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Plumb's Chambers

  • 601725
  • 84 Fitzroy Street, Warwick

General

Also known as
Medical Hall
Classification
State Heritage
Register status
Entered
Date entered
3 November 1997
Theme
3.8 Developing secondary and tertiary industries: Marketing, retailing and service industries
Construction periods
1860–1910, Plumb's Chambers (1860s - 1910c)
1860–1910, Plumb's Chambers - Shop (1860s - 1910c)
1874–1910, Plumb's Chambers - Medical Hall/Shops and Residence (1874 - 1910c)
unknown, Plumb's Chambers - Toilet
unknown, Plumb's Chambers - Garage
Historical period
1840s–1860s Mid-19th century

Location

Address
84 Fitzroy Street, Warwick
LGA
Southern Downs Regional Council
Coordinates
-28.21426738, 152.03190579

Map

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Significance

Criterion AThe place is important in demonstrating the evolution or pattern of Queensland’s history.

Plumb’s Chambers, an 1875 two-storey stone building, is important in demonstrating the evolution of Warwick from a squatters’ town to the principal urban centre of Queensland’s southern Darling Downs. The area was established as a prosperous pastoral and agricultural district during the late 1860s and 1870s. The building is indicative of Warwick’s first major building boom, as local quarried sandstone structures became a feature of the town. Plumb’s Chambers is a rare example of a 1870s stone shop house in Queensland.

Criterion DThe place is important in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a particular class of cultural places.

Plumb’s Chambers is an important example of an early two-storey stone shop house built in Queensland in the 1870s. It retains the principal characteristics of the type including: an arrangement of retail, store, and residential spaces integrated into one building; separate entrances and circulation for its different uses; and retail shop windows facing the footpath.

Criterion EThe place is important because of its aesthetic significance.

Plumb’s Chambers’ has aesthetic significance as a well composed two-storey stone building and expresses the prosperity and confidence of Warwick at the time of its construction. In its form, scale and materials, it makes an important streetscape contribution, complementing other 19th century stone buildings in Fitzroy Street and the adjacent Leslie Park.

History

Plumb's Chambers is a substantial, two-storeyed stone building at 84 Fitzroy Street, constructed in 1875 for Warwick chemist and seedsman David Clarke. Known as Clarke’s Medical Hall, this building functioned as shops and residential space on the ground floor with further residential accommodation above. The rear service wings were a later addition. From 1910, an adjacent brick and timber two-storey shop of a similar age, was jointly owned and also functioned as a shop house. The two buildings became known as Plumb’s Chambers during the second half of the 20th century. The brick and timber building was demolished in 2014 and the stone building subsequently restored.

Warwick was established as the business centre for the southern Darling Downs, an important pastoral district discovered and named by Allan Cunningham in 1827. It was first settled by the Leslie Brothers in 1840 who were closely followed by other graziers. The town of Warwick was surveyed by James Burnett in 1849, with the first sale of crown land in July 1850. Warwick was declared a municipality in 1861, and was subsequently transformed from a squatters' town into the principal urban centre of this prosperous pastoral and agricultural district. The construction of the railway linking Brisbane, Toowoomba, Warwick and the tin mines of Stanthorpe, reached Warwick in January 1871, and fuelled further growth.[1] Albion Street was initially the main centre of public and commercial activity. These activities were gradually relocated to Palmerin, Fitzroy and Guy Streets during the 1880s because Albion Street was often subject to flooding. The 1887 flood led to Palmerin Street becoming the main street.[2]

The building at 84 Fitzroy Street was erected in 1875, during the town's first building boom. From the late 1860s through the 1870s, early timber slab structures were replaced by brick and stone buildings. Warwick had access to quality building stone from a number of nearby locations. As early as 1861, when the first Queensland census was taken, Warwick boasted 16 stone houses. John McCulloch and J McMahon established stone masonry businesses in 1863 and by 1864 two local quarries were supplying 28% of Queensland’s sandstone. Ten years later, facilitated by rail transport, 87% of Queensland’s sandstone was taken from four quarries in the Warwick district.[3]

