Tracking the History of Eagle Farm as Farmland, Penal Settlement, and Airport Hub

Eagle Farm
Photo Credit: Google Maps

Did you know that the development of Eagle Farm began sometime around 1829, when Captain Patrick Logan was tasked to expand food production in what was then a penal colony? Before it became an industrial site, Eagle Farm was once land for cultivation belonging to the Moreton Bay penal settlement.

Capt Logan accepted the assignment from then-Governor Ralph Darling and upon the recommendations of Colonial Botanist Charles Frazer, Capt Logan picked a fertile site between the Brisbane River and Serpentine Creek.


 
 


Around 150 male prisoners cultivated the land and built slabs and structures in the area. Corn was mostly grown in the farm, along with cabbages, potatoes, carrots, and yams. 

The name Eagle Farm was derived from the eagles that were observed around the place. 

A Good Start Turned Problematic

Following its establishment, Eagle Farm had much success in providing food for the colony, including Sydney. Buildings were then established to improve the farming operations. 

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However, the area was soon plagued with problems like flooding and drought, which impacted food production. In 1832, Eagle Farm also experienced a malaria outbreak. This prompted the government to reconsider abandoning the site which was notorious for its swampy and unhealthy conditions.

Despite these unfortunate circumstances, Eagle Farm was not closed. Instead, the male convicts were replaced with 40 female convicts, who worked in the Female Factory to wash and mend the clothes of the male prisoners. By 1837, the site became an all-female penal settlement. 

Eagle Farm Factory
Photo Credit: National Libray of Australia

The women were protected within a fenced property separate from the male prisoners. Despite the fences, however, the women were often visited by the men. They hid from the guards among the tall grasses surrounding the area. This became even more difficult to oversee. 

Female Factory fences
These are replicas of the original fence and gates made of eucalypt poles measuring 5.2 metres high which doubled as both an enclosure and defensive measures.
Photo Credit: TradeCoast Central Heritage Park/Facebook
Eagle Farm Prison location
Prison location
Photo Credit: Paul Newman/Facebook
Eagle Farm Factory
Photo Credit: National Libray of Australia

In 1839, all the female convicts were shipped to Sydney and the Eagle Farm settlement was permanently closed. Two years later, Eagle Farm’s settlement was revived as a cattle station and then surveyed for public auction for white settlers. 

meat workers
Cattle and meat workers on a picnic
Photo Credit: State Library of Queensland

With the arrival of the settlers, some mixed farming of citrus fruits, small crops, dairy, and cattle was then undertaken on the land but it was always the target of raids for the Aborigines.

Eagle Farm Cotton Ginnery
Cotton ginnery
Photo Credit: State Library of Queensland
Aerial View
Aerial view 1940s
Photo Credit: State Library of Queensland

It’s unclear when the former women’s prison was completely demolished but by the 1890s, only the superintendent’s house survived before everything was completely gone due to redevelopments.

The Eagle Farm Airfield 

By the early 1900s, the Commonwealth used Eagle Farm as an airfield as the development of aviation progressed. A hangar was built on the site, where Bert Hinkler and Amy Johnson had their first solo flights to the United States.



However, Eagle Farm was eventually deemed unsuitable as an airfield due to problems with its drainage. The Commonwealth had no choice but to lease the land back to farming for many years until the site was reactivated for World War II.

during World War II
During World War II
Photo Credit: State Library of Queensland

The Royal Australian Air Force used Eagle Farm as its training school and it soon became a strategic site, given its proximity to Camp Ascot.

Eagle Farm Airport Drive
Airport Drive and Lamington Street Intersection 1953
Photo Credit: Brisbane City Council

After the war, the site became Brisbane’s principal aviation hub until it was closed in 1988 with the establishment of a new airport in Brisbane.