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  • 600813
  • 248 Quay Street, Rockhampton


State Heritage
Register status
Date entered
21 October 1992
Residential: Town house
6.4 Building settlements, towns, cities and dwellings: Dwellings
10.1 Providing health and welfare services: Providing health services
Cousins, Robert & Lawson, Walter
Construction period
1885–1906, Avonleigh (1885 - 1906c)
Historical period
1870s–1890s Late 19th century


248 Quay Street, Rockhampton
Rockhampton Regional Council
-23.38066014, 150.51616133


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

Avonleigh forms part of the historic Quay Street precinct which is distinguished by its substantial 19th century buildings. Erected in 1885, Avonleigh is one of two buildings originally designed and constructed as domestic structures in the street which is dominated by commercial buildings and reflects the affluent development which occurred in Rockhampton during the boom time of gold mining at Mount Morgan from 1882.

Criterion EThe place is important because of its aesthetic significance.

Avonleigh, through its form, scale and materials, makes a strong aesthetic and architectural contribution to the Quay Street streetscape and Rockhampton townscape. The building's decorative cast iron verandahs emphasise the nineteenth century character of the street and quayside, and are important in assisting the interpretation of the original section of the building as a substantial late nineteenth century residence. The building also has fine interior materials and finishes, the detailing of which reflects a fine quality of workmanship.

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

Avonleigh has special association for the people of Rockhampton as part of the historical streetscape of Quay Street which is closely associated with the image of the city. Avonleigh's conversion in 1906 to one of the first private hospitals in Rockhampton and its subsequent use as a medical surgery gives it an association with the local community as one of Rockhampton's longstanding medical surgeries.

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.

Avonleigh has special association with Frederick Morgan who with his brothers in 1882, was responsible for the commencement of goldmining at Mount Morgan. Avonleigh was erected as his residence in 1885 after the sale of his shares in Mount Morgan and as such is a manifestation of the early success of the Mount Morgan Mines.


Avonleigh was erected in 1885 for Frederick Augustus Morgan (b.1837, d.1894), who started mining with his two brothers at Mount Morgan in 1882. The brick building with sandstone quoining was constructed and designed by James McKenzie and was one of three town-houses (the others being Trustee Chambers, 1877, QHR600802; and the former Rockhampton Club, 1893, QHR 600801) established in Quay Street, offering a domestic contribution to a street dominated by substantial 19th century commercial buildings. It is part of the prestigious development which occurred in this period due to the wealth which Mount Morgan gold brought to Rockhampton.

The site (initially Allotment Seven, Portion 61, of 32 perches) was originally occupied by the Clarence & Eagle Hotel, constructed in 1861 for John Champion, who was involved with shipping on the 'Clarence' and the 'Eagle' steamers. By early 1878 the land was owned by Patrick Donaghy, and later that year it was purchased for £1400 by Edward O’Reilly, who renamed the existing hotel on the site (the Sailor’s Home Hotel) as the Hibernian Hotel.[1] O’Reilly attempted to sell the Hibernian, then situated opposite the Australasian Steam Navigation Company’s wharves, in 1879; but it was not until 1882 that the site and hotel were purchased for £1200, by Dr John H Harricks. In August 1883 Frederick (Fred) Augustus Morgan obtained the property and the (former) Hibernian Hotel from Harricks, after paying out the £1000 mortgage.[2]

Fred Morgan had arrived in Rockhampton in 1879 to take over the Criterion Hotel and was joined by his brothers Thomas and Edwin, with whom he commenced gold mining at Ironstone Mountain (Mount Morgan) in July 1882. Fred and his wife Mary may have lived in the former Hibernian Hotel from 1883 to 1885, and named it Avonleigh – in September 1883 Mrs F Morgan, of Avonleigh, Quay Street, River Bank, advertised for a general servant.[3]

