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Newstead House (Brisbane, Queensland)

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posted by Buddy Patrick alias Buddy Patrick on Sunday 4th of March 2018 11:22:06 AM

Newstead House is a large mid-nineteenth century house located on a ridge of parkland overlooking the Hamilton Reach of the Brisbane River at its confluence with Breakfast Creek, and is four kilometres north-east of the Brisbane Central Business District (CBD). The core of the house is the oldest known surviving residence in Brisbane, established by Patrick Leslie in 1846. The house has undergone numerous structural changes, particularly between 1846 and 1867. It was the first heritage property in Queensland to be protected by an Act of Parliament. Newstead Park was acquired by Brisbane City Council and formally opened in 1921. It was designed according to landscaping principles of the early 20th century and has retained the layout and plantings initiated by the Superintendent of Parks Harry Moore from 1915. John Oxley explored the Brisbane River in 1823 and 1824 and recommended the area around the confluence with Breakfast Creek would be an ideal place to establish a settlement. The local indigenous people had been given the name of the ‘Duke of York's Clan' by European residents and the area was known as ‘Booroodabin', meaning 'place of oaks'. Following the 1839 closure of the penal settlement, Brisbane town was surveyed and offered for sale from 1842. Land on the banks of the Brisbane River near Breakfast Creek was purchased by brothers-in-law Patrick Leslie and John Clements Wickham in April 1845. Leslie purchased Eastern Suburban Allotments (ESA) 63 and 64 (sold as ESA 13 at the time), while Wickham purchased ESA 62. Captain John Clements Wickham served in the Royal Navy under Philip Parker King (son of NSW Governor Philip Gidley King). He settled in New South Wales in 1841 where he married Anna, the daughter of Hannibal Macarthur, nephew of John Macarthur who had established a merino flock at Camden Park. Patrick Leslie had married another daughter of Hannibal's, Catherine (Kate) in 1840. Philip Gidley King (son of Philip Parker King) married another sister, Elizabeth Macarthur (his cousin) in 1843, while George Leslie married a fourth sister, Emmeline Macarthur in 1848. Wickham was appointed Police Magistrate for Moreton Bay in January 1843, living in the Commandant's Cottage in George Street. Patrick Leslie, the second son of William Leslie, ninth laird of Warthill and eighth of Folla in Scotland, came to Australia in 1834 to work on his uncle Walter Davidson's property Collaroi in the Upper Hunter. To gain experience, he went to work on John Macarthur's property at Camden, and by 1839 moved to Philip Parker Kings' property Dunheved near Penrith. Explorer Allan Cunningham told him of the Darling Downs to the north that he had discovered in 1827. Patrick, his younger brothers George and Walter and their sheep, headed north in 1840 selecting runs which became Toolburra and Canning Downs Stations. Still financially indebted to his uncle, Leslie was eventually assisted by his father to clear some debts and purchased two parcels of Brisbane riverfront land in 1845 in his father's name. By the end of 1845, Patrick Leslie was sourcing building materials for a house he was planning for himself and his wife Kate and son Willy. He named it ‘Newstead', and the family moved in between April and July 1846. Patrick Leslie wrote to his father providing a detailed description of the house, as well as floor plans and a site plan. Constructed from brick, stone and timber, the original house was two storeyed, with living rooms and bedrooms on the upper floor and servants' rooms, cellars and kitchen on the lower floor. A steep staircase in what is now the entry vestibule connected the two floors, and other utilitarian structures were located to the rear (western side) of the house. An 8ft (2.4m) wide verandah on the first floor eastern side, adjoining the sitting room and main bedroom, faced the best views of the river. He wrote a lengthy description of the setting of the house and the plants grown in the garden, including Kate's garden on the southern side of the house. There was a well, milking yard, and cow pen, and a road following a gully to the west. In the same letter, he told his father that he had purchased a run adjacent to Canning Downs in his son's name, and kept his stock on his brother's property. The family had barely settled into the house at Newstead when he decided to return to the Downs. The Leslies departed Newstead on the 10th of October 1846, leaving it under the management of two employees. In June 1847 Newstead House was sold to Captain John Clements Wickham for £1000, although not formally transferred by deed until the 1st of February 1854. The sale was a mutually beneficial arrangement as John and Anna Wickham were about to build on their adjoining lot at Newstead. Wickham undertook extensions in late 1847 when they moved in. A sketch dated 1848 by Owen Stanley, shows the building was light in colour, (indicating it had been rendered) with verandahs extended to the north and south with the bedrooms extended onto the verandahs. In April 1853, Captain Wickham was appointed Government Resident for Moreton Bay, having served in the role since January that year. The house then became the unofficial government house. A servants' wing adjacent to the house is evident in a painting produced in July 