The history of the Coronation Drive Office Park - Part 2
The edge of town
By Angus Veitch
Despite Oxley’s enthusiasm for a site along the Milton Reach, the Moreton Bay Penal Settlement was ultimately established in 1825 on the peninsular where the central business district is today. This notoriously brutal outpost operated until 1839, during which time no free settlement was permitted except for a station established in 1838 by German Lutheran missionaries in the area now known as Nundah. I have found no records about the Coronation Drive Office Park (CDOP) site during the penal colony years, but it is hard not to imagine that the area received some visitation from Europeans in this time, if only by escaped convicts or adventurous officials.
After the prisoners had left, the surveyors moved in and started to prepare Moreton Bay for free settlement. The first land sales happened in 1842, with land being offered at Fortitude Valley, South Brisbane and Kangaroo Point. But while Brisbane grew in the 1840s, the CDOP site remained unowned and unoccupied (at least by Europeans). It was at the very edge of what Henry Wade’s 1844 map called the ‘Environs of Brisbane’. The area to the west of Boundary Creek on Wade’s map was empty, save for the comment, ‘Surveyed by H. Wade but not plotted’.
In 1850, the Milton Reach between Boundary Creek and Western Creek was surveyed and plotted by James Warner. His plan established the boundaries of the modern CDOP site. Roads (or at least allowances for roads) corresponding with Cribb Street, Milton Road and Boomerang Street were all marked. The River Road (which we now call Coronation Drive) was indicated by only a dotted line. Within the perimeter of these four roads the land was divided into seven irregular portions. Protruding into the site from the middle of Cribb Street was a small road that aligns with Little Cribb Street.
The city limits
The reason for the irregular portions and the foreshortened road on Warner’s plan was the creek that meandered through the CDOP site. This creek was known by the early 1860s (if not earlier) as Boundary Creek, as it marked the natural western limit of the town of Brisbane. It was also part of the boundary separating the Parish of North Brisbane from the Parish of Enoggera.
In 1856 the creek became part of the official town boundary. The original limit of the town aligned with Eagle Terrace at North Quay and continued across the river along Boundary Street in South Brisbane. The boundary was moved in August 1856 so that it ran along the eastern edge of the CDOP site. This road had no name at the time, but it subsequently became known as Boundary Street until it was renamed Boomerang Street in 1904. The town boundary then followed the creek for a short distance to the river. The revised boundary is drawn in red on the map shown on the right, which dates from 1858.
The first landholders
The seven land portions comprising the CDOP site were sold by the Crown in August 1851. The names of the buyers, as reported in the Moreton Bay Courier, were the same as those on the maps of the 1850s except for George Edmonstone, who sold his allotment to D.R. Somerset sometime prior to August 1856.(1)
Among these names are some eminent figures in Brisbane’s history. Three of them — George Edmonstone, Patrick Mayne and Robert Cribb — were members of Brisbane’s first City Council, and one (Edmonstone) had a stint as mayor. Less is known about the other owners. Daniel Raintree Somerset was a public servant, appointed as Queensland’s Chief Clerk and Shipping Master in 1859 and later as the Registrar for Pensions.(2) John Bryden was a carpenter and a close acquaintance of John Petrie, who was Brisbane’s first mayor and also a skilled builder. William John Clarke was either Australia’s richest man and biggest landowner or a more modest Brisbane resident who shared his name.(3)
Regardless of their wealth or standing, all of the first landowners appear to have shared one thing in common: none of them ever lived at the CDOP site. They bought the land as an investment, hoping either to sell it again at a higher price or to make money by farming it. Mayne used his land at the site to graze cattle which ended up in his butcher shop in Queen Street. Next to Mayne’s paddock was another farm, the name of which was synonymous with the area for several years.
In August 1854 John Bryden advertised that he was selling his land at the CDOP site by public auction. His advertisement referred to the land as ‘a portion of the cleared ground at the Parson’s Farm’.(4) This locality name made few appearances in the Moreton Bay Courier, but was used in electoral lists in the mid-1850s (5) and even popped up again in 1868 in a letter to the Queenslander reflecting on the decline of dairies around inner Brisbane.
