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The old windmill in brisbane demonstrates what was convict treadmill punishment to becoming the Brisbane observatory. Real estate brisbane and jobs in brisbane

The Old Windmill Brisbane - Convict Punishment to Observatory

Correspondence on 6 June 1828 from the Colonial Secretary Alexander McLeay to Captain Logan advised that:

'as the numbers on the settlement will be materially increased within a short period, you will be pleased to take steps for extending the land in cultivation, it being important on every account that the government should be relieved from the trouble and expense of sending supplies of this nature from hence'.

Supplies of maize flour coming by ship from Sydney often took over a month to arrive, which meant the settlement would have had shortages of food. A windmill at Brisbane was begun on a hill which is now Wickham Terrace above the settlement in July 1828 and was in operation by the following October.

Up to that time, flour in casks were shipped to the settlement from Sydney. Locally grown wheat and maize could be utilized with the introduction of local grinding facilities. The convicts took the maize and wheat in a hand cart from the fields to a barn near the corner of present day Albert and Elizabeth Streets.

Thrashing to loosen the grain from the stalk was undertaken and then the seed was carried by bullock dray or handcart to the old windmill. This barn, after free settlement, is where the first Catholic congregation started.

After construction, the Windmill needed constant repairs and failed to operate in calm weather. There was a proposal to build a convict operated treadmill due to the constant failure of the old Windmill.

In 1837 Andrew Petrie arrived in Brisbane as the Superintendent of Works in the settlement. He became Brisbane's first and most important building contractor. With Petrie’s expertise, Brisbane's old Windmill with enough wind power, continued to operate under sail until 1841.

The Treadmill

The primary use of the Treadmill attached to the the old windmill brisbane was as a means of punishment, other than flogging or solitary confinement. Punishment for relatively minor offences meant the convict received a flogging of 25 lashes or a 14-hour stretch on the Treadmill. Allowances were made for a short rest period when four convicts were allowed off the treads at a time.

James Backhouse recorded in his diary that twenty-five prisoners generally worked the Convict Treadmill at a time but when used for special punishment, sixteen are kept upon it for fourteen hours at one time. Long hours of tiring work in a subtropical climate and undernourished by a poor diet contributed towards the relatively high convict death rate. A day on the Treadmill replaced whipping for less serious offences.

An official Report of Convict Deaths, made in September 1829, states prisoner Michael Collins became 'entangled in the machinery of the tread wheel and was killed'. There were descriptions of men dying of exhaustion after long hours on the Treadmill. Heat exhaustion after arduous work on the Treadmill accounted for the high rates of hospital admission in the summer of 1829.

To operate the treadmill, the convicts grasped an overhead rail with both hands and tread wide steps as if walking continuously upstairs. They had to step briskly or be struck on the shins by the next tread as it came round and those with the heavier leg irons had the hardest job trying to keep up.

William Ross, a prisoner at Moreton Bay from 1826 to 1833, made account of the life of a convict at Moreton Bay in his book The Fell Tyrant. He complained how the brutality used on this piece of machinery is beyond the power of a human being to describe.

His memoirs record that 'six out of ten prisoners would rather be hanged than drag out a life of such misery'. Some are supposed to have killed another convict or an overseer in order to be hanged.

In the late 1830s the miller was Martin Frawley, who still operated the old windmill in Brisbane for the free settlement in 1845 as an ex-convict. The government put the old windmill in Brisbane up for auction in 1849, but such was the local outcry that it was retained as a landmark for public use. In 1861 Brisbane's old windmill was converted to a signal station.

The architect was Charles Tiffin and the work was carried out by John Petrie who replaced the rotating cap and arms and added a fifth floor to the old windmill. The old windmill was converted to an observatory with a flagstaff being erected in 1865 for flying shipping signals received by telegraph from Fort Lytton. During the 1890s the roof was used by the fire brigade for night fire-spotting. From 1922 to 1926 the tower served the Institute of Radio Engineers for meetings and experiments and during the 1930s and 1940s it was the venue for pioneer television broadcasting.

After the Moreton Bay Convict Settlement was closed and the free settlers came to Brisbane Town the Treadmill was dismantled. The old windmill then became notorious for being the first gallows in Brisbane. On 2nd July 1841, two male aboriginals Merridio and Neugavil were hanged from the improvised gallows after being convicted in Sydney of the murder of the surveyor Staplyton and his assistant Tuck on the 14th May 1840 near Mt. Lindsay.

The old windmill observatory Brisbane