By 1884 Fred Morgan had sold all his shares in the Mount Morgan mine for £62000.[4] As a result, he was able to build the current Avonleigh sometime during 1885. In March that year John Esdale, bricklayer, asked the Rockhampton Municipal Council for permission to lay down building material and erect scaffolding in Quay Lane at the rear of Mr F Morgan’s residence; and at the same time Morgan was asking for permission to improve his stable in Quay Street.[5] By July 1885 the Morgans were advertising for a gardener, cook and laundress;[6] and by December 1885 James McKenzie, monumental mason and contractor, noted that his last undertaking during the previous year had been the ‘erection of a brick residence for Mr F Morgan, with stone facings, for which he [was] both architect and contractor’.[7]

McKenzie (b.1854, d.1896) immigrated to Queensland in 1866, was apprenticed to monumental mason George Hounsell, and took over the latter’s business in 1877. McKenzie’s Rockhampton Stone Works obtained large quantities of freestone (sandstone) from Stanwell near Rockhampton.[8]

When Morgan applied to change from the Old System to Torrens Title in 1886, the value of his land on Quay Street was stated as £4000.[9] By 1886 the Morgans brothers had completely sold out to partners Hall, Pattison and D'Arcy – who that year formed the Mount Morgan Gold Mining Company – thereby foregoing the enormous yield that the Mount Morgan Gold Mines would produce.
After Fred Morgan had severed ties with the Mount Morgan gold mine he remained a prominent figure in Rockhampton, pursuing pastoral and other mining interests as well as holding the office of Mayor from 1891-93. Morgan died at Avonleigh in November 1894 and the funeral left his Quay Street house on 9 November 1894.

Morgan's house was originally a four-roomed structure (two upstairs and two downstairs) with an open encircling verandah and a central hall containing a cedar staircase. The external walls were of exposed red-brick with the base, quoining and facing of the house of Stanwell freestone.

Frederick's widow, Mary Morgan, obtained title of the property in May 1901 and after her death in September 1901 the title was transferred to Frederick George Morgan, her son, in February 1902. In September 1904 the title was transferred to John Henry O'Brien. The building was used as a boarding house at some stage before 1906.

In April 1906 Daniel Patrick O'Brien acquired the property for use as a private hospital. Dr DP O'Brien was a prominent medical practitioner in Rockhampton holding the position of Government Medical Officer, President of the Rockhampton Medical Association and medical officer to the local Hibernian association.

A May 1906 article stated that Avonleigh originally cost about £4000, and that the additions ‘just completed’ for Dr O’Brien cost £1000, with EG Waters being the architect.[10] At this time Avonleigh was described in detail. The walls were of brick, and the bases, quoins and facings were of dressed Stanwell freestone. There was a freestone rock-faced wall along the pavement line, which acted as a base for iron columns, surmounted by heavy moulded timber bressummers. Ornamented friezes and castings connected and spanned the columns. The balcony awning extending around the building was also carried on iron columns, with ‘palisading rail brackets and crestings’ of ornamental cast iron. Openings were fitted with cedar-framed French and marginal lights and Venetian louvre shutters.

There was an operating theatre on the first floor, with a ground glass roof, ground glass casement windows, glazed tiles on the floor, and polished cement wall surfaces. There were also a bathroom, lavatory, and 10 bedrooms on the first floor, and the ceilings to the new additions were ‘…works of art, the designs being neat and chaste. Each line, flower and figure, stand out in bold relief’.[11] The [plaster] was a non-conductor of heat. There was a cedar staircase between the floors, and another staircase, lighted by a glass dome in the roof, gave access to the ‘back premises’. The ground floor included Dr O’Brien’s consulting room and a waiting room, assistant doctor’s consulting room, a dressing room, dispensary, convalescent’s reading room, visitor’s room and nurses recreation room. There was also a ‘premises adjoining the main building’ which included six bedrooms.[12] Another bathroom, a ‘commodious’ kitchen, laundry and lavatories were also listed, apparently on the ground floor.

