Ellen Grove

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Naming Ellen Grove

Raymond Percy Spinks was a “self-made man,” a Brisbane entrepreneur/ businessman who was involved in the district from about 1946 to 1956. He “developed” a 500 acre lot into the leafy small acreage lots that distinguish Ellen Grove today. It is said that Spinks “named Ellen Grove after his grandmother Ellen Dobing, who told of playing with Aboriginal children in the groves along the creek.” We have been unable to confirm this. In 2013, the Place Names Board has only the following information:
The name of Ellen Grove was suggested by R Wells of the Ellen-Grove Progress Association in a letter to the Place Names Board dated 22 May 1962. There was no mention of the origin of the name in the letter however in a later telephone conversation, Mr Wells suggested that the name was given to the estate when subdivided. Another note, “Grand-mother of R P Spinks (Ellen Dobing)” was added to the file later.

Spinks’ local involvement began in the 1940s and he lived in the district only briefly (in “Sumner Rd, Wacol”). By then his family had returned to NSW and it is unlikely that his grandmother Elizabeth (nee Dobing) ever visited Brisbane. If the Aboriginal story is true, it perhaps happened elsewhere – and much earlier than the 1940s.

Spinks built small huts on some lots which poor families appreciated in the post-war housing crisis.

Spinks Creek in Ellen Grove was gazetted in 2013.
A small streamlet, Spinks Creek runs north-west – crossing Roxwell St near the corner of Bagnall St into Ellen Grove – and then joining Bullockhead Creek.

Ellen Grove in the 1950s

There was a row of Spinks houses along here – just two rooms made of fibro, and people just added to them.” Source: Jenny Stedman

There was a row of Spinks houses along here – just two rooms made of fibro, and people just added to them.” Source: Jenny Stedman

Former resident Don Tate spoke at Moorland Library, Victoria, promoting his book “The War Within” in 2009.
“Part one of the book is set in a somewhat impoverished suburb of Brisbane called Ellen Grove, where I spent my formative years…
Let’s just say it was one of the most unique environments that you’ll come across, and it still exists today much as it did 40 years ago.  I used to say that a certain lawlessness prevailed out there.  People that didn’t live at Ellen Grove used to call it “hillbilly country”.  It was ungraded dirt roads full of jagged rocks and tree roots, a fine red dust hung everywhere, right across the entire suburb.  There was no electricity, no kerb and guttering, no footpaths, no comforts of any sort whatsoever, except for one solitary phone box, and that was invariably out of use from being robbed.  I describe it as a wonderland for lost souls, for men like my father.  But for us boys, it was more of a wonderland.  A billabong was created when an end branch of the creek had broken away, and we swam in its bronzed waters for most of every summer for the seven or eight years that I lived out there.  The water was full of lily pads and red-bellied black snakes.  The edges were lined with scraggy paperbark trees and ghost gums that would shimmer in the night, and as well tall tallowwoods stood out like sentinels.  Koalas tended to congregate in those, so my father made sure that he chopped those ones down first.  “No bloody koalas are pissing on my head,” was all he said, and he chopped the first tallowwood down and the whole strand followed.
The house we lived in was of the most rudimentary type; a rectangular fibro shell, a concrete floor, metal roof, bare rafters and no insulation of any sort.  The family of nine settled there to begin with, four boys on a single mattress on the floor, blankets used as dividers.  In winter, water would condense on the roof, it’d drip, drip, drip all through the night on top of us.  And in summer in Queensland, to relentless heat and humidity, it was like an oven down there on the floor.  And there we lay, night after night, covered in mosquitoes as well….”http://www.moreland.vic.gov.au/about-council/news-media/podcasts/don-tate-podcast.html (2009)

For more information:

150 Years – Richlands, Inala and Neighbouring Suburbs in Brisbane’s South West