1853. In April 1854 the Governor General, Sir Charles Fitz Roy, came to Moreton Bay on an official visit, staying at Newstead. Following a public dinner, Wickham arranged for a meeting on the subject of separation from New South Wales, between the Governor General and key citizens. While Wickham supported separation meetings, the actual event led to the abolition of his position. The new Governor, Sir George Ferguson Bowen, arrived in Brisbane on the 10th of December 1859. Wickham left the new colony of Queensland in January 1860 and returned to England. Newstead House was offered for sale from September 1862, having been occupied by the Attorney General, Ratcliffe Pring, from February 1860. By December 1862 George and Jane Harris advertised for servants for Newstead, presumably indicating their occupation of the house. George Harris, a member of the Legislative Council of Queensland, had married Jane Thorn, daughter of Member of the Legislative Assembly and businessman George Thorn, in Ipswich in 1860. George Harris' brother John had initiated a mercantile and shipping business in Brisbane in the 1840s. George joined the business in 1848 and the firm J & G Harris was formed in April 1853, with John as an agent in London. The Harris brothers established a store in Short Street at North Quay and operated a fleet of ships, a fellmongery, tannery, and a boot and harness factory. The town of Harrisville, south of Ipswich, evolved from J & G Harris's cotton plantation and gin. George Harris commissioned architect James Cowlishaw to design Harris Terrace in George Street in 1865 - 1867. He also called for tenders for repairs and additions to Newstead House in 1865 and 1867. George Harris had acquired the Newstead property (Lots 62, 63, and 65) in 1867, mortgaged for the sum of £4000 to the trustees of the estate of JC Wickham, having previously leased the property. The repairs and additions undertaken by Cowlishaw in 1865 and 1867 led to a major re-design of the house, building four new rooms on both the northern and southern sides. Each of these extensions included new double fireplaces and chimneys. The staircase to the lower floor was removed and replaced by a trapdoor in the verandah floor. A new entrance was created by building a retaining wall which supported the extended front verandah. Fill was deposited to create a gently sloping lawn on the western side, taking water away from the basement structure. Sandstone steps were built, providing a new western entrance to the house. This made a basement of the ground floor of the Leslie structure. The verandahs were extended to 10 feet (3m) in width, provided with railings, new posts, gutters and rainwater heads. The roof shingles were replaced with slate, although sheet metal was used on the verandahs. A marble floor was installed in the entry foyer and marble mantelpieces built into the formal rooms. A substantial new kitchen and servants' quarters were also built during the Harris era. George Harris arranged for a new certificate of title under the Real Property Act in May 1874. The property was then mortgaged for 10 years to James Taylor of Toowoomba for £10,000. Further building work was required when the stables burnt down in November 1873. Harris declared his business to be insolvent in August 1876 and both Newstead and Harris Terrace were transferred to James Taylor by December 1876. The Harris's continued to lease the property for many years. Their financial position may have been buoyed by the distribution of the estate of Jane's father, George Thorn, who died in April 1876, with extensive property interests including the Claremont Homestead, land in Ipswich and Cleveland (Thornlands), and Normanby Station which were offered for sale in 1878 - 1879. James Taylor subdivided much of the estate into housing lots, retaining 11 acres (4.5ha) on which Newstead House was located. The estate was advertised for sale in July 1878. A further lease for Newstead House was drawn up to George Harris in March 1887, which was surrendered in November the following year. Liquidators were called in to wind-up the affairs of J and G Harris. An attempt was made to sell the property, now reduced to 4.5 acres (8200m2) in December 1888. The newspaper advertisement referred to the main house as being built of stone and brick with a slate roof, comprising an extra large drawing room, dining room, breakfast room, principal bedroom, library, three bedrooms and bathroom with 10ft (3m) verandahs all round; a wooden wing with a slate roof comprising four large bedrooms, a workroom, two storerooms and bathroom; a kitchen wing built of brick with a slate roof incorporating a kitchen, pantry, large storeroom, two servants' rooms, scullery and man's room; and an outhouse consisting of a four stall stable, man's room, harness room, large coach house and laundry. Also on the property was another four stall stable, fowl house, landing jetty, boathouse, bathing house, two 20,000 gallon (90,000 litre) underground tanks and various other tanks; and a magnificent flower, fruit and vegetable garden. Further subdivision of the surrounding land into suburban lots occurred in 1888 and in 1890, after it was transferred to the Federal Building Land and Investment Society Ltd. An auction sale of all of the Harris's furnishings and belongings was held on the 22nd of April 1890, and George and Jane departed the following day. Newstead House played host to numerous important visitors over the years, including high ranking