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"Old House That Watches Out to Sea" Victoria House -Woody Point.

Updated: May 24

Fountain Pikett built the four storey timber house on the hill at 44 Victoria Ave, Woody Point, for Jacob Pearen in 1881. With views looking across Moreton Bay covering the entrance of the Brisbane River, its name was Victoria House, but is was also known locally as the "Lighthouse" or the "Wedding Cake House". When Dixon St was built in the 1930's, it was on the corner (now named Clifford St)

"Jacob Line Pearen was born in 1838 in the village of Merton, Devon, England to John Pearen and his wife Mary nee Line. He was the fifth of eleven children and their third son. John & Mary moved their family to Wembworthy, about 1842, where John worked as a machine maker. About 1858/60, the family moved again, this time to a farm in Winkleigh. There, Jacob married his wife, Fanny Parish. Their only child, Lucy Ann was born in 1863 in Wembworthy. Not long afterwards, Jacob sailed for Australia, with other members of his family, leaving his wife & daughter behind.

Gold Rush

It is not known what he first did on arrival in Australia but in 1867, when gold was discovered in Gympie, he headed for the goldfields. He and his partners were some of the lucky ones. In 1872, they found the largest nugget to be taken from the Gympie goldfield. Known as the Big Cake, it was ‘a great slab of retorted gold from the Monkland reef, weighing 5,972 ounces, worth on values of the time, about twenty thousand pounds, and on present day (1973) values more than a quarter of a million dollars.’(Gympie Gold by Hector Holthouse Pub 1973 Angus & Robertson).

Jacob went home to England, only to find that his wife had been unfaithful to him and had given birth to a son by another man. He came back to Australia without her, but bringing with him his daughter Lucy, then age 12. Mining again appealed to him, so he put Lucy in school and headed back to the goldfields. The reef went on producing well for years, making Jacob a wealthy man.

  • The Register (Adelaide, SA) Wed 26 Jul 1922 - Page 4

"However, the memorable 'Big Cake' obtained by the 7 and 8 South Monkland in November, 1872, was probably the biggest reported cake of gold, smelting to 5,972 oz. gold, or at any rate it has the most interesting history on Gympie. Worth over £20,000, it was escorted to Brisbane, by the directors, and forgotten on arrival of the coach at Cobb's Camp, the half-way house to Brisbane. When dinner was over at night, it suddenly flashed on the minds of the escort that they were in charge of treasure trove, and a wild rush outside into the bush showed that the 21-cwt. cake was resting as it had been left. Indeed, it would have required more than a giant's strength to shift the big golden cake.Subsequently on exhibition in Brisbane it attracted much attention."

The House Jacob is best known for the house he built on the corner of Victoria Ave and Clifford St, on the Redcliffe Peninsula, looking across Moreton Bay and covering the entrance to the Brisbane River. Its correct name was Victoria House but it was known locally as The Lighthouse. The house is described in Gympie Gold as, ‘a wooden house, four storeys high . The third storey consisted of a garret, and perched on top of it was Pearen’s own cabin with a balcony from which he could look out to sea and a light which he burned continually as a guide to mariners. It was not an official light, but it became so well known that sailors used to watch for it, and whenever a ship anchored off the point a boat or two would soon row ashore.’

Jacob’s sister, Emma, who had travelled to Australia with him, (presumably to take care of Lucy) married almost as soon as they arrived and Lucy, herself, married in 1884. ‘Jacob became an aloof, lonely man, regarded with awe by local aborigines but with affection by sailors who always found a warm welcome in his house. Whenever there were ships in the bay, the lighthouse would be ablaze from all floors and resounding with chanties and stamping feet as guests found their land legs after long days at sea.

Jacob was a lonely man whose wealth did not bring him happiness. After Lucy married, he had no-one with whom to share the large house that became so well-known. For company, he relied on the sailors who were glad of his hospitality. Being unable to support himself, he applied for a pension so, apparently, his money did not last. His death certificate describes him as a retired contractor who died of senile decay.

The Inheritance Jacob left the house to his three surviving grand-daughters, with his nephew, Harry, as trustee. Harry lived in the house until his death in 1938. Eventually, the house fell vacant and started to deteriorate. In 1967, it was passed in at auction at $7400. In February 1968, it became the property of Mr. Bob Dunstan, an airline pilot, who wanted to demolish it, so that he could build on the site. The Redcliffe Historical Society tried to raise the money to buy the house, but were unsuccessful. They then appealed to the City Council to rescue it, because of its historical significance. The council planned to allow the Historical Society to house items of historical interest there. However these plans had to be scrapped, largely because of the cost of restoring the building. It was at this point in June 1968, that the house was burnt down, leaving only a shell which had to be demolished for safety reasons."

