Newstead Hosue is Brisbane’s oldest surviving residence, now part of the living history of Brisbane city, operating as a house museum for you to enjoy. The perfect venue for a afternoon learning about and appreciating Gin.
HISTORY - After the Moreton Bay Penal Settlement closed and land was subdivided and offered for sale, brothers-in-law Patrick Leslie and Captain John Clements Wickham purchased adjoining allotments on the riverbank overlooking Bulimba in April 1845. Leslie also purchased an adjoining lot to the west along Breakfast Creek. Patrick Leslie was intent on establishing a small farm on his property on the Brisbane River which he named Newstead. He set about building a small two storey house, which was cut into the hill on the western side, but giving the appearance of a single storey house from the river. Then sold Newstead to Captain JC Wickham. Wickham was Police Magistrate at the time and was living in the former Commandant’s Cottage in George Street. The Wickhams then extended the home.
Anna Wickham died in June 1852, and another sister, Emma Chester Master and her husband Francis, moved to Newstead to assist the Wickham family. In April 1853, Captain Wickham was appointed Government Resident, and Newstead House then became the unofficial Government House. It hosted the Governor General, Sir Charles Fitz Roy on his 1854 official visit to the colony where separation from New South Wales was high on the agenda.
While Wickham had been an advocate for separation, the actual event led to the abolition of his position. The Letters Patent for the new Colony of Queensland were signed by Queen Victoria on 6 June 1859, and the new governor, Sir George Ferguson Bowen arrived on 10 December. Wickham was denied a government pension, and he and his new wife Ellen left Queensland for England in January 1860.
Newstead House was briefly occupied by the Attorney General before being offered for sale in September 1862. George and Jane Harris moved into the house in December 1862. George was a successful merchant with a store at North Quay and a fleet of ships. He was a Member of the Queensland Legislative Council and his wife Jane was the daughter of George Thorn, MLA and businessman of Ipswich. Her brother was later Premier of Queensland. The Harrises later purchased Newstead, although it was legally entwined in the estate of Captain Wickham who had died in 1864.
Harris employed architect George Cowlishaw to plan repairs and additions to the house beginning in 1865 incorporating a major redesign by 1867 resulting in the elite residence we have today. The Harris family lived a lavish lifestyle at Newstead, although selling and leasing it again by 1876 when Harris became insolvent. James Taylor of Toowoomba was the new owner. Harris’s elder daughter Edith married James Taylor’s son Condamine in 1883 and another daughter Evelyn married R G Casey, manager of George Thorn’s former property, Normanby Station. Their son RG Casey became Governor General in 1965.
James Taylor subdivided housing allotments around Newstead House in 1878, and further subdivisions occurred in 1888 and 1890. The Harrises left in April 1890 after 28 years, and George died the following year.
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 Brisbane City Council began negotiating with the owner in 1915, Mrs Heaslop to purchase the property, which was formalised in 1918.
The new Superintendent of Parks, Harry Moore and his family moved into Newstead House in 1917.Moore’s appointment occurred during the time of the nascent town planning movement in Australia, which advocated the inclusion of parklands into urban design. He redesigned the grounds and Newstead Park was officially opened In January 1921.
From May 1932, the Historical Society of Queensland occupied the house establishing a museum. In 1939 a trust was established for the management of the house. Through the support of the Governor, Lord Mayor and the Queensland Historical Society, Newstead was the first property in Queensland, and likely Australia, to be protected by an Act of Parliament – Newstead House Trust Act 1939.
From late 1942 through to the end of WWII, Newstead House was occupied by men from the Photographic Detachment of the 832ndSignal 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.