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  • 600840
  • 344-376 Ramsay Street, Toowoomba


State Heritage
Register status
Date entered
21 October 1992
Residential: Villa
6.4 Building settlements, towns, cities and dwellings: Dwellings
7.6 Maintaining order: Defending the country
Powell, Willoughby
Godsall, Richard
Construction periods
1866–1924, Gabbinbar house
1875–2017, Entrance drive
1875–2017, Gardens and mature trees
1877–1920, Gatehouse (c1877 with later addition)
1878, Bowling green/croquet lawn
1894, Tennis court (established pre-1894)
Historical period
1870s–1890s Late 19th century
1900–1914 Early 20th century
1919–1930s Interwar period
1939–1945 World War II


344-376 Ramsay Street, Toowoomba
Toowoomba Regional Council
-27.6113295, 151.95947464


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

Gabbinbar, a substantial villa residence (established 1866), set within landscaped grounds, is important in demonstrating the development of Toowoomba as a prosperous regional centre of southern Queensland, where successful pastoralists and businessmen built substantial homes reflecting their wealth. 

As one of many houses used as the summer residence for governors of Queensland in the late-19th and early-20th century, Gabbinbar is important in demonstrating the pattern of summer Vice-Regal retreats in Toowoomba, dating from 1877.

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

Gabbinbar is important in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a late-19th century villa residence. Through its large size, high quality design, aesthetic treatment and landscaped grounds, it reflects the wealth and status of the owners, and of Toowoomba, a major regional centre in colonial Queensland.

Consciously sited in an elevated location on a high point on the Toowoomba Range, the house retains its formal plan, with entrance vestibule, generously-sized rooms, large ballroom, and brick kitchen wing. The high quality workmanship and materials used in its construction include decorative timberwork to the exterior, fine timber joinery, marble and slate mantelpieces, and leadlight windows. Wide verandahs accessed by French doors provide a generous space for entertaining and enjoying the surrounding views. Changes and additions to the house such as the ballroom and servants’ bell system demonstrate the way of life of its occupants over time.

Gabbinbar’s extensive grounds retain a gatehouse residence; tree-lined entrance drive; numerous large mature trees; a bowling green/croquet lawn; and a tennis court. 

The 1877 section of Gabbinbar is a fine example of the work of noted architect Willoughby Powell, displaying his characteristic use of symmetry and finely-detailed exterior ornamentation.

Criterion EThe place is important because of its aesthetic significance.

Gabbinbar has aesthetic significance for its picturesque qualities, created by the relationship between the house and its carefully-composed landscape design. Picturesque vantage points are encountered throughout the gardens, which contain a wide variety of mature trees. Dense vegetation secludes the house from its suburban surrounds, creating an atmosphere of tranquillity and exclusivity. The arrival sequence, from the gatehouse at the point of entry, along a tree-lined entrance drive to arrive at an attractive vista of the house, is an important landscape feature.

The house has beautiful attributes due its elegant composition and high quality materials, details and finishes, both internally and externally. The main elevation is complemented by its setting, set back from surrounding formal gardens and trees so that vistas to and from the house are maintained.

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

Gabbinbar has a special association with the community of Toowoomba as a well-known early residence of Reverend Doctor William Lambie Nelson, a foundation member of Presbyterianism in Queensland; Sir Hugh Nelson, one of Queensland’s premiers; and as the summer residence of Queensland Governor, Lord Chelmsford, from 1906-1909. The Nelson family regularly hosted social and charitable events at Gabbinbar; a tradition continued by subsequent owners.

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.

Gabbinbar has a special association with the family of Reverend Doctor William Lambie Nelson, a foundation member of the Presbyterian Church in Queensland, who established the property in 1866. The substantial enlargement of the house in 1877 and its occupation by Sir Hugh Nelson, a successful grazier and later government minister and Premier, enshrined the house as a venue for social and charitable events, leading to Gabbinbar’s function as a summer residence for the Governor, Lord Chelmsford, in the early-20th century. The Nelson family’s long and close association with Gabbinbar lasted for more than 100 years.


Gabbinbar house is a substantial timber residence built in stages from 1866 to the 1920s, including a large addition in 1877 by architect Willoughby Powell, set within landscaped grounds. The property was established by the Reverend Doctor William Lambie Nelson, a foundation member of the Presbyterian Church in Queensland, who also had grazing interests. It was also occupied by the Rev Dr Nelson’s son, Sir Hugh Muir Nelson, who managed his father’s grazing properties as well as his own near Dalby, and later became Premier and Lieutenant Governor of Queensland. Gabbinbar is symbolic of the success of the early Queensland pastoralists who established their grazing properties, often served in local, colonial and state governments, and built fine homes in major towns such as Toowoomba. From 1877, various Queensland governors leased houses in Toowoomba during summer, including Gabbinbar from 1906 to 1909. Toowoomba was enshrined as a fashionable summer resort for the wealthier classes, with Gabbinbar one of four surviving Toowoomba houses utilised as Vice-Regal summer residences.

