Paxton Communal Farm

Recently digitised at the State Library of Queensland is a 10 minute long, early 1940s film documenting the brief existence of Paxton Farm in the Slacks Creek area, now Springwood. The communal farm was established in 1941 by members of The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). The footage was taken by J. K. Brown, a member of the commune.

Paxton Poultry Farm. Accession 6625 Paxton Farm motion picture. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

At the time, during World War Two, Quakers were being persecuted in Brisbane for being conscientious objectors. This lead to a couple of families, initially the Browns and Souwers, seeking refuge in outlying bushland south of Brisbane. Purchasing a 100 acre block, they cleared the bush by hand and gradually built sheds, homes and farm infrastructure. The plot was named Paxton Farm, from ‘pax’ meaning ‘peace’ in Latin.

Clearing trees. Accession 6625 Paxton Farm motion picture. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Milling timber. Accession 6625 Paxton Farm motion picture. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Initially setting up a charcoal business, the residents of Paxton Farm gradually developed their site into a successful poultry farm. Over the following decade, the business eventually grew to the extent where Paxton poultry was being exported to England.

Stacking bags of charcoal. Accession 6625 Paxton Farm motion picture. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Collecting eggs. Accession 6625 Paxton Farm motion picture. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

The film compiles footage across a number of years during the 1940s. The farm is seen developing from its early days, when family members visited from Brisbane during the week to clear and build, through to being a functioning farm with families living on site. Commune members are seen drilling a bore, setting up an electric fence and raising a tank on to a high set tank stand.

Drinking bore water. Accession 6625 Paxton Farm motion picture. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Painting a tank. Accession 6625 Paxton Farm motion picture. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Raising a water tank. Accession 6625 Paxton Farm motion picture. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

The Poultry Farm lasted until the late 1960s when large multinational poultry businesses began to dominate the market. The farm was sold off and the land eventually subdivided. Springwood Central Primary School now stands on part of the land that the farm once occupied, with the surrounding area now a built-up, busy part of Logan Shire. In October this year the school celebrated its 40 year anniversary.

Paxton Poultry Farm truck. Accession 6625 Paxton Farm motion picture. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

The film footage of Paxton Farm was digitised from a VHS tape, copied from the original film 10-20 years ago by the donor. The library actually holds the orginal film (Accession 7432 Sylvia Brown Films), however it has deteriorated to the extent that the VHS copy was of better quality to digitise. Even so, the digitised version is still quite rough, with regular flickering and poor picture quality. Yet it still manages to convey powerful images of the life on the farm.

The double Quaker wedding, 1943. Accession 6625 Paxton Farm motion picture. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Also on the VHS, and digitised along with the Paxton Farm motion picture, is a short film titled “A double wedding in the ‘manner of friends’, 27th Feb, 1943”. This film shows footage of the combined weddings of Mr H. J. Souwer (Dick) and Miss Violet Hunt (Barbara), and Mr Lawrence Clive Brown and Miss Sylvia Audrey Souwer, at the Friend’s House, Makerston Street, Brisbane. The Telegraph newspaper of the day reported it as the first double Quaker wedding in the Commonwealth.

The films can be viewed via our One Search catalogue. The State Library of Queensland also holds an oral history recording with an original Paxton Farm resident, Sylvia Brown. This recording is a part of OH 116 Logan District Oral History and can be listened to online.

R. Hillier – Librarian, State Library of Queensland