Ashgrove Historical Society Inc. logo and name png

  • ArtS1 Grove Estate Plan 1888

    Advertisement for auction sale of lots in Grove Estate, on Saturday 4th February 1888.
    AHS archive no - AHS146

  • ArtS2 Grove Estate map c. 1900

    Grove Estate plan, c.1900. 

  • ArtS3 Ashgrove scouts 1909

    Ashgrove scouts, 1909
    AHS archive no: - 915

  • ArtS3 Seils Dairy Delivery Van 1930s

    Seils Dairy Milk Delivery Van, 1930s, a 1926 Willy’s Whippet,  owned by Seils' Dairy, Toomba Avenue, Ashgrove.  Milk was carried in the Dicky seat. 
    Source:  Neil & Jeanette Seils.

  • ArtS4 Waterworks Road, 1924

    Section of Waterworks Road showing the rough condition of the roadway.  1924.
    John Oxley Library digital image #201390

  • ArtS5 Old St Finbarrs Church Hall 1926

    Old St Finbarrs Church Hall,  Scan, 1926
    AHS Archive No: AHS523

  • ArtS6 Padmore Butcher Ashgrove Crescent c.1946

    WA Padmore, Quality Butcher, Ashgrove Crescent, c. 1946. 
    Source:  Desley Drevins.
    AHS Archive No: 559

  • ArtS7 Tram at Ashgrove West terminus, 1951

    Toast-rack tram No. 65 at the Ashgrove West tram terminus, in front of the Ashgrove West Uniting Church. 1969.

  • ArtS8 Grantuly Ashgrove

    Grantuly, the home of John Killough Stewart, son of Alexander Stewart of Glenlyon House.

Brisbane's First 30 Years






Date:  4 March 2006.  


Presented by Janet Hogan. 




