Commissariat Store Brisbane Museum

Commissariat Store - Old Windmill - Brisbane Convict Buildings

convict map

Brisbane Town was officially gazetted as a convict settlement on 15th August 1826 and from that date the construction of the necessary official residences and public buildings began. Stone for the buildings was quarried by the convicts at Kangaroo Point opposite the Botanical Gardens, conveyed by punt to the wharf situated on the river front opposite the Commissariat Store (Colonial or State Store) and then carted to the building site.

The wharf was later known as King's Jetty as at that time George IV was reigning. Viewed in chronological order, the construction of a representative number of these various residences, offices and public buildings, as well as the necessary gardens for the growing of food reveals the pattern of development in those bygone days.

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Commissariat Store Brisbane was built in 1829. Built of dressed stone with two feet [600 mm] thick walls to prevent forced entry, it served also as the first bonded store for the Customs Department until the Customs House Brisbane was built in 1846 at Petrie's Bight. The small iron-barred door, still in place today, made the Commissariat Store defensible.

Wooden doors on the western entrance were originally sheathed with iron to enable them to resist an onslaught. Grey ironbark was used for the floor bearers and rafters. The backbreaking work to cut and form the timber members was carried out by convicts. The floor bearers have remained sound and straight throughout the years.

Handmade nails were used to fix the floorboards of grey gum and tallow wood, which were pit-sawn and tongue-and-grooved with hand tools. The foundations and walls of the Commissariat Store have a base course and corner stones of Brisbane tuff, and walls up to the new portion are built of freestone. Although these walls have been submerged by successive floods they show little sign of weathering.

The inscription on the front of the Brisbane Commissariat Store reads '1829'and is still clearly visible today. In 1912-13 an additional storey was added and the original roof was replaced. The Commissariat Store has now been restored and houses the Thomas Welsby Library and the Royal Historical Society of Queensland's headquarters. It also houses the Penal Settlement Museum.

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Commandant’s Quarters were built in what is now George Street in 1826. The land area for the quarters was almost opposite the Commissariat Store in William Street and extended about two hundred yards towards the present site of Parliament House, thence by the distance to George Street and extended up that street to approximately where the Government Printing Office stood.

The quarters were situated in that portion of the area and the kitchen of the Commandant's original building was still standing in 1870 at the rear of Mrs. McCabe's Fairfield Hotel when this stood in George Street.The Commandant's Garden of four and a half acres was opposite his residence and skirted the river bank from the Commissariat Store.

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The Timber Lumber Yard was established in 1827 at the western corner of Queen Street and North Quay. It continued to be used as such and housed the carpenter's workshop. Later it became the St. John's Church of England School. The area of this land totaled two roods and two perches and was later occupied on a building lease. Four shops and a hotel named the “Longreach" containing forty-eight rooms were built.

The name of the hotel came from the long reach of the river opposite as the South Brisbane reach was then called. The hotel licence was eventually allowed to lapse in the 1920s. The rear interior of the hotel property site was converted into a large picture show known as “West's" and ran as such for many years. A later use of the interior was as a garage known as “Barnes" until the original building was demolished to make way for the imposing Prudential Assurance Company's then new building (now demolished).

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The Convict Barracks were built on the western side of Queen Street (extreme right in picture) and extended from where the later day departmental store of Allan and Stark's (Myer) stood to near the corner of Albert Street. The convict barracks were erected in two sections the original one being at the southern end and the later one at the northern (or Albert Street) end. The respective dates of erection were in the years of 1828 and 1829.

Prisoners’ Cells were formerly on the site of the old Town Hall in Queen Street later the site of Woolworths Ltd near George Street. The cells were constructed in 1828 and removed when the foundations of the first Town Hall were laid in 1864. Solitary cells were situated in George Street between the corner of George Street and Burnett Lane.

After the departure of the convicts in 1839, rooms in the convict barracks were let to the first free settlers on permit at £30 per annum (paid in advance) and were used by them as shops and dwellings.

Later, use was made of the premises as a Police Court. The buildings, in sections housed various historic and important official institutions, the first Parliament House from 1860 to 1868 and the Supreme Court from 1857 to 1879. A number of church services were held in the chapel in the room upstairs by the various religious denominations and the meeting dates were taken in turn.

The buildings were demolished in 1880 and sold in 1881. The land sale was made by auction and reached £28,000 in 28 minutes and the area sold totaled 115 perches. Three lots included in this area amounting to 30 perches were purchased by Richard Edwards and James Chapman (a firm of drapers) for £7488 equalling £156 per foot frontage. The premises are later occupied by Weedmans Ltd.

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Convict Hospital was built in 1827 on North Quay. The site was later used (after the departure of the convicts in 1839) as the town hospital until the establishment of the Brisbane General Hospital in 1865.

A young squatter on the Darling Downs arrived by bullock dray from his property ill with tuberculosis. After this journey he was told he could not be treated in the Convict Hospital. Brisbane desperately needed a larger hospital but the fledgling Queensland government had no money.

