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Romantic Story of

Newstead House ? ?????.?;??'?: * Social Centre' in the Early Days V

Clem Lack

/\N the crest of beautiful ?Newstead Park stands the most historic house, in. Brisbane— Newstead, for many

years the home of Captain John Clements. Wickham, 'R. N., police magistrate and later Government Resident for the New South Wales .district of Moreton Bay from 1843 to 1 859. Until Separation Newstead was an unofficial Government House, at which Captain Wickham dis pensed a sort of vice-regal hos pitality. In after years when it became in turn the town house of Patrick Leslie, one of the pioneer squatters, and the residence of George Harris, a merchant prince of the fifties and sixties, it was the centre of the social life and gaiety of the period. To-day the picturesque old house ivears an air of changeless serenity, tt has remained practically unaltered by the passage of time, while all iround the primeval forest has disap peared— swallowed up in the besieging tides of urban settlement. Its broad verandas have looked down the river below, .and seen the trim sailing ships, their clouded sails furled against the tapering masts, dropping down past the Hamilton, then clothed in virginal scrub and forest— in the wake of the little paddle-wheeled tugs. It has seen the coming of luxurious liners and the going of rusty-sided tramps laden with wool for the ports of the Old World. While the face of ? the world was changed it was preserved in a time less, mellowed beauty, and around and about it these many years the pageant of the seasons has decked park and garden with flaming guidons of poin settia and garlands of wind-tossed roses. Home For A Bride The actual date of the erection of Newstead House is not known, but it must have been built very shortly after the arrival of Captain Wickham in 1843. Captain Wickham was appointed police magistrate for the district of Moreton Bav on November 14, 1842, at a salary of £300. He arrived in Bris bane by the steamer Shamrock in Jan uary, 1843, accompanied by his wife, who was the second daughter of Han nibal Hawkins Macarthur, eldest son of James Macarthur, of Stoke, Dame rcl, Devon, and elder brother of Cap tain John Macarthur, a name famous in the pastoral annals of Australia. Captain Wickham had retired from the sea a short time prior to his ap pointment, and his- marriage tookplace

in Parramatta only a. month or two before he and liis wife came to More ton Bay. They occupied the former quarters of the Commandant In Wil liam Street until Newstead was built. In his search for a suitable spot for his residence Captain Wickham visited Breakfast Creek, and was en chanted by the wild beauty of the headland formed by the junction of river and creek. On the crest of the hill he caused to be built a home for his bride from the native stone of Brisbane. He furnished it in a style of lavish comfort, and it was here that his son was born, and passed the first 18 years of his life in Brisbane before going to England to study for the Army. In 1933 a grandson of Captain Wick ham's, Lieut.-Colonel John Clements Wickham, of the Indian Army, paid a visit to Brisbane, specially to see his grandfather's home and the birth place of his father. While in Bris bane, Lieut.-Colonel Wickham pre sented to the Historical Society a brass tablet recording the residency of Cap tain Wickham, and this tablet, which is affixed to the wall of the house, was unveiled by the Governor. Sir Leslie Wilson, on September 23, 1933. Newstead House, on the authority of Nehemiah Bartley, was 'built on the lines of the original house at Canning Downs. ' The remains of cellars below the house are still to be seen. The or iginal structure was composed of stone, but the walls are of plaster-faced brick, and in recent . years the City Council has replaced the old roof with tiles. The veranda, which runs the entire length of the long, low front of the building, is almost level with the ground in front. There are ten rooms at Newstead. Portion of the house is the residence of Mr. W. Moore, the parks superin tendent, and the remainder is the headquarters of the Historical Society. The fittings in the rooms are all of cedar, and some of the mantelpieces are of marble. Days That Are No More In this romantic old mansion of Col onial days, Captain Wickham enter tained the social elite of early Bris bane in royal fashion. Many a night, when the lamp of the summer moon bathed the river in a golden radiance, and a myriad crickets chirped in the thickets near-by, the great house echoed to the merry scraping of vio lins and the tap of dancing feet on the polished floors. Under the soft glow of the chandeliers, beauty and gallantry met in the (jay rendezvous of cotillon and quadrille . . . fair maids sweeping by with a frou-frou of volu minous skirts on the arms of their partners . . . dashing officers of thegar rison of Brisbane Town, or young squat ters from the Darling Downs enjoying.

