21 Sep 2017

Five interesting facts about Spring Hill's historic windmill

It has been a bit taken for granted, and was little ugly before its restoration in the 1980s, but a new exhibition aims to give the Spring Hill windmill the pride of place the Queensland State Archives think it deserves.

"It's just always been there, I think it's been taken for granted a bit," QSA archivist Rowena Loo said.

Added QSA marketing manager Jenny Kidd: "For a long time it wasn't an attractive looking building either."

Now hidden by the city, Ms Loo said it would have been a landmark back in Brisbane's early days.

"You hardly notice it now, but when you look at the older photos of the city it really is the windmill, the tower up on the hill overlooking a huge area, it's quite spectacular in the older photos," she said.

After its restoration and heritage listing in the early 1990s, Ms Loo said it was time to recognise the important part the windmill had played in Brisbane's history.

"The windmill is such a landmark in Brisbane it seemed an obvious choice to have it as a consistent thread through Brisbane's history," she said.

To give the building the recognition the QSA thinks it deserves, here are some little known facts about the Spring Hill windmill.

It is the oldest building in Queensland

Built in 1828 by convict labour, the windmill is the oldest surviving building in Queensland.

"It had a treadmill in there to grind wheat and maize," Ms Loo said.

Despite its age, the windmill was only used for its intended purpose for 14 years.

"Convict settlement came to an end (in 1842), and there was only sort of a very small remnant colony in Brisbane and soon after that, that's when the windmill stopped being used to grind wheat and maize," Ms Loo said.

It was Queensland's first museum

While Ms Kidd said the QSA did not have much information about what went in the museum between 1862 and 1868, and who visited, it was assumed any exhibition would have been small.

"Queensland wouldn't have been that old in terms of history either so it would have only had a few things I imagine," she said.

For about 30 years, the windmill was as a timekeeper

From 1866 to 1894, the windmill was used as a timekeeper for the colony.

"A time gun went off at 1pm every day to announce the time," Ms Loo said.

Later the rifle was replaced by a copper "time ball" that would drop at 1pm to tell people the time, Ms Kidd said.

It was a hub for early communications

Thanks to its elevation above the city, the tower was used for very early radio broadcast. Before that, it was also used for semaphore, Ms Kidd said.

"For a while it was used to convey messages from ships entering the Brisbane River with the telegraph station," she said.

The windmill would send up flags to tell the people in the colony about the incoming ships.

Later, it was home to experimental radio.

"In the '30s and '40s it was used for experimental radio signals and telephony research," Ms Loo said.

That experimentation culminated in another first for the tower.

The windmill hosted Queensland's first television broadcast

"It was the site of Queensland's first television broadcast in 1934, back when it was very experimental," Ms Loo said.

"It kept going for longer than that, they kept doing experiments out of there."

Share Socially