The number of rooms mentioned in the 1906 article seems excessive, given the size of today’s Avonleigh, but c.1939 sketch plans of Avonleigh and its outbuildings on the allotment show a significant rear extension to the ground floor, plus a wing to the rear along the northwest elevation of the allotment, ending with earth closets adjoining Quay Lane. There were also stables at the rear of the southeast elevation of the allotment. None of these rear extensions, or the stables, are extant.

By 1930 DP O'Brien had opened Leinster Private Hospital on the corner of Spencer and Agnes Streets but continued to reside and have consultation rooms at Avonleigh until 1938 when he leased the building to Dr VTJ Lynch who used Avonleigh as a surgery and residence. DP O'Brien died in July 1941 and in 1944 the property was transferred to his widow Elizabeth O'Brien.

In 1947 the property was purchased by William James Hinton who had a carrying business and used a portion of the ground floor as a warehouse. It was most likely during this tenure that the internal cedar stairs were removed, the external stairs installed and the rear structures demolished. In 1954 council records show the office on the ground floor was altered and in 1959 a temporary garage was erected. In 1958 the former John Headrick & Co warehouse adjacent to Avonleigh on the northwest side, then occupied by the New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency, was destroyed by fire.[13]

In 1962 the mercantile company John Headrick & Co purchased Avonleigh for the purpose of using the vacant land at the rear as a parking space. The City Council required the company to construct two sets of stairs at the back of the building so each upstairs unit had a fire escape.

From 1969 a portion of the first floor was used as 'Gallery Up Top' and display cases were installed. The timber entrance door of the gallery, originally internal, replaced a french light to emphasise the entry of the art gallery.

In 1978 Avonleigh was purchased by Lynette B Lowrey and was used as a doctor's surgery, with other business offices on the ground floor and two residential units on the first floor. It was again sold in 2006.

[1] Conveyance in Old System, 49.114, 21 May 1878; Conveyance in Old System, 53.236, 31 October 1878; Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton), 29 October 1878, p.2.
[2] Attempted sale: Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton), 13 December 1879, p.3; Conveyance in Old System, 53.268, 26 January 1882; Conveyance in Old System, 57.33, 14 August 1883.
[3] ‘Wanted’, Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton), 10 September 1883, p.1
[4] ‘A Golden Quarry’, Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton), 16 December 1884, p.5.
[5] ‘Rockhampton Municipal Council’, Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton), 27 March 1885, p.5.
[6] ‘Wanted’, Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton), 17 July 1885, p.1; and 28 July 1885, p.1.
[7] ‘Local industries: manufacturing’, The Capricornian (Rockhampton), 19 December 1885, p.3 S
[8] Watson, D and McKay, J, 1994. Queensland Architects of the 19th Century: a biographical dictionary’, Queensland Museum, p. 118.
[9] Application 6366, 17 November 1886.
[10] ‘Dr DP O’Brien’s private hospital Avonleigh’, The Queenslander, 26 May 1906, p.20.
[11] ‘Dr DP O’Brien’s private hospital Avonleigh’, The Queenslander, 26 May 1906, p.20.
[12] ‘Dr DP O’Brien’s private hospital Avonleigh’, The Queenslander, 26 May 1906, p.20.
[13] The existing building to the southeast of Avonleigh was built for Headrick and Co in 1887 (Morning Bulletin, 15 February 1887, p.4, right hand column). A fire also destroyed a two storey brick warehouse of the New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency in the same block in 1919, somewhere northwest of Avonleigh (‘Fire in Quay Street. Mercantile warehouse gutted. Adjoining premises in danger.’ Morning Bulletin, 13 June 1919, p.10.)

Information note

On 17 April 2015 revisions to the history and description contained in the entry in the Queensland Heritage Register for Avonleigh, were made by the Department to update information in accordance with the Queensland Heritage Act 1992.


Avonleigh, a two-storeyed structure with a concave hipped corrugated iron roof, is built fronting Quay Street overlooking the Fitzroy River to the northeast with rear access off Quay Lane. The building is constructed of Flemish bond brickwork with sandstone quoining, all of which has been painted. The building contains two professional suites to the ground floor, and two flats to the first floor.

