The story we have uncovered about who lived here and when is still unfolding. Here's what we know so far...
Our cottage was built c 1910
In 1910 the English King Edward VII died, and
King George V took the throne.
And In a far-flung southern corner of the British Empire, this cottage house at 274 Crawford Street was built, close to the centre of the small town of Queanbeyan.
Queanbeyan in 1910 had a population of around 1200, clustered in a square mile close to the river.
Unemployment was rife and the town was only just recovering from the depression of the 1890s. It hit particularly hard in Queanbeyan since goods brought more cheaply direct from Sydney by rail, so local business folded. Queanbeyan’s population had begun to tip back into positive growth again by 1910.
Good old JJ Wright
According to an 1862 map of Queanbeyan’s original ‘square mile’, the first European owner of this land was JJ Wright. The block encompassed what is now 274 and 276 Crawford Street, on the corner with Rutledge Street, at the very southern edge of the old square mile.
John James Wright (1821-1904) first made his name and fortune running JJ Wright’s general store and post office on Monaro Street. Wright was pro-anything that might increase commerce. He was on the committee to build the first permanent bridge over the Queanbeyan River in 1850. He was on the committee to bring the new-fangled telegraph to Queanbeyan in 1860 when the fastest link between Queanbeyan and the world was 13 hours to Sydney on horseback. By 8 September 1887, when the Queanbeyan Railway Station opened, JJ Wright was the first Mayor of Queanbeyan.
The early years
By 1906, according to a map we found at the Queanbeyan Library, JJ Wright’s block had been subdivided. The name “Joseph Kaye” is written on our block. Joseph Kaye managed the nearby JJ Bilson brewery in the 1850s. Before that he co-held the license for Queanbeyan’s first public house, the Elmsall Inn across the river on Trinculo Place.
By 1914, the owner of the cottage (built c1910) and land was now “William E Oldfield (dealer)” and the tenant was “Beatty (Bank Accountant”).
In 1918 Queanbeyan Police Court heard the case against George Arthur Battye, who was arrested on Crawford Street, where he lived at our cottage, apparently then a boarding house owned by a Mrs Gardiner. He was jailed for stealing a silk suit and a pair of canvas shoes from George Chamberlain's room, in Byfield's boarding house around the corner on Monaro Street. By 1934, a Verlie Daniels lived here. She wrote to the Sydney Sun that her cat was more than 20 years old – so she was possibly a child at the time.
'Mrs Gardiner's old cottage'
This 1975-dated photo of our cottage found by Queanbeyan historian Brigid Whitbread is captioned 'Mrs Gardiner’s old cottage'. Brigid says: “There is a Gardiner in Crawford Street on the 1922 Electoral Roll."
In 1910 there were huge floods in Queanbeyan and surrounding district. Then again in 1914. In 1915 the Municipality of Queanbeyan won a court case against a Margaret Lee who said Crawford Street's poor drainage and construction had caused her boarding house to be flooded. The court ruled against Lee since she had previously agreed to be paid 150 pounds for the damage to her property and had agreed with that not to pursue a further case. Boarding houses seem to be everywhere in Queanbeyan in 1910-1920.
What we know so far...
JJ Wright owned the land in 1862 and by 1906 had sold it to Joseph Kaye. By 1914 Kaye had sold it to William Oldfield – now with this George Hudson and Son-designed ‘kit-home’ cottage on it, built c1910. “Beatty – Bank Accountant” lived here as Oldfield’s tenant in 1914. By 1918 it was a boarding house run by a Mrs Gardiner. In 1922 the electoral roll says Gardiners lived here. By 1934 Verlie Daniels lived here with a very old cat. Some time in the 1940s, the back of the cottage was extended. And by 1994 it was home to the business of Gillespie and Co accountants.
Was Mrs Gardiner part of the Gardiner family who sheltered the bushranger Joseph Gardiner? Who else lived here? Our search for more pieces of the puzzle continues.
Sources: Heritage Study of Queanbeyan by Peter Anderson and Associates (1988), Bygone Queanbeyan by Rex L Cross (1973) and Queanbeyan District and People by Errol Lea-Scarlett (1968), heritage consultant Eric Martin, QPRC historian Brigid Whitbread.