Original Convict Settlement Humpybong 1824-25

Updated: Nov 16

Queensland’s first penal colony was established on the Redcliffe peninsula in 1824 by a group of soldiers, convicts and government officials.

The Amity sailed into Moreton Bay on the 12th of September 1824, anchoring 1.2 km off the Redcliffe shore. Aboard the Amity were Oxley, Lieutenant Henry Miller – the newly appointed Commandant of Moreton Bay Settlement, 21 soldiers who brought their wives and families, and 29 convicts whose labour was required to build the new settlement (and who hoped through hard labour they would be gifted a Ticket of Leave).

A handful of men had been charged with finding a freshwater source upon landing at Red Cliff Point while the rest of the crew and passengers stayed on-board the Amity. After 2 days of searching, they returned triumphant having discovered Humpybong Creek lagoons.

Upon their arrival on the peninsula, the settlers spent the next 8 months constructing numerous buildings at Red Cliff Point – Oxley’s desired location, about 200 metres back from the water.

Amongst the structures were soldier barracks, a jail, the Commandant’s House, and other smaller buildings and houses.

The soldier barracks were located at the lower northern section of where John Street now exists. Uniformed, gun-carrying soldiers were hired to manage inmates instead of prison wardens during the early days of colonial settlement. Redcliffe history attests these men relied on harsh discipline to maintain order. To protect them (and their families) from retribution from disgruntled convicts their barracks was situated atMillers request, approx 400 yards away from the convict barracks.

9 of the 21 colonial soldiers brought their wives to start a new life in Redcliffe, 7 of these couples had children, while 2 wives were pregnant upon arrival, destined to give birth at the settlement.

As was common practice in these times, it is assumed the soldiers’ families lived with them in the barracks along with the other 12 unmarried soldiers. Housing them all together was a way for the military to save on costs.

The Commissariat Store acted as the procurement and distribution depot for all the colony’s food, seed, tools, timber, clothing and equipment. Due to its precious contents, the store was guarded day and night and its goods tracked by Commander Miller.

Later on, a more permanent store was constructed under the supervision of surgeon and storekeeper, Walter Scott. Upon relocation of the settlement to the banks of the Brisbane River, The Commissariat Store was dismantled and likely rebuilt in Brisbane, taking a little Redcliffe history with it.

Just north of what would eventually become Anzac Ave, is the location of the 5-room, pre-fabricated cottage residence of Lieutenant Henry Miller, Commander of the Moreton Bay Penal Settlement.

Despite his wife being heavily pregnant at the time, Miller brought his young family with him on his pioneering journey. Fortunately, fortune favoured the bold on this occasion – his wife made Redcliffe history, successfully giving birth to Charles Morton at the penal colony on 5th November. Charles was the third addition to the family, the newborn brother to Henry Junior and Mars Morphett.

As life became increasingly arduous by early 1825, a plan was formulated to relocate the settlement to Brisbane. The Commandant’s Cottage was dismantled and rebuilt at the new site which today is home to the William Street heritage-listed Government Printing Office constructed in 1874. The strikingly gothic building functioned as the state printery for 120 years.

In Corscadden Park is where the settlers discovered a rich source of good-quality clay, right along the banks of Humpybong Creek.

According to Redcliffe history, this is where Queensland’s very first bricks were produced.

Though the penal colony was short-lived, enough bricks were made within its 8 months of existence to construct a blacksmith’s forge and free-standing shop, pave the soldier barracks floors, construct a deep well and build a more efficient brick kiln.

Some of the bricks found their way to the new settlement site along the Brisbane River after Red Cliff Point was abandoned. These bricks were put to use in the relocated Commandant’s Cottage – used to construct its chimney and kitchen, while other bricks were incorporated into the chimneys of Redcliffe’s colonial-era homes.

In these early days of Australian colonisation, brick was preferred to stone as it was viewed as a prestigious building material.

Nearby the Humpybong Creek brickworks also existed a weir which was constructed to dam the creek.

The whipping post was located just north of what would become Anzac Ave and when it came to discipline, the whipping post was an integral feature of every colonial penal colony. Red Cliff Point’s whipping post stood 3 metres tall and existed at this site until 1932.

Many of the soldiers were 1815 Battle of Waterloo veterans and the convicts were from a wide range of ages and backgrounds.

Photos from the book The Pictorial History Of Redcliffe 1824-1949

Where the Ambassador Hotel now stands, is where the Convict Barracks is thought to have been erected by the prisoners themselves.

Quarrying stone was time-consuming so very thick timber slabs were used as a substitute. The prison cells were 2m tall, 3.3m wide and 5m long.

A brick floor, believed to have belonged to the original convict barracks kitchen, still exists as part of Ambassador Hotel’s flooring, with more Red Cliff Point colony bricks thought to have been used in the hotel’s construction.

Despite making good headway, the increasing scarcity of food and water put a stop to their peninsula settlement plans, prompting them to abandon the site and relocate the penal encampment along the Brisbane River (where the Brisbane CBD now exists).

Photos from the book The Pictorial History Of Redcliffe 1824-1949

An animated colourised lithograph from 1888 Picturesque Atlas Of Australia

In 1972 The Rev. Dr. J.G. Steele published a research article on the original convict settlement and it has some interesting info and maps. A free copy of the pdf can be downloaded at this link:

Download PDF • 5.01MB

and the paper is available to view below:

The artist's impression was produced in 2017 by Duane Hart using a 1924 aerial of the same location and digitally placing the trees and location of the original structures shown from the above location maps.

A video showing the artists impression of the 1824 Convict settlement:

Photos from the book The Pictorial History Of Redcliffe 1824-1949

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