What I am going to do today is give you a quick trip through Brisbane’s first 30 years because, being settled in 1825 and the first Ashgrove land sales being in 1856, it is a neat 30 years.  Brisbane was established initially as a penal settlement, as a place of secondary punishment for prisoners who were also serving sentences of transportation from Britain to New South Wales and who committed further offences.  The penal settlement was originally located at Redcliffe and was established in 1824 but the site proved unsatisfactory and the settlement was relocated in May 1825, roughly to the area of the present day William Street.  This location was high and thus flood free and so the main buildings were established in this area.  The lower ground around the river, which could flood, was used for gardens to grow food.  Across the river on the south side the large, low, flat fertile area was used for crops.  Building materials were readily available - stone cliffs and plenty of timber.  Initial structures erected were generally of bark and slab but gradually more permanent structures were erected, mainly of brick and stone.  There was a hierarchy of both building materials and sites.  The buildings of command were on high ground and rhe prisoners barracks and the store were in lower positions.  This was regarded as the principle of segregation and control.  Major expansion occurred from 1826 – 29 under Patrick Logan as commandant.  Although the authorities in Sydney envisaged buildings in wood, Logan proceeded in brick and stone.  There were several major structures.  In 1826 a hospital was constructed which was on the present supreme court site.  In 1827 a prisoners barrack was begun and was still under construction in 1829.  The 2 brick apartment blocks were erected adjacent to the south of the prisoners barracks and they served a variety of purposes.  In 1828 a windmill was constructed on a hill overlooking the settlement.  It was a tower mill of brick and stone  and contained 2 pairs of mill stones, one pair connected by a shaft to an external tread mill.  The windmill was constructed as a contribution to the settlement’s self sufficiency to grind grain rather than import flour in casks which was expensive and difficult to transport.  The tread mill was used for punishment when the windmill was being repaired or when there was no wind to drive the sails.  There was a little platform that went around the outside of the tower structure and you were able to end the sails.  Began in 1828 and completed in 1829, a 2 storey commissariat store was erected in stone, low on the river bank.  The adjacent wharf and associated buildings were of timber.  Also in 1828, the government garden was laid out by the government botanist at the bend in the river, which we now call Gardens Point.  In about 1829, a female factory  was erected on a rise at the north-east of the settlement and that’s the present GPO site.  To cater for the increasing number of women convicts arriving after 1827, the women lived and worked here.  It was initially surrounded by a fence and later by a wall.  In1831 another spate of building activity occurred when the penal establishment was reaching its peak capacity.  Two new hospital buildings were constructed, the surgeons quarters and a military hospital, a military barracks to house 100 rank and file and a guard house and officers quarters.  The old military barracks became the lumber yard.  Bricks were made at the brick fields to the west where clay was plentiful and clay pits developed.  A brick kiln was located there and a tank was nearby.  Stone came from the Kangaroo Point cliffs, porphyry stone or Brisbane Tuff, and was ferried across  the river to the settlement.  Timber was mainly pine, particularly hoop pine and cedar.  Lime for lime mortar for building purposes was initially obtained by burning sea shells. But after Logan’s discovery of limestone at Limestone Hills (now Ipswich) it came from there and limestone foundation blocks for buildings also came from there.  Wheat, maize and corn were grown at north and south Brisbane and Kangaroo Point and were taken in hand carts from the fields to a barn near the corner of the present Albert and Elizabeth Streets.  Here threshing was undertaken and the grain then taken to the windmill for grinding.  Various outstations supported the main settlement – there was Eagle Farm for agriculture, Limestone Hills for limestone blocks, kilns to burn the limestone for lime and there was also a sheep station there.  At Oxley Creek there were sawyers, cattle at Redbank and cattle and sheep at Cowpers Plains (now Coopers Plains).  On Stradbroke Is in Moreton Bay, Amity was a pilot station and Dunwich was a loading and unloading depot.  Under Logan, in March 1827 to October 1830, convict numbers increased from 77 to 975.  In September 1828 alone, numbers increased from 168 to 693.  In October 1828, the first known recording of grain at the windmill occurred.  Numbers peaked at over 1100 in 1831 -  32 but were subsequently reduced with serious consideration given to the closure of the penal settlement, partly for efficiency and cost and opening up the area to free settlement, although this didn’t occur for some years.  A hindering factor was the female convicts who were secondary offenders.  There was nowhere else to send them without incurring cost.  By November 1839, only 29 male convicts remained, providing maintenance of the settlement during the preparations for free settlement.  In 1837, Andrew Petrie arrived at Brisbane as the foreman of works.  In 1838 a small brick house was erected to the north of the settlement, now Petrie’s Bight, for him and his family.  They subsequently contributed greatly to the development of Brisbane.  Also in 1838, German missionaries, who were Lutherans, arrived at Moreton Bay and with commissions, settled at Zion’s Hill, now Nundah and established a mission for the aborigines.  