Step back in time to Brisbane’s convict past and take a rare glimpse inside Queensland’s oldest building. The Old Windmill Tower is Brisbane City Council’s flagship heritage asset. Operating by 1828, it is the oldest convict-built structure surviving in Queensland, the oldest windmill tower left standing in Australia and the only one built by convicts.
Built to process the wheat and corn crops of the Moreton Bay penal settlement, the tower featured a treadmill as the sails frequently did not supply enough power to work the mill. It was converted to a signal station in 1861. The architect was Charles Tiffin and the work was carried out by John Petrie, the prominent contractor and mayor of Brisbane, who replaced the rotating cap and arms and added a fifth floor.
A flagstaff was erected in 1865 for flying shipping signals received by telegraph from Fort Lytton. The 1pm time ball was replaced in 1866 by a time gun and the present time ball, installed in 1894, was dropped until the mid-1950s. From 1922 to 1926 the tower was used by the Institute of Radio Engineers, and during the 1930s and 1940s it was the venue for pioneer television broadcasting.
The tower base is approximately 8.4 metres in diameter reducing to about 4.5 metres at the top. Excluding the time ball and mast it stands at about 16 metres high. The exterior is rendered in a mock dressed stone finish. The interior ground and first floor walls are stone with a lime mortar. The upper floors are timber-framed with hoop pine floorboards. A hexagonal staircase, largely of red cedar, winds around a central pole connecting the ground to the single-level observation house and platform surmounting the tower.
You can explore more of Brisbane’s hidden secrets with Brisbane City Council’s self-guided heritage trails. Visit www.brisbane.qld.gov.au and search for ‘heritage trails’.
Pre-booked guided tours for upper floors and observatory. Ground floor open for general inspection.
Not suitable for mobility impaired // Wear sturdy, enclosed shoes