Observatory, Wickham Terrace, Brisbane - Brisbane, QLD

Observatory, Wickham Terrace, Brisbane

There are few buildings in Brisbane that recall so vividly the early life of the settlement as the old Observatory, which stands in a corner of Albert Park at the top of Wickham Terrace. It was erected by convict labour in 1829 as a windmill, with ponderous wooden sails to provide power to grind the convict-grown maize and wheat. Because of some defect, however, the windmill refused to work. Since meal had to be ground, the structure was converted to a treadmill and convict labour was used to propel the shaft which turned the millstones.

In 1837, the mechanical defects of the windmill were remedied, but the treadmill had by that time so established itself as a satisfactory form of punishment for refractory prisoners that the sails were seldom used.

A formal use for the Old Windmill was found in 1861 when it was converted to an observatory and signal station. News of ships entering the river was telegraphed from Lytton to Brisbane and the information relayed to the public by flags hoisted on a mast near the mill. The conversion to an observatory involved removing the sails and all internal machinery, replacing the floors and adding a central staircase. A small enclosed observation hut was built at the top and a time-ball was added to the roof of the structure. The ball was dropped at 1.00pm each day so that the people of Brisbane could set their watches and clocks accurately.

The time ball was decommissioned in 1866. Until 1894 a cannon was fired from the grounds each at 1.00pm to signal the time. A new time ball operated until the city hall clock became the main time regulator in 1930.

Located at the corner of Wickham Terrace and Bartley Street or opposite 225 Wickham Terrace.


Wickham Terrace
Brisbane, QLD, 4000