150 years – Parliament House, Queensland

August 2018 marks the 150th anniversary of the opening of Queensland’s Parliament House in Brisbane. The impressive building was commenced in 1864, first occupied in 1868, and completed 25 years later in 1889.

In 1922, columnist W.H.T. recorded his personal account of events surrounding Prince Alfred’s visit to Brisbane in February 1868, some three years after the Parliamentary foundation stone was laid by his Excellency the Governor Sir George Bowen. The article is entitled: Victoria’s Sailor Prince: visit to Queensland, 1868.

Artists impression of Parliament House; Pen and ink drawing: Brisbane and its Institutions, The Daily Mail (Brisbane, Qld.: 1903 – 1926, Sat 21 Jan 1922

Artist impression of Parliament House; Pen and ink drawing. Source: Brisbane and its Institutions, The Daily Mail (Brisbane, Qld.: 1903 – 1926, Sat 21 Jan 1922.

… “As a self-governing colony Queensland was little more than eight years old; yet, in that brief period Brisbane, the capital, with a population of 14,000 had done its best to make progress and of that progress it had no need to be ashamed. Prince Alfred, early in 1867, when 23 years of age was appointed to the command of H.M. frigate Galatea, which sailed from Plymouth South on 26 February on a world tour. Several months later the Galatea accompanied by three or four other ships of the line reached Australia and at each port of call the enthusiasm of the people was unbounded.

It was through seeing an engraving of the Prince’s reception in Brisbane …republished in a collection of pictures of “Old Brisbane” the event was recalled. Early in December 1867, both Houses of the Queensland Parliament appointed a committee to draft an address of welcome and the Government obtained a vote of £1,250 to be spent on the reception of the Prince…the honour of entertaining the Prince falling to Acting Governor, the Hon. Charles O’Connell, following the departure of Queensland’s first Governor, Sir George and Lady Bowen”. Pg 11.

With a flag signal hoisted on top of the Windmill Observatory in Wickham Street alerting the populace of Prince Alfred’s arrival, officials boarded the government steamer, Kate, to greet and welcome Queensland’s first royal visitor on 25 February.

Triumphal arch in Queen Street, Brisbane, for the visit of His Royal Highness, Prince Alfred, in 1868. Collection GS-55 Fassifern Valley Photograph Album Accession number: 93-11-1

Triumphal Arch, Queen Street, Brisbane, on the occasion of the visit of His Royal Highness, Prince Alfred, 1868. Collection GS-55 Fassifern Valley Photograph Album Accession number: 93-11-1. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

The procession, announcing his arrival commenced at the Queens Botanic Gardens and followed along Edward, Mary and Eagle Streets into Queen Street and under a Triumphal Arch specifically erected to welcome the Prince, Queensland’s first royal guest. It was noted, following the suggestion of Mr John Petrie, two aboriginal men scaled the Arch to stand on each side of the central anchor on the very top. John Petrie was elected Brisbane’s first Mayor. He was the first born son of Andrew Petrie.

Following the singing of the National Anthem led by a choir of children, the royal carriage moved in the direction of Government House, escorted by mounted police.

The Prince attended several events over the next few days, taking in the sights of Toowoomba and Ipswich, horse racing at Eagle Farm, and a citizen’s ball and entertainment by the German Club.

On 29 February, the Prince planted two trees at the entrance to Parliament House and laid a foundation stone at Brisbane’s first grammar school.

H.R.H. Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, ca. 1868 Prince Alfred was the second son of Queen Victoria and Queensland's first Royal visitor. Image: 21218085380002061

H.R.H. Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, ca. 1868, second son of Queen Victoria and Queensland’s first Royal visitor. Image: 21218085380002061, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Visitors are welcome to attend the free open day event on Saturday, 11 August 2018 and enjoy a free self-guided tour of Parliament House along with entertainment and children’s activities that will take place on the Speaker’s Green. Information about the planned events are available online, including a brief history of Parliament House.

Anne Scheu – Engagement Officer, State Library of Queensland

More Reading:

Parliament House – history in pictures by Myles Sinnamon, State Library of Queensland;

Australian Dictionary of Biography – John Petrie, son of Andrew Petrie

Newspaper Sources

Victoria’s Sailor Prince: visit to Queensland, 1868: The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld.:1872 – 1947), Sat 8 Jul 1922

Laying the Foundation Stone of the new Parliamentary buildings, The Brisbane Courier (Qld.: 1864 – 1933) Tues 18 July 1865

Brisbane and its Institutions, The Daily Mail (Brisbane, Qld.: 1903 – 1926, Sat 21 Jan 1922