieth Century: Virgin Land and Visionary Owners

The story of Clovelly’s land traces back to 1904 when Simon Edwin Munro bought it. Mr Munro became a part-owner of several large pastoral holdings. He also served as a Director of the Brisbane Gas Co and Telegraph Newspaper, and was a member of various clubs, including the Royal Queensland Golf Club and the Queensland and Brisbane Clubs. He mostly lived in Clayfield.

Clovelly Simon Edwin Munro
Photo Credit: Ehive

In 1910, Mr Munro subdivided the Auchenflower site and it was Willie Lane who developed Clovelly rapidly. The subsequent ownership by John McEwan Skirving, a Tasmanian-born miner turned successful Queensland property developer heralds a significant chapter in Clovelly’s history with his transformation of the land into a residential haven.

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Skirving’s past as a miner at Cape York’s China camp adds an element of mystery to Clovelly’s history. His entrepreneurial spirit, demonstrated by his successful tin mining enterprises, enabled him to branch out into real estate development in Auchenflower. 

Clovelly the Cape York Miner
Photo Credit: Mark Austin/LinkedIn

Skirving directed the building of Clovelly and other nearby homes during the early 1910s, a significant turning point in the suburb.

From Social Hub to Family Homestead: Clovelly’s Evolving Role

The subsequent ownerships of Clovelly paint a vivid picture of Brisbane’s social evolution. From the widow Jessie Martin, who brought her societal influence to the residence, to the Blair family, who turned Clovelly into a hub of social gatherings and family life, each era reflected the changing dynamics of the Auchenflower community.

After her husband Sidney Martin’s death, Jessie moved to this house in 1920 and transferred the name “Clovelly” from their previous residence in Clayfield to her new home in Auchenflower. There is no earlier recorded name for the house before Jessie named it Clovelly.

Clovelly Jessie Martin
Photo Credit: John Oxley Library

Meanwhile, Betty Blair, with her forty-year connection to Clovelly, holds the record for the longest association with the house. She raised two daughters and pursued a career in journalism. 

Parties in Clovelly
Photo Credit: National Library of Australia
Parties in Clovelly
Photo Credit: National Library of Australia

The mid-1900s saw Clovelly experiencing periods of vacancy and change. The Blairs’ tenure until the 1950s, followed by a phase of being boarded up, symbolised the shifting tides of time. Despite these changes, Clovelly retained its architectural integrity, escaping modern alterations that could have stripped away its historical essence.

The Boarding House Era and Beyond

The 1960s brought a new chapter with the transformation of Clovelly into a boarding house for students, reflecting the growing cosmopolitan nature of Auchenflower. This period, marked by the stewardship of a family committed to education and cultural exchange, added another layer to the house’s rich tapestry of stories.

In recent decades, Clovelly witnessed significant restorations, lovingly undertaken by private families passionate about preserving its historical charm. These renovations, respectful of the house’s heritage, ensured that Clovelly remained a beacon of Brisbane’s architectural history, even as it adapted to contemporary living standards.

Today, Clovelly stands not just as a structure of bricks and mortar but as a living chronicle of the people, events, and transformations that have shaped Auchenflower.

Information for this piece come from Trove, eHive, and an in-depth exploration of the history of Clovelly appearing on House Histories. Check out The Clovelly Story for more interesting details.

Published 11-Jan-2024