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Normanby Hotel

  • 600283
  • 1 Musgrave Road, Red Hill


Also known as
The Normanby
State Heritage
Register status
Date entered
21 October 1992
Retail, wholesale, services: Hotel/inn
3.1 Developing secondary and tertiary industries: Feeding Queenslanders
3.8 Developing secondary and tertiary industries: Marketing, retailing and service industries
3.11 Developing secondary and tertiary industries: Lodging people
Nicholson, John B
Gales, T
Construction period
1890–1920, Normanby Hotel (1890 - 1920s)
Historical period
1870s–1890s Late 19th century


1 Musgrave Road, Red Hill
Brisbane City Council
-27.45923003, 153.01437418


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

The Normanby Hotel is important in demonstrating the evolution of hotels and the associated evolution of hotel architecture in Queensland. Built in 1890 on a site used as a hotel since 1872, the Normanby Hotel is evidence of a major period of prosperity and growth in Queensland, which was reflected in increasingly elaborate and substantial hotel designs, especially in Brisbane.

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

The Normanby Hotel is a fine example of a late 19th century hotel and is important in demonstrating the principal characteristics of its type through its prominent location on the corner of a major intersection; its form, scale, and use of detailed exterior ornamentation to attract attention; and its interior layout, which includes bar and service areas on the ground and first floor levels, and former bedroom spaces above.

Criterion EThe place is important because of its aesthetic significance.

The Normanby Hotel has aesthetic significance as a landmark building at the fringe of the Brisbane CBD, standing prominently on the corner of a major five-way intersection. Displaying a rich variety of materials and ornamental details, the hotel is important for the picturesque qualities of its external composition. The south-eastern beer garden features a mature fig tree which provides an attractive setting for the building. The sloping topography and the projecting, triangular-shaped site enhance the visual prominence of main south-west and south-east elevations of the hotel along surrounding roads.


The Normanby Hotel, located prominently on the Normanby Fiveways intersection at Red Hill, Brisbane, is a two storey brick building with a lower level, built in 1890 on a site used for hotel purposes since 1872.

Hotels have played an important role in the historical development of Queensland. Often the first places to appear along transport routes and at fledgling settlements, hotels have catered to travellers, provided spaces for communities to drink, socialize and conduct business and meetings, and have strongly contributed to local economies. Architecturally, hotels have ranged from ephemeral makeshift shanties to more permanent and imposing buildings that have competed with civic and commercial buildings to dominate their surrounds. In urban areas, street corners have been particularly favoured sites for hotels to emphasize their commercial presence.

Over time, legislative provisions for licensed premises influenced the architecture and layout of hotels, by requiring a range of minimal standards, including those related to the number of rooms, height limits of rooms, and separate entries for guests. Coupled with the domestic nature of the services provided, the requirement for licensees to reside on the premises shaped hotels' characteristic internal mix of private and public spaces.

The area around the intersection of Petrie Terrace and Kelvin Grove Road, on the fringe of Brisbane's town centre, began to develop from the 1860s. While land was initially surveyed for small residential allotments, the siting at a road junction and increases in traffic led to shops and other services gradually appearing along the road. The growth in the area saw the naming of the small suburb Normanby, after Queensland's third governor (1871-1875) George Augustus Constantine, the Marquis of Normanby. The route of Brisbane's first suburban railway to Sandgate (1882) went close to this junction, with a Normanby station for passengers operating until the early 1890s.

Musgrave Road, originally a continuation of Petrie Terrace toward Red Hill, had developed into a small business area by the 1880s. The forming of College Rd across the rail line (connected to Gregory Terrace) and Countess Street created the Normanby ‘Fiveways', which became one of Brisbane's major traffic intersections, especially following the introduction of horse-drawn bus services and trams (later electric-powered).

The original Normanby Hotel opened in 1872. The first owner and publican, Matthew Burton, purchased land on the corner of Musgrave and Kelvin Grove Roads in 1865. In December 1871 Burton (originally a carpenter) gave notice of his intention to apply for a publican's licence for the Normanby Hotel, which was granted in January 1872. The original hotel, a two storey timber building was oriented towards Kelvin Grove Rd.

Following the death of Matthew Burton in 1873, the property and lease of the hotel was transferred to his wife Elizabeth Sophia Burton, who continued to operate the hotel. The lease was transferred a number of times from the mid-1880s until William Valentine signed a lease in 1888 for 14 years.

