1888 Queen's Wharf showing timber stacked on Lot 4

Section of an 1888 drawing which includes Queen’s Wharf. The stacked timber is situated on Lot 4.

Members of the Binstead family were part of the group of first owners of land at Queen’s Wharf,  obtaining title to Lot 3 and Lot 4 after they were first offered for sale in 1850.

The Binstead family came from Sussex in England. Arthur Binstead, born in 1781, was a sawyer, as was his son George, born in 1812. For their involvement in the Swing Riots in England, when agricultural machinery was vandalised, both were sentenced in 1831 to fourteen years in Van Diemen’s Land.

After their local village raised the money for passage, the two men were joined in 1834 by Arthur’s wife Maria and three of the younger children. Arthur and Maria’s son, John (born 1810), was already in New South Wales having been transported in 1832 for burglary.

In 1837, Arthur and George Binstead were granted free pardons, and they moved to NSW to join John. Arriving at Moreton Bay in 1842, Arthur Binstead was amongst the town’s first post-convict period arrivals. He established a sawpit operation at the lower end of Queen Street, assisted in this work by sons Arthur (1819-1851) and William Alfred (1821-1903) who had joined their father. The business appears on the 1844 map of Brisbane as ‘Bensteads, sawyers’. The connection of this family to the Queen’s Wharf area is through Arthur’s sons, William Alfred (1821-1903) and Arthur jnr. (1819-1853).

There is no record of when William Alfred, Arthur jnr. or their older brother John Binstead, and their respective families, arrived in Brisbane, however, all three of these young men are reported to have subscribed to the Brisbane Anniversary Regatta in January 1848.[1] The Binsteads took part in two races. Their Dundee Lass came second to John Petrie’s boat in the first race. They won the fifth race with their boat Pirate.

Some confusion surrounds the Binstead purchases of Lot 3 and Lot 4 in the small subdivision between Queen’s Wharf and Margaret Street, that area bounded by William Street and the Brisbane River. At a land sale on 3 July 1850, William Alfred Binstead (1821-1903) purchased Lot 3 for £45 10s. However, the Certificate of Title on Lot 3 dated August 1851 shows his nephews, William (1841-1920) and Arthur (1843-1927, known as Long Arthur) as co-owners of the land.  The sons of Arthur and Henriette Binstead, both were young boys at the time.[2] At the July 1850 land sale, James Buckland is recorded as purchasing Lot 4 for £42 14s. A Certificate of Title, also of August 1851, lists William Alfred Binstead as the purchaser of Lot 4 for £42 14s.

The Binsteads established saw-pits on the lots as well as building one, possibly two cottages and several sheds. Their business came under pressure from the first steam run saw mill built by William Pettigrew on the adjacent Lot 2, closer to Margaret Street. Pettigrew believed the Binsteads and two other sawyers were responsible for burning down his mill in 1855. In his diary, written in 1900, he recalled watching several sawpits on land around him and claimed that the men met in Binstead’s house to plot the fire[3].

Although William Alfred Binstead owned land at Queen’s Wharf, he was also one of the first settlers in the Upper Coomera District. Family history records indicate that his fourth daughter, Charlotte, was born at Coomera in 1853. History also records the death of William Alfred and Mary Binstead’s fifth daughter, Harriet, then a toddler of 17 months, died in 1857 in Brisbane in a fire accidentally lit by a candle[4]. Eventually Coomera became the family’s principal place of residence.

The only other information about William Alfred Binstead and the land on William Street comes from formal documents for Lot 4. At an unknown time, lot 4 was leased to William and Robert Pettigrew who stored their milled timber on the site.

After the lease expired, William Alfred Binstead took out a mortgage with the Commercial Company of Sydney. In 1884 William Alfred, then listed as a sugar manufacturer of Coomera River, obtained another mortgage from the South Australian Land Mortgage and Agency Co. Ltd for £8,000, with his son-in-law John Howard as co-mortgagor. William Alfred Binstead and the South Australian Mortgage Co. repaid the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney outstanding monies from the earlier mortgage and obtained a release. By 1887, William Alfred Binstead was in default of the interest payments on the mortgage. As a result, the land was seized by the South Australian Land Mortgage Co. According to the Certificate of Title issued to them in 1888, Lot 4 was valued at £6,600, occupied only by Abraham Street, a feather dyer who paid a weekly rent on a cottage on site.

Financially, the times were boom and about to go bust. The South Australian Land Mortgage Co requested the Registrar General to issue a Certificate of Title to William and Robert Pettigrew who had already paid the company £1,320 and taken a mortgage with them for a further £2,280. However, Pettigrew’s business suffered badly in the floods of 1893 and 1898. Pettigrew filed for insolvency in July 1898. Lot 4 was presumably taken back by the South Australian Land Mortgage Co and finally transferred to the Government in 1908.

Of Lot 3 there is no formal documentation other than the original title document. Indications are that the land remained in the hands of brothers William and Arthur Binstead, both of Coomera. Correspondence held in the Southport Library reveals that in 1907 the estate agent Cameron Bros. was trying to persuade them to sell the land for £2,250. In his reply Arthur makes it clear they have the land under offer at a better price.[5] In 1908 the State Government purchased the land, presumably this was the better offer.

[1] Moreton Bay Courier, 29 January, 1848, p. 2.

[2] With the death of their mother in 1852 and their father in 1853, the boys were orphans, though cared for by other members of the large Binstead family.

[3] Brown, Elaine. William Pettigrew 1825-1906: Sawmiller, surveyor, shipowner and citizen: an immigrant’s life in colonial Queensland. PhD thesis, University of Queensland, 2005. http://espace.library.uq.edu.au/view/UQ:189814

[4] Moreton Bay Courier, 16 May, 1857, p. 2.

[5] Copies of these letters are held in the Local Studies section, Southport Branch Library, City of the Gold Coast, manuscript number LHM5150.