The building has a two-storeyed verandah with a concave corrugated iron awning fronting Quay Street and returning along the southeast boundary abutting the adjacent Herron Todd Valuers building [600814]. The verandah has cast iron columns, brackets, valance and balustrade, with pedestals and frieze to the ground floor. The ground floor has a masonry upstand supporting the columns and balustrade, with two openings to provide access to the original main entrance at the southern end, and to the addition at the northern end. A timber framed dog-leg stair has been inserted midway along the verandah, with a timber batten balustrade to the lower flight, and cast iron balustrade to the upper flight. The southern return has been enclosed at ground floor level with a dowelled timber gate and vertically jointed boarding. The ground floor arched openings have painted sandstone quoining and voussoirs, and the original main entrance has a timber panelled door with arched glass fanlight and sidelight panels, with a carved keystone depicting a lions head and shell motif. The entrance is flanked by french doors with arched fanlights and timber shutters. The northern end of the building has a single entrance door with arched fanlight, and adjacent french doors which have arched fanlight and sidelight panels with a carved keystone depicting an arm holding a sword.

The first floor verandah has been enclosed at the southern end with glass louvres, and glass louvres and latticed timber panels frame the stair and form entrance screens to the two first floor flats. French doors open onto the verandah, and the northern end has timber slat blinds and a fibrous cement sheeted room with a corrugated iron hipped roof and a sash window with a timber batten and corrugated iron hood. The room abuts the northern boundary wall which has quoining to the Quay Street frontage.

The building has two rendered masonry chimney stacks, and the rear of the structure has a first floor verandah which has been enclosed with fibrous cement sheeting and casement and glass louvre windows. Two timber framed stairs access the first floor flats, and the rear wall of the building consists of painted brickwork and quoining at the southern end and rendered brickwork at the northern end. The ground floor has a lean-to addition at the northern end with fibrous cement wall sheeting and a corrugated iron skillion roof. The southeast ground floor verandah space has been enclosed to form a laundry area.

Internally, the building has rendered walls and cedar skirtings, architraves and panelled doors. The ground floor northern professional suite has decorative plaster ceilings and cornices, with central panels depicting cherubs located in the principal rooms. The northern entrance accesses a reception area, which opens into a rear room which has an arch separating a narrow rear section with a wired glass skillion skylight. The skylight has been sheeted over externally, and the arch has moulded imposts and a central shield depicting an arm holding a sword. The rear section opens to an attached lean-to housing a kitchenette. A large room is located adjacent to the reception, with french doors with arched fanlight and sidelights of coloured glass.

The southern professional suite has two large rooms either side of a wide entrance and reception area. The entrance has coloured glass fanlight and sidelights, and an arch with Corinthian order imposts divides the space. This area originally housed a cedar staircase, the location of which is evidenced by infill to the boarded timber ceiling. The southern room has a corner fireplace with painted timber surround, and the northern room has a central fireplace with marble surround.

The first floor northern flat has decorative plaster ceilings and cornices, with central panels depicting cherubs located in the principal rooms. The rear verandah has been enclosed to accommodate kitchen and bathroom facilities. The southern flat has two large rooms either side of a central entrance hallway accessed via a timber panelled door, with enclosed verandahs at the rear and to the south. The two large rooms have boarded timber ceilings with deep cornices, of which the southern room has expressed dentils. The northern room has a painted timber fireplace surround, and the southern room has a marble fireplace surround. The hallway has an arch at the rear, accessing the enclosed rear verandah, which originally housed a sash window to the stair as evidenced by extant framing and architraves. A kitchen and bathroom are located at the rear, and a laundry to the south. The enclosure at the southern end of the front verandah houses a second bedroom.

The rear of the property contains a car parking area entered via Quay Lane.

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Location of Avonleigh within Queensland
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Last updated
20 January 2016
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