Friday, June 12, 2009

Convict windmill

Brisbane was originally established as a convict settlement in 1824. The initial site was at Redcliffe, but the settlement was moved up the Brisbane River to North Quay a year later. The oldest construction left from those early days is the convict-built windmill on Wickham Terrace, Spring Hill, which was constructed in 1828 to provide flour for the settlers. As well as being powered by wind, the mill evidently had a secondary function as a punishment for convicts, who could be forced to grind the grain using a treadmill. For some reason, the mill was not entirely successful, and the building was converted to an observation station and signal station for ships in the port below. The following image, from a Shell postcard dated around 1905, shows the tower after the windmill sails were removed, and the associated flagpole that was used for relaying the signals, sent by telegraph from Fort Lytton, to the port of Brisbane.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #4831-0001-0002)

The old mill has long been a heritage item - the government tried to sell it in 1849, but was forced to abandon those plans by the weight of public opinion. In 1987, the Brisbane City Council, assisted by a group of architects, embarked on a restoration program. An account of that process, written by Brisbane conservation architect Peter Marquis-Kyle, can be found here.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

In my recent photograph, above, the Old Windmill can be seen after its restoration, which included the flagpole too. The spherical object above the observation platform is the time ball that was dropped daily at 1 pm (for a period of years, it was also accompanied by the firing of a cannon) to announce the time of day to the colony.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Generous benefactors

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