Circling back in time

Brisbane's Old Windmill

Literally right across the road from Landscapology HQ is a building that perfectly fits this month's topic of inquiry and happily, was open to the public over the weekend as part of Brisbane Open House. We managed to secure a coveted spot on the ballot, so unlike its original visitors, we were very happy to set foot inside this place.

As if wearing a ball and chain wasn’t enough, Brisbane’s earliest convicts had to build a round building too. 

 The Mill ca. 1892.  Image: State Library of Queensland .

The Mill ca. 1892. Image: State Library of Queensland.

The Old Windmill on Wickham Terrace was constructed in 1828 and initially used to grind wheat and corn.

The sails were supplemented by a treadmill (no doubt as grim as it sounds) that was used when wind was low, but also as a form of punishment.

 Plan of Brisbane in 1844 showing the Windmill in the centre right of the page.  Image: State Library of Queensland.

Plan of Brisbane in 1844 showing the Windmill in the centre right of the page. Image: State Library of Queensland.

Over time the windmill performed different functions for the growing colony. With its sails removed it was used as a signal station to convey shipping information upriver to the town, and later used as a time regulator, with the addition of a time ball.

 The time ball at the top of the tower and signal flags on the flagstaff in 1908.  Image: State Library of Queensland .

The time ball at the top of the tower and signal flags on the flagstaff in 1908. Image: State Library of Queensland.

Radio, telephony and television research were all carried out at the tower.

The Windmill is now the oldest surviving convict-built structure in Queensland and the oldest extant windmill in the country.

Surprisingly, given its important role in the history of both Brisbane and Queensland, it was not heritage listed until 1992.

You can read the full heritage citation on the State Heritage Register.

If you last visited the Old Windmill as a primary school student, dragged against your will to a day in the sun with only a half-squashed sandwich lunch as your reward, then I hope these images will encourage you to please give it another shot.