Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Old Bishopsbourne, Milton

Way back in 1862, a large block of land on Milton Rd was donated to the Anglican Church by a certain Emmeline Leslie. The site was earmarked for a See house - a See being the traditional name for the throne of a bishop. Brisbane's first Anglican Bishop was Edward Wyndham Tufnell who had arrived in the town in September 1860. Although Tufnell brought with him some funds and the promise of more, he found that the Anglican church here was in dire need of capital. He returned to England to raise money, and came back to Brisbane with further funds, including £3,000 that he intended to use to construct the bishop's residence on the land reserved for that purpose. The resultant structure was designed by Benjamin Backhouse, and came to be known as Bishopsbourne; it remained the home of successive bishops and archbishops until 1964. I have had a look inside the sandstone and porphyry building, and it is an opulent structure of rich cedar panelling (including some intricate sliding doors, original fittings, that can be completely hidden away); with a fireplace in almost every room. Here is a photograph of Bishopsbourne from 1870, also showing the original timber chapel that had been designed by RG Suter. It is followed by a recent photograph of Bishopsbourne.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #4325)

(Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

In 1912, it was decided to replace the chapel as it had fallen into disrepair, and Robin Dods was engaged to design a new stone chapel for the site. Photos of both the exterior and interior of the chapel follow. The last photo in the group shows a triptych by William Bustard that is on the chapel wall behind the altar. It was commissioned by Archbishop Wand in memory of his son Paul, who died in an accident in Switzerland. Paul's likeness is used as the face of a shepherd boy in the middle panel.

(Photos: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

In 1936 St Francis' Theological College, the Anglican training facility for clergy, transferred from Nundah to this site at Milton, requiring the construction of accommodation and classrooms. Then, in 1964, Archbishop Strong decided to move to a new residence at Hamilton, Eldernell. That property then became known as Bishopsbourne, and the former Milton bishop's residence became part of the St Francis' Theological College, and was referred to as Old Bishopsbourne. Here are some more old and new views of Old Bishopsbourne.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #190313)

(Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #190316)

(Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

Both Old Bishopsbourne and the chapel are now heritage listed buildings. They are hidden away from sight on busy Milton Rd, right behind the Fourex Brewery as you travel out from the city. I have to thank Stephen Clarke from St Francis' College administration area who gave me a personalised tour of the property, saying that Old Bishopsbourne belongs to Brisbane as much as it belongs to the Anglican Church. Hear, hear.

Click here for a Google Map.



  1. The original timber chapel and the rebuilt stone chapel were really lovely, but I wonder if the bishop and his family needed all that space for their own devotions. Perhaps they were joined by their staff? or some locals?

  2. I assume that they would have frequent visitors too.

  3. Is that what it looks like?! I have always wondered, and it is more beautiful than I had imagined. It's a shame it's so hidden behind the Fourex building.


  4. Wow its a very lovely building. Its a shame tho that they had bricked up two of the arches.

  5. This is great. I have always wondered what it looked like through there. Nearly crashed into the car infront craning my neck one time. It looks like a big block of land. It must be so surreal walking around in there knowing you are right slap bang off the middle of Milton Road.

  6. My Dad studied and lived at St Francis College in the 1950's. I had never seen inside the grounds yet it was a place I have heard so much of and so identify with my father. Thanks for the tour inside. cheers Katherine


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