A number of early timber public buildings in Warwick were replaced in stone from the late 1860s; some do not survive, including the hospital (built as a private home in 1862); the Post Office (1869) and the Lands Office (early 1870s), both in Albion Street. Existing stone buildings from this era include: Pringle Cottage (McCulloch’s home dating to circa 1860-70) [QHR 600945]; a small shop and residence known as The Commonage (late 1860s or early 1870s) [QHR 600944]; St Mary’s first Catholic church (1863-65) [QHR 600958]; St Mark’s Anglican Church (1868) [QHR 600943]; Warwick Uniting Church (built as St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in 1869-70) [QHR 601757]; Warwick Central State School (1875) [QHR 602497]; and Olsen’s Hardware (built as Tulloch’s Central General Store (1876) [QHR 601756]. By 1886, there were 14 stone masons working in Warwick as opposed to four bricklayers; and the proportion of masons employed was higher than those in Toowoomba. Warwick’s sandstone buildings indicated prosperity and importance, which reinforced its position as the major town on the southern Darling Downs.[4]

The site on which Plumb’s Chambers stands, was initially part of allotment 12 of section 21 in the Town of Warwick (comprising 2 roods), which first sold at auction in September 1857 for £4. In 1866, title to the whole of the allotment passed to Frederick Hudson, publican of Warwick, who purchased the land for £40. It is not known whether improvements had been made to the property by this date. Hudson transferred the property to his wife Margaret, who subdivided the block into three parts, selling off the western and eastern subdivisions in 1868. The western part of the allotment, about 29 perches, (later subdivision 1) was sold for £60 to David Clarke, chemist and druggist of Warwick, and title was transferred to him in May 1868.

Clarke, an Irish Protestant emigrant and dispensing chemist since c1856, arrived in Warwick in 1867. During the next 15 years he played an important role in the development of agriculture in the Warwick district, at a period when powerful local pastoralists were still strongly opposed to opening the land to selection. Clarke actively promoted the expansion of agriculture on the southern Darling Downs, specialising in the importation of seeds (including cotton and Indian wheat) and fruit trees likely to succeed in the district. In late 1867 he instigated the formation of the highly successful Eastern Downs Horticultural and Agricultural Association, established in October that year. This was the fourth agricultural association established in the Colony of Queensland.[5] Clarke was the Association's first secretary, and retained that position for well over a decade. In the early 1880s Walter Hill, curator of the Botanic Gardens in Brisbane, said of David Clarke that he had ‘done as much to foster and encourage agriculture as any man he knew of in the colony, and who had placed the district under considerable obligation to him.’ Clarke also took an active role in establishing the Wesleyan Church and was nominated for the 1880 Warwick town council elections.[6]

In May 1867, Clarke had established a wholesale and retail drug, grocery and seed warehouse in Warwick in rented premises at the corner of Fitzroy and Albion Streets, opposite the first Bank of New South Wales. By October 1869, Clarke's business had proved so successful that he was able to separate the drug and seed departments from his grocery business, moving the former into a purpose-built addition which opened on 15 November 1869 as the Medical Hall. In the early 1870s, business expanded, with a branch opened at Quartpot Creek (Stanthorpe), following the discovery of tin early in 1872. This branch seems to have been short-lived as his shop was reportedly taken over by the Lands Office in July 1872. In the meantime he relocated his entire Warwick building across Fitzroy Street in May 1872.[7]  

Clarke's success in Warwick as a dispensing and manufacturing chemist and seedsman culminated in 1874 with the selling of his grocery business to George P Barnes (formerly Clarke's assistant) and William Lavers in October, and the construction of substantial new stone premises[8] on the Fitzroy Street land he had acquired in 1868 from Margaret Hudson. The site overlooked the Reserve Square; now Leslie Park [QHR 600946].

The new Medical Hall must have been well under construction when Clarke called tenders for the carpenter's work in October 1874 and the plasterer's work in January 1875. In late February 1875, Clarke advertised for sale the portable building then occupied by his chemist shop in Fitzroy Street, the location of which is not clear.