The 1880s was a boom period for Queensland, characterised by strong economic growth and a rapid expansion in population. In Brisbane, this growth was particularly pronounced, with the population more than tripling during the decade. Aided by public transport, suburban areas continued to expand. Many new substantial public and private buildings transformed the built environment, reflecting the confidence and prosperity of the era.

In late 1889, architect John Beauchamp Nicholson, engaged by leaseholder William Valentine, called for tenders for pulling down and rebuilding the Normanby Hotel. Arriving in Brisbane from England in 1876, Nicholson prospered as an architect and property speculator in Brisbane during the 1880s.The Norman Hotel and the Princess Theatre in Woolloongabba and the Alliance Hotel in Spring Hill were among the designs produced by his architectural practice. Nicholson formally went into partnership with Dutch-trained English-born architect Alfred Wright in early 1890, who had previously worked for Nicholson. Wright is considered to be responsible for the design of the Normanby Hotel and other similar styled buildings designed by the firm such as Chardon's Corner Hotel in Annerley and Lady Musgrave Lodge in Spring Hill (both demolished).

The new Normanby Hotel was formally opened in December 1890, a large, ornate two storey brick building with a lower level to the rear. The hotel was built to face Musgrave Rd and its principal elevations were Musgrave Rd and its eastern side, facing a small reserve at the corner of Musgrave and Kelvin Grove Roads. Internally the hotel contained bars and parlours, drawing and billiard rooms, and accommodation for both guests and lessees/employees. The building was described in great detail in a Brisbane Courier article at the time of opening, while a sketch of the building appeared in the Building and engineering journal of Australia and New Zealand in 1891.The hotel was built at a cost of £4000, with Thomas Game the contractor.

Like many hotels of its era, the Normanby Hotel was designed to impress, with its ornate stylistic treatment employing elements of the ‘Queen Anne' architectural idiom. The Queen Anne style was generally designed at a domestic scale with complex design details, such as an intricate roof structure, charming towers with conical or pyramidal roofs, and ornate tall chimneys. The style revived aspects of English architecture from the time of Queen Anne's reign (1702-14) and was reminiscent of Tudor or Old- English rural designs. A picturesque, classical style free from the classical rules of proportion, it transformed traditional formal plans and symmetry into an intertwined assortment of detailed bays, dormers, porches and spires. Originating in Britain, the Queen Anne architectural style became particularly popular in the United States of America and Australia. Distinctive design features evident in the design of the Normanby Hotel include the red facebrick walls, a dominant steeply-pitched roof with subsidiary Tudor-style gables, tall chimneys, terracotta decorative details, fine finials, leadlight windows, and verandas with fretted ornamental woodwork.

In the decades after its construction, a number of lessees, including William Valentine, Castlemaine Brewery and Quinlan Gray and Company Limited and members of the Burton family operated the hotel. Sophia Burton died in 1901, with the property passing to her sons John, Francis and William Burton. Francis Burton became the sole owner in 1909. Castlemaine-Perkins Limited purchased the property in 1936 at a reported cost of ‘about £52000', although the ownership was not formally transferred until 1944. This purchase by Castlemaine Perkins was part of a wider practice of acquiring hotel freeholds and leases throughout Queensland. This process of vertical integration continued through 1930s, ensuring the companies domination of the Queensland market. Castlemaine-Perkins sold the Normanby Hotel in 1986 and the ownership has since changed a number of times. The present owners (in 2014) acquired the site in 1999 and have since extended the hotel's operations into adjacent property to the west (not included in the heritage register boundary).

Over time, extensions and alterations occurred at the hotel in response to the changing demands of its customers. Alterations designed by architect GHM Addison are recorded to have taken place in 1917, while other alterations occurred in 1933. The extent of these alterations is unclear. In 1937 the Licensing Commission approved alterations to the hotel and the addition of a bar, thought to be an extension at the rear of the building towards Kelvin Grove Road. The existing tiling in the entrance hall and on the façade on Musgrave Road date from this time. Two brick garages were also constructed in the 1930s. Both the bar and garages have since been demolished. Between 1958 and 1962 an earlier ‘bottle department' was replaced with a drive-in bottleshop, which has also since been demolished.