Survey parties were sent from Sydney to assist in preparations for the opening up of the Moreton Bay district to free settlement.  In Brisbane, the prisoner’s barracks was the largest building in the settlement, and that determined the position of the main street, Queen Street and thus the layout of the future city around it.  The streets were named after royal personages, those with males names running east-west, and those with females names running north-south.  When Governor Gipps visited, Queen street had been laid out as an extremely wide street, and Gipps insisted that it be narrowed.  So, on the plans they narrowed it during his visit, but after he left, they widened it again, but not as wide as originally planned.  On 11 February 1842, the order proclaiming the Moreton Bay area a penal settlement was rescinded and free settlers were allowed to arrive in Moreton Bay.  Authority was transferred to the Crown Land Commissioner, who was Dr Stephen Simpson and the Police Magistrate, Captain Wickham who arrived in 1843.  Meanwhile, several squatters had come up inland and settled in the Darling Downs and by May 1842, most of the Downs had been taken up.  The first sale of Moreton Bay land occurred at auction in Sydney on 14 July 1842 when a total of 57 allotments, mainly 32 perches, was offered.  The 21 north side lots included almost an entire block bounded by Queen, George and Albert streets, but excluded 4 lots with convict buildings.  The remaining lots on the south side included one block bounded by Grey, Russell, Melbourne and Stanley streets and a block bounded by Grey, Melbourne, Russell and Hope streets.  That’s roughly in the present performing arts area.  North Brisbane lots sold better than those in South Brisbane and the average price per lot was £342/10/0 per acre.  At north Brisbane, many former penal settlement buildings continued in use by the government, mostly recycled to a variety of purposes.  Initial routes to the inland area were through South Brisbane, where hotels and a wharf were established.  With time, a track developed down the middle of Kangaroo Point and the settlement subsequently emerged as an alternate means of access to the route to the inland.  Ferries linked north and south Brisbane and Kangaroo Point.  The early land sales in Sydney encouraged speculators who purchased much of the land but often defaulted on payment.  This contributed to hampering the new settlement’s early progress  and denied Brisbane residents the opportunity to buy and build.  It was too costly for them to travel to Sydney for the sales.  Sales in Brisbane were urged and the first was held in August 1843, eighteen months after it was opened to free settlement.  The sale of Kangaroo Point land occurred in December 1843 and sales in other areas followed.  In 1842, the colony generally experienced difficult times.  Wool prices slumped due to the depression in English manufacturing causing wholesale slaughter of sheep for mutton.  Numbers of sheep and cattle exceeded those wanted or required and some pastoralists were forced to sell out.  One of Brisbane’s earliest industries emerged as a result.  Evan McKenzie of Kilcoy established a boiling down works at Kangaroo Point in 1843, managed by John Tinker Campbell of West Brook on the Darling Downs.  This converted unwanted stock to other useful products, such as tallow and hides which were readily saleable and provided expansion of other industries, such as candle making and soap from the tallow and leather goods from the hides.  The early years of free settlement were also uncertain times.  The three main areas in Brisbane vied for leadership – ie North Brisbane, South Brisbane and Kangaroo Point, and both Cleveland and Ipswich challenged Brisbane.  Pastoral and urban interested conflicted, with pastoralists wanting a service centre for their own interests.  All this was reflected in the settlement’s slow progress, inadequate roads and landing facilities.  By 1845, wool prices had lifted again.  Brisbane’s population recorded in the census of March1846 was 960 compared with 300 in 1843.  This is lower than the maximum number of convicts in 1831 & 32 which was 1100.  Most buildings were of wood - 75 houses in North Brisbane and 83 in South Brisbane.  Stone or brick structures numbered 38 in Nth Brisbane and 1 in Sth Brisbane – mostly convict buildings.  Shingles were the favourite roofing material.  The most common occupation was the skilled labourer – there were 120 mechanics.  Brisbane was described in 1845 as “a pretty little place”.  Nth Brisbane was the most respectable quarter, very neat and clean, comprising only one regular street, presumably Queen Street.  The houses were mostly wood, detached, each in the middle of its own garden, but pretty regularly built.  Sth Brisbane was much more scattered and ill-built and altogether lower.  At Kangaroo Point, there was generally a good breeze.  All three areas comprised cottages and hotels in varying degrees of respectability and stores and wharves.  Gradually more people arrived and more building construction took place.  Brisbane’s appearance began to improve and confidence in the future began to return.  More buildings in brick began to emerge and at land sales, river side blocks were more desirable.  In June 1846, the first issue of the Moreton Bay Courier appeared.  Also in 1846, the Government made Moreton Bay a port of entry and a sub-collector of customs was appointed and arrived in Brisbane.  By 1847 the settlement was expanding and Brisbane was selected as the location of, and money was budgeted for, a customs house, although a specific site had not been determined.  Confidence in the future was reflected in the types of shops and other establishments being developed and opened as well as in building activity.  Accommodation was greatly needed.  What was required most was small, simple dwellings for the increasing numbers of manual workers, and accommodation for the shop keepers and others who were increasingly arriving.  