Clarke’s new two-storeyed stone building was substantial and made a prominent contribution to the streetscape. It was reported as complete in May 1875 and described as the largest stone structure in town at the time. It had a 50 foot (15.2m) frontage to Fitzroy Street, a depth of 48.5 feet (14.8m) and a height from floor to roof of 23 feet (7m). The dressed stone walls were 18 inches (0.45m) thick and the roof was of galvanised iron. The ground floor comprised two shops. Clarke’s chemist shop, 30 feet (9m) by 13 feet (4m), with a laboratory and dispensing room behind, and Messrs Barnes and Laver’s grocery store, which was 30 feet (9m) by 20 feet (6m). There was a sitting room, dining room and kitchen on the ground floor. A wide staircase led to the upper floor, comprising four bedrooms, two sitting rooms and a large library or study, 30 feet (9m) by 20 feet (6m). Most rooms had fireplaces. The large balcony offered extensive views. An underground tank supplied water to the bathroom and kitchen by a force pump; and may have supplied the dispensary on the ground floor of the building.[9] (This tank was discovered and documented during construction of a new sewer main as part of restoration work that occurred in 2015.)

By August 1877, Barnes and Lavers had moved out, but two grocery shops as well as the Medical Hall were operating on the ground floor from August 1877 to March-April 1878. Retailers in nearby premises frequently advertised themselves as 'adjoining' or 'adjacent' to David Clarke's chemist shop, including Chinese oysterman John Kee Chow.[10]

In July 1881 David Clarke passed the running of his business to his son, Charles De Lacy Clarke, also a licensed chemist, and moved to Maryborough.[11] Charles Clarke then took over the Medical Hall in his own name, but by September/October 1882 had purchased a business in St George, advertising the Warwick building for rent. At that period the main building comprised 15 rooms, with a large shop and storeroom on the ground floor, residential accommodation on the first floor, bathroom, kitchen, stables, coach-house and a large underground water tank with pump.

Despite an attempt in June 1893 by David Clarke's mortgagor, the Queensland Investment and Land Mortgage Co. Ltd, to sell the property, the title remained in Clarke's name; presumably due to the economic downturn of the early 1890s. The building continued to be leased, with S Benjamin and Co, wholesale wine and spirit merchants, occupying one of the shops from 1898.[12] In 1902-3, H D Stenz operated the premises as a ‘Coffee Palace’, as well as offering accommodation and meals.[13]

During the period 1883-1909, the property was let either as a house, store or both. Tenants included Dr William Tilley, surgeon at the Warwick hospital, from 1887-89; Mrs WD Wilson, storekeeper and widow of a former Warwick businessman and Mayor, 1891-94; and S Benjamin, wine and spirit merchant, stayed on until at least 1904, and possibly later. The property was offered for sale in 1907 and was described as a substantial stone building of 18 rooms, with access from the lane on the western side.[14]

By this time, Fitzroy Street featured a number of stone buildings: St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church built in 1869-70 [Warwick Uniting Church QHR 602479]; the Courthouse (1885) and Police Complex (1899-1901) [QHR 600948]; and a two-storey Bank of New South Wales once on the corner of Fitzroy and Palmerin Streets (1887, demolished).[15]

In November 1909, the stone building was transferred to retired Freestone farmer and grazier, James Wilson. Wilson occupied the property as his town residence for less than a year before his death in September 1910. He also owned the smaller brick and timber building dating to at least 1878, adjacent at No 82 Fitzroy Street. In mid-1910, Wilson received building permission from the Warwick Town Council to erect a balcony over the footpath in front of his stone building,[16] and was in the process of carrying out what were described in the local press as extensive alterations to his home, when he collapsed. It is thought that the front balcony and some renovations to the rear service wing date to this period.

