Brisbane’s oldest lane dates from convict days when the block it cuts through on the Queens St side was the site of the Prisoner’s Cells and Barracks and the Superintendent of Convicts residence. When four cottages were built on the Adelaide St side the laneway was built for access to them.
The lane takes its name from Brisbane’s first surveyor James Burnett, who died at 39 and is now profiled on the rear wall of one of the Queen St buildings. Archaeologists have pinpointed the paved Burnett Lane as having been built over the Prisoner’s Barracks Yard, where the settlement’s first hanging occurred in 1830.
Shoppers strolling down the Queen St mall and window shopping where the Myer/Allan & Stark building stands today would have been treated to a very different sight had the year been 1828. Then there was a broad archway that extended about 10 metres through an open hallway in the centre of the three storey stone Queen St Prisoner’s Barracks and within it was a ‘flogging triangle’, so placed for all convicts new and old to see. In 1828 1100 lashes were meted out to 200 convicts, 128 of them taking the brunt with 50 or more of these whippings.
After the penal settlement closed the Queen St side housed the first Town Hall which was built there in 1864 and operated until the current City Hall was built. After the barracks and other convict buildings were demolished the late 19th century buildings which still front Queen St were constructed, including the Andrea Stombucco designed 1881 Allan & Stark Building which was later added to by Richard Gailey. Myer purchased it in 1970 along with the building fronting Adelaide St across Burnett Lane and during those retail years the lane was a hive of delivery truck activity.
Recently the laneway has received a $2.5m council makeover in a bid to create a pedestrian friendly laneway culture.