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Original Convict Settlement Humpybong 1824-25

Updated: Oct 2, 2023

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 John 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 at Millers 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.

List Of Convicts at Moreton Bay:

Arrived 12th Sept. 1824, transferred to Brisbane May 1825 (8 months):

Henry Allen (34yrs) Warwick - Carpenter

John Anderson(29yrs)- Leeds -Tailor


Thomas Billington (27yrs) Wendover Bucks. - Baker

John Burns (Alias James Byrnes) (25yrs)- Liverpool - Shoemaker

Robert Butler (28yrs) Bristol - Carpenter

William Carter (37yrs) Essex - Stone Cutter

James Crow -(27yrs) Gloucester - Shingler

William Francic Jnr (36yrs) Dorset - Sawyer

William Grady - Middlesex - Wheelwright

William Green (30yrs) Hertfordshire - Bricklayer

George Gunnington or Gunningham (18yrs) Somerset - Stonemason

William Hartlin (22yrs) Middlesex - Cooper

James Hazell (24yrs) London - Plasterer

Charles Hubbard (23yrs)London - Apprentice

Robert Humphries (27yrs) Withington - Sawyer

Lewis Lazarus (23yrs) London - Tailor

Dominick Marley (41yrs)- Mayo Ireland - labourer

John McWade (41yrs) Monaghan Ireland - Seaman

Thomas Mills (23yrs)-Shields England - Seaman

John Pearce (23yrs) Surrey - Waterman

Thomas Price (19yrs)- Birmingham - Spoon Dresser

William Sanders (28yrs) Surrey - Seaman

Martin (Matthew) Sellers (26yrs) Wolverhampton - Brickmaker

James Turner (28yrs) Bristol - Sailor

Thomas Warwick (33yrs) Essex - Seaman

John Welsh (Cartwright) (26yrs) Redford - Sailor

Evan Williams (25yrs) London - Sawyer

John Williams (23yrs) Epsom - Blacksmith

James Winstanley (20-22yrs) Southwark Surrey - Cabinet Maker

Arrived 4th April 1825, transferred to Brisbane May 1825

William Butler - Gardener

James Goff - Brazier and Tinman

Robert Harvey (36yrs) Irish Constable

John Jones - Calico Weaver

Edward Mullin - Shoemaker

John Owens - Soldier

William Woods - Errand Boy

List Of Soldiers,Wives and Children at Moreton Bay:

(40th Foot Regiment) from 12th Sept 1824 to April 1825 (8 months):

Lieutenant Henry Miller (40yrs) Commandant-Londonderry Northern Ireland - Battle Of Waterloo veteran(1815) and Jane Miller (wife 37yrs)Henry Miller (14yrs) Mars Morphett(7) Charles Moreton (born 5th Nov 1824)

Color Sargeant John Norman - Battle Of Waterloo veteran(1815)

Corporal Robert Hay Thompson (31yrs) Bedford England

Mary Thompson (wife) John (6yrs) Amity Moreton (born 5th Nov 1824)

Private Robert Bull (24yrs) Shepton Mallet - Somerset and Margaret Bull (wife)

Private John Coles (34yrs) Battle Of Waterloo veteran(1815)

Private William Cox (24yrs) Bridport, Dorset and Hannah Cox (wife) Mary (born 1st March 1825)

Private Owen Gallagher (34yrs)

Private George Glover

Private Thomas Kellett

Private Pater McCauley (40yrs) Enniskillen, Fermanagh, Ireland and Mary McCauley (wife)

Private Edward Mahon

Private James Mahoney - Battle Of Waterloo veteran(1815) and Judith Mahoney (wife) Margaret(6yrs) Julie Anne (3yrs)

Private Felix O’Neill (died in the settlement 15th March 1825)

Private John Pascoe - Battle Of Waterloo veteran(1815) and Maria Pascoe(wife) Jane (4yrs)

Private Samuel Purnell (32yrs) Bristol, Somerset -Wounded in the Battle Of Waterloo (1815) and Sohia Purnell (wife) Elzabeth (6yrs) Nancy(5yrs) Sanuel (2yrs)

Private Thomas Rider (31yrs) Liverpool, Lancashire.