In 1914, title to both buildings passed to Warwick bootmaker James Plumb and his wife Jamesina. Plumb was active in the masonic movement, and served as Worshipful Grand Master of St George's Lodge in Warwick. He operated his bootmaker’s business from one of the shops. A grocery shop was reported operating in 1919 adjacent to Plumb’s bootmaker, but it is unknown if this referred to the stone building or the brick and timber building. Plumb resided and worked at the Fitzroy Street premises until his death in February 1933, and his widow continued to occupy one of the buildings. Towards the end of 1933, she was offering the shops for rent and unfurnished rooms in Parkview Residential. Later both buildings were simply known as Plumb’s Flats.

Mrs Plumb died in 1948 and the properties were transferred to her nephew and niece; Joseph and Margaret Bryant. Margaret (known as May) married John (Jack) Hill, a lodger at Plumb’s Flats, in 1952.[17] In 1955 the properties were transferred to Mrs Hill.[18] May and Jack lived with their son in  No 82, Fitzroy Street (demolished 2014). Jack died around 1960 and May carried on alone.[19] During May Hill’s occupation, both No 82 and No 84 became known as Plumb's Chambers, honouring her aunt and uncle. She lived at No 82 well into her old age. The building has been home to an array of businesses over time including Theo Cantor’s drapery store, law firms, stationers, real estate agents, furniture retailers and the State Government Insurance Office.[20]

The properties were transferred to Rose City Centre Pty Ltd in 2009. Demolition of No 82 (due to its poor structural condition) occurred during October 2014, and subsequently work began on the restoration of No 84. This work involved rebuilding the deteriorated front verandah to recreate its c1910 condition, refurbishment of the interior to accommodate commercial office use on both levels, and conservation and structural stabilisation of the exterior stonework. During this process in 2015, the original beehive-shaped underground brick water tank was revealed, documented and re-buried under the central cubicle of the men’s toilet.

Description

Plumb's Chambers is a two-storey sandstone building fronting north onto Fitzroy Street near its intersection with Palmerin Street, the main street of Warwick. It complements other adjacent sandstone buildings including Warwick Police Station and Court House [QHR 600948] and Warwick Uniting Church [QHR 601757], and overlooks Leslie Park [QHR 600946] across Fitzroy Street.

The front part of the building is a rectangular two-storey core with a hipped roof. Spanning the front is a wide two-storey timber framed verandah that shelters the footpath. Across the back of the core is a wide one-storey sandstone lean-to portion. Projecting from the rear of this is a one-storey rendered masonry and timber-framed and -clad former service wing with a gable roof. Beneath this extension is the remains of a brick beehive water tank concealed under a concrete slab. All roofs are clad with corrugated metal sheets while ogee gutters with acroteria surround the core and verandah. A tall sandstone chimney projects from the main roof and has moulded cornice and three arched cowls. The sandstone is in ashlar courses and has a tooled face. Haig Avenue, a short narrow lane, runs directly beside the building on its western edge and on the eastern side is a shared easement that provides access to the rear yard and to the adjacent shopping centre.

The front verandah is an accurate reconstruction performed in c2015-7 and has stop-chamfered timber posts and a skillion roof. The posts of the ground floor have mouldings and a slatted timber board valance. The footpath ceiling is ripple iron. The upper level of the verandah has a dowel balustrade and scrolled timber post brackets.

The front elevation has three separate entries from the footpath: one for the large former grocer’s shop at the eastern end, comprising a recessed set of panelled timber French doors with bolection moulding and a fanlight, flanked either side by large multi-paned timber-framed show windows; one for the former chemist shop in the centre comprising a panelled timber door with bolection moulding and a fanlight with ‘Plumb’s Chambers’ applied to the glass and a large timber framed show window; and the former residence entrance at the western end, comprising a panelled timber door with bolection moulding and a small fanlight beside a domestically-scaled timber-framed double-hung window. The entrances are one step up from the footpath and above them runs a frieze of moulded timber panels across the width of the facade. The first floor has four sets of panelled timber French doors, with bolection moulding and glazing that lead out from the front rooms of the first floor onto the verandah.