On the reserve at the corner of Musgrave and Kelvin Grove Roads, a beer garden connected to the hotel was developed (date unknown). A number of fig trees and a jacaranda were planted in the reserve, of which only one large fig tree survives.

While the basic form of the 1890 hotel building remains unchanged, the internal layout of the hotel has been altered in places by new openings. In 2014, the ground floor comprises a bar, gaming lounge and service spaces, while the first floor comprises the public bar, configured into one large open space, and function rooms. The second floor, which formerly housed bedrooms and associated spaces, remains largely intact and is used as office and storage space.


Allom-Lovell Architects, Normanby Hotel: An assessment of significance and impact for the Brisbane City Council, 1999.

Apperly, Richard, Robert Irving, and Peter Reynolds, A Pictorical Guide to Identifying Australian Architecture: Styles and Terms from 1788 to the Present, HarperCollins Publishers, Sydney, 1994.

Department of Natural Resources and Mines (DNRM), Queensland Government, Certificates of Title: 10080237; 11115167; 16963243.

Roger Dixon and Stefan Muthesius, Victorian Architecture, Thames and Hudson, London, 1978.

Brisbane Courier, 26 December 1871, p.1; 11 January 1872, p.2; 26 October 1889, p.3; 2 December 1890, p.6.

Donald Watson and Judith McKay, Queensland Architects of the 19th Century: A Biographical Dictionary, Queensland Museum, Brisbane, 1994, pp.131-132, p.215.


The Normanby Hotel is a two storey brick building with a lower level, on a prominent, sloping, triangular corner site in Red Hill, Brisbane. Overlooking a major five-ways intersection, the hotel is orientated with its main elevations addressing Musgrave Road to the south-west and Kelvin Grove Road to the south-east, with modern extensions to the rear north-west and north-east sides. A beer garden with a large fig tree occupies the south-east corner of the site.

The hotel is constructed from solid brick walls, timber floors and a timber-framed roof clad in corrugated metal sheeting. The building consists of two three-storey wings at right angles and a narrower, two-storey service wing at the western end, resulting in a U-shaped plan.

The elaborate and eclectic ornamentation of the Normanby Hotel exterior, particularly the south-west and south-east facades, is characteristic of late 19th century ‘Queen Anne' style. Distinctive features include: red face-brick walls laid in English bond, contrasting with light-coloured stone trimmings; a steeply-pitched roof; prominent gables ornamented with a half-timbered effect and metal finials; tall brick chimneys; terracotta decorative details; leadlight windows; and timber balconies and verandahs.

The building is cut into the sloping site so as to appear to be two storeys from Musgrave Road. This elevation is approximately symmetrical, with a recessed central section. The central main entrance and a secondary entrance at the southern end of the facade have marble thresholds, with the word NORMANBY inlaid in lead in the southern threshold. A ‘loggia' of three gothic arches at the northern end is enclosed. The entire lower level of the elevation is clad in 1930s red and grey glazed ceramic tiles, with individual tiles bearing the lettering "Normanby Hotel" located next to the main entrance. The upper floor of the central section has an inset arcaded verandah with painted terracotta baluster columns and a tessellated encaustic tile floor. Openings in the brickwork balustrade form a decorative pattern, while below is a strip of detailed masonry fretwork. Cantilevered timber balconies with highly-detailed timber posts, balustrades, brackets and valances project from each end of the upper floor. The balcony roofs feature their own smaller gable ends with timber panelling and decorative bargeboards.

The three-level south-east elevation has a variety of window configurations and decorative elements. The centrally located ground floor entrance is set back within an arcade supported by two terracotta baluster columns on brick plinths. Above this, an oriel window projects from the first floor. On the second floor there are two carved masonry blocks set into the centre of the wall displaying ‘1890' and ‘The Normanby' in relief. Also on the second floor are two cantilevered timber balconies, similar to those on the Musgrave Road elevation; however, these have been widened, with the original width is indicated by the timber corbels supporting the balcony floor.

The ground floor of the north-east elevation has been opened up for use as a bar space at the eastern corner, with modern brickwork forming new openings. Long timber verandas cantilever from the first and second floors, areas of which have been widened.

The north-west side of the hotel has minimal openings and is largely concealed from view by a modern extension. First floor doors between the brick hotel and the extension were originally windows, evident in the treatment of adjacent brickwork.

