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Parliament House

  • 600069
  • 69 Alice Street, Brisbane City


State Heritage
Register status
Date entered
21 October 1992
Political: Parliament house
7.2 Maintaining order: Government and public administration
Tiffin, Charles
Construction period
1865–1889, Parliament House (1865 - 1889)
Historical period
1840s–1860s Mid-19th century


69 Alice Street, Brisbane City
Brisbane City Council
-27.47572776, 153.02702334


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Criterion AThe place is important in demonstrating the evolution or pattern of Queensland’s history.

Parliament House was constructed between 1865 and 1867 as the seat of Queensland government after separation from New South Wales in 1859. It is unique as the first and only purpose built Parliament House in Queensland and, as the continuing seat of Parliament, is immensely important in demonstrating the evolution of Queensland's history. At the time of construction it was the largest and most imposing building in the state, indicating of the sense of permanency and ambition felt by the government of Queensland at that time. Its nearest rival in scale and style was Government House (600118), previously completed in 1862.

Criterion BThe place demonstrates rare, uncommon or endangered aspects of Queensland’s cultural heritage.

It is unique as the first and only purpose built Parliament House in Queensland and, as the continuing seat of Parliament, is immensely important in demonstrating the evolution of Queensland's history.

Criterion DThe place is important in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a particular class of cultural places.

Parliament House demonstrates the principal characteristics of a building of its type, and the design and plan and illustrates the way in which Queensland Parliament operates. The planning of the Chambers in particular, demonstrates the hierarchy of Parliamentary proceedings.

Criterion EThe place is important because of its aesthetic significance.

The place is a significant landmark in the city of Brisbane, both alone and as part of an immediate precinct at the intersection of Alice and George Streets. It also forms part of a larger Government Precinct extending from Old Government House to the Law Courts.

Parliament House is of considerable aesthetic significance due to its landmark qualities and for its high degree of design and workmanship, including exterior details and internal features such as stained glass windows and cedar joinery.

Criterion FThe place is important in demonstrating a high degree of creative or technical achievement at a particular period.

The design and construction of a building of this scale at such an early stage in the history of Brisbane demonstrates a high degree of creative and technical achievement.

Criterion GThe place has a strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group for social, cultural or spiritual reasons.

As the seat of Queensland government and the place where virtually every significant political decision has been made over the past 130 years, Parliament House has strong associations with the people of Brisbane and the State of Queensland.

Criterion HThe place has a special association with the life or work of a particular person, group or organisation of importance in Queensland’s history.

It also has special association with the architects involved in its construction, including Charles Tiffin, F D G Stanley, G Connolly and Thomas Pye who is thought to have designed the relief panels on the Alice Street wing.


The main wing of Parliament House (facing George Street) was erected between 1865 and 1867 as the seat of Queensland government after separation in 1859. It was designed by Colonial Architect Charles Tiffin and is the most substantial building erected in this period. The wing facing Alice Street was constructed between 1887 and 1889, supervised by Colonial Architect, G Connolly.

Prior to separation, Moreton Bay was included in an electoral division which encompassed all areas north of Port Macquarie. By 1851 Moreton Bay had elected a Member to the Legislative Council of New South Wales, and when separation occurred the region was represented by nine Members.

In 1859, the colony of Queensland was granted separation from New South Wales and a constitution was established, based on the English Westminster system. This provided the need for a legislature in two chambers, and conversion of the previous prison barracks in Queen Street was undertaken to fulfil this.

This proved unsatisfactory and in 1864, a Commission was established to host a competition for a new House of Parliament. The committee members decided upon 20 000 as the amount which competitors should endeavour to make the basis of the probable cost. Entries were received and the design of Benjamin Backhouse was considered to be most suitable. However it proved to be too costly and the design of Colonial Architect Charles Tiffin was selected instead. This decision caused much controversy and the Commission was eventually forced to alter the previous plans and call for a new design. In December 1864 the Queensland Daily Guardian reported that the whole of the designs are to be rejected and an entirely new and original design has been adopted. The new building design is more imposing, more appropriate and will afford more accommodation.

Tiffin's new design comprised four ranges around a central court, with the Legislative chambers in the George Street range and government offices in the remaining ranges. The arrangement of space, both of the building as a whole and within the individual chambers is indicative of the way in which Parliamentary proceedings were, and still are, conducted

The building was to be erected on what was then part of Queens Park, adjacent to the Government Domain and the Botanic Gardens. The foundation stone was laid on July 14 1865 by Governor Bowen and work commenced on the George Street range.

In 1865 the Brisbane Courier described the George Street range as being 304 feet long by 86 feet deep at the 103 feet in height to the top of a curved mansard roof over the libraries and the grand staircase.

Now described as Classical Revival in style, it was then described as renaissance as adopted in the Louvre and Tulleries, but of a less ornate character and more in keeping with the position of the colony. The external walls are constructed of freestone from Mr Jeays quarry at Woogaroo and the roof was originally of English slates..... the ridges and mansards terminated with iron cresting.

Internally, the Courier described the building as plain and substantial, however finishes included large stained glass windows by Messrs Chance of Birmingham featuring portraits of the Queen, the Prince and the Princess of Wales, large and ornate sunlights, also imported from England, cedar doors with panels of open bronze work, and ornate plasterwork.

