CONTRIBUTED BY BRUCE SMITH, REDLAND MUSEUM
Willard’s Farm (The Pines) is a farm complex comprising a timber-framed, timber clad, metal roofed (originally shingled) farmhouse, built in phases from the 1860s. There are also associated farm elements consisting of a slab milking shed, former cream shed, slab storage shed (garage/shed) and an elevated water tank. It is located in the now suburban, but formerly agricultural area of Birkdale, within the boundary of Redland City Council on Old Cleveland Road East.
James Willard, the original owner of the property, arrived at Moreton Bay from England in June 1858, aged 22 years. He was an assisted immigrant and worked at Kedron Brook splitting timber and fencing. In May 1860, he married Margaret Jones at St John’s pro-cathedral in Brisbane. Margaret was a domestic servant and had arrived from Ireland in February 1859 aged 20 years. Their marriage resulted in eleven children between 1861 and 1881.
The land on which Willard’s Farm is sited was selected by James Willard and Mark Blundell, who purchased it as tenants-in-common on 17 August 1863. This land comprised of 45 acres (18.2 ha), was bounded by Tingalpa Creek to the west and the Cleveland Road to the east. Family history reports that Willard built a hut near the creek and lived there until he built a house using timber removed from the block.
In 1865 James Willard was granted one of the district’s first timber-cutting licenses in the Capalaba area, rafting his timber down Tingalpa Creek to Burnett’s sawmill at Wellington Point. He needed to clear timber to create open farmland. In August 1866, transfer of the whole of the property to James Willard was recorded.
The Willard farmhouse was constructed in stages and increased by James as the family grew. He had bush carpentry skills, and materials were readily available on the property. The milking shed and other outbuildings were also constructed using timber from the property.
During the 1870s and 1880s, James Willard gradually purchased other surrounding landholdings resulting in the creation of a thriving dairying and agricultural business. James Willard died on October 2, 1914. Following Margaret’s death on 15 June 1916, the property ownership was transferred to son William and daughter Margaret as tenants-in-common.
From 1927 to 1937, the farm was leased to share farmers due to the difficult economic circumstances at the time. The Toms family resided there during the 1930s and they adopted the name The Pines for the property. In November 1938, the farm was sold to Herbert Clive Daniel who sold off all of the dairy herd, pigs and machinery in a dispersal sale. The property was then sold to Rosemary Innes Cotton in June 1941.
In 1943, most of the land behind Willard’s Farm was requisitioned by the US Army for a communications centre. The Americans erected a receiving radio station, comprising a brick building and several tall radio masts. The Cotton family retained five acres (2.03ha) on which the house and outbuildings were located.
On 2 September 1945 a message announcing the surrender by the Japanese on that day was received at the overseas radio station (probably the one at Capalaba) and was transmitted to the Brisbane Signal Centre via teletype. It was a message from the Supreme Commander for the Allied Forces, General Douglas MacArthur.
After the end of WW2, the Australian Government Postmaster General’s Department (PMG) acquired approximately 159 acres of the former communications centre. The facilities were also later used by the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA).
The Cotton family sold the remaining property in 1980. The property was sold again in 1985. At this time a detailed description of the farmhouse and its associated farm elements was recorded by the National Trust of Queensland.
Willard’s Farm and the Willard family have been recognised as important to the local community. Oral history interviews by local residents have been recorded to retain recollections of the farm and the family. In 2006, a Willard family reunion attended by over 200 descendants was held at ‘The Pines’.
In 2015 Willard’s Farm was purchased by Redland City Council, who endeavoured to have it heritage listed. The application was unsuccessful. At the time, the farm was within Division 10, and Cr Paul Bishop had been a key player in the acquisition of the farm. In 2019 Council acquired the surrounding Commonwealth Land, which had originally been a part of the farm.
In September 2019 long-time resident of the original Willard’s estate at Birkdale, Isabella Alcock aka Ann Porter, known to many as the ‘goat lady,’ died at age 84. Ms Alcock had lived as a squatter on the Commonwealth land for 61 years. She cared for cattle, sheep and dairy cows in large paddocks but was known for the goats that lived near the road.
On 8 March 2022, the Willard’s Farm house and surrounding
buildings were officially listed on the Queensland State Heritage Register.
On 28 April 2022, Redland City Council adopted a draft masterplan for the Birkdale Community Precinct. The plan includes the restoration of the heritage-listed Willard’s Farmhouse and outbuildings, the heritage-listed former World War II Radio Receiving Station and the Redlands Whitewater Centre, which will be a host venue during the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games, as well as a host of entertainment and recreational facilities.