The edges of most external openings are emphasised by rounded corner details of shaped bricks. Doors and windows are timber-framed and most windows have thick stone trimmings for heads, sills, transoms and centre mullions. Doors to the verandahs and balconies are low-waisted, timber French doors with leadlight panes and fanlights. Other leadlight windows are located in the entrance hall and on the landing of the main staircase. The building has a variety of leadlight designs in locations suggesting that some doors and fanlights have been relocated from their original positions.

The internal layout of the hotel has been altered in places by new openings, however the second floor remains largely intact. The ground floor comprises a bar, gaming lounge and service spaces; the first floor comprises a bar and function rooms; and the second floor comprises offices and storage space housed in the former bedrooms.

The ground floor bar in the eastern corner addresses Kelvin Grove Road and the adjacent beer garden, with a modern extension projecting from the south-east side. Toilets, a gaming lounge and two small storage rooms are located in the partially-underground former cellars along the southern side of the building, and a kitchen is housed in the north-western wing. Significant features on the ground floor include a gothic archway located opposite the south-eastern entrance and original round-arched openings in the gaming lounge. Walls throughout this level are generally exposed brickwork.

Addressing Musgrave Road on the first floor is the central entrance hall with a main bar area and a billiard room located on either side. The entrance hall features c.1930s glazed ceramic tiles to the lower portion of the plaster-lined walls, a timber balustrade with carved newel posts to the main staircase, and a gothic arched opening leading to the main bar area.

The main bar area on the eastern side of the entrance hall is configured to be one large space through the opening up of interior partitions, indicated by lintels supported by columns. The southern end of the room features glazed ceramic wall tiles (similar to those in the entrance hall) and a decorative pressed metal ceiling and cornices. The northern end of the room has a timber floor, exposed brick walls, a fireplace in the western wall and doorways opening onto the rear verandah.

The billiard room on the western side of the entrance hall has exposed brick walls and modern floor and ceiling linings. At the southern end, the enclosed ‘loggia' bears the traces of many alterations, including a steel beam spanning a wide opening cut into the former front wall. One of the columns has had a portion of encasing concrete removed to reveal the original terracotta column beneath. The side walls of the loggia retain traces of original coloured mortar and tuck pointing, and an arched opening to the entrance hall has shaped-brick edges.

At the rear of the first floor, the verandah area between the north-west wing and the main bar is a modern addition and not of cultural heritage significance. Original first floor partitions are generally exposed brickwork or plastered. Floors are timber boards with some carpeted areas, while skirtings and door and window architraves are generally painted timber.

At the top of the timber staircase on the second floor is a long rectangular room with hallways leading off it to the former bedrooms. This space features a large leadlight window in the northern wall, while French doors at the southern end open onto the front verandah. The former bedrooms have ornamental plaster or pressed metal ceilings. Hallway doors are four-panel, low-waisted timber doors with rectangular, centre-pivoting fanlights above. A variety of early door hardware survives, including round metal knobs and interwar-style lever handles. A small bathroom at the end of one hallway has black and white glazed ceramic wall tiles. A large room in the south-east corner is more elaborately ornamented than the former bedrooms, featuring a fireplace with marble mantelpiece and a cast iron register grate with floral-patterned ceramic tiles. On the walls, a panelling effect is formed by textured plaster and rectangles of narrow timber mouldings. The ceiling is flat plaster with wide cornices. A fireplace in the adjacent room has had the mantelpiece and grate removed. Floors throughout this floor are timber boards and all skirtings and architraves are painted timber.

In the beer garden, a large, well-established fig tree stands in the centre of the garden and a stone retaining wall lines the south-western boundary. All other structures in this area are non-significant additions.

The extensions to the north-west, north-east and south-east sides of the hotel are not of cultural heritage significance. Non-significant elements of the hotel building include: modern windows and doors; bar, kitchen and toilet fit-outs and finishes; modern floor, wall and ceiling linings; recent openings and sections of modern brickwork; and retrofitted services such as air-conditioning ducts.

The Normanby Hotel is an eye-catching and picturesque landmark in the area. Significant views of the south-west and south-east elevations and the fig tree are obtained from surrounding roads.

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Location of Normanby Hotel within Queensland
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Last reviewed
1 July 2022
Last updated
20 February 2022