Early Canberra


HOWIE'S COTTAGES Block 3, Section 128 Stirling Park, Yarralumla

Posted on August 2, 2010 at 8:42 PM

Wallter and Harriet Sheen moved into 4 Howie's Cottages in January 1923.  With them they had their two small sons, Desmond and 3 weeks old Gordon.  Walter worked for the contractor, Howie Brothers (later John Howie & Son/s) who had won the contract to construct the Hotel Canberra.  This contractor built a settlement for his married men on either side of an old road which is still in the area now known as Block 3, Section 128 Stirling Park Yarralumla.  Evidence of the cottage sites is still clearly seen in Stirling Park.  There were originally 25 two and three bedroom timber cottages and a recreation hall in the married section and 18 timber huts and recreation hall in the single men's section known as The Hostel Camp.  


In October 1924 in the recreation hall in the Hostel Camp the Burns Club was founded. The settlement also had a soccer team and cricket team.  The first cricket pitch in the area was in the area next to Flynn Drive - former Block 1, Section 128 Stirling Park Yarralumla which is now under development. 


Howie's settlement was connected to water and electricity but not the sewer system which was at the time being built under the ground.  The tunnel came from the Western Creek area across under Westridge (now Yarralumla near the brickworks and nursery) - Stirling Ridge where the deepest shaft in the system is (now Section 22, Stirling Park Yarralumla) and continued underground close to the sites of Howie's Cottages on its way to Hotel Canberra area.  On Stirling Ridge Yarralumla is one of the three remaining heritage listed sewer vents - the others are in the area of the Royal Canberra Golf Links, Yarralumla and opposite the entrance off Cotter Road to the RSPCA. 


Next to the sewer vent in Stirling Park there used to be a huge dump of earth taken from down below. It was gray in colour - limestone.  Another dump was between 26 and 52 Westlake cottages in the area that is today opposite the corner of Empire Circuit and Forster Crescent in Stirling Park, Yarralumla.  This was apricot and yellow coloured shale.  As a children we played on this dump and the shale was used to draw on the road and the green tin chiminey surface.


By the time I lived at 27 Westlake (1941) Howie's settlement which was over the hill from my place - had gone.  It is only through the memories of people who knew of  the settlement and/or lived there that the site and significance of Howie's Settlement has been saved.  Those who showed me the sites of their homes and loaned photographs include: Arthur Freeman, Ken Dinnerville, Harry Hamilton, CDHS and members of the Sheen family.  Others, such as Laurie Dinnerville (cousin of Ken) told me their stories.


The men who lived at Howie's built the Hotel Canberra, the Masonic Hall at Acton - later became the School at Russell Hill and is now the Ainslie Hall in Corroboree Park Ainslie - the Solar Observatory Mt Stromlo, Causeway Cottages and Capitol Hill Camp.  There would be other buildings of which I am not aware, but what they built is significant.





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