Grandchester was originally known as Bigge’s Camp, so named for pioneer pastoralist Frederick Bigge, who was the older brother of Francis Bigge, a Cleveland pioneer. Frederick Bigge had camped by the lagoon situated there on his way north to Brisbane Station, in 1842. Frederick Bigge was later to become a prominent member of the community, serving as a member of parliament. The first settlers in the area were Thomas and Maria Mort, who took up the Franklynvale run in 1849.
Bigge’s Camp, later Grandchester, has always been a stopping point for travellers looking for a place to rest, including Alan Cunningham who is said to have camped here in June 1829. When the railway line was opened, the new name of Grandchester was chosen and over time, Grandchester was to become the centre of the district. The locality known as Lady Bowen Hill is said to have been the place where the official function was held in July 1865, to celebrate the opening of the railway. The actual railway station was also constructed in 1865 and is the oldest in Queensland. The name Bigge’s Camp is still displayed at the station, forming a link with the area’s early history.
This photograph, dating from 1867, shows Bigge’s Camp or Granchester as it was starting to be called, only some two years after the opening of the line. At the time, the buildings were still in a rudimentary state, but the settlement was starting to grow under the positive influence of the new railway line.
Brian Randall – Queensland Places Coordinator, State Library of Queensland