Sea Spray Woody Point Land sale map c.1920s - showing Dixon St ( now Clifford St) and Mr Pearen's Victoria House (misspelled Perrin) opposite Mr Finnemore's house.

From the Telegraph - Saturday - 18th February 1939 - Page 11:

"Old House That Watches Out to Sea."

"Standing back from the bus route at Woody Point, showing greyly through the trees, is one of Humpybong's oldest homes, with a history that reads like an old sea story.

Now the lower three storeys, weather beaten and white as driftwood, are almost hidden by the trees, but the cabin stands above them, its window facing out to sea. The same window whose light in the early days, guided many a ship through turbulent seas. An old house, almost forbidding in its mute loneliness; rambling and beaten by wind and weather, if it could speak, what a story it would tell - a story of free black men and women, of shouting, drinking seamen, of a bright light shining faithfully through the storms, and the human story of old Jacob Pearen. A big Cornish miner. Jacob Pearen first migrated in 1860. He returned to England, and in 1874 again migrated with his 12 year old daughter Lucy. Toorak Road was the site of his home, but mining again appealing to him, he sent his daughter to school and went prospecting to the Gympie goldfields. There he made a lucky strike and eventually became a director of two mines, 7 and 8 Monkland."

"Near Kipper Ring "

"By 1885 Jacob Pearen was a wealthy man, a specimen in his possession being alone worth £700. Putting into practice an ambition he must have cherished long, he built a home on the site of Humpybong, close to the sea. Not far away was the old Kipper-ring, a circular area dug three feet below ground level, where, to the accompaniment of music made by gins, the young kippers, (boys) marched around before their initiation into the ceremony which made them warriors. At this ring, too, were great celebrations, when a young man asked an old man for his daughter, and a friendly wrestling match took place between the two. If the young man could throw the father it was considered a favourable sign. The paddock where the Kipper ring was, now belongs to an old resident, and it seems a great pity that the Kipper ring has not been preserved. Only a leaning tree, standing mute and lonely, by the deserted faintly marked ring in the long, grass, stands like a sad monument to a vanished race. It was when the same ring was the centre of the activities of feather-decked aborigines that Jacob Pearen built his home. A grand home it was for those days. It had even its own jetty and boat. His daughter (having married, the previous year, he must have been lonely, but for his life-long leaning to the sea. Though actually he was never a seaman, the sea continued to hold a great fascination for him, then and in after years, when his fortunes sank in the same project that had raised them, he proved himself a friend indeed to seamen. Never was there bad weather when Jacob Pearen's lamp did not shine from the high cabin window. A powerful lamp, its rays could be seen as far as Sandgate, and many a seaman looking instinctively for it in bad weather, blessed the beacon placed to guide his ship to safety. The lamp hangs on the front door today, in a three-sided frame about as large as a moat safe, with two glass doors that swing open. So seamen who looked for the light came to look for the ready welcome always waiting for them at the house of genial Jacob Pearen. Nevertheless, he must have known long periods of loneliness in the wilderness of the aboriginal. A loneliness that was broken when a ship came in. and his house became for the time being a veritable tavern.

Missed by Cyclone

Broken was the long muteness of the place; the neighbourhood resounded with the sea shanties of sailors come home the house with the stamping of their boots, their shouts, their stories, their roars of laughter. Filling in their time In the good old sea style of endless tradition, they drank far into the day or the night, according to the time they arrived, slept when they could drink no more, drank, to sleep no more. On occasions when they arrived unexpectedly and here was no liquor in the house, they thought nothing ol rowing across to Sandgate, a distance of five miles, and going into town for casks of grog. The cask was tapped and it, is said that a cask did not last long. One of the original casks lies under the house today. A silent reminder of seafaring parties. In the terrible cyclone of 1903, when most of the old homes were torn to ruins, Jacob Pearen's home, a few yards out of line of the cyclone, remained unscathed, Old residents who remember the horror of that terrific cyclone, declare that so dreadful was it that nothing could be said of It that could be an exaggeration. on a grey, rainy morning the sea rose almost level with the cliffs, the wind tore houses to shreds. The wind so strong posts of stables were uprooted like matches: an old resident even relates how a sulky was lifted up and deposited in the branches of a tree. When calmness prevailed at last there was a mass of debris— yet the area that was attacked was just out of line of Jacob Pearens house. And so old Jacob Pearen lived and died in the haven that he bad built close' to the sea. True to his indomitable will to the last, he remained stoic during his last illness. After only a week he died in 1916 at the age of 78. At his death the old house was left to his three granddaughters. The executor being his nephew. Harry Pearen. He was a sterner man than his uncle and lived there for several tyonrs, until his death early last year.