members of the clergy, the Governor General, and royalty, as well as hosting large events such as weddings, dinners, balls and boating events on the river, particularly during the occupation of the Harris's. Daughter Evelyn Harris married RG Casey, manager of her grandfather George Thorn's former property, Normanby Station. The 1888 wedding was followed by a lavish reception at Newstead House. Her son Richard, born in 1890, was Governor of Bengal from 1944 - 1946 and in 1960 was appointed life peer to the House of Lords, the Upper House of the United Kingdom. Lord Casey became Governor General of Australia in 1965 to 1969. The departure of the Harris family was the end of an era for the house, in that no subsequent owners or tenants occupied the dwelling for any substantial length of time. The sale of furnishings of a tenant in March 1896 indicated that the substantial servants' quarters and kitchen of the Harris era had been replaced with the building now referred to as the Annex. It included a kitchen, pantry laundry and possibly one other servants' room. The property was owned by Lysaght Brothers and Company for several years from August 1896. Lysaghts had plans for a wire netting and galvanised iron factory on the site that were never realised. Newstead was briefly run as a boarding house in 1906. Newstead House was sold in October 1908 to Caroline Amelia Heaslop, wife of Thomas Heaslop, a wholesale grocery merchant, and by November 1909 a major refurbishment had been undertaken. The house continued to be leased to tenants. The Council of the City of Brisbane began negotiations with Mrs Heaslop to purchase the property in 1915 and it was formally acquired by the Council of the City of Brisbane in 1918. The Council had been keen to acquire this prime riverfront site for parkland, and were influenced by the international town planning movement of the time. The Queensland Town Planning Association had formed in March 1915, advocating the need for more metropolitan parks, particularly along the river. In 1918, the property that comprised most of the original ESA 63 including Newstead House was transferred to the Council. This was later devested to the Brisbane City Council (BCC) in 1933 under section 30 of The City of Brisbane Act 1924. A number of options for the use of the house were proposed, including availing the property to returned soldiers as a hostel. Parks Superintendent Henry (Harry) Moore moved into Newstead House in late 1917 or early 1918. The slate roof was replaced at this time, with red painted concrete tiles. Harry Moore was appointed as Superintendent of Parks in September 1912, initially based at Bowen Park which had recently been vacated by the Acclimatisation Society. From 1909 Moore had been curator of Canterbury Park in Eaglehawk, near Bendigo in Victoria. He had a distinctive style of park layout with a preference for circular garden beds. He preferred the fluidity of gently curving walkways radiating from a few entrance points. His influence can be seen in one remnant section of Canterbury Park, as well as in his other works in Queensland including New Farm Park, Bowen Park and Gympie Memorial Park. He is also well known for using dry stone walls to create raised garden beds, examples of which can be found in Centenary Place, Yeronga Memorial Park, and in the streets of Kangaroo Point and Spring Hill. For shade trees, he favoured a bold mix of palms, pines, and dramatic flowering species such as poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) and jacarandas (Jacaranda mimosifolia). Moore's appointment occurred during the time of the nascent town planning movement which, among other things, promoted the building of roads in relation to the contours of the land. This is evident in Moore's path layout in Newstead Park. His design included the removal of all riverbank vegetation and the creation of stone revetment walls, removal of old fences, construction of paths, path lighting, and planting additional trees in front of the house. He planted about 150 trees, palms, and shrubs initially and then prepared trenching and beds for 700 roses. Newstead Park was officially opened in January 1921. In 1923, the centenary of the arrival of John Oxley was celebrated in Newstead Park with a band for entertainment. The band rotunda appears to have evolved from a temporary platform provided in 1921, becoming a bandstand by 1925. A World War I trophy cannon was unveiled in the park, near the rotunda, in November 1922. In 1924 the Council announced further resumptions of contiguous land. Twelve buildings were auctioned for removal, from Newstead Avenue, Breakfast Creek Road, and Newstead Drive, in March 1926. Stone entrance pillars with lamps mounted on top were built in November 1927. The park also features a large draughts board installed in 1929. A newspaper report in 1929 discussed Harry Moore's ten years of work in the park. Mature trees he retained included bunya pines, Moreton Bay ash, silky oaks, white Cyprus and the Flacourtia ramoutchi of East India. He also planted avenues of Queen Palms, here and in other parks and streets of Brisbane, and was responsible for introducing the distinctive tropical character to Brisbane's open spaces. The large fig tree (Ficus infectoria) within the circular drive dates to the occupation by the Wickhams, and appears to be the oldest tree remaining on the property. Moore and his family continued to live in Newstead House until late 1938. In 1927 the BCC Tramways Department