Government building plans were frozen and it took years to accumulate enough money to build the Bowen Hospital, now the Royal Brisbane Hospital. The building became the Police Barracks until 1879 when the Supreme Court was completed. The current Supreme Court replaces the sandstone one burnt down.

Superintendent of Convicts lived at the corner of Queen Street and George Street while his garden of an area of one acre extended from the comer of Adelaide Street along George Street and adjoined the solitary cells. A portion of the quarters of the Superintendent of Convicts became the first General Post Office and continued to be so used until the present G.P.O. was built as a first section nearest to Creek Street in 1872. The Superintendent of Convicts’ Quarters were built in 1829-1830 and which later became the site of Edwards and Lamb Ltd.

Garden Cottages were built in 1829. The situation of these was in the Government Garden at the north-western corner of this area. The Garden consisted of a semicircular area running from the lower end of the present Botanical Gardens opposite the southern and eastern banks of the Brisbane River at this point opposite the old site of the South Brisbane Railway Coal Wharf. The Garden Cottages were demolished in the 1850's.

Parsonage (Chaplain’s Quarters) built in 1828. The site was later used as the Colonial Secretary's Office at the corner of William and Elizabeth Streets, the block of land extended to the corner of George Street. On the opposite comer stood the garden of the Chaplain and consisted of an area of 111 acres. The Taxation Building later occupied the site.

Military Hospital on North Quay about one hundred yards from the corner of Queen Street was built in 1832. It subsequently became the Survey Office and, in the course of time, when it was demolished the old Lands Office in George Street immediately opposite Adelaide Street was built in 1872.

Female Factory (directly behind building under construction) built in 1830 was on the site of the northern part of the present General Post Office. It was used to house women convicts until their removal to Eagle Farm. Subsequently, it was a Police Office and a portion of the official quarters was used as a residence for the Clerk of Works (Andrew Petrie) after his arrival in 1837 until his official residence was built. Click Here for Other Reference.

Old Windmill and Brisbane Observatory, Wickham Terrace. Built in 1829, the original treadmill and wind sails were removed at an early stage of its existence. The Old Windmill Brisbane is the oldest remaining convict-built building in Queensland. There is no record of who ordered its construction or when, but it was known to be operating by late 1828. The initial purpose was to grind flour, but the treadmill (formerly attached to the windmill) was used for punishment.

In the late 1830s the miller was Martin Frawley, who still operated the mill for the free settlement in 1845 as an ex-convict. The government put the old windmill up for auction in 1849, but such was the local outcry that it was retained as a landmark for public use. In 1861 it was converted to a signal station and observatory. Click Here for Other Reference.

The architect was Charles Tiffin and the work was carried out by John Petrie who replaced the rotating cap and arms and added a fifth floor. A flagstaff was erected in 1865 for flying shipping signals received by telegraph from Fort Lytton.

During the 1890s the roof was used by the fire brigade for night fire-spotting. From 1922 to 1926 the tower of the Brisbane Observatory served the Institute of Radio Engineers for meetings and experiments and during the 1930s and 1940s it was the venue for pioneer television broadcasting. Click Here for Other Reference.

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Military Barracks, Guard Houses and Official Quarters. Built in 1839 were situated in the block of land on which the Treasury Buildings stood (latterly Treasury Casino). The Barracks become the first Treasury Building and in the same area use was also

made of these as Immigration Barracks until the new Immigration Depot was built at the northern end of Kangaroo Point.

Surgeon’s Quarters and Garden (1831). The Surgeon's quarters were situated on North Quay about 700 feet from the comer of Queen Street and North Quay which is about the middle of the Supreme Court grounds. The garden of one acre extended from there to the comer of Ann Street and almost to the corner of George Street.

The Surgeon's residence was built by convicts, incorporating thick brick walls, high ceilings and hand-made cedar doors and window frames. Its steeply pitched roof and overhanging verandas, allowed the cottage to be cool in summer. It later became the residence of the first surgeon to service the free settlement, Dr David Ballow.

He lived in this cottage from 1838 to 1850 until his premature death from of lice-born typhus contracted from providing services to the quarantine station. Click Here for Further Reference. The Surgeon's quarters were subsequently occupied by the Inspector of Police when the adjoining hospital buildings became the Police Barracks.

Clerk of Works Quarters built in 1838 for Andrew Petrie who came from Sydney in 1837 as the first Clerk of Works. He lived there till his death on 20th February 1872. The position of his residence was at the comer of Queen and Wharf Streets, on the site occupied later as Empire House.

In the years since the buildings were built, time and change have held their sway in the purpose, in the methods and materials of construction, in the design and appearance and the progress of the tiny outpost of civilisation then called Brisbane Town. The Observatory and what remains of the original treadmill and windmill still looks down on the ever-growing city and the

Commissariat Store Brisbane (now known as the State Stores) is the lone instance of all the buildings constructed at the time of the founding of Brisbane to continue in its original purpose as a heritage listed store.

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Commissariat Store Museum and Brisbane Observatory