November 8, 2016
This week’s blog is taking a trip back in time to the creation of Moray Fields, the area of land where North Harbour now stands.
The North Harbour site has a long and interesting heritage having gone through several incarnations over the years since it was first named Moray Fields in 1861 – a Cotton Farm, Sugar Plantation, Dairy Farm and Pine Plantation before the North Harbour concept was born in 2005. Moray Fields was the site of the first European settlement in the area. Much more recently Coral Homes opened the first homes in our Display Village in March 2016 and we welcomed our first residents in the same month.
Originally North Harbour was developed as a cotton farm by the Caboolture Cotton Company owned by a group of business partners, one of whom was George Raff. After this joint venture was wound up, the cotton company land was bought out by George Raff. He developed it as a Sugar Cane Plantation and Processing Works.
A Scottish settler, George Raff named this Sugar development ‘Moray Fields’, to complement his Moray Bank house in Brisbane City. Raff was intimately involved in the early development of Queensland. He was a member of the first Queensland Parliament and a prominent Brisbane businessman, operating in and out of Raff’s Wharf on the Brisbane River.
At Moray Fields, George Raff brought in technology to help with the business. 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)
At this time 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.
In the mid 1880’s, sugar cane farming, molasses production and the distillery operations ceased. George Raff died in 1889, and the former plantation lands were sold and divided into paddocks for grazing dairy cows, though some portions continued to be cultivated. Successive owners erected new buildings and structures, such as dips, 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. You can read more about the history of Moray Fields at our dedicated website, morayfield.org. It also includes photos, audio clips and accounts from local oral historians.
The former site of the Moray Fields plantation is part of a 750Ha land holding which is being developed into North Harbour. North Harbour values the archaeological remains of Moray Fields and successfully applied to the Queensland Heritage Council for recognition and protection of the archaeological remains on the Queensland Heritage Register in 2011. We propose to preserve the historic elements onsite and deliver public facilities to the community to learn of and appreciate this significant local heritage. This Heritage Interpretive Centre is proposed to be delivered between 2017 and 2019, in partnership with Abbey Museum and the Commonwealth Government.
In drawing up development plans for the site, it was possible to retain the historical precinct of the site, an area which is now listed on the Queensland Heritage Register as a place of Queensland State significance. This protected area will become part of an Interpretive Historic Centre with outdoor leisure space with pathways and tracks enabling use by the future residents and visitors.
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 will present real objects on display and allow visitors to appreciate the stories and significant developments from the distant past up to the present day.
Interpretative signage 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 this information will be aimed at school-aged students as well as local, state and international visitors learning about local history and South Sea Islander heritage.
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.
We are partnering with local heritage experts at The Abbey Museum to ensure the fascinating history of this area is presented as well as possible – bringing a touch of history to our modern community-based development.
North Harbour Sales Office & Display Village is open seven days a week, 10am-5pm (excluding public holidays). For more information regarding available Houses and land for sale at North Harbour or to make an appointment to see one of the beautiful Coral Display Homes call Aidan on 5433 1111, email . To find out more, visit our display village page for Coral Homes.
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