The Parson’s Farm was probably on the land originally owned by W.J. Clarke. Its namesake was George Parsons, whose only appearance in the newspaper other than in electoral lists was as part of an inquest to an apparent drowning on Mayne’s property.(6)
Early one morning in February 1858, Jacob Schelling, a mentally troubled German man who had been tending to Mayne’s cattle for nearly three years, was found dead in a waterhole in Mayne’s paddock. John Buckley, another of Mayne’s labourers, was the first at the scene:
I went to the hut and asked for Jacob but he was not at the hut. I went to the waterhole and found his shoes near it. I went to the creek, thinking he might he there; but he was not there. I came and told Mr. Mayne, and he came out to the paddock.
Mayne’s testimony describes the grisly discovery, and also identifies Parsons as the owner of the adjoining land:
The water-hole was in my paddock, about 150 yards from the box where [Jacob] used to sleep. I went out to the paddock and I called on Parsons whose ground adjoins it, and went with him to the water-hole. We took a long pole. Parsons brought up the deceased’s trowsers first with it. He had been washing them. He next brought up the body ... The body was in about 6 feet water. I think he must have been dipping the trowsers and have fallen in.
George Parsons begun his own testimony by stating, ‘I am a farmer. My land adjoins Mr. Mayne’s paddock’. Little else is known about George Parsons, but he has the honour of being the first person whose name became attached to the CDOP site.
A poor man’s earthly paradise
The advertisement for Bryden’s auction in 1854 provides what is probably the earliest surviving detailed description of the CDOP site. The land was offered in 18 allotments:
... laid out in convenient dimensions to enable the humblest working man to possess himself of a HOME, and upon terms so easy that the laying by a few shillings per week from his present remunerative earnings will enable him to become comparatively independent, and free from the payment of high rents in future.
The beautiful situation and magnificent scenery in the neighbourhood of the proposed Village of Milton, must soon conduce to its becoming a thriving and populous suburban retreat for the sons of toil when their day of labour is o’er. Numbers already daily frequent its shady and picturesque walks, leading by the gentle and wealth bearing river Brisbane, access to which is easy, by a Government road, one chain wide, contiguous to the property.
The land offered for sale is all cleared, and a very small amount of labour would convert every lot into a blooming garden; in fact, a poor man’s earthly Paradise, every way worthy of the immortal Milton.
The surrounding ridges offer every facility for procuring abundance of building and fencing materials, also abundance of good stone, brick earth, and pure fresh water, with plenty of pasture for the milch cows, so essential to domestic comfort.(7)
Perhaps Brisbane’s sons of toil could not afford the prices Bryden was hoping for, because the sale in August 1854 apparently did not go ahead. Bryden was advertising the same land for sale by private contract in February the following year, this time as one block rather than as subdivisions. The advertisement read:
A most desirable piece of LAND containing about 4 acres and 11 perches, be the same more or less, situated at the western extremity of Northern Brisbane, and generally known as the Parson’s Farm.
The above is admirably suited for market gardens, or Town Allotments, lies convenient to the river, and is well equipped with fresh water, and bounded on three sides by the Government Road. For further particulars, apply to the owner.
Queen Street, North Brisbane, Feb. 16, 1855.(8)
I don’t know whether Bryden found a buyer on this occasion, and I found no mention of his land in Trove until the Milton Distillery was built there in 1870 (see part 6). But even though Bryden’s vision of a poor man’s paradise was never realised, others would soon start calling the CDOP site home.
- Somerset is mentioned as the owner of the lot fronting Boundary Street in the proclamation of the revised town boundary in 1856. Although Warner’s plan dates from 1850, many of the names and other markings on it are later annotations.
- Somerset’s appointment as shipping master was reported in the Moreton Bay Courier on 27 December 1869. His position as registrar for pensions is mentioned in passing in this article about St John’s Wood.
- See the full report for more information about these landowners.
- The Moreton Bay Courier, 26 August 1854.
- For example, this list of July 1854
- In The Mayne Inheritance, Rosamond Siemon speculates that Schelling may have been murdered by Mayne, citing the coroner’s opinion that the body did not present the typical signs of death by drowning.
- The Moreton Bay Courier, 26 August 1854.
- The Moreton Bay Courier, 17 February 1855.