Why Toorak on Annie St is a House of Prominence in Hamilton

Toorak House, a Gothic-influenced mansion along Annie St in Hamilton, has been a prominent stone residence in the Breakfast Creek area since the 1860s. Standing on a hilltop overlooking the Brisbane River, it used to be the house of the 13th Premier of Queensland, Sir James Robert Dickson.

The house was originally part of the 32-acre land of William Robert Howe Weekes. Mr Dickson then a businessman from Devon, England, bought the property around the 1860s for his wife, Annie Dickinson, when they moved from Victoria to Queensland. 

The completion of Toorak took years to take shape. It was initially designed as a single storey home with a two-level entry hall and a distinct verandah roof. By the 1890s, a second storey was added to the house as Mr Dickson returned to Brisbane with his children.

Sir James Robert Dickson and his family
Sir James Robert Dickson and his family, circa 1870s
Photo Credit: State Library of Queensland

It is believed that Mr Dickson chose the name “Toorak” based on the Melbourne landmark of the same name, which his cousin designed. Per the heritage listing, Toorak’s house and garden were substantially influenced by the English Picturesque movement.

Toorak bedroom
Photo Credit: State Library of Queensland
Toorak living room
Photo Credit: State Library of Queensland

Toorak’s Subdivision and the Other Owners

The subdivision of Toorak’s land started as soon as Mr Dickson acquired the property. When Mr Dickson died in 1901, Toorak was standing on a four-acre land, down from 32 acres. 

Toorak in 1871
Photo Credit: State Library of Queensland
Toorak 1890
Toorak in 1890
Photo Credit: State Library of Queensland

A few years after Mr Dickson’s death, Toorak was leased to Eton High School, which was later known as St. Margaret’s Anglican Girls’ School of the Sisters of Sacred Advent. However, the steep hill made it quite a challenge for the students to walk and climb daily so the sisters moved the school to Donatello. 

By 1916, Toorak was acquired by George Moffatt, a grazier. Over 10 years later, the house would go to John Gibson, one of Brisbane’s prominent sugar families. Over the decades, Toorak would be home to the families of Patrick Woulfe (grazier), Harold de Valh Rubin (art collector), and Sir William Allen (pastoralist). 

Toorak’s Record-Breaking Sale

Toorak had remained in the Allen family from 1976 to 1995 when it was purchased for $2,850,000 by a private resident who currently owns many businesses in Brisbane. 

The family of Mr Allen put up the historic Brisbane home on the market in 1991. It was expected to be the highest price paid for a Brisbane property at that time. However, it took years for the house to close.

Modern-day Toorak
Toorak in 2009
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Photo Credit: Realestate.com.au

Who was Sir James Robert Dickson?

Mr Dickson became a member of the Legislative Assembly of Queensland for Enoggera in 1873. He was good friends with the inaugural Chief Justice of Australia, Sir Samuel Walker Griffith, who made Mr Dickson the Treasurer when the former became the premier in the 1880s. 

Mr Dickson then became the premier following the death of Thomas Byrnes. He was in office for a brief period until Anderson Dawson took office to become the first leader of the very first Labour Party. Mr Dickson, on the other hand, became a Federal Minister.

Sir James Robert Dickson
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Anderson Dawson, 1899
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Whilst preparing to stand for election to the first Federal Parliament, Mr Dickson died in office. He was accorded a state funeral and then a private funeral at his Toorak home.  

Sir James Robert Dickson obit
Photo Credit: National Library of Australia
Sir James Robert Dickson obit
Photo Credit: National Library of Australia