A MYSTERY has been solved with the surprise discovery of a lesser-known snippet of Brisbane history.
It began because every time I was high enough to see a panoramic view – Spring Hill, Bowen Hills, Teneriffe hill – there was always a high point looming somewhere in the inner north that I couldn’t identify.
Since I had no sense of ever noticing a hill as such, I made a point of seeking it out. It turned out to be Eildon Hill in Wilston/Windsor area.
Better still, there was an impressive gateway to pass through on the road winding around the hill to the top and once there, a big old concrete reservoir and the most spectacular views of the city and surrounding ranges.
It all looked quite out of place in the surrounding suburban streets and seemed to belong to another time which I have now discovered, it does – the 1930s to be precise.
A sign at the entrance tells its story.
Eildon Hill served the people of the area well as a water storage and distribution facility after its opening on February 5, 1930.
First of all the Turrbal people used the hill as a vantage point to watch tribal movements and later, the activities of the white settlers.
It was then named after the hills near Melrose on the border of England and Scotland, which legend says was a haunt for King Arthur and his knights.
The hills and surrounding land were first purchased in 1859 in the name of Sarah Sophia Bartley, wife of Nehemiah, the colonial wanderer, merchant and author.
In 1882, Rev George Wight, a congregational preacher and journalist, acquired the summit and increased his landholding in the area to 64 acres which was then subdivided and offered for sale as the Eildon Hill Estate in 1885 and the Eildon Tower Estate in 1887.
The Brisbane Board of Waterworks took over 10 acres of Wight’s land on the hill in 1906.
Windsor had been declared a town in 1904 and as the population increased, water pressure was not able to meet household demands so plans were drawn up for a reservoir to hold 5.38 million gallons (more than 20 million litres) of water in 1929.
Construction started the same time as the Depression so it provided jobs at just the right time.
It was tough though, as there was no heavy earth moving equipment so it needed hard labour and creative and technical skills.
Almost all the concrete work and excavation was done by hand with only a steam shovel with a small crane to help.
The concrete piers holding up the roof of the tank, which can still be walked on, were poured on site but most of the tank was sunk into the hill.
Spill excavated after blasting was taken away by horse and dray or in large hoppers pushed manually along rail tracks around the rim of the hill.
Two men died in construction and the horses and drays went over the edge a few times.
Original plans were for a lawn, bandstand and kiosk on the roof but they never eventuated although there is a direction dial on one of the vents and neat sets of steps leading to the roof.
The reservoir itself is worth a look and there’s an interesting walk on a little bush track wandering down the hill where an old stone bridge still stands.
It’s not until you’re there that you realise just how high it really is as there are 360 views from the CBD to the south, across to Cunninghams Gap, the Taylor and D’Aigular Ranges and the Glass House Mountains and of course Mount Cooth-tha.
Now I just have to get back to see the sun set over the mountains.
Many moons ago when I was a kid my Dad would take the family for the Sunday drive and I remember we would go to a lookout and check the Brisbane sky line or the lights of Brisbane. I have often tried to find where he took us to without any luck. I think you have found the spot. I will be checking out Eildon Hill next time I am in Brisbane. Thank you for confirming my memories are real.
My grandparents Maurice Jack and Helka Jack lived in the Eildon Hill reservoir house as he was in charge during the 1930’s and world war 2.
The bitumen top of Eildon Hill was painted out as tennis courts during WW2 to fool any Japanese bombers that flew over.
Grandad was known to always have a pet magpie that he trained to talk as parrots do.
That’s really interesting, especially about the tennis courts. I think there may be still some markings from that. Will have to go back and inspect.
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