May 24, 2018
One of the most exciting and unique parts of the North Harbour masterplan is our Heritage Park which is located along the banks of Caboolture River.
Retaining and preserving the historical remnants of the North Harbour site has been an important part of the North Harbour planning process. Following an application process initiated by the developers of North Harbour, the area has been listed and protected on the Queensland Heritage Register since 2011 as a place of Queensland State significance.
Originally North Harbour was speculatively developed as a cotton farm, in the 1860s, with a company of business partners being owners, one of whom was George Raff. After this joint venture didn’t work out Raff purchased the cotton business land and developed it as a sugar cane plantation and processing works.
A Scottish settler, Raff named this Sugar development ‘Moray Fields’, to complement his Moray Bank house in New Farm, Brisbane. The “Moray” reference is recognition of his origins in Morayshire in north east Scotland. Raff is an extremely significant person in state history having been intimately involved in the early development of Queensland. He was a member of the second Queensland Parliament and a prominent Brisbane local businessman, operating in and out of Raff’s Wharf on the Brisbane River.
At Moray Fields Raff brought in technology to help with business activity. He introduced a loop of tramway constructed on timber foundations – a system for cut cane transport, which enabled a horse or two to haul heavy loads in from the fields more easily. Steam power was employed to drive the machinery on the property.
Sugar cane was grown here for the production of sugar and also rum and molasses. The plantation was a substantial undertaking in what was then a remote area, being approximately 40 kilometres north of Brisbane. Access by land was difficult and links to the outside world were better via boats and small steamers. So, a ‘commodious wharf’ was built on the river for landing and embarking goods or produce in the small vessels required for maintaining communication with the capital.
The plantation had to have many of the elements of a self-sufficient village with…
…stockyards, stables, sheds, carpenters shops, blacksmith’s shop, butcher’s shop, baker’s shop, stores, saw mill, and an innumerable lot of other buildings.
(Brisbane Courier, ‘Mr Raff’s’, 19 October, p.2)
Then, Moray Fields was a local communication node. Local properties nearby, such as Durundur Station which was located close to modern day Woodford, had a shed for storing supplies delivered by steamer for later collection. Cattle from Durundur provided meat for the people living at Moray Fields.
George Raff was a prominent supporter of the use of Islander peoples as labour on plantations. It remains unclear how many Islander labourers worked on the plantation, but in the late 1860s newspaper reports of the time suggest up to 70 at a time. These workers came from several islands in the South Pacific, but particularly from modern day Vanuatu and New Caledonia.
The former plantation lands were later divided into paddocks for grazing dairy cows, though some portions continued to be cultivated. Successive owners erected new buildings and structures, such as sheds and fences. Some plantation-era buildings were re-used, including the ‘mansion’ and possibly some sheds by the Caboolture River.
A Queenslander-style house was also built close to the lagoon for share-farmers and their families. In the 1950s, a new farm house complex was built and the former plantation owner’s house abandoned and demolished. By the 1960s dairying had ceased and the land sold to A.P.M. Forests Pty Ltd. Most of the property was converted into pine plantation.
The Heritage Park is a community attraction and will take two years to develop costing over $3m with $1,535,062 of funds coming from the Federal Government through a funding agreement with the Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology. Funding is through the Community Development Grants programme, provided through the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development.
The $1,535,062 Grant is being matched by North Harbour. The Abbey Museum and North Harbour are also working in partnership and providing significant “in-kind” support through project planning, project management, post-construction operation and maintenance.
The heritage aspects of the Park are being combined with a vast expanse of parkland including pathways and tracks for use by residents and visitors, allowing everyone to enjoy our slice of Queensland history and the Caboolture River. The first stage of construction has been completed including roads and other infrastructure. The construction of picnic areas will begin shortly including shelters, BBQs, tables and benches and toilet facilities. We’re working hard to ensure the heritage remains are preserved and available to view and enjoy by the general public.
Our Heritage Expert is Steve Chaddock from Timeline Heritage who is working with a team of archaeologists at the remains of the “Moray Fields” property that was built by George Raff at what is now the North Harbour site. Steve said: “We are looking to carefully record the exposed areas of the old house and its outbuildings and yards so that we can later interpret that to the public and in advance of a tree management program aiming to preserve the State Listed archaeological remains.”
The history of the site will be interpreted from a dedicated facility that delivers a ‘mind map’ of the site before it is experienced firsthand. The facility is proposed to present historic photographs, sketched and display objects which will allow visitors to appreciate the stories and significant developments from the past up to the present day.
Interpretation delivery will be provided in the landscape alongside a network of heritage trails and using static signage as well as digital content for mobile devices. The delivery of interpretation will be aimed at school-aged students as well as local, state and international visitors learning about local history and South Sea Islander heritage.
Interpretation delivery will be provided in the landscape alongside a network of heritage trails and using static signage as well as digital content for mobile devices.
On a broader community level, the South Sea Islander history of the site has presented an opportunity to recognise the contribution made by past generations of South Sea Islanders and provide a tangible, visitable focus for the Island and Australian South Sea Islander community and their descendants. Space is made available for the South Sea Islander community to remember their ancestors at this place.
The heritage area is currently able to be accessed on Saturday mornings at 7.00am at the same time as the weekly Caboolture River parkrun. For more information and directions please click here.
To find out more about the rich history of the North Harbour site visit http://www.northharbourheritagepark.org/, this dedicated heritage website also includes photos, audio clips and accounts from local oral historians.