130 years of Brisbane real estate

This year marks 130 years of transacting in Brisbane real estate for our agency. We’ve been known by a number of different trading names, but our history has been unified by the constant Directorship of the Blocksidge family.

Currently, in 2018, there are three generations of the Blocksidge family working in the agency side-by-side. Bruce Blocksidge is the Governing Director, his son Jonathan Blocksidge is Managing Director, and Jonathan’s daughter Georgia Blocksidge is Marketing Specialist and Office Manager. Together the Blocksidge’s are working hard with their wonderful staff to fulfill our agency’s mission – “to be a trusted partner in your real estate journey, enhancing your experience by offering personalised customer service and outstanding industry knowledge.”

Great customer service has always been at the heart of our agency. It’s something our founder, George Henry Blocksidge (Bruce’s grandfather) encouraged. His fundamental work ethic and mantra was –

“One should always endeavour to leave a place

better than one found it. It is far more important to keep an honest

name than to make a quick quid.”

We believe that it is vital that this mantra be continued and as such, it has been passed down through the generations. To celebrate our history and our future, we would like to share with you our agency’s story, including some insights into the Blocksidge family and some tales of Brisbane when it was just a small town.

If you have stories of working with our agency over the years we would love to hear them. You can write to us using the form at the bottom of this page.

130 years of our history

 

Our founder – George Henry Blocksidge (1854 – 1944)

George Henry Blocksidge (known as GH) was a tall man with imposing stature and a beard typical of a Victorian gentleman. He was born in Lisburn Street, East Brisbane in 1854 and opened a business in Stanley Street, Woolloongabba near the Post Office in circa 1874. He traded under the name of G.H. Blocksidge – Real Estate Agent. This was the birth of our agency.

At this time the majority of properties had areas (allotments) of something like five to ten acres. For example, GH grew up in Woolloongabba in a house that sat on five acres of land bordered by Ipswich Road and Stanley Street!

In the late 1880s, GH faced the challenge of selling property while the Government passed legislation that introduced the then new principle of a “leasehold”. Before this, all property was sold as freehold.

At this time, late 1800s to early 1900s ,the real estate industry was still very much in its infancy.  Almost all real estate offices were in the Brisbane CBD. If you wanted to buy real estate, or have your house valued or goods and property auctioned at sale, you came into town. As such, around the turn of the century, GH moved the agency from Woolloongabba to a leased shop in the centre of town. The new agency was located on Queen Street, opposite what was called the old Town Hall Arcade.

Most often the principals would do the valuing and act as auctioneer, while the men who conducted the day to day business of selling property were known as commission agents. The most valuable asset a commission agent had after his suit and fedora was his car. Without his car he was useless. The real estate industry was a rough and tumble business and efforts to gain a sale were spirited and at times, lacked ethical standards. However, in 1918 what was to become the Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ) was formed. It was originally called the Queensland Auctioneers, Land and Estate Agents Association and there were approximately 76 firms and 95 individual members who established this association. GH was one of the two vice-presidents at the inception of the Association. The Association aimed to improve the regulation, professionalism, morality, and confidence in the real estate industry. As one of the founding families and firms we are proud to continue the tradition of high moral and ethical business practice to this day.

GH was always a very practical man and one of the customs of the day, advertising a listing as soon as a seller walked into your office and told you they wanted to sell, perplexed him. He is quoted as saying, “I have been advocating for years that agents should not indulge in speculative advertising unless the vendor places his property for sale in one agent’s hands only.” His feelings were later reflected in 1922 when Queensland introduced legislation called the Auctioneers, Real Estate Agents, Debt Collectors and Motor Dealers Act.

Along with real estate, GH was interested in public affairs. He ran for and was elected Mayor of South Brisbane in 1903 when Brisbane was divided into two municipalities (the other centered at Clayfield). Some of his proudest creations as Mayor include Mowbray Park on the river at East Brisbane and the Highgate Hill Park near “Torbreck”(Brisbane’s first major home unit development). Both of these parks still exist today.