Private William Ryan (32yrs) Nenagh, Tipperary, Ireland

Private Henry Stanbury

Private James Stevens (27yrs) Hammersmith, Middlesex.

Private Humphrey Sullivan and Mary Sullivan (wife)

Private James Warren (29yrs) Conright, Bridgewater, Somerset.Battle Of Waterloo veteran(1815) and Mary Warren (wife)

PrivateSamuel Davis (41yrs) Downing, Gloucestershire.r - Battle Of Waterloo veteran(1815)

Civilian Surgeon/Storekeeper:

Walter Scott (37yrs) Scotland

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).

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:



"Although Redcliffe—the site of the first white occupation in Queensland —was a convict settlement for only a few weeks in the latter part of 1824, there are several relics of the severe penal days in the possession of towns-people of the present day. Leg-irons and chains, as well as bricks made by the convicts, have been recovered from near where the old gaol buildings stood, and it is not many years since a tree was felled to which convicts used to be chained. Matthew Flinders discovered Redcliffe Point in 1799, when he was sent, on his own proposition, in the colonial sloop, Norfolk, of 24 tons, to explore Glass House (Moreton) and Hervey Bays, which had been discovered by Cook in 1770, and of which the entrances only were known. Flinders set sail from Sydney on July 8, 1799, in the hope of finding "some creek or opening likely to lead to an open inland sea," and on the evening of July 16 dropped anchor in Moreton Bay. On July 17 he proceeded up the bay and anchored off a point which had dull red cliffs. He called it Red Cliff Point. The name was conjoined and an "e" added shortly afterwards, as Oxley referred to it in its present spelling in 1824. Flinders resumed his examination of the bay, in which he spent 15 days, and, after a brief visit to Hervey Bay, returned to Sydney, where he arrived on August 20. His second voyage of discovery along the coast in the Investigator, in 1801, had a direct bearing on the next step towards the settlement of Redcliffe. He made such a favourable report on its settlement possibilities that the authorities in Sydney thought that the land to the north might be suitable for a new penal out-settlement. John Oxley, the Surveyor-General of New South Wales, was, therefore, appointed to take charge of an expedition to sail north and report on the possibilities of the country for that purpose. Flinders' report, though not especially favourable, opened up possibilities that could not be overlooked. The minds of the officials were so exercised that Oxley was sent in the hope that he would find some spot of reasonable suitability for their prison purposes. Besides, they wanted the rich and favourable Port Macquarie district thrown open to free settlers. OXLEY'S ADVENT. Oxley set out in 1823, in the cutter Mermaid. His instructions were to examine Port Bowen, Port Curtis, and Moreton Bay, and to "report as to forming in each spot, if fit for the purpose, a new settlement to which all the convicts not usefully employed on the old settlements, as well as the refractory and incorrigible, could be removed and employed in the clearing and cultivation of land, &c." He was not favourably impressed with Port Curtis, and came south to Moreton Bay, arriving close to the beach at Bribie Island, on November 29, 1823. On December 1, 1823, accompanied by a guard of soldiers, he set out on his exploration of the western side of the bay. Towards evening they arrived at a spot not far from Redcliffe Point. They then went on to enter and explore the Brisbane River. When he returned to Sydney Oxley made the following recommendation:—"Should a settlement be formed in Moreton Bay, the country in the vicinity of Redcliffe Point offers the best site for an establishment in the first instance." This was something on which the authorities felt themselves urged to act at once, but it was late in the following year before the brig, Amity, arrived, under the command of Captain Penson, with 30 or 40 prisoners under a guard of soldiers, in charge of Lieutenant Miller, of the 40th Foot, commandant of the intended establishment. The party landed on September 12, 1824, and Redcliffe thus became the scene of the earliest white occupation in what was to become the State of Queensland. "With the concurrence and approbation of Lieutenant Miller," says Oxley, in his diary of Monday, September 13, "I fixed upon a site for the settlement, close to Redcliffe Point, possessing permanent good water close at hand, good soil in its immediate vicinity, fit for most agricultural purposes, well adapted for grazing, with a sufficiency of useful timber for present purposes. Miller appeared highly pleased with the situation, and with the favourable prospects of establishing himself and people which the appearance of the country held out to him." Next day Oxley made the following entry: "Fine, pleasant weather. Walked over the ground of the intended new settlement; fixed upon the most eligible places for the different public buildings, having reference to contiguity to water and the convenience of landing stores and provisions. The land most eligible for cultivation is on the north side of the creek, and to the north of the settlement. The natives visited the place in considerable numbers when the stores were landing, but gave no annoyance." The establishment officially dated from September 24, 1824. The land was cleared, and a stare made on those buildings which were regarded as indispensable. NATIVES TROUBLESOME. On September 17 Oxley departed on his voyage of continued surveying of the Brisbane River, leaving Lieutenant Miller in charge; but before he left there was an indication of that trouble with the natives which was an important factor in the ultimate abandonment of Redcliffe as a settlement before it was properly established. A party of natives visited the boat as they were embarking, and two of them were seen to take Oxley's hat, barometer, and surveying instruments, which had been left on a rock close at hand and make off with them into the bush. One fellow got away with the explorer's hat, but his companion dropped the instruments. Strife with the natives was inevitable, as many of them had thieving propensities. Within a few weeks of their landing a soldier and two convicts were killed by the blacks. Lieutenant Miller, who had been "highly pleased with the situation," considered soon afterwards that the place was unhealthy, and that "if they remained much longer they would all die off." However, the chief reason seems to have been the hostility of the blacks. When Oxley returned from his up-river excursion at 10 p.m., on September 28, he recorded in his diary that "the settlement was going on but slowly." Incidentally, it was during the early part of that day that he landed at a spot now marked by a monument at North Quay, to look for water, and found it in abundance. This was the first discovery of the site of Brisbane. Whatever the reason for the suggested change of location, Oxley seems to have agreed to it, and orders were subsequently given to find a more suitable place and remove the camp. So the convict settlement was established anew at the site of Brisbane on November 4, 1824. The buildings at Redcliffe were deserted, and the blacks called the place "Humpybong," meaning "empty houses." Thus was the whole course of Queensland's pioneering history changed.