The eastern side elevation includes two small, high fixed, timber-framed windows with iron bars on the ground floor and two doors into the building. There is a door-sized opening on the first floor that has modern timber-framed and glazed infill. The western side elevation has a series of domestic-sized timber-framed double hung sash windows on the ground and first floor. Within a wide central recess of the lean-to structure is a rear entrance from the yard into the building, via a set of French doors. Beside this entrance is a modern entry with glazing.

The gable roofed extension has been more heavily modified on its eastern side and comprises a narrow verandah with a concrete floor and timber posts sheltering a verandah wall clad with chamferboards that has modern aluminium louvered doors and a row of high-set, timber-framed, fixed windows.

The layout of the ground floor retains original dividing walls between the three tenancies. These have had large openings made in them to connect the spaces. The ceilings are lined with beaded timber boards and a double-sided fireplace with timber mantle and surround survives in the western rooms. The interior partitions have been relined with flat sheet and new partitions and doors have been added. The rear extension does not retain original partitions and has been altered to accommodate toilets and store rooms.

A recent L-shaped stair leads to the first floor. This level has a more intact layout comprising a central transverse corridor with rooms opening off on either side. The ceilings are beaded timber boards with central vented cast metal rosettes. The doors have glazed fanlights but the leaves have been replaced with replica panelled timber doors.

An early narrow steep timber stair with turned timber balusters and simple timber handrail leads to the attic. This space is used as a store for early fabric removed from elsewhere in the building, including a timber fire surround, glazed fanlight with painted ‘Plumb’s Chambers’, verandah valance board and section of verandah balustrade, metal rosette, doors, and other items.

References

[1] Kerr, John, Triumph of Narrow Gauge, A history of Queensland Railways, Brisbane: Boolarong Press, 1990, p. 22.
[2] Seymour, James Stewart; ‘Warwick; A Sandstone Building Tradition’; BArch Thesis, 1985 pp 3-4.
[3] Seymour, p.8; Bennett, Helen, Warwick Shire: Thematic Historical Overview; Queensland Department of Environment, Cultural Heritage Branch; 1996, p.19.
[4] Seymour, J S, ‘Warwick A Sandstone Building Tradition’; BArch Thesis, University of Queensland, 1985 p.p. 39 – 40.
[5] Bennett, Helen, Warwick Shire: Thematic Historical Overview; Queensland Department of Environment, Cultural Heritage Branch; 1996, p.61.
[6] Warwick Examiner and Times, 20 June 1885, p.2; 27 February 1875, p.2; Warwick Argus, 27 January 1880, p.2.
[7] Queenslander 20 July 1872, p.11; Warwick Examiner and Times, 16 July 1881, p.2; 18 May 1872, p.2.
[8] Warwick Examiner and Times, 31 October 1874, p.2; Queenslander, 10 October 1874, p.10.
[9] Warwick Examiner and Times, 15 May 1875, p.2; see also Survey Plan RP5798, which indicated the building is 50 feet long.
[10] Warwick Examiner and Times, 29 September 1877, p.1.
[11] Warwick Examiner and Times, 13 October 1880, p.2; 16 July 1881, p.2.
[12] Warwick Argus, 25 January 1898, p.2
[13] Warwick Examiner and Times, 13 December 1902; 17 January 1903.
[14] Warwick Examiner and Times, 3 August 1907, p.1.
[15] Warwick Argus, 10 April 1886, p.2; 1 October 1887, p.2.
[16] Warwick Examiner and Times, 7 September 1910, p.1; 16 July 1910, p.3.
[17] Warwick Daily News, 22 October 1919, p.8; 31 July 1948, p.8; 21 August 1951, p.6.
[18] Title 12521069.
[19] Northern Star, 29 June 2013, online accessed 27 June 2017.
[20] Warwick Daily News Facebook page; 27 October 2014; Queensland Times, 11 November 2014 ‘Plumb’s Demolition Rumour quashed’ online accessed 27 June 2017.

Image gallery

Location

Location of Plumb's Chambers within Queensland
Licence
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Last updated
20 January 2016
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