IT was an amazing piece of adventuring to discover a sanctuary off one of Brisbane’s busier roads, a retreat that was so unexpected it gave a sense of trespassing even going there.
Milton Road is best known for the XXXX Brewery, home of Queensland’s favourite beer and although I have travelled this road many a time, I had no idea what was hidden there behind it.
And it’s all thanks to Aunty Gladys, although I have never met the woman.
A friend said he had visited Aunty Gladys once decades ago and beyond her fence was a little church. We set out to find it and took a random entrance.
Behold, there it was, hidden behind the brewery towers – a stone church, a big, old house, random other buildings and lots of trees.
Unless you were looking for them, you would never know they were there.
It turned out we had stumbled across the original home of the Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane – Bishopsbourne.
The bishop had left this Milton home in 1964, for posher pastures at Hamilton but the original home remains, looking somewhat like the sort of two-storey homes favoured by the Italians when they first started building in Australia.
It is now known as Old Bishopsbourne and remains largely hidden by the brewery.
There is a long drive in among the trees and then a whole new world and era appears.
The main house was built in 1865-68 for Edward Wyndham Tufnell, the first Anglican Bishop of Brisbane.
It was designed by the colonial architect Benjamin Backhouse who also had a hand in Government House, which isn’t that far away.
It turns out it is now the home of a theological college. There are newer (maybe ‘70s) brick apartments, but what is most amazing is the little old stone church, built in 1912 but looking centuries older, and the original Bishopsbourne.
The little church has a distinctly English feel about it, in that it is not unlike many little stone churches that I stumbled across while roaming the wilds of Essex and Berkshire.
I have since discovered the walls are 18 inches thick and made of Brisbane tuff, a building stone quarried at either Windsor or Kangaroo Point, at the time of the first settlement.
History says that stone for many buildings and churches was sourced from the Kangaroo Point Cliffs (it was used to build the Commissariat Store in 1829) and it was a “wonder rock” also used for kerbing and guttering.
Despite this little church’s size, it has a huge pipe organ.
It turns out that the St Francis’ Theological College moved to this location from the northern suburb of Nundah in 1936, and the organ was installed in 1972, having come from the Catholic Apostolic Church in South Brisbane where it was installed in 1935. It looked much older.
There were also some delightful old timber buildings which reminded me of the old guesthouses built in spas and country resorts, at the turn of the 20th century.
If you look carefully, you can see the old chimneys of Bishopsbourne rising beyond the stacks of the brewery.
I have since discovered that I wasn’t trespassing at all, and this surprising part of Brisbane is open for visitors – if only you can find it!