The foundations of the old convict buildings were very plain to be seen at Redcliffe as late as 1881. They were about 80 or 100 yards due west, or a little to the north of west, of the Ambassadors Hotel. From those old buildings the bakehouse at Redcliffe, the brick paving, and the floors of the bakery and the chimney of the original hotel were taken. One of the interesting experiences of Mr. George Corscadden (who still lives at Redcliffe), when he went to work at O'Leary's Redcliffe Hotel, in 1883, was to wheel up to the hotel in an old buggy bricks that had been left by the convicts when the settlement was shifted in 1824. The kiln was situated in the creek (now practically dried up) behind the Catholic Church, and near the bridge that is crossed on the road just before entering the town proper of Redcliffe. They were fine bricks, but there were not many. Sufficient were found to use in the kitchen and in the veranda off the kitchen off the hotel. When the hotel was being altered and renovated a few years ago an ash-tray, remarkably well preserved, was found among the old bricks presumably put there by whoever built the hotel in 1881. The old convict bricks were used to pave a path in the backyard of the hotel, and may be seen to this day.

Just behind the Congregational Church, a few yards off the main Brisbane road, is the site of the old gaol. The Cutts family owned the property many years ago, and the last actual part of the ancient gaol disappeared in the early years of the present century, when one of the Cutts family tied a horse to the last remaining post, and the animal took fright, pulling the weather-rotted old wood out of the ground. Mrs. Martha Cutts, who, at the age of 82 years, lives at Indooroopilly, has clear recollections of old posts standing in her milking yard, with iron rings in them for the convicts' chains. Until 1916 there stood in the church yard a triangular tree, into which were driven iron rings, to which the unfortunate prisoners were chained. People used to come to view this grim relic, until the minister of the time had it cut down. A big hole is still to be seen in the adjoining property, where people have dug up leg irons and other reminders of the penal days. Mrs. Cutts had in her possession crockery and other articles which had been recovered from the ground, and leg irons, and chains which have been unearthed from time to time are in the possession of several townspeople of Redcliffe."


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:

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