With its very name calling to mind a vision of a “field of flowers,” Auchenflower in Brisbane holds an intriguing mystery in one of its heritage homes that add contrast to its blossoming representation.
The Moorlands at 451 Coronation Drive was built in 1892 by Arthur Smith. Designed by Richard Gailey, it is now a part of the Queensland Heritage Register. The home was originally built for the Mayne family. It replaced Moorlands Villa, their old family home.
Patrick Mayne was popular in the neighbourhood. He had his own butcher shop on Queen Street and he later on served as an alderman of the Brisbane Municipal Council. Married to Mary, they had four children.
The construction of their house began by the laying of the foundation stone, a task which was given to Mary Emelia Mayne, one of their children. It is said that underneath the foundation stone is a time capsule that contains newspapers of the day and the reason for the construction of the house.
A Case For Sanity
Prior to the construction of the house, Patrick and the Mayne family had already been the subject of speculation. According to the popular lore, Patrick allegedly confessed on his deathbed to killing and butchering a man, whilst allowing an innocent man to be hung for the crime.
The neighbours maintained their distance from the house and the family. Children around the neighbourhood weren’t allowed to go to the house or even walk past it. The Mayne children became isolated in the house.
Three of the children continued to occupy the house following the deaths of their parents. They didn’t bear any children. The youngest child joined the Sisters of Mercy but spent the last years of her life in a strait jacket.
James, one of the children, lived in the property as well. He was a doctor and was a superintendent of the Brisbane General Hospital (now the Royal Brisbane Hospital). He, along with his sister Mary, tried to rectify the sins of their father. They donated to churches and even purchased and donated the land for the University of Queensland.
Another one of the children, Isaac, also took residence in the house, but not by choice. He was locked up in a room as he was in a state of madness. He was linked to the savage murder of a Japanese man around the Milton Station. He was moved to an asylum, where he eventually took his own life.
After these horrific tragedies, James resigned from the hospital and travelled abroad with his sister.
During the World War II, the house was occupied by the US Army. It was used to provide accommodations for war widows and orphaned children until 1971. Today, it is now the head office of the Uniting Church’s Division of Aged Care and Domiciliary Services.
Despite the tragic and difficult lives that its occupants suffered, in the end, the house has risen above all of the rumours and speculations that plagued its reputation.