One of only two buildings surviving in Brisbane from the era of the Moreton Bay penal settlement, the Commissariat Store was constructed in 1828-29. In 2014 it operates as a museum dedicated to the convict history of Brisbane and is the headquarters of the Royal Historical Society of Queensland (RHSQ).
Because the Commissariat was constructed to face the Brisbane River, the best view of the building’s robust Georgian and Regency architecture is from Queen’s Wharf Road. In the convict era, goods invariably arrived by boat and were unloaded at the first, convict built wharf, known then as the King’s Wharf. The Commissariat building was the entry point for the penal settlement as well as its food stronghold, continuing to serve a role as a place of storage for later, civilian governments. Design is attributed to William John Dumaresq (1793-1868). In 1913 a third, brick-rendered, storey was added to the Brisbane tuff and sandstone two-storey 1828-29 structure.
After the convict era ended in the early 1840s and until purpose-built depots were constructed, the building served as a place of accommodation for immigrants arriving in Brisbane. Smaller outbuildings were erected within the convict-built retaining walls which surround the Commissariat, but these have been removed. Renovations undertaken since the 1970s have revealed a range of archaeological items related to the uses of the Commissariat. From the late 1990s additional work was undertaken in preparation for the building’s latest occupant, RHSQ.
When a water main burst in William Street during the flood period of January 2011, the convict retaining wall and the ground floor wall of the Commissariat were damaged. In the sediment and debris 8,579 artefacts were found, including ceramic, glass and faunal material dated over a thirty year period from the 1850s. They related to a land fill deposit from the late 1880s when repairs were made to the Commissariat’s William Street fencing.
Once the most important building in the penal settlement, the Commissariat remains the most importance building in the Queen’s Wharf precinct.
Read the Queensland Heritage Register citation for the Commissariat Store.