For some reason the blacks; feared Jacob Pearen, though he had never harmed any of them. Perhaps his peculiarities were held in awe because of their superstitious natures. Quite likely, the din raised by the heartily merry sailors raised the fear of "devil-devils" in the natives.

A tour of the house itself presents unusual Interest. Low open steps lead one to the flat wide, completely encircling verandah, where a couple of old chairs, relics of Mother days, still stand. Over the front door is Jacob Fourth's lamp, and beside it on a thickly rusted nail hangs a corroded horseshoe. One wonders whether it was placed there in the old days of Jacob Pearen. Possibly one of the sailors nailed it up. The big heavy key turns slowly in the stiff lock, and the heavy front door opens crcakily. into the living room, once elegant wlth its fancy carved sideboard, heavy table and horsehair sofas, with their curved backs and legs. Now the brocaded fabric, threadbare with age, has worn away, leaving lumps of horsehair, and there is dust and silence in the room. Leaving it, one feels a little sad at this desertion, as his own footfalls sound hollowly as lie proceeds to the next room. This is the kitchen the old type of spacious kitchen, complete with cupboards that even now surpass modern furniture for, strength and durability. On the smoky mantelpiece is at silent clock, fancifully ornamented in the fashion of the day, and on the wall near the fireplace hangs a'pair of old fashioned hollows, strong and in working order. The walls themselves are painted a drab, undefinable shade and bring back memories of days when the kitchen was regarded as the "dark room" of the house. How kitchens have changed. But in the kitchen is the original Colonial oven, with space for fire above and below the iron bars across the top. It would be an easy matter to put this old pioneer back into working ordor. Across the narrow passage are two bedrooms with strong, much carved and decorated dressing tables and iron four poster lath beds. Upstairs In the narrow hall is the staircase, extra ordinarily narrow, once illuminated by a flickering light of a hanging lamp at the foot of the stairs, a lamp which measured its light with ticking like that, of a clock. That old lamp ticks yet when wound up. Working on a mechanical process, II was wound up from the bottom and ticked away, working the oil towards the wick and keeping the wick turned until the mechanism ran out and it was time to wind up the lamp again. By its Illumination many feet trod the staircase to the second floor, a staircase so extraordinarily narrow and stoop that one wonders it there were many falls on the same stops. It raises the thought too, that in those days of narrow staircases the ladies must have had to walk very warily, and how they carried the hulk of their skirts in such narrow space is some thing of a mystery. In this instance, surely the careless fooled and often tipsy seamen, who attempted to ascend or descend must have had a quicker transit from one floor to another than on foot. The second floor is built on the same plan as the first, and shows little difference in furniture. Conspicuous nro the same once elegant horse hair sofas. The same four poster beds with their laths and high, hard mattresses are in evidence in the bed rooms, and here, are several vases of exquisite Venetian glass. The same steep stairway loads to the third door. this is the garret, with the usual low sides effected by the slope of the roof, Here only broken laths indicate that four bedrooms occupied this floor. And yet another stairway loads up to the fourth Floor, that old look-out cabin with its bare floor, its peepholes in the frosting, Its panorama view, the old cabin that still watches out to sea just as old Jacob Pearen watched so long and so often. Surely the ghost of old Jacob Pearen must often watch still.