a week-end among the civilised ameni ties of the 'settlement,' before return ing to the lonely life of the stations. But now the footfalls of the visitor echo strangely on the silent and de serted veranda. Except on occasional visits by members of the Historical So ciety the wide Venetian doors remain closed, as if forever shutting the Past from the Present. There is an all pervading stillness, broken only by the sighing susurrus of the wind in the trees. 'Ah, sad and tttange as in dark summer dawns, The earliest pipe of half-awahentd birds, To listening ears, when unto watching eyes, The casement slowly shows a glim mering square, So tad, so strange, the days that are no mart.' Snake In Vice-Regal Bed 'Captain Wickham gave Rood din ners and balls,' says Bartley, 'and his household menage was methodical, and a caution to vermin. All stores were kept in zinc-lined bins — peas, flour, sugar, &c, and no rat ever got a feed or a footing there for a mo ment. Snakes were summarily dealt with by well-aimed jugs of scalding water— an infallible remedy— and snakes and rats were onos far too plen tiful at Newstead.' Snakes must indeed have been too Dlentiful for comfort, for it is re corded that Sir Charles Fitzroy stayed at Newstead on a visit, and the inevit able black snake was found between the sheets of his bed. At the back of Newstead House stands a magnificent Johnstone River fig tree. Its wide-spreading branches carry such an expanse of foliage that it makes an ideal parking site for motor cars. Even in Captain Wick ham's time it must have been of con siderable dimensions, for his coach man, Lane, used to wash his master's gig under its branches. This gig was said to be the first privately owned vehicle of its kind in Brisbane. In his daily rides on horseback to and from the settlement the Govern ment Resident established a beaten track along the route now traversed by Wickham Street. Thus. Wickham's track of the early 'fifties has be come Wickham Street. The district was called by the aborigines 'Burudabin,' meaning 'a place of oaks,' and thus is derived our modern Booroodabln. In the 'fifties there was a rickety wooden bridge over Breakfast Creek. Bartley says that it fell into the water in 1856, and was replaced by 'a wretched punt.' Another bridge was built in 1858. The punt only carried passengers, and , vehicular traffic and horsemen desiring toi go to Eagle Farm

had to cross at a ford at Kelvin Grove, or the Three Mile Scrub, as it was called. ' Captain Wickham's Career Mrs. Wickham died in 1852, and In 1857 Captain Wickham married a second time. In 1853 he became Gov ernment Resident, and his salary was raised irc:.i £300 to £600. Two years later it was increased to £700. With tiie advent of Separation in 1859, how ever, Uie office of Re3id3.1t was abol !.--i:ed, and Captain Wic'sham, after 47 years of service to his country, 1G years of which had bv::n spent in Moreton Bay, was retired. He re turned to England on the Duncan Dunbar in .1860, and on June 7 of that year wrote from Isleworth asking foi compensation, which was refused. He died suddenly in Biarritz (South France), of apoplexy, on January 6, 1864, and was buried at St. Jtan de Luz. In addition to Wickham Street, Wickham Terrace, Wickham River, in the Northern Territory, and Cape Wickham on King Island preserve the memory of this grand old man of early Colonial days. He had led a varied and active life. As commandei of H.MJ5. Beagle he performed mag nificent work in surveying and chart ing the coast of. Australia, as well as of South America. The Beagle is one of the most famous of all the early naval survey sloops, and with her name Is perpetually associated that pt Charles Darwin, who recorded his cir cumnavigation of the globe in his earliest and most readable book. 'The Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle.' Captain Wickham was commander of the ves sel during Darwin's voyage, and it was he who named Darwin, in the Northern Territory, in honour of the scientist. Captain Wickham's survey work on the north-west coast of Australia re suited in a great increase in the know ledge of this part of the Continent, but his health failed, and he was forced to hand over his survey work to his first lieutenant, Stokes, who fin ished the survey. In his book, 'Discov- eries in Australia,' published in 1846, there is a valuable record of the sur vey work accomplished. Centre of Hospitality After Captain Wickham's departure from Brisbane, Newstead became the town house of Patrick Leslie, one of the pioneers of the Darling Downs Then it passed into the hands of George Harris, a leading Brisbane mer chant. Under his regime Newsteaa Increased its fame as a centie of hos pitality and good cheer. The social life of the time was full of gaiety, in spite of the fact that there were no profes sional musicians or orchestras in the Brisbane of the fifties. At a ball given in 1856 by the bachelors of Brisbane, among whom were Messrs. Albrecht Feez, Nehemiah Bartley, Thos. Jones J. J. Galloway, John Little, and J. C. HeU6sler, a little difficulty had to be surmounted. All the ladies and their beaux were waiting to dance the open ing quadrille, but nobody could be found to play the music. Fortunately for the success of the ball, Sylvester Dlggles, artist, musician, and expert in birds, reptiles, and insects, was in Brisbane, and he was prevailed upon by Hartley to fill the breach. The ball broke up at 5 a.m. In March, 1854, Brisbane was visited by Sir Charles Fitzroy, Governor oi New South Wales. A banquet was ten dered in his honour on April 7 in ths stone baracks, which afterwards served as the Queensland Treasury. Strenu ous, but unsuccessful, efforts Were made by the committee to secure some genuine champagne in the remote vil lage of Brisbane. Mr. Wilkes, editor 3f the 'Courier,' was at the feast, and sang his original song, 'The Merry Boys -of Brisbane,' to the air of Lou Son's. There were some graceful 'slow' ivaltzers in Brisbane in those days, □aptain Wickham being among the Lumber. Newstead House was acquired from the Harris family by Perry Bros., and just before Federation, it was pur chased from them by Mr. Lysaght, It was his intention to establish a foun dry on the property, but the plan was abandoned. The Newstead property once more changed hands, and facing Breakfast Creek a number of resi dences and shops were erected. These were demolished when the Brisbane City Council resumed the land and created Newstead Park, to-day one of the most delightful beauty spots of a city that is not over-rich in parks and gardens.

Newstead House as it is to-day.

Newstead House as it is to-day.

A panorama of Breakfast Creek and its environs in 1860, showing Newstead House in the grounds behind the flagstaff.

A panorama of Breakfast Creek and its environs in 1860, showing Newstead House in the grounds behind the flagstaff.