Moorlands: The Sad History of An Alleged Murderer’s House

Photo Credit: Google Maps screengrab

Sitting in the Wesley Hospital complex in Auchenflower, Moorlands once belonged to Mary Mayne, the widow of Patrick Mayne, a prominent Brisbane resident who allegedly confessed to murder on his deathbed.

Following her husband’s death, Mary bought the Moorlands estate from John Markwell in the 1870s and moved in with her four children: James, William, Isaac and Mary Emelia. Her fifth and youngest child joined the Sisters of Mercy.

Photo Credit: Queensland Places

However, because of her husband’s reputation, neighbourhood kids were instructed to avoid walking past the Moorlands. The Maynes were essentially isolated from their community. 

What Did Patrick Mayne Do?

Patrick Mayne, originally from Ireland, migrated to Brisbane in the 1840s. He found work as a slaughterman but eventually established his own butcher shop. His business became a success, making Patrick one of the richest men in the city. In 1859, Patrick became an alderman at Brisbane’s first council.

However, Patrick died of an unknown illness in 1865. In the book, “The Mayne Inheritance,” he allegedly made a confession on his deathbed to murdering a man in Kangaroo Point in his early years in Brisbane because of a large amount of money.

Tower Ad

Rebuilding the Moorlands

In 1892, the family redeveloped the existing timber residence with this magnificent home designed by Richard Gailey and built by Arthur Smith. It was understood that the Maynes kept a time capsule underneath the house’s foundation stone that contained newspaper clippings and the reason for rebuilding the house. 

Moorlands in the 1920s
Moorlands 1971
Photo Credit: State Library of Queensland

After their mother’s death in 1889, the children continued to live in the Moorlands and focused on atoning for their father’s crime. None of them had children to pass on to the family’s future generation.

James became a doctor and the superintendent at the Brisbane General Hospital (now Royal Brisbane Hospital). Mary donated to churches and causes while Isaac descended into a state of madness and lived in one of the boarded-up rooms until he was moved into an asylum after he was linked to the killing of a Japanese man at Milton Station.

Eventually, James and Mary decided to bequeath the Moorlands to the University of Queensland, but she was allowed to live in the house until her final days. During World War II, the Moorlands was occupied by the U.S. Army. After the war, it was made into a home for orphaned children.

In the 1970s, the Uniting Church bought the property and built the Wesley Hospital compound. The heritage-listed house became the administration’s building. 

Moorlands 1981
Photo Credit: QUT Digital Collections

No Compelling Evidence?

Since the publication of “The Mayne Inheritance,” arguments debunking the allegations of murder and questioning the validity of the claim of a deathbed confession in the book have been posited, specifically pointing out the absence of both direct or circumstantial evidence of murder.

All of these add to the irresistible story about Moorlands and the Mayne family history.

Published 9 April 2023