Both small and larger places were being erected but not quickly enough.  Rivalry between the three areas of Brisbane, and also Cleveland and Ipswich, continued to retard growth.  Continued government indecision on the site of the customs house exacerbated the situation.  Never-the-less, the economy gradually improved.  The first immigrant ship, the Artemisia, left England on 9 August 1848 with 240 passengers, arriving in Brisbane in December 1848, the first immigrant ship to arrive at Moreton Bay directly from England.  Previously they had gone to Sydney or Melbourne.  The immigrants were temporarily accommodated at the convict hospital.  Earlier arrivals had been accommodated in the former convict barracks.  On the Artemisia, there were 164 adults, 96 males, 68 females and 98 married, 65 children, 11 children under 1 year.   Males included 38 agricultural labourers, 7 smiths, 7 shepherds and 182 were employed within 3 days.  The Fortitude, carrying the Rev John Dunmore Lang, brought  253 immigrants to Brisbane, chosen as well for “their moral as for their industrial qualifications”,  set out on 14 September 1848.  The government made no provision for their accommodation, so they were permitted for form a temporary village on some of the slopes in Yorke’s Hollow (now known as Fortitude Valley).  They had to build their own accommodation.  Lang’s Chasley with 214 passengers and The Lima with 84 passengers followed in May and November 1849.  Accommodation was in such short supply that Lang’s third ship was accommodated in temporary bark huts.  Most were towns people or small farmers wanting to live close to settlement.  Lang’s immigrants exerted a significant improvement on the morals and spirituality of society as well as stimulating its material progress.  Chinese immigration also occurred during this time.  From May 1848 to August 1849, 987 people arrived at Moreton Bay.  However, the free immigrants, as these all were, generally preferred other employment to the care of sheep in remote regions where they have pastures and leading the solitary life this imposes on them.  The squatters needed cheap bonded labour and the first “exiles”, who were mainly ticket-of-leave men, arrived in June 1849.  They were housed in the new jail which had been the former female factory, now the site of the GPO.  Meanwhile, many of the former convicts building were falling into disrepair or disuse.  Within a few years of free settlement they had generally become dilapidated.  White ants had damaged them and roofs needed repair but times had been hard.  In 1849 it was decided to sell those not required for government use.  The former convict barracks had been recycled for accommodation for early arrivals at the settlement.  Shops, dwelling houses, a court house and a meeting place were sold but most of the barracks was retained for court use, a possible lock up and public accommodation which was scarce.  Two doors south, a small brick building continued in use as Brisbane’s post office.  The hospital continued as such but also accommodated early immigrants.  The commissariat was used mainly for storage.  The windmill, which had operated to feed not only the convict settlement but also those preparing for free settlement, was advertised for sale on 6 December 1849.  There was a public outcry, the residents believing that it should be retained for the public, especially as it contributed so much to the picturesque beauty of the town.  That was the first heritage agitation in Queensland!  However, although the building was sold, it received a reprieve and reverted to government ownership.  The former female factory was converted into the jail, completed in 1849, and the surrounding walls were whitened.  So it became a prominent site in the settlement.  By December 1850 there 41 inmates.  It had also housed early arrivals when accommodation was scarce.  Another small brick building had been rented from 1843 as the Roman Catholic Church and the former convict carpenters shop had become the first Anglican Church.  A floating bath house was opened in 1849 beside the river bank at the former government gardens.  It was designed by Andrew Petrie to be moored where ever desired and was for the ‘delightful and invigorating exercise’ of those who paid.  The Brisbane School of Arts and Sciences was formed in late 1849 for  ‘intellectual and recreation instruction’.  In 1850, they called for plans to erect a building in Queen Street on the corner of Creek St, which opened in late 1851.  The site for the new customs house was finally confirmed in early 1849 and work began in December and the new building was occupied in April 1850.  In 1850, St Stephens Roman Catholic Church was completed of local stone,  on a rise in Elizabeth St opposite the jail.  The foundation stone was laid for St Johns Anglican Church, constructed by John Petrie in William St.  Its parsonage was constructed first.  Nearby, Dr Lang constructed a United Evangelical Church and was begun near the former government cottage.  On 1 June 1850, Brisbane was described in the Moreton Bay Courier; “The extension of human habitations in Brisbane and its neighbourhood have in reality been remarkable.  A number of urban cottages may be observed at intervals on the north and south banks in the neighbourhood of Bulimba and Breakfast Creeks and indeed the road from Breakfast Creek into town is already assuming, by gradual degree, the character of a street.  Nearer to Brisbane, of the suburban allotments recently sold in the direction of New Farm, a flourishing village is springing up.  On the south side of the stream, a short distance above Breakfast Creek, is Toogoolawah, (which is now Bulimba House), the estate of Mr DC McConnell and here the enterprise of that gentleman is rapidly converting the wilderness into a delightful domain.  