His interest in politics led to a short term in the Queensland Parliament in 1907 when he won the seat of Woolloongabba. Although committed to his career in politics, GH’s commitment for real estate and his agency never faulted.

 

The Partnership (circa 1910-1920)

To enable the business to be carried on during an overseas trip to London, GH invited Charles Douglas Ferguson to join the agency as a partner. Charles accepted and so the partnership, which traded under the name of G.H. Blocksidge & Ferguson, was formed.

GH and Charles developed their business into a multi-service company. In addition to their general agency work, the partners also provided financial services and developed their own properties.

The company’s financial services included arranging finance for their clients securing loans on the mortgage of real property, and managing the investment of client funds. At the time they were considered to have a significant mortgage business.

They also developed their own properties and carried out the subdivision of many estates. These estates were in Sandgate, Boondall, Zillmere and Clayfield in Brisbane’s north, and Greenslopes, Holland Park, Mt Gravatt and Redland Bay in Brisbane’s south. Assisting them with some of these subdivisions was the distinguished surveyor Cyril Bennett, whose firm endures to this day and is also known by some as the other “B & F” – Bennett & Francis.

In those days the estates were subdivided and sold quickly. Not soon after the surveyors had hammered in the boundary pegs, the blocks of land would be offered for Sale by Public Auction. Deposits could be as low as ₤1, and on some occasions the Auctioneers would open a barrel of beer as refreshment for the bidders on the completion of the sale.

 

Becoming a Public Company (1920)

Before 1920 the partnership operated out of rented premises in the old Town Hall Arcade in Queen Street, Brisbane City. But as the business prospered the partners aspired to own their own building. To facilitate this, they transitioned G.H. Blocksidge & Ferguson into a public company.

The public company was formed and named Blocksidge & Ferguson Limited in 1920. It was registered as No.36 under the Companies Act 1863-1913 and the original Certificate of Incorporation issued in 1920 is still in the company’s possession (picture below).

 

Building our Headquarters – The Blocksidge & Ferguson Building at 144 Adelaide Street, Brisbane City (circa 1920-1928)

With sufficient funds in hand the company bought the last remaining vacant site in Adelaide Street near where City Hall was to be built. Between 1920 and 1928 GH and Charles Ferguson, now “appointed for life” Governing Directors,  built and opened the company’s new headquarters.

They employed Charlie Driver as the architect, but the builder, Hall and Son having recently completed a National Bank Building in Brisbane, may have influenced the design. The new headquarters was a three storey reinforced concrete building. The Real Estate Agency occupied the rear of the ground floor. The Auction Room was the central focus of this new office with a large silky oak table and rostrum (podium).

In this Auction Room the sale of residential and commercial properties took place, as well as the sale of stamps, coins, jewelry, and works of art. At this time it was easy to hold auctions of furniture and effects in Brisbane’s inner city. Such sales were held every Tuesday when it was possible to park out the front of the building and deliver household furniture to the lower ground floor.

To strengthen the company finances after the construction of the new headquarters, the company became a landlord. It drew an income from leasing the Adelaide Street front shops and upper floor suites to help expand the agency side of the company.

Interesting Fact – one of Brisbane’s largest law firms (now one of Australia’s largest!) commenced operations on the third floor under the name of “Morris Fletcher & Cross”. The firm was attracted to the premises as it had lift access and the security of its own fireproof strong room (which still exists today).

 

The second generation joins the company

Henry Norman Blocksidge (joined circa 1920; 1896 – 1985)

George Henry Blocksidge and his wife Kate, had two sons and 7 daughters. Of their nine children, only one showed interest in joining the family business. To GH’s delight, his second youngest child and youngest son, Henry Norman (affectionately called Norm) joined the business.

