Orr and Honeyman

Circled in red are Store no. 1 (closest) and Store no. 2, constructed by Orr and Honeyman. The photograph was taken in the 1870s.

With a view to making their fortunes, Matthew Brown Orr and James Honeyman arrived in Moreton Bay from Scotland on the Helenslee on 6 August 1862. To create an address for their enterprise they chose Queen’s Wharf, specifically allotment no. 5 which they purchased from its first owner, Thomas Dowse, sometime in 1863.

According to a newspaper advertisement from the following decade, Orr and Honeyman paid £2,000 for the site. They then invested £4,000 in improvements such as a brick and stone building containing offices and a counting house, two stores, one with a substantial stone basement, a package store, a wharf, a storeman’s cottage and a three bay stable. Their office on William Street had been designed by architect Benjamin Backhouse, a prolific architect resident in Brisbane between 1861 and 1868, with ‘ample provisions for additions at the northern side’.

To carry people and goods between Brisbane and outlying rural settlements to the south, Orr and Honeyman purchased the steamer Amy. Having been disassembled in Scotland, following its arrival by sailing ship the Amy was rebuilt on the riverbank below Queen’s Wharf during 1863. Following a celebratory launch she undertook trips to Ipswich, later servicing the Logan River where a village had been surveyed near the Jimboomba pastoral run in 1865.

Next, Orr and Honeyman bought riverside land at Logan Village, another vessel, the Leonie in 1865 and the Malungmavel Plantation at the junction of the Pimpama River and Hotham Creek, where cotton, then sugar and later arrowroot was grown. The expansion is reflected in mortgages, granted to members of the Orr and Brown families in Scotland in 1865 and Brisbane property speculator James Gibbon in 1868, included in land title dealing documents for the Queen’s Wharf site.

In March 1870 an event the Brisbane Courier claimed was ‘unparalleled in the meteorological history of Brisbane, and so great a rainfall in so short a period has never before been recorded’ submerged Orr and Honeyman’s wharf and resulted in water a metre deep in the lower storey of their No. 1 store nearest the river. Misfortunes continued.  In 1871 the Orr and Honeyman partnership reported assets of £28,000 but liabilities of £30,000 to a meeting of creditors and went into liquidation. James Gibbon subsequently transferred the mortgage of the Queen’s Wharf site, allotment no. 5, to sawmiller William Pettigrew.

Following the sale of partnership assets, Matthew Brown Orr purchased land at Tamrookum, south west of Beaudesert in the Upper Logan. It is from this property that the Orr family and one servant returned to England in September 1880. James Honeyman remained in Brisbane, as agent for the London and Lancashire Insurance Company, until 1876. Through the business Honeyman and Sons, his name is linked with the steamers Louisa (until 1887) and Fanny. James Honeyman, resident of Cleveland, retired from the position of Inspector of Invoices in the Customs Department in 1904.

Additional Reading

  • Brisbane Courier, 10 March 1870, p. 2.
  • Brisbane Courier, 1 November 1871, p. 4.


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