Red Hill

Red Hill is a Canberra suburb, named after the northernmost hill of the ridge to the west of the suburb. The ridge is a reserve and managed as part of the Canberra Nature Park. The hill is an element of the central Canberra design axis.

The name ‘Red Hill’ was gazetted as a suburb name in 1928. This was the name associated with the hill since the days of the early settlers and probably suggested by the red soil in the area. Streets are named after ships and explorers. Mugga Way is named after an Aboriginal word also associated with the locality since the days of the early settlers.

The hill was once part of the Narrabundah lease held by Charles Russell. He grazed sheep but as the suburb became built up, local pet dogs worried them and killed them. He changed to cattle and finally gave up the lease in 1992.

The Red Hill Precinct or ‘Old Red Hill’ is bound by Mugga Way, Moresby Street, Arthur Circle, Monaro Crescent and Flinders Way. The major streets of this area were included in an outline plan for the early development of Canberra prepared by Walter Burley Griffin in 1918. Its streetscape and landscape character reflect 1920s garden city planning.

Residential land in the suburb of Red Hill was offered for sale in the first Canberra land auction conducted on 12 December 1924. By 1929, 22 houses had been built and by 1955 there were 64 houses.

Mugga Way is often considered Canberra’s most desirable home location. In 2004, a house sold for $ AUD 2.5 million, one of the highest prices paid in the city.

The first families moved to the suburb of Red Hill in 1927 and by 1933 the suburb had a population of 132 people. Its population peaked in 1971 with 4100 residents. On Census night 2006, Red Hill had a population of 3,143 people. The population number has changed little over the last decade: in 2001 there were 16 fewer people than in 1996 (0.5% fewer); 32 more people than in 1991 (1% more).

Red Hill’s most important recreational area is the hill itself. From the Canberra Times Letters to the Editor in May 2000 one resident said:

‘Most Sundays I walk on the slopes of Red Hill in bush that is not pristine, not especially beautiful, but that is there close to where I live, a bit of bush rather than town earth and rock, not bitumen. There is a variety of birds, a miscellany of trees, some of them exotics, a range of weedy but pretty flowers, no doubt snakes, and certainly kangaroos. Ironically, a month ago I saw more kangaroos (a mob of 14) on Red Hill in the centre of Canberra than I saw subsequently during the entirety of a 16-day tour of the Red Centre. This Red Hill bush it can’t be called wilderness makes Canberra a better place to live for the many people who do walk there and enjoy its qualities.’

Red Hill has a local public primary school and a government preschool located in the same building complex. The Red Hill School is an accredited IB World School. There is also a Catholic primary school (St Bede’s) and the Canberra Grammar School, an Anglican school for boys, and a French-Australian preschool.

The main access to the suburb from the south is from Hindmarsh Drive onto either Mugga Way or Dalrymple Street. The main roads through the suburb are La Perouse Street, Flinders Way and Monaro Crescent. The suburb’s roads are named after ships and explorers.

Calthorpes’ House at 24 Mugga Way was built in 1927 by Harry Calthorpe, Stock and Station Agent from the firm of ‘Woodgers and Calthorpe’. Designed by the architectural firm of Oakley and Parkes, the house displays many characteristics of the Spanish Mission style. The family lived together in the house throughout the Depression and Second World War, when both girls married. After Harry’s death in 1950, Mrs Calthorpe continued to live in the house, predominantly alone. Whilst friends and neighbours redecorated their own houses, Mrs Calthorpe never did. After her death in 1979, it was recognised that an opportunity existed to preserve a house that related to Canberra’s early years in staggering completeness, and the Australian Commonwealth Government bought the house, its garden and the house’s contents from the two daughters in 1984. The House Museum is now registered as part of the National Estate and is open Saturday and Sundays as a museum of domestic history of the Between War era. It is believed to be the most complete surviving example of a 1920s family home in Australia.

A suburban garden named Boxford is divided into six separate sections, each reflecting the garden history and culture of a different part of the world. One of the gardens is in the Japanese style; another features a fountain inspired by chapel of Oscar Niemeyer in garden derived from the ideas of Burle Marx, a Brazilian garden designer. The garden has been listed on the ACT Heritage Register.

The Red Hill ridge forms the south-west boundary of the suburb. The ridge separates the central Canberra valley from Woden Valley. The northernmost peak is Red Hill, the Davidson Trig is on the middle point, and Mount Mugga is on the southernmost point of the ridge across Hindmarsh Drive.

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