The Royal Historical Society of Queensland

Queensland's peak history body since 1913


History of the Commissariat Store

Moreton Bay Penal Settlement was established in 1824 for secondary punishment for New South Wales convicts. Brisbane Town began on the north bank of the Brisbane River in 1825 where William and George Streets were later opened. Four buildings were used for handling stores - food, clothing and other goods – for use by military and convicts. In April 1828 Acting Civil Engineer William Dumaresque’s plan for a permanent Commissariat Store was sent to Moreton Bay. 

Work on construction of the Commissariat Store began in July 1828 with excavation of the river bank and laying foundations. Convicts took four months on it. A brick drain system was created and the Store was erected facing the river. Skilled convicts undertook masonry and construction work, supervised by Lt Bainbridge who was sent from Sydney specifically for this task, completed in 1829. 

Moreton Bay Penal Settlement closed in 1839 and Brisbane Town was opened to free settlers in 1842. The Commissariat Store continued as a government store and the wharf for government purposes. In the 1850s the first floor was used, intermittently, for immigrants, and the ground floor for storage. 

It was renamed the Colonial Store in 1860 following creation of the Colony of Queensland. The first floor was converted to police quarters. Eighteen new hardwood sash windows were installed and others enlarged and glazed. Some still contain old float glass with ripples and elongated bubbles. In the 1860s and 1870s the first floor was again used from periodically to accommodate immigrants. 

The building was renamed Government Stores in 1898. In 1911 the Storekeeper suggested construction of a third floor for access to William Street and increased floor space. Public Works architect Leonard Kempster designed it and stonemason William Kitchen won the contract. Work was completed in 1913. 

The inaugural meeting of the State Stores Board was held in the Government Stores building on 29 March 1923. The Commissariat Store was renamed the State Stores Building and was used by them until 1951. They vacated the building on 12 September 1960. 

Queensland State Archives occupied the ground floor until 1968. Succeeding occupants included government departments, State Library and Law Reform Commission and it became vacant in 1976.

In 1959 Queensland Government Architect EJA Weller listed government buildings of heritage value deserving protection and included the Commissariat Store. In 1969 the Queensland Government decided to allocate $40,000 per annum for restoration of scheduled heritage buildings and Public Works engaged two stonemasons and a mason’s workshop was established in the Store’s yard. Following introduction of the Commonwealth Government National Estate Grants Program more stone masons were employed by government to work on government owned stone buildings. 

In 1977 the State government decided that the Royal Historical Society of Queensland should occupy the building. Extensive renovations occurred from 1978 to 1981. This included redeveloping and landscaping the adjoining land. It had long been a grassy slope that allowed access to the store’s middle floor. It was named Miller Park in memory of Captain Miller, first Moreton Bay Commandant. 

By June 1981 renovation was finished and the building became the headquarters of the Royal Historical Society of Queensland. Stonemasons vacated the yard in 1997. The Department of Public Works commissioned a conservation plan which was completed in 1998 and, with a Centenary of Federation Cultural and Heritage Projects Program grant of $1.1 million and State government funding of $865,000, the building underwent major restoration work which was competed by 2001. 

Since occupation by the Royal Historical Society of Queensland, the Commissariat Store has been used as a museum, research centre, and as a venue for RHSQ activities such as conferences and meetings. 

Read 12175 times Last modified on Wednesday, 22 August 2012 17:04