The scrub is disappearing from the banks and will soon be  succeeded by more profitable things.  The residences of the labourers and the other out houses already constructed are of the most substantial descriptions and further in from the river a capacious mansion built of Brisbane River sandstone is in the course of erection.  At Kangaroo Point, many new houses have lately been built and here the bustle and activity, usually observable at the shipping wharf, gives the first indications of the commerce of Brisbane.  Opposite to this is the locations of the customs house and the bonded store and the handsome buildings erected on the lands of Dr Simpson and Dr Ballow, basically in the area between Eagle Street and the river.  Further up, the new Roman Catholic Church situated on a conspicuous eminence, is fully visible from the river, and partly screen from view that fatal necessity, the new jail.  In the neighbourhood of this church there are many new houses and the locality is likely to become a favourite one.  Queen St is extending itself towards the eastern suburbs and the lines of George Street and Elizabeth Street are becoming defined by houses.  At this end of town there is a new wharf from which the Ipswich steel boat regularly trades her departure.  Opposite, at South Brisbane, the river bank exhibits five wharves for the lading and unlading of vessels and higher up we observe cottages sprinkled here and there along the banks for a considerable distance, conducting the visitor at length to the cultivated lands of the western suburbs.  At South Brisbane also,  a commodious place of worship is being built for the use of the Presbyterians and is nearly completed.  Crossing again to the north side, the visitor would find that the purchasers of land had extended themselves as far off as Moggill Creek, seven miles from Brisbane.”   More permanent structures were now being erected in Brisbane, particularly at North Brisbane and to a lesser degree, at Kangaroo Point and South Brisbane.  Early buildings, as in the convict years, had been of readily available materials in a simple, easily constructed style.  They were small, inexpensive and on small allotments while initial structure were bark huts, built in a day.  Slab and shingle homes were more comfortable.  Then came sawn timber buildings.  More modest structures were generally found in the lower lying areas, more substantial structures on higher ground.  These new ventures proved successful as the future of the new district seemed more assured.  People built structures for their newly found wealth, prestige or power.  These later buildings reflected, in material, size, style, ornamentation, location and position, the extent of their owners success and their faith in the future.  This was reflected most in the substantial and ornate homes that began to appear, which were generally also influenced by the local climate.  Two such residences were Patrick Leslie’s ’Newstead’, built in 1845-46 and David McConnell’s ‘Bulimba’, in 1849-50.  Both large river side residences were set in extensive ground with ornamental gardens and orchards, both men were early squatters and both residences still survive.  By 1851 North Brisbane was emerging as the leader ahead of its rivals both on the south side of the river and at Cleveland and Ipswich.  This was mainly due to the opening of the Customs House in 1850 at Petrie Bight.  John Richardson’s adjacent warehouse had become a bonded  warehouse in 1849 following the constitution of Moreton Bay as a warehousing port and the Queen’s wharf was erected close to the customs house near the steps of the Kangaroo ferry.  This north eastern part of Brisbane then began to develop further.  By this time, some businesses were being transferred from the south side of the river to North Brisbane.  Of the total of 87 lots available at the land sales in January 1851, 45 of 59 lots of North Brisbane were sold, of those 2 were on the river at Eagle St and 4 of 28 lots at South Brisbane were sold and there had been 20 available on the river there.  And of the land sales in October 1851, no lots of South Brisbane were sold,  where 10 were available, and at North Brisbane, 1 water side lot with a standard reserve of £100 per acre, sold at the rate of £960 per acre.  The census of March 1851 showed a population of 2097 in the 3 main settlement areas, and 446 in the suburbs.  There were roughly 3 times as many people in North Brisbane as at South Brisbane.  Most of the population originated from Britain, several hundred were colonial born.  There were 7 in law, 11 in medicine or religion and 36 other professional or educated people.  The great majority were Anglicans, followed by Roman Catholics, with fewer Wesleyans and others.  In the township, there were 261 wooden houses to 82 brick or stone, whilst in the suburbs there were 67 wooden to 14 brick or stone, almost all were shingled.  Surveys set aside, in the early 1850, over 2 acres at North Brisbane for a national school.  Education to date had been provided by the churches and private individuals but with the increasing population, especially immigrants, government education for the young became an increasingly relevant issue.  In mid 1851, cemeteries were set aside at North and Sough Brisbane, where separate portions of lands were allocated for the different denominations.  In November, it was decided that the streets be aligned, town boundaries marked, and road especially between Brisbane and the Downs, be upgraded.  Separation from New South Wales was being advocated throughout the early 1850’s in the northern regions of NSW.  The government was pressed to set aside the former government garden as the domain for a future government house.  As we know, separation of the new colony from NSW occurred in 1859, which was 3 years after the first Ashgrove land sale.  The new government house, which was located in the domain, was occupied by the governor in 1862.