This picturesque walk along the winding ridges of hilly Paddington comes densely packed with history. Amongst the streets of tin and timber Queenslanders that cling to the hillsides and the eclectic strips of boutiques, cafes and galleries lies a wealth of Brisbane’s heritage including old picture theatres, a cemetery, churches, a monastery, substation, 19th century halls, memorial parks and the area’s landmark Government House.
1. Alight from the bus just beyond the intersection of Castlemaine St and Given Tce and walk back about 100m to the Stadium or alternatively park in a surrounding street. Suncorp Stadium started life as a sports ground in the 1930’s as the iconic Lang Park (as many still refer to it), which became the home of Queensland Rugby League until its rebuilding and renaming in the past decade. In the 19th century however it was the site of the Brisbane Burial Grounds, which constituted Brisbane’s main cemetery until 1875 when Toowong Cemetery opened at the behest of Governor Blackall, as Paddington was becoming too populated. Nearby Hale St was originally known as Cemetery Rd and the burial ground extended all the way to where Neal Macrossan Park and Ithaca Pool (which was built as a hole-in-the-ground baths in 1910) are today. In the great flood of 1893 some coffins and their contents were unearthed when the soil was washed away, accelerating the moving process. By 1911 existing graves had been moved to Toowong and the cemetery was redeveloped as a recreational site, with Lang Park being fenced off as recreational reserve shortly afterwards.
2. Today there’s still a tiny pocket remnant of the original burial grounds with a handful of gravestones, including that of notorious Patrick Mayne and his infant daughter, directly behind the stadium in the grounds of the old Christ Church. Take the left hand walkway along Hale St around the stadium where the church streeple protrudes and access is from the rear. Note the high proportion of infants’ graves, which was typical in an era when 50% of children died before their fifth birthdays. Return to the Stadium forecourt.
3. Cross the road and head down Dowse St, turning right at the two giant Moreton Bay figs which form a natural gateway to Moreton St and following the curve of the road around. At the top of the hill is monolithic St Brigid’s Church, designed by RS Dods to look like the 13th century French Cathedrale d’Albi. The Community Hall and historical C&K Kindergarten with the adjacent Neal Macrossan playground all date from World War I, as the earliest examples of child care provision for young ones in the Brisbane region. Neal Macrossan Park was the first playground built by the Playground Association and its associated philanthropist (and life partner of Queensland’s first female doctor Dr Lillian Cooper) Mary Bedford. Its layout follows an almost century old design, from the Moreton Bay figs bordering it on Caxton St and Hale St, the crèche/kindergarten hall adjacent, the segregation of young and old and the swimming baths as part of the recreational complex.
4. Continue up the hill past Petrie Terrace State School and turn left into Cairns Terrace whose incline provides some aerobic challenges. The odd looking timber building with its multiple French doors at no 44-50 is in fact a unique remnant of the 19th century, the sole remaining example of a wooden terrace row built in 1889, which at one time was a common sight in Brisbane. Since 1980 the four original multi-storey terraces have been renovated and combined into a single dwelling.
5. Further on Cairns Tce comes to a dead end, at which point there are stairs leading down to lower Cairns Tce. Follow it along to its natural end, the intersection with Cochrane St. A block before on the left is a zen little corner cafe Swift Espresso. At Cochrane St turn left and cross over to take the high side and from here it’s a short step to the prettiest stretch of Latrobe Tce. Blake & Taylor on the immediate left is a Provencal type homewares shop in the 1888 Ashton’s Butcher shop (later the State Butchery).
6. The rest of the strip is a mecca for vintage and pre-loved gear, including Vinnie’s in the perfectly preserved 19th century Forester’s Hall. The clothes and wares may be on the dusty side but the timber hall with its gallery and preserved features, is worth a look. For the next section of the walk cross the road (best done at the lights alongside Biome), heading towards the embankment and up the steps to where the old Paddington Fire Station is perched atop the cliff. Next door is a tiny World war 1 War Memorial park - to the 130 local men killed during the Great War - with expansive views towards the south.
7. From the park head back down hill past the old Paddington substation which is now an art space and which once serviced the trams which ran along Latrobe Tce to Bardon, across the roundabout and turn right back onto Latrobe Tce. Across the road in the old servo is a Merlo Roastery and on the right Paddo Central which was once site of the Paddington Tram Depot until it was destroyed in an unexplained fire which heralded the end for Brisbane’s tram network. Across the road Sassafras Centeen is a charming boho café with a dog friendly courtyard out the back.