Norm’s elder brother William had traveled to London in 1908 and had since pursued a career in writing. He published his works and verse under the pseudonym William Baylebridge.  William never married but was a successful investor in the stock market. He is widely known as the “Browning of Australian Literature” and for his Shakespearean sonnets.

Norm, however, focused on assisting his father. Upon graduating from the Brisbane Grammar School, Norm joined the company as an office boy. He didn’t have an easy time carrying out all the menial tasks around the office. So, having learned this lesson for himself, he told his son Bruce that, “I don’t want you to come into the business as an office boy, I want you to come in with some qualifications”.

Starting at the bottom, Norm worked hard to become a qualified Auctioneer and Valuer. He worked so hard that he was honoured as a Fellow of the Commonwealth Institute of Valuers (now the Australian Institute of Property). He was also one of the early members of the Real Estate Institute of Queensland. Norm became the wartime President (1941-1945) and earned the distinction of being made a Life Member. He sat on the Board of Management for many years and in 1955, served with a number of Queensland and Brisbane real estate legends including J.P.Love, A.V. Postle, R.S. Melloy, D. Dunworth, L. Matthews, and Ray White.

 

Expansion – new offices to service the suburbs (circa 1930s)

Gradually, as trends changed, the sale of residences by real estate agents in Brisbane’s central city became less common. Instead, people went directly to the areas where they wanted to buy. Blocksidge & Ferguson Limited decided that in order to meet the changing demands of our clients, we needed to open suburban offices. We built a branch at Ipswich Road in Annerley that became our Southside Office. This office was managed by Norm. At the same time a Northside Office was opened, in Bayview Terrace at Clayfield. This office was managed by Norm’s brother-in-law, Aubrey Nobbs. In those days these suburbs were considered to be a long way out of town!

The suburban offices proved most successful for a period of time. However, with the advent of new technology that brought improved communications, the company again concentrated its business back to the Central City.

 

The third generation

Bruce Blocksidge (joined 1959 – present)

Bruce was born in 1927 and has fond memories of visiting company headquarters during his childhood. He remembers coming into the office on Saturdays and playing with the letterpress. In those days letters were written by hand using quill pens and Indian ink. The letters were placed in a letterpress to be copied and then one copy was filed and one was sent. Throughout his career Bruce has seen businesses change from using letterpress to typewriters to computers to mobile phones – what a transition!

Before joining the family business, Bruce took his father’s advice and studied at Queensland University. He also undertook a traineeship as a clerk for a solicitor in the company building. He received a wage and was grateful to be among the first of the clerks whose fathers did not have to pay to have their sons trained!

After working in the legal field for a number of years, Bruce decided to go to England to get some experience in real estate. In 1958 he joined Winkworth & Company an Estate Agency established in 1835 in Mayfair, London. There was a somewhat strong parallel in antiquity between both companies.

During his time in London, Bruce learned a lot about the value of real estate. He noted that people invested money in property as it offered great security and a satisfactory rental return. Bruce still believes that it would be very rare for a situation to arise where an investment in real estate will become worthless, whereas you can invest in shares and the bottom can fall out of the market. His investment focus has steered the company’s investment property acquisition over a forty year period and has seen the company make good money.

Bruce recalls that upon joining the family business there were half a dozen agents in the centre of Brisbane – Sharpe & Musgrave, Ray White, Melloy, Bright Slater, Cameron Brothers and us. In this era real estate sales were predominantly done under an open listing (where multiple agents would try to sell the same property). Back then agents would get a few listings a day and they would then choose the best listing to advertise in the paper. Bruce says he’d find it interesting to read the paper to see which of the listings each agent had chosen to advertise. He often observed that the same property would inevitably be chosen by competing agents and how interesting it was that these properties were advertised in various ways. He notes that there was not a lot of sensible co-operation between real estate agents at that stage.