announced plans to build a substation at Newstead Park. Brisbane Tramways had evolved from a private company which established horse drawn trams in 1885 and a subsequent company delivering electric trams from 1895. The first power station for trams was built in Countess Street in 1897. Various arrangements with the City Electric Light Company continued to supply power until the Brisbane Tramways Trust was initiated by an Act of Parliament in 1922. After the establishment of Greater Brisbane City Council in 1925, which included the acquisition of the Brisbane Tramways Trust, there was an expansion of electricity supply and public transport. Substation No. 5 in Newstead Park was designed by BCC architect and construction engineer Roy Rusden Ogg, and opened in June 1928. Ogg designed at least 10 of the city's substations up until 1936, as well as the first two stages of the New Farm Powerhouse, which provided electricity to the city's tram network. A total of 10 tramways substations: Russell Street South Brisbane (1927); Ballow Street, Fortitude Valley (1928); Logan Road, Woolloongabba (1928); Petrie Terrace (1928); Windsor (1927); Paddington (1930); Norman Park (1935); Kedron Park Road, Kedron (1935); and Ipswich Road, Annerley (1936), were built through to the mid-1930s, seven of which survive. Many had additions enabling equipment upgrades and a further 5 were built after World War II. Only Newstead and Petrie Terrace substations retain the BT (Brisbane Tramways) logo. To help integrate the industrial substation buildings into their often residential settings, Ogg used neo-classical detailing to ornament the facades. By the late 1920s Brisbane City Council could not foresee a potential use for Newstead House except as a museum. In September 1931 the Queensland Historical Society (founded 1913) approached the Lord Mayor, Alderman Greene, proposing that Newstead House be made available as an historical library and technological museum. In May 1932, the Society was given use of 3 rooms, although Harry Moore still occupied the house until late 1938. Between 1934 and 1938 a number of proposals were made in relation to the use of the house as a museum. In March 1938 the Queensland Historical Society appointed a special committee to prepare a draft scheme for the creation of a Trust to control the proposed museum. In February 1939, the Finance Committee of BCC recommended that Newstead House be placed under trust for the use of the Historical Society of Queensland. The Trust would administer the Newstead House Trust Fund and receive donations, bequests, legacies, and grants. The Newstead House Trust Act came into force on the 1st of March 1940, with the State Treasurer, Mr Cooper as chairman, and the Lord Mayor, Alderman Jones, and the President of the Historical Society, Mr Fergus McMaster, as trustees. In preparation for its role as a museum, fire proofing of two rooms and repairs to the house were undertaken to the specification of architects R Coutts and Sons. From late 1942 through to the end of World War II, Newstead House was occupied by the Photographic Detachment of the 832nd Signal Service Company, Signal Section of the Unites States Army Services of Supply. The house was used as a barracks for the men, while nearby Cintra House housed the photographic laboratory. A gun emplacement was located on the riverfront beyond the bandstand. In 1950, the Annex was transferred to the Trust and a new certificate of title issued. These are now lots 1 & 2 on RP58673 (house and annex footprints). The Queensland Women's Historical Association, formed in April 1950, held its inaugural meeting at Newstead House. In late 1951 the Association was given use of the old Breakfast Room for housing records and equipment. It also involved itself with renovation of the house. The Association acquired its own quarters in 1966, purchasing a house known as ‘Beverly Wood' (later reverting to its original name ‘Miegunyah') in 1967. From 1968 through to the early 1970s, a major renovation of Newstead House was managed by the State Works Department, facilitating its transformation into a house museum. The verandah timbers were taken up allowing the replacement of defective joists. Major earthworks were undertaken around the house at this time and the timber bathroom to the annex and the annex chimney were removed. Works on the basement included removal of plaster from brickwork, some re-pointing of brick walls, damp proofing and paving the floor. The house was opened to the public in February 1971. The works have been ongoing, including re-roofing with concrete tiles in 1977. David Gibson was appointed as curator in August 1974, a position he retained until 2011. He initiated the ‘Friends of Newstead' committee to assist in fundraising for the development and interpretation of the house. The committee utilised the celebration of the house's 130th anniversary in 1976 to embark on a fundraising campaign to begin renovation and interpretation of the dining room and gentleman's library. Volunteers each devoted one Sunday a month, serving refreshments to visitors, and had raised $6500 by mid 1977. The Royal Historical Society relocated to the former Commissariat Store in William Street in October 1981. After the discontinuation of the Brisbane tramway system in 1969 the substation at Newstead Park, along with Brisbane's other tramway substations, became redundant to Council's needs. The substation was transferred to the Newstead House Board of Trustees in June 1977 