....From the Telegraph - Saturday - 18th February 1939 - Page 11:

The Verandas:

There are three of them, two completely encircling the house, the other a kind of balcony attached to the cabin. Downstairs is a windlass, the pulley operating from the roof of the second veranda, and it was by this means that heavy articles were lowered. There is a standing joke that when Jacob Pearen's drunken guests were beyond descending by the stairs, he lowered them by the windlass. On the second veranda, lying near the gateway that opened to lower or! raise goods, is the old leather trunk that Jacob Pearen brought from Cornwall. Stiff but sound, it bears testimony to the workmanship of the "good-old days" and it could tell a great story. One of the old tanks remain, though the second has corroded, and vines trail the high old-fashioned tankstand, the top of which is level with the floor of the second veranda. From the verandas, one looks out on to a wonderful avenue of mango trees planted by old Jacob, in the bearing season all the small boys from the neighbourhood land far beyond it, flock to sample the fruit Harry Pearen, old Jacob's nephew, would not permit the hordes of boys to swarm like monkeys over the trees, at the imminent risk of breaking their limbs, if not their necks, but now they come from far and near. Small boys, tall boys, freckle faced boys, good boys, bold boys, to revel In that forbidden paradise.

The Garden

Now there are few flowers In the extensive grounds, though in the old days there was a fine garden that kept two men constantly employed. Mr Joe Martin, whose father was mate on Captain Church's ship, which brought supplies to the convicts in the fifties, looks after the old house and remembers a good deal of the old days. When speaking of the garden he chuckled over a reminiscence. Though Jacob Pearen loved the garden, he actually knew little about the plants and left the choice to the company from whom he purchased his seeds and left it to the gardeners to plant and tend them. When an agent came around one day and with a keen eye for the flowers remarked: "I see you have a Black-eyed Susan," old Jacob chuckled and retorted, "Well, I wouldn't be surprised if the young devils had a woman hidden somewhere".

...From the Telegraph - Saturday - 18th February 1939 - Page 11:


Mr Martin remembers the days when the land was clear of trees, When old Jacob Pearen watched out to sea there was a clear sweep down to the beach. The old house has seen the beginnings of most of the giants that now almost hide its lower storeys from view. He remembers too the undisturbed gunyahs, and the blacks who camped in a paddock near by in numbers from, forty upwards. And old King Sam, the well remembered and liked old scamp who was drunk more often than not, and to whose memory a tombstone has boon raised in the Humpy Bong cometery. Surely there have been few cases of the uncivilised blackfellow being buried in a Christian cemetery. The old house has had its day. Now it stands forlorn, like an old person alone, still watching, but no ships come in. Only at night is the muteness broken, when opossums scamper eerily throughout, filling it with sounds like the faint echoes of sturdy feet from bygone days"

....From the Telegraph - Saturday - 18th February 1939 - Page 11:

The Brisbane Courier Monday 20 Mar 1916

Old Woody Point Resident Dead.

"The death of Mr. Jacob Pearen, one of the pioneers of the Gympie goldfields, took place on Saturday morning at his residence at Woody Point (writes our Redcliffe correspondent). The deceased suddenly became ill last Wednesday. Dr. Foley, of Sandgate, was summoned, but the deceased was past human aid. The late Mr. Pearen was 78 years of age, and had lived in Woody Point for many years. He was successful at Gympie in the early days, but by speculation lost a considerable portion of his fortune. The funeral took place at the Redcliffe cemetery today (Sunday)."

Photo by Elizabeth Prass of Bell St:

Historic Victoria House at Redcliffe was destroyed by fire early today.

The fire broke out in the 80 year-old landmark at 3:15 a.m. and left only the shell of the building standing. Firemen said that the swaying remains of the four-storey building looked dangerous and might have to be demolished.

The fire apparently started on the ground floor and quickly spread through the second floor to the attic and lookout. Police said that there was no early clue to the cause.

Victoria House was built in the 1860s by an English migrant, Jacob Pearen, who is said to have made his fortune on the Gympie gold fields. It stood at the corner of Victoria Avenue and Clifford Street. The lookout for which the building was well known once housed a small light as a guide to shipping.

In March this year, the Redcliffe City Council decided to negotiate with the owner of Victoria House, airline pilot Mr. Bob Dunstan, to buy the house. The council planned to allow the Redcliffe Historical Society to house items of historical interest there. But in June plans to purchase the house were scrapped by the Council, largely because of the cost of restoring the building. The Historical Society had appealed to the Council to preserve the house when it was learned that Mr. Dunstan planned to pull it down to build a new home on the site. The society earlier tried unsuccessfully to raise sufficient finance to buy the house.

Filmers Palace Hotel and Victoria House paintings by local artist Alex Enborisoff:

A display of a reproduction of Victoria House in the Redcliffe Museum:


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