By 1867, the work was complete, although due to financial constraints, only the George Street range had been constructed.

Tiffin retired from the position of Colonial Architect in 1869 and was succeeded by F D G Stanley. The building remained as constructed until 1878 when additions were made including the construction of archways and colonnades to the George Street facade and erection of the stone and iron palisade fence to the George and Alice Street frontages.

In 1887 it was again decided to make additions to the House and the Alice Street range was constructed, completed in 1889. The Colonial Architect at this time was George St Paul Connolly, who supervised the work. Although the extension conforms to Tiffin's original design principals, it shows slight variations in the form of relief stonework panels comprising staghorns, eucalyptus leaves, gum nuts and convolvulus. The designer of these is thought to have been Thomas Pye, chief draftsman of the Department of Public Works at the time. The sculptor is unidentified, having been employed by the contractor Daniel MacDonald.

The abolition of the Legislative Council in 1922 rendered the Council Chamber obsolete. Although rarely used, the space remains intact.

The multi-storey parliamentary annexe at the rear of the original building was erected in 1979, followed by the addition of the porte cochere to the George Street range in 1981. The new porte cochere was based on Tiffin's original design, although it was increased in size to allow for the passage of cars.

In 1982, the building was renovated at a cost of thirteen million dollars. This included extensive refurbishment of all areas, including the addition of air conditioning in all rooms, the installation of security and fire protection services and externally, the replacement of finishes such as the tessellated tiles to the ground floor arcades and the original copper sheeting to the roof with a new material.


Parliament House is located at the intersection of George and Alice Streets and comprises the main wing, fronting George Street and a wing constructed at a later date, fronting Alice Street. It is an imposing three storeyed masonry building in Classical Revival style.

The entire building forms a dominant landmark at the northern end of the Government Precinct along George Street and is complemented by other nineteenth century buildings in the immediate area, including the Queensland Club [600113] and the Mansions [600119]. It also has a strong physical relationship with the Botanic Gardens [600067] opposite.

The original part of the building is constructed of dressed Woogaroo freestone. The arcades are of Murphy's Creek sandstone and the porte cochere is of Helidon white sandstone.

The George Street facade is symmetrical in design, comprising central and end pavilions connected by colonnaded wings.

The central pavilion has a porte cochere at ground level, above which is a balustraded terrace. The upper two storeys are surmounted by an entablature and parapet. The roof is square domed with decorative iron cresting and a dormer window with sandstone surrounds is centrally located on each of the four elevations.

The two end pavilions are symmetrically designed on both the front and end elevations, with three elongated arched windows on the ground floor, three windows surmounted by triangular pediments of the first floor and three smaller windows on the second floor. String courses are located at sill height and quoins demarcate each corner. This section is also surmounted by an entablature and parapet, which surrounds a mansard roof with decorative iron cresting.

The wings are slightly set back and connect the central and end pavilions. They comprise colonnades on the ground and first floors, a balustraded terrace to the second floor, and are also surmounted by an entablature and parapet. The roofs are gabled with centrally placed ventilation fleches.

The Alice Street range is similar in design to the wings of the George Street range, with colonnades to the ground and first floor levels, and a balustraded terrace to the second floor. The south west end is capped with a mansard roof, matching those on the George Street range. The Alice Street range varies from the George Street range, by the inclusion of decorative panels of relief carved stonework depicting Queensland flora, including a staghorn keystone above the central entrance. The south west elevation has a timber verandah with cast iron balustrades to all three levels.

The rear of the building faces a central courtyard surrounded by Parliament House and the annexe building. The rear elevations are less decorative in design, and a timber verandah with cast iron balustrades, similar in design to that on the Alice Street range, runs the length of the George Street range.

Internally, the rooms express the exterior massing, with the George Street range containing the primary rooms. The grand stair rises at the rear of the central pavilion, and libraries are located at the front on the first and second levels. At the landings of the grand stair are large stained glass windows depicting Queen Victoria and other subjects. The first floor of the connecting wings contains the Legislative Assembly at the north west end and the Council Chambers at the south east end. These spaces are open to the second level, on which the press and public galleries are located.

The south west end of the Alice Street range houses a cellar in the basement , a dining room and bar on the first floor and a billiard room on the second floor.

The remainder of the areas comprise offices of Members of Parliament and support staff, corridors and service areas. Secondary staircases to the public and press galleries are located within the wings on either side of the central pavilion. A concealed spiral staircase is located in offices at the south east end of the George Street range, allowing access from an office of the ground floor to the Council Chambers gallery of the second floor.

All rooms have ornate plaster cornices and ceiling roses which vary in design. Most offices have marble mantelpieces, with variations in the stone type and design in each of the ranges, and all areas have cedar joinery. Some offices in the Alice Street range are divided by cedar folding doors.

Alterations to the fabric, such as the lowering of ceilings to allow for air conditioning ducting is apparent in most areas. Original cornices and ceiling are visible in services cupboards. New lighting, decorative finishes and soft furnishings have been introduced into most areas.

Image gallery


Location of Parliament House within Queensland
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Last reviewed
1 July 2022
Last updated
20 January 2016
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