Paul Budde's History Archives

The Convict compound

3The site selected for the Convict Barracks was on a small 16 meter high spur, walking through Queen Street you can still recognise this at the intersection with Albert Street. The spur run roughly from the current Roma Street to Creek Street. The planning of the early settlement had of course also taken the creek as a water supply into account.

The barracks were constructed under the regime of Captain Logan between 1827 and 1830 to eventually accommodate up to 1000 convicts. This became the largest stone building in the settlement. The barracks were situated with the frontage along present-day Queen Street, on the block surrounded by Albert Street, Burnett Lane and George Street. The barracks consisted of a multi-storey stone building with a central archway and a large walled yard to the rear.


Convict Barracks approx 1830

Based on the compound plan Logan oversaw the construction of all the main buildings. State Archives of Queensland.

The dominant archway of the Prisoners Barracks extended approximately 10 metres through the building from the Queen Street frontage opening into the large walled lumber yard.

In the context of British convict settlement lumberyards were working areas that were provided as a part of serving convict sentences, to facilitate lumber (timber) and product production and to provide convicts with skills training. The yard was the site of Moreton Bay’s first public execution in 1830.

Within the archway itself, strategically situated for all incoming and existing convicts to see, was the flogging triangle. Records indicate that in the period between February and October 1828 alone, over 11,000 lashes were inflicted on 200 convicts; this included 128 sentences of 50 or more lashes. The average in New South Wales was 41 lashes per sentence. The overall death rate during the convict era was around 10%.

Several smaller workshop and store rooms – carpentry, tailoring, shoe and uniforms, blacksmiths, wheelwrights – were situated in the yard on the far side of what would become Burnett Lane.

In the tower gallery, above the archway a chapel had been constructed.

Quite ironically, from 1860 to 1868 the barracks were used as the courthouse as well as for Queensland’s first Parliament. The barracks were demolished in 1880 and the vacant land was divided in 15 lots. Commercial redevelopment of the area started in 1881 and included the buildings along Queen Street backing onto Burnett Lane, many of which are still extant (Manwaring Building, Gardams Building, Hardy Brothers Building, Edwards and Chapman Building, Colonial Mutual Chambers, Palings Building, Allan and Stark Building).

Buildings replacing the Convict Barracks

The current buildings that replaced the Convict Barracks

Apartments connected to the barracks

Beside the Prisoners’ Barracks, along the Queen Street alignment using the spur towards the river, a row of single-story brick buildings was erected, well before the barracks were completed. The functions of the six apartments of these buildings changed over time including use as the Commissariat Officer’s residence, school room, guard house, Superintendent of Convicts’ residence, goal room, solitary cells, married soldiers’ residences, and a military school.

One of these buildings became the first post office and the solitary cells became the goal of the new settlement.

Post office in former Convict Apartments - approx. 1864

Post office in former Convict Apartments – approx. 1864

Convict school

There was no dedicated school building in the convict settlement. Hence the use of these apartments.  Mrs. Esther Roberts was the settlement’s first schoolteacher, most likely the wife of one of the military staff. The grave of her 2 month old baby was one of the few graves that were transferred from the old settlement’s cemetery to the new cemetery in Toowong.

Commander Logan had ruled that all children under the age of 16 had to attend school. Both the children of convicts and the military went to the same school. In 1826 there were 16 students attending school.

In 1829 a soldier, Robert Maginnes was mentioned by the Rev John Vincent as well qualified teacher. At that time there were 32 boys and girls, of which 6 were children of convicts. The Reverend mentioned that the school room was very inadequate and far to small for the hot climate. He also objected to the fact that it was close to the wharf were convicts were working. Indicating that the school now was no longer in one of the apartments in the Convict Compound but in one of the houses in the Commander’s quarter.

Prison history following the convict era

It is rather ironic that the first new  large scale building of the free settlement again was a new goal. It was built on Green Hills (Petrie Terrace) and the building of it was started in 1858. There were two main cell blocks, each one being three stories high and separated into two sections to make a total of four wings. Each wing contained 72 cells arranged back-to-back, and the cells opened onto external balconies with iron railings and external staircases. It separately housed both males and females.

Soon after it opened it became more and more crowded. About 30 prisoners were transferred to an old hulk, called the Proserpine, anchored near the mouth of the Brisbane River. In 1866, as part of their labours, the prisoners were ferried up and down to St Helena Island, 4 kilometres outside the mouth of the river. They build a new quarantine station on the island. The need for a new prison was more urgent, the quarantine station was scrapped and in 1867 the island was declared ‘a place whereat offenders under order or sentence of hard labour or penal servitude may be detained’.

In 1863, land off Boggo Road was set aside as a government reserve and was finally proclaimed a goal reserve in 1880.


The hospitals

The building of Brisbane TOC

Convict History of Brisbane TOC