Historic Homes in Brisbane: Milton House

Photo credit: Heritage Branch/Queensland Heritage Register

One of the oldest surviving houses in Brisbane, Milton House is arguably the most significant landmark in the suburb.

The heritage-listed residence has been home to prominent personalities in Milton over the years. The house is also particularly special since this is where the suburb got its name.

Milton House helps in telling the story of Queensland’s history because of its association with important early agricultural experimentation and the pastoral development of the western suburbs. In fact, Milton house is the first substantial house in the western suburbs.

Get to know the history of Milton House and the important personalities that helped shape the suburb.

History of Milton House

BRISBANE’S HISTORIC HOMES, XLV.—MILTON HOUSE, MILTON. (1931, January 8). The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 – 1939), p. 37. Photo credit: National Library of Australia

Built around 1852 or 1853 for retired Queen Street chemist Ambrose Eldridge, Milton House was the first substantial house in the area. The remarkable residence instantly became a local landmark.

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Milton House was the base for Eldridge’s experimental farming. At the time, Moreton Bay region was still struggling to establish itself. Later, the home became the centre for JF McDougall’s considerable pastoral holdings in the area.

Ambrose Eldridge

Panoramic view of Milton, showing Milton House in the middle distance, ca. 1874. Photo credit: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image number: 66141.

Despite having little knowledge of farming, Eldridge bought over 30 acres of land along the northern bank of the Brisbane River in 1851. He then named it Milton Farm after his birthplace which was Greater Milton, near Oxford, England.

Eldridge experimented with cotton growing to prove that agriculture at Moreton Bay is both sustainable and profitable. He was initially one of the most successful cotton growers in the area.

In 1853, his cotton experiment was successful that his samples of cotton sent to Sydney in a government-sponsored competition won first prize. He also sent samples of the Milton cotton to the Paris Exhibition of 1855, where it was highly acclaimed.

With the hopes of expanding his efforts to promoting sustainable local farming in Brisbane, Eldridge took a lease of approximately 400 acres of land at Eagle Farm. He later sold the Milton Estate to pastoralist John Frederick McDougall in January 1856.

Unfortunately, Eldridge’s Eagle Farm experiment seems to have failed which forced him to go back to the chemist business in 1859. He sadly died a year after, leaving his family penniless.

Notable Residents of Milton House

Milton House, Milton, ca. 1870. Photo credit: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

After acquiring the land, JF McDougall, a member of the first Queensland Legislative Council, farmed the Milton Estate and enlarged the house considerably.

The McDougalls then lived at Rosalie Station and let Milton from 1864.

Well-known personalities that have lived in the house included Arthur Manning, the Colonial Under-Secretary; Henry Walsh, MLC and speaker of the Legislative Assembly; and James Crombie.

Milton house later gave its name to the local suburb, whilst neighbouring Rosalie took its name from McDougall’s Darling Downs property.

After a few years of tenancy, Milton Farm was sold to the Queensland Investment and Land Mortgage Co. Ltd in 1885. The estate was then subdivided for residential development at a time when the newly created streets of McDougall, Manning, Walsh, and Crombie were named after previous owners or occupiers of Milton House.

Side view of Milton House with the Manning family on the verandah, 1868. Photo credit: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image Number: 63477

Other owners and occupiers of the historic home include:

  • The Commissioner of Police, David Thompson Seymour (1887).
  • Dr Hugh Bell, a noted physician and consultant at the Brisbane General Hospital for forty years (1888).
  • Grain merchant William Siemon and his family, who bought the estate in 1904 and renovated the premises in 1922.

The Siemon family then gave the property to the Presbyterian Church in 1955. The church used the Milton House as a hostel for women college students until 1983.

The building subsequently became part of the Kings Row Corporate Park development, at which time it was refurbished to resemble its outward appearance of the 1860s.

Milton House Now

The Milton House in 2018. Photo credit: kgbo/Wikimedia Commons

Today, Milton House remains to be a significant landmark in the suburb. It is currently one of the sites of Brisbane City Council’s Milton Heritage Trail.

The home still stands out with its striking features of Colonial Georgian architecture. Despite the developments that currently surrounds the heritage-listed home, a glimpse at the historic home reminds locals of its rich and valuable history.