Brisbane’s earliest surviving home, Newstead House dates from 1846 when it was built as a simple single storey dwelling for pastoralist Patrick Leslie who had pioneered settlement in the Darling Downs region.
Leslie only lasted there a year, selling it in 1847 to his brother-in-law Captain John Wickham, one time officer of the Royal Navy and senior government official of Moreton Bay. During his time with the Navy he was part of the ship’s crew of HMS Beagle, the vessel that took Charles Darwin on the investigative trip whose outcome would rock the world of religion. Subsequently a faithful model of the ‘Beagle’ is on display at the house that Darwin himself has been a guest in.
It was during Wickham’s residency that the house was added to substantially, with extra rooms and a wraparound verandah, as well as becoming a social hub in its capacity as a kind of unofficial government house. Yet it was not to be a happy house – Wickham’s wife died in 1851 and he spent 6 years as a widower there before remarrying in 1857 with the expectation that he would be the first Governor of Queensland. When George Bowen was chosen instead, overcome with bitterness Wickham packed up and returned with his wife and family to England.
Various other owners and tenants followed, including the merchant George Harris and his wife Jane who resided there as both owners and tenants for 27 social years. In 1918 it was sold to the City of Brisbane Council, whereupon it became the residence of their first superintendent of parks and gardens, esteemed landscape gardener Henry (Harry) Moore. Henry was responsible for many of Brisbane’s public scapes that still define the city today, such as the first rock gardens (including those along River Terrace in Kangaroo Point) and the designs of both Newstead Park and New Farm Park.
In 1932, Queensland’s Royal Historical Society took over three rooms and by 1939 an act had been passed to ensure the preservation of the property.
As with the majority of Brisbane’s prominent historical properties, the house was occupied by American forces during World War II and afterwards was opened to the public as a historical museum.
Today, Newstead House is fully restored with period furniture, a resident ghost that allegedly turns the toes of the lady’s Victorian boots in the bed chambers inwards, and a small consortium of volunteers who themselves are living relics.
With views across Breakfast Creek towards Breakfast Creek Hotel, and all the way down towards Portside, the grounds of Newstead House are a very popular spot for picnics, with plenty of grass to spread out the picnic blanket and relax under the shade of the trees. There are also free-to-use barbecue facilities and picnic benches galore.
The grounds are also home to a number of popular outdoor events during the year, many of them family-friendly events.
Pedestrian access from the city is an easy stroll along the Newstead River Walk, or if you're heading from Hamilton and Portside, take to the Lores Bonney Riverwalk and enjoy the city views along the river.
Nice to know - Tours of Newstead House are on offer at differing times - check their website via the link below to see what's available.
199 Breakfast Creek Rd