8. Follow Latrobe all the way along past Sheets on the Line (which has an onsite coffee shop with views out back) and Thousand Island Dresssing – until the Empire Revival, which itself is a heritage listed antique. Designed by Richard Gailey Jnr (the son of iconic architect Richard Gailey) who also designed the Brisbane Arcade, it was built in 1929 as an atmospheric picture theatre, meaning that its interior décor simulated an exotic outdoor setting. In this case the starry sky painted on the ceiling and the painted Spanish style twisted columns qualified it as one of these rare phenomena. Today it is largely intact including the string of art deco shops fronting it, some of which are occupied by Java Lounge cafe, Wildflowers & Reading Hours bookshop/cafe and some fabulous homewares and gift shops.
9. Across the road is the little green pocket known as Trammies Corner, with fantastic vistas to the south and east, so named as it is thought to be where the tram drivers took their break at changeover times. From the Antique Centre, continue along Latrobe Tce past Chapter IV, an excellent brunch cafe which has a fantastic verandah with views, and just before the Little Black Dress shop turn right into Gilday St. Follow it all the way to Tooth Avenue and turn left. On the nearby hill, in Paddington’s highest street is the old Paddington Water Tower c1927, the only elevated concrete tower of this kind in Queensland. At the time of its construction it was thought to be the finest public structure to have been built, as well as the most expensive item ever to have been erected in the shire of Ithaca. It is no longer in use.
10. On the corner of Tooth Ave and Perrott St is a tiny pocket park with a rest worthy bench under a Poinciana tree, that affords fantastic views to the north and east. From this park take a right into Perrott St which winds its way back to Latrobe Tce. Turn left onto Latrobe. The white Latrobe Chapel, once a Methodist place of worship, dates from 1886 and is the oldest church in the area. Cross at the crossing to Wilden St, where a piece of street art – a mosaic bench – offers a viewpoint to the district beyond.
11. Walk down the steep incline of Wilden St and up the other side to the intersection of Fernberg Rd. To the right is Fernberg, aka Government House, which was originally designed by Benjamin Backhouse in 1865, with the Italianate façade and extensions, including the tower added by architect Richard Gailey in the 1880’s. It was taken over as a residence for Governors in 1911 and today is amongst the finest examples of a Victorian Italianate to be found. The size and stateliness of the grounds, which include a number of 1920’s established ‘woodland walks’, is remarkable for their rare preservation in an estate that today retains its original size.
12. The grand residence opposite was built in 1865 as a guesthouse for Fernberg. Head back down Fernberg Rd until the roundabout. Continue up Fernberg Rd to the lights at the top of the hill. On the right just before the Lavalla Centre, the ex Marist Brothers school, is the adjacent heritage listed Marist Brothers monastery, designed by GHM Addison and built in 1929, that is finely preserved inside and out as a monastery from that era.
13. Turn left onto Given Terrace, where at the corner is the landmark Sacred Heart Church, also designed by GHM Addison and built in 1918. Inside is a fully enclosed Walker & Sons of London organ dating from 1885. Next door is a convent in the Queen Anne style of architecture which although prevalent in the south is rare for Queensland. It was designed by architect hall who, with partner Prentice was responsible for the design of the Brisbane City Hall. There are excellent views of the hills and vales of Paddington and Mt Coot-tha from this stretch of Given Tce.
14. At the intersection of Latrobe and Given, cross at the lights and turn right onto the extension of Given Tce. The old timber Paddington Post Office, now occupied by the Calico Shop, was built in 1900. Continue on this side of Given Tce towards the city. Retro Metro in the dilapidated house is a fantastic source of cheap vintage & retro clothes from just $5 and beyond that Presents of Mind, Brisbane's best game shop, has an attached cottage with vintage coffee caravan in the garden - perfect for a coffee stop.
15. The Paddington Centre was once home to the Paddington Theatre, a major entertainment drawcard in the interwar years. The cinema at the has long been since demolished, replaced with a replica facade and shops and offices but a relic from the past still standing is the 19th century bakery-turned English style pub The Hope and Anchor, Paddington's hottest neighbourhood bar.
Finish the walk with a refreshment stop here or at one of the excellent little eateries in this section of Given Tce: Anouk is a first rate cafe and a couple of doors down Garni Kitchen & Bar is a cool spot for a beer and and casual bite to eat come late afternoon or further down the road, Darling & Co or local institution the Paddo Tavern. From here, buses return to the city or take a walk up Caxton St to one of the great boutique bars such as Brewski for a drink and some great gastropub food.