The Military Compound

Going from the Convict Barrack in Queen Street towards the corner with George street.

The Old Barracks

A site, 300 yards away from the convict barracks,  had been reserved, as instructed by Governor Brisbane for  the military barracks. The first ones being constructed in 1825 as two slab huts. They were for the sergeant, the corporal and 12 privates Separate huts were build for the married couples. They stood on the corner of what is now Queen Street and North Quay, the site of the present Brisbane Square. However, it rapidly became clear that they were not sufficient for the new troops that arrived with Captain Bishop in August 1825.  A few temporarily wings was added to the existing structure. Over the next few years a few more permanent buildings were erected here as well. After the closer of the penal settlement one of the building was used as a church and another one became a carpenter’s shop.

However the Old Barracks were insufficient and the initial plan for the New Barracks was to use the hospital that was being built in 1827 and built a new hospital elsewhere. Commander Logan in 1829 repeated the plan to use the hospital next door for the New Barracks. However, the final decision was to built new barracks opposite the old one.

During the Commandership of Logan, Lieutenant Bell was in charge the military company. At that time he was seen by the convicts  as one of the more humane persons at the settlement.

During the early period of the free settlement one of the stone building was used as a school and another one as a carpenter’s shop.

2nd Lumberyard

In 1831 , when the New Barracks were built, the old site became the second lumber yard, the other one being where the current Queens Garden are situated.

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.

The New Barracks

It was not until 1831 that new barracks were build on the other side of Queen Street where now the Treasury Building (Casino) is situated. It could accommodate up to 100 soldiers. Furthermore they build a guardhouse and a house for two subaltern (junior) officers.

After the end of the the penal colony, the barracks were also used to house the first immigrants that arrived in 1848 on the barque Artemisia.

By the 1860s the barracks had deteriorated to such an extent that they were described in the local press as “wretched and dilapidated hovels… repugnant and harrowing and an abominable shed”. 

The 12th (East Suffolk) Regiment of Foot vacated the barracks  in 1864, when the Green Hill Barracks were built. This wasn’t appreciated by the town folk. The emerging township heavily depended on the military for law and order and moving them outside the settlement would make the town less safe. The soldiers  were also needed in fire fighting. There had been several serious fires in these years. The many timber building were a serious fire hazard especially when there was no fire fighting service set up in the town.

The existing buildings were renovated (?) and occupied by the Registrar-General, Treasury and Engineer of Harbours.  In 1874 a single-storey building for the Registrar-General replaced the barracks anticipating a government redevelopment of what had become known as Treasury Square.

Green Hills Barracks

Next the the goal which was erected in 1858, a site on western edge of the ‘Green Hills’  was selected for the construction of the new ‘Green Hills Barracks’ for the British Imperial garrison based on specifications from the British War Office in London. The new barracks consisted of a guard room, a barracks block and officer’s quarters.

The barracks expanded in subsequent years to include a military hospital, a commanding officer’s residence and a magazine, however, after the British soldiers went back to Britain in 1869  the barracks rapidly lost their military function. In 1875 it became the police barracks and the military hosp[ital was turned into Lunatic Reception House.

Once Australia started the build up their own military force the barracks, in 1885, were re-occupied by the army and received the name Victoria Barracks. It now became the headquarters of the Queensland Defence Force. It was mainly used as an administrative base, the majority of the soldiers being recruited on a part-time basis. A new guardhouse was built at the entrance of Blackall Street on Petrie Tce. The old guard house was converted to sergeants’ quarters, building material for the renovation came from the cell blocks of the old goal which was now being demolished.


After Federation in 1901 control of the site went to the newly formed Australian Army. It is still an operating military base in the 2020s.

For more on the military history in the early days of the Colony click here.

Victoria Barracks 2019
Victoria Barracks 2019

The Commander’s Compound

The building of Brisbane TOC

Convict History of Brisbane TOC