Paul Budde's History Archives

The Commander’s Compound

On an approx. 12 meters high ridge-line that runs parallel with the river between William and George Street,  a line of buildings – as well as a lumberyard –  were erected.  Walking for example through Stephan’s Lane you can still see where this ridge is.

The Commandant Office, House and Garden

The row of early buildings on the eastern side facing William Street started with the Commander’s Cottage  (replaced in 1862 by the Government Printing Office). It had a separate kitchen wing and a prisoner’s hut. Water was pumped from the reservoir/tank to a well at the cottage.

According to earlier instructions from Governor Brisbane, materials used for the original building of the Commandant House in Red Cliff should have been reused for the building in Brisbane. However, as mentioned below they were perhaps instead used for the Engineer’s cottage.

Further along was the  Commandant’s Garden. This had been part of an attempt to establish some principles of behaviour at penal settlements throughout the Colony of New South Wales by the introduction of a Code of Regulations by Governor Ralph Darling which, amongst other things, entitled the Commandant to four acres of garden to be tended by up to three gardeners. In 1864 an Immigration Depot was built at the site, this building was later was occupied by the Department of Primary Industries Building (now known as National Trust House).


Commandants Residence approx 1830

Commandants Residence approx 1830


The Parsonage and chaplain’s garden

The Chaplain’s house, constructed in 1828, was situated halfway between the Commandant’s house and the Engineer’s cottage, in between William and George Streets (later replaced by Executive Building/Lands Administration Building/Casino). It was singled out in a report from Government Botanist Allan Cunningham that same year  (demolished in 1861) as an ‘excellent building’ and in 1829 even as a handsome brick house.

Parsonage - 1830

Parsonage – 1830

The settlements’s first chaplain the Reverend John Vincent, his large family and his servants arrived between March and May 1829 and were the first occupants. On the first two Sunday after his arrival he conducted a services in front of the Superintendent’s house  (basically in what is now Queen Street). It was attended by some 700 military and convicts. However, this was unsustainable in the Brisbane heat and from then on the service for the convicts were held in the large room above the archway in the convict barracks. The military were invited to a service in the hall of the parsonage.

Vincent was not happy in the settlements and was continuously at loggerheads with Commander Logan. This was an impossible relationship and Logan insisted the Vincent would be called back, He indeed left already before the end of the year.

In 1830 the parsonage was divided into two dwellings, and occupied by Assistant Surgeons and Commissariat Officers. Indicating perhaps that no new chaplain was send to the settlement.  Missionary Reverend J.Handt was appointed as a part-time chaplain in 1837.

The section of the present park along George Street was part of the chaplain’s garden from at least 1837 – if not earlier – when the Reverend Handt was given permission to use the gardens. It became known as Handt’s Garden. In 1848 the site was acquired by the Church of England. In 1850/51 a new  parsonage was constructed at the corner of William and Elizabeth Streets. Between 1850/54  St John’s Church was erected next to it along William Street.

Spot of original St John's Cathedral

Spot of original St John’s Cathedral in Queens Gardens


Lumberyard and Engineer’s Cottage

Coming from the military barracks (Brisbane Square) the first building in the row started where now the Queens Gardens are (corner of William and Elizabeth Streets).  This are was a lumberyard with the engineer’s weatherboard cottage in the corner. It appears to have been both the first house and the first sawn timber building to be erected in Brisbane Town.

It has been argued by the historian John Steele that this could have been the cottage that was meant to become the commander’s house as all other early buildings were build out of slabs. The ‘sawn timber’ could indicate that it was prefabricated in Sydney that arrived with Captain Miller in 1825 for erection in Red Cliff.  When they reallocated the convict settlement it was moved to the river site but perhaps this time not used for the Commander’s cottage.  By 1838 the lumber yard had been moved, and the cottage had been converted into offices.

The Commissariat Store from 1825

On the other side of the Commanders Compound near the corner of Elizabeth and Albert Streets the Commissariat Store was built in 1825. It was constructed as a long, low slab building.  The Superintendent of Agriculture lived in these quarters till 1829 when he moved to Eagle Farm.

When the new Commissariat Store was finished in 1829 the old slab building was used as a barn and slaughterhouse. There was a track running from the barn to the engineer cottage and from here to the wharf. It looks like that it was used later to create Elizabeth Street.


Most subsequent administrative buildings started to emerge in this area what started of as the Commandant’s Quarters. As Miller had foreseen many of these buildings were constructed from stone quarried at Kangaroo Point. This precinct is still recognisable with the situation of Parliament House, Treasury, Printing Office, former St John’s Church and the former State Library.


Commissariat and Kings Wharf

The building of Brisbane TOC

Convict History of Brisbane TOC