and work commenced on its conversion into a resource centre. The first phase of the project included the removal of the electrical machinery, rewiring, re-design of the entry door, laying of new carpet and the repainting of the interior. Later a mezzanine level was installed to provide an office area. The Newstead House Resource Centre officially opened in the former tramways substation on the 29th of September 1978. In August 1987 the Queensland Government proposed that Newstead House and Park be absorbed by the Queensland Museum citing the advantages of placing the house and surrounding land under common control. This proved to be a controversial proposal which never eventuated, although its administration was ultimately transferred from the Arts portfolio to that of the Department of Environment and Heritage in 1990. Newstead Park was managed by Harry Oakman, the new BCC Superintendent of Parks, from 1945. One of his first tasks was rejuvenating the many parks occupied by the military during the war years. He re-designed Newstead Park along Breakfast Creek following the realignment of the road for the 1959 construction of a new bridge. He designed and planted shrubberies on either side of the main drive, and filled in gaps in the line of palms with new palms of the same species as those flanking the Moore pathways. A number of structures and features have been added to the park over the years. A brick tool shed was built behind the substation in 1939. The American Memorial, a Helidon sandstone pillar (10.6m high) with an American eagle on top, was carved by sculptor Tom Farrell, of PJ Lowther and Sons. It was unveiled on the 3rd of May 1952 by Governor Sir John Lavarack, marking the 10th anniversary of the American-Australian naval and air victory in the Coral Sea Battle. The early band rotunda and World War I cannon were removed to allow for the new memorial. This was the first American war memorial in Australia. The second, similar in design, was opened in February 1954 by the Queen, in Kings Avenue Canberra. Another significant inclusion is the sandstone mounted tide gauge donated by the British India Steam Navigation Company to celebrate Queensland's Centenary in 1959. The stone housing was built by PJ Lowther and Son and the project unveiled in August 1961. A flagpole was donated to the Historical Society in August 1956 and it was erected near to the house in September, although taken down and reinstated during the renovations of the late 1960s. It flies a replica of the Queensland Ensign which was first unfurled to honour the arrival of Governor Bowen in 1859. On the house wall outside the main bedroom is a plaque honouring Captain John Clements Wickham, donated by his grandson in 1933. Near the American Memorial, is Lyndon B Johnson Place, unveiled during the American President's visit in 1966. A sundial was installed to the west of the front entry to the house, commemorating the generosity of the Rotary Club of Newstead in providing floodlighting to the river side of the house. It was relocated from a park in Holland Park to Newstead in 1977. A memorial to the Australian Navy Corvettes was established in 1988, near Lyndon B Johnson Place. On the eastern side of the property, near to the site of the former Newstead Wharves, is the Oxley Memorial, constructed in 1983. There is a Service to Vietnam memorial, a Submariner's memorial, the Prisoners from Rakuyo Memorial and a memorial to Charles Willers, the founder of the first Rostrum Club. The park also contains a number of mature trees planted in honour of various people with links to the historical societies. Newstead Park and its facilities continue to be managed by Brisbane City Council. The lawn and carriageway providing access to the house was re-designed in 1987, initially paved in decomposed granite. The Friends funded paving to this area in 1987, due to damage to the floors from granite stones caught in visitor's shoes. A gazebo was built in 1984 near the site of the original band rotunda. A drinking fountain was donated in 1985 by the Brisbane Lord Mayor Sallyanne Atkinson, who also organised for the relocation of a pissoir from Merthyr Road, New Farm, to a site between the house and the substation in 1987. In 2006, the Friends of Newstead employed a conservation architect to refurbish the main bedroom of Newstead House. During the site works, the removal of non-significant elements such as the 1970s wallpaper and picture rail revealed: the outline of the 1865 wall that once divided the space into two rooms; fragments of early wallpaper; and the early ceiling which was sheeted over circa 1940. The evidence gathered as part of the investigation informed the re-decoration of the room. The ceiling and rose were painted to approximate early colours found and the walls were papered from skirting to cornice with commercially available wallpaper similar to the original. Equitable access to the house was provided in 2013 with the installation of a disabled parking bay, and a lift and accessible toilets within the Annex, thereby ensuring the continued enjoyment of Newstead House by all Queenslanders. The property is valued for its historic significance as well as being a site for ritual events and celebrations, such as weddings. The house has appeared in numerous tourism promotions, travel guides, and television programs over the decades, indicating its landmark status in Brisbane. Source: Queensland Heritage Register.

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