The story of Blackstone

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Ken Grubb Profile Image

An Ipswich local has written a book about the history of one of Ipswich’s most historic suburbs.

‘Coal, Castle and Choirs’ by Ken Grubb was produced in association with Willis Haenke Historical Foundation, and after hours of painstaking research tells the story of a suburb with a long mining, immigrant and cultural history.

Ken Grubb, an Engineering Geologist even received an Australia Day award for his work on local history.

“I started on it about a year ago,” Ken said. “It took me about three months to compile so it didn’t take long to come together. It’s amazing how much information is available.

“It’s a very historic village, lots of Welsh people lived there, and there was a ‘Castle’ which many people still talk about.

“The place was heavily mined for coal. There’s a reason there aren’t any houses on the hill because there is an underground fire that’s been burning for decades,” Ken explained. “That’s the unique thing about this hill. Fires need oxygen, and tunnels were made to run uphill in the past. They undermined the whole hill, so there is ventilation via the slope which is like a chimney, and so that coal-fuelled fire has been burning since the 1930s.

Blackstone is famous for having a big Welsh connection, and Ken managed to work out what that was with some simple research.

“Blackstone had a big Welsh community back in the 19th Century, thanks to Lewis Thomas, who was known as ‘The Coal King’, was born in Talybont in Wales in 1832. He worked in a woollen mill from the age of just 8, and migrated here in 1859.

“When he came out he invited all his mates from Wales who moved here, set up the village, and only spoke Welsh. Eventually they had to learn English of course, but the Welsh connection remains in places like the soccer club – the oldest one in Queensland.”

One of the most fascinating things about Blackstone was the house known as ‘The Castle’, as Ken explained.

“Brynhyfryd (pronounced Brin-Huv-Rid) was a huge stately house constructed as a home for Mr Lewis Thomas and his family in 1890.  Were it to exist today, the house would rival the best heritage houses in the nation.”

The book is available for just $5 via the Ipswich Historical Society or at www.haenkefoundation.org.au.