Like his father, Bruce served on the Board of Management of the Real Estate Institute of Queensland. He first ran for election to the Board in 1967 and went on to serve for a record twenty-seven years. He was Chairman of the Arbitration Committee of the Institute for twenty-three years and at the end of that time he too was made a Life Member of the Institute. He believes that one of the biggest changes in the real estate industry since he started his career is the improvement in regulation and the increase in professionalism among agents.

Bruce was also a registered Valuer and Auctioneer but has since passed those responsibilities to his son Jonathan. Bruce also has two daughters – Anna and Vanessa. In 2017 Bruce turned 90 years old. He still comes into work every day and enjoys being part of the Brisbane real estate community. He is currently Governing Director of the company and has no plans to retire. He says, “I am fortunate enough to be involved with property, which is something that has been very good to me. Property is a living thing that requires to be nurtured, it requires to be planned for, and it requires constant attention. If you are interested in developing things and you find that you can improve something by your input there is an excitement about it, it keeps you vital, it keeps you young and it keeps you interested.”

The fourth generation

Jonathan Blocksidge (joined 1986 – present)

Like his father, Jonathan heeded his grandfather’s advice and sought to gain qualifications and professional experience before joining the company. He studied at Gatton College and spent eight and half years working with Woolworths. Here he gained considerable management experience as a member of the retail management team.

When Jonathan got married, he moved back to Brisbane and decided it was time to assist his father with the family business. His professional experience and passion saw him focus, develop and grow the Commercial and Retail Property Management department of the company. Jonathan also gained accreditation as a General Auctioneer and worked alongside Bruce as the company auctioneer for a number of years.  They also extend their auctioneer services to a number of Brisbane charities as a way to give back to the local community.

Jonathan is also passionate about serving the real estate community to ensure that agents, agencies, sellers, lessors, buyers and tenants all have an even playing field. As has become tradition in our family, Jonathan spent six years as a Director of the REIQ doing just this. He is also a Trustee Director of the Real Estate Industry (REI) Superannuation fund.

Jonathan is currently the Managing Director of Blocksidge Real Estate and still drives the Commercial Property arm of the business.

Jonathan has three children, but for the first time in our company’s history there is no Blocksidge son. Luckily for her father and grandfather, the eldest of Jonathan’s daughters joined the business in 2016.

 

HQ Renovations (1997 – 1998)

A major refurbishment of our headquarters at 144 Adelaide Street was completed in 1998. The company invested over $3 million to ensure that the “Blocksidge & Ferguson Building” was able to meet future needs. This renovation attracted tenants to our building and has allowed the building to continue operating and meeting the demands of twenty-first century tenants.

As part of the renovations and as a contribution to Public Art, a mosaic in the foyer of the ground floor Arcade was commissioned. On one side of the mosaic there is a depiction of the icons of Brisbane in 1928. On the other side is Brisbane in 1998. This was designed to show the history of the company and to claim a very small part in the development of our beloved great city of Brisbane. This work can still be found in the lift foyer of our buildings Arcade.

 

The fifth generation

Georgia Blocksidge (joined 2016 – present)

Georgia joined the family business in 2016 after working in the finance industry. Growing up, she never imagined herself working alongside her father and grandfather, but it has turned out to be a wonderful career path. Funnily enough the only one surprised that she joined the company was Georgia herself! Her hesitation to join the company probably stemmed from the frequent phones calls her father would receive from customers and clients, often during the night or while on holidays. This introduction to the world of property management meant she never fancied being a property manager!

However, Georgia has always been interested in real estate and selling property. She often attended her father’s property auctions on Saturday mornings around Brisbane and has fond memories of helping him hand out brochures. There were also many trips to various properties under management that her father cared for, which got her familiar with the Brisbane property scene.

Since joining the company Georgia has earned her Real Estate License and is now a member of the Real Estate Institute of Queensland. Her role is mainly internally focused, working closely with Marilyn, the company accountant, and Chantel, EA to the Directors. She is also the Company Secretary. She hopes to be able to work in the industry almost as long as her Grandfather has. But plans to retire a little younger than him!

 

Our present

In 2016 we started calling ourselves Blocksidge Real Estate. After eighty or so years as Blocksidge & Ferguson Limited it was time for a change and we felt that we needed to better promote what our company is all about. We continue to own investment properties and we are proud to still be an active Brisbane real estate agency. We have a wonderful group of staff, some who have been with our company for almost two decades, who work hard to sell, lease and manage both residential and commercial property.

 

Honouring our past but working to build our future

The company has changed its mix of business over the years – beginning as a one man agency, then expanding to incorporate a broad range of services and opening branches, to consolidating and strengthening as the company we know today. Blocksidge Real Estate is very proud of our early beginnings in the Brisbane region. In 2018, we will be carrying on our forefathers’ legacy and working every day to make tomorrow a better day.

Great customer service has always been at the heart of our business and is often heralded as the key to our company’s longevity. Bruce says, “People come back. One of the joyful things is when people say things like my grandfather bought property from Blocksidge & Ferguson and I’m buying property from you! It is that sort of rapport that has stayed with us.

 It may be old fashioned, but a reputation for good service that is honest and reliable remains essential for our continuing success. It is almost certainly part of the reason why Blocksidge Real Estate has been able to adopt the slogan Real Estate Since 1888.

Some of our historical memories of Brisbane

Bruce remembers his grandfather (GH) sharing the below historical facts of Brisbane with him –

  • A prime 36-perch (910sqm) corner block of land in Queen Street in 1839 was £250!
  • In 1843 the first regular ferry service started on the Brisbane River;
  • In 1885 horse-drawn tram servuces were introduced to Brisbane. This was a brilliant selling point for real estate salesmen at the time who could say that a property was ‘on the tramline’;
  • Electric lights were introduced to Brisbane houses in 1887;
  • In 1902 Brisbane was declared a city; and
  • Sewerage infrastructure was first installed in Brisbane CBD in 1923.

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Some photos that celebrate our history:

Our original Certificate of Incorporation from 1920

 

ca. 1900 – view of Adelaide Street, looking toward George Street, from the Edward Street intersection.

 

The REIQ Board of Management 1943-1944 (Norm is seated at the desk in the middle of the front row).

 

Annerley branch – 1930s

 

The mosaic at 144 Adelaide Street (1928 on one side and 1998 on the other).

 

An REIQ Delegation at the REIA Conference in 1970. Bruce is seated second from the left.

 

Headshots of the 1952 REIQ Board of Management. Norm is on the left in the row second from the bottom.

 

REIQ Journal April 2016 – “Kings of Real Estate” feature article on QLD’s oldest real estate families

 

An REIQ video with Bruce Blocksidge and other life members discussing the evolution of the Queensland real estate industry and the REIQ. 

 

Architectural drawings of 144 Adelaide Street circa 1950s

We’re very fortunate that many historical records and items were preserved in the Company’s care. The general public too has been very generous over the years in passing on items of historical interest to the Company for which we are very thankful. For instance, a gentleman forwarded a page of the Telegraph dated August 12, 1922 advertising a number of properties by auction including one at Coorparoo, one at Toowong and another at Clayfield. The newspaper had been found under linoleum in an old house. Jonathan and Bruce have since donated a large portion of these historical records to the State Library of Queensland for proper preservation and conservation. The Company remains passionate about historic record keeping and will continue this tradition into the future.

 

Celebrating his 90th birthday in the office (or is it his 6th birthday?!)

 

Our REIQ Membership Certificate from 1934

 

The original rostrum – still in our office!

 

Three generations of Blocksidge’s golfing at the 2016 Company Christmas Party

 

Bruce and Jonathan Blocksidge

 

Bruce Blocksidge and his granddaughters

 

HQ – 144 Adelaide Street as it looks today

 

The three generations of Blocksidges currently working in the company