European settlement of the Toowoomba area, traditional country of the Giabal and Jarowair people, commenced in 1840 when squatters occupied pastoral runs on the Darling Downs. The small settlement of Drayton evolved from 1842, but was soon surpassed by a more desirable location six kilometres to the northeast, known as Toowoomba from the 1850s. Better suited to market gardening with an improved water supply and the support of squatters and land speculators, Toowoomba was incorporated as a municipality in 1860. Its rapid economic and social development was influenced by local residents who strongly promoted the prospects of the town, and political representatives who successfully lobbied for government funding for civic improvements, including churches.[1]

The first Presbyterian Church, St Stephen’s, was built in 1855 with the first service delivered by Rev Dr William Lambie Nelson (1807-1887).[2] Rev Dr Nelson had served as acting Presbyterian Minister at St Stephen’s Edinburgh and Inveresk in Scotland, before immigrating to Australia. He served as the minister for the district of Ipswich from 1853 to 1860, extending his pastoral visitations to Toowoomba and Drayton. He was a member of the original Body Corporate of the Presbyterian Church of Queensland in 1876. Rev Dr Nelson also had a number of grazing properties, which were managed by his son Hugh Muir Nelson (1833-1906).[3]

In 1864 a number of small farms on the southern outskirts of Toowoomba were surveyed and offered for sale. Rev Dr Nelson acquired a 42 acre (17ha) farm (Portion 505) and employed William Kirk Cumming to build a small timber house with a detached brick kitchen there, completed in 1866.[4] The property was named ‘Gabbinbar’, which has been variously reported to mean ‘big view’[5] or ‘great joy’[6] in the local Aboriginal language, as the house is situated at the highest point of the Toowoomba range.[7]

In 1874, Rev Dr Nelson purchased 84 acres (34ha) to the west of Gabbinbar (Portions 503 and 504) which he immediately subdivided and sold.[8] 

In January 1876, Rev Dr Nelson commissioned architect Willoughby Powell to design a substantial addition to the house.[9] Powell (c1848-1920) trained as an architect in England before immigrating to Queensland in 1872. He worked for Brisbane architect Richard Gailey, joining the Queensland Public Works Department in 1874. Powell won a competition for the design of the Toowoomba Grammar School (1875) [QHR 600850]. He then established his architecture office in Toowoomba in 1875, to supervise the project. Powell claimed to have erected all the principal buildings in Toowoomba and Dalby between 1875 and 1877. Gabbinbar was the first of seven private residences he designed in the Toowoomba district.[10] Of those identified, only Clifford House [QHR600857] and Gabbinbar remain. Powell later worked in Brisbane and Maryborough, designing many fine buildings throughout Queensland, including Baddow House in Maryborough [QHR 600690], Warwick Town Hall [QHR 600961] and Toowoomba City Hall [QHR 600865].[11]

The Gabbinbar addition designed by Powell and built by Richard Godsall was completed in January 1877. It comprised a long, north-facing range that linked the original house and kitchen wing buildings. Symmetrically arranged and ornamented with decorative timberwork, the addition contained four generously-sized rooms and a central entrance hall, with 9 foot (3m) wide verandahs with French lights and Venetian shutters to each room. A cellar was constructed beneath the addition, and new outbuildings built to the rear (south) of the house.[12]

From the 1870s Gabbinbar’s gardens were laid out and maintained by professional gardeners. These gardeners were responsible for establishing features such as a tree-lined entrance drive and orchards. Rev Dr Nelson employed gardener John Wenzel at Gabbinbar from late-1875,[13] who had extensive experience in Brisbane.[14] Wenzel was later replaced by W Davidson,[15] who remained at Gabbinbar until at least 1879.[16]

In February 1876 ownership of Gabbinbar was transferred to Nelson’s son Hugh (HM) Nelson.[17] While HM Nelson continued to manage his own property, Loudon Station near Dalby, his wife and three children lived at Gabbinbar from April 1876.[18] In May 1877, HM Nelson expanded the Gabbinbar property further by purchasing the land immediately to the south, across Nelson Street (Portion 563), comprising 34.75 acres (14ha).[19]

Gabbinbar was visited by a news reporter in 1878 and described in detail: The entrance was through large white gates, with the gardener and lodge-keeper’s residence just inside. A driveway about 200 yards (183m) long and 18 feet (5.5m) wide was fringed by trees, shrubs and flowers. A gentle curve in the drive led to the entrance of the house through a circular turning space at its entrance, and extended around to the stables at the rear (south) side of the house. The property was planted with fodder crops, although it was described a ‘gentleman’s seat’ and not a farm. The Gothic-styled house had large and lofty rooms with a bowling green and croquet lawn on the eastern side of the house, where the views were unsurpassed.[20]

Gabbinbar was one of many fine estates established throughout Toowoomba in the late-19th century. Toowoomba in the late-1870s was considered to be the capital of the Darling Downs with well laid out streets and fine architecturally designed masonry buildings demonstrating the town’s prosperity. Historian Duncan Waterson attests that ‘Toowoomba’s history is one of utmost uninterrupted progress, one of the great urban bourgeois success stories of Queensland.’[21]

Tenders for alterations and additions to Gabbinbar were called in April 1881 by local architect James Marks (1834-1915). The exact nature of the work carried out is unknown.[22]

From the 1880s the social and political influence of the Nelson family increased significantly. HM Nelson began his political career in 1880 when he became chairman of the Wambo Divisional Board. He served the Queensland Legislative Assembly from 1883 until 1888. His parliamentary roles included Secretary to Railways and Public Works, and Treasurer. Gabbinbar became his principal home following the deaths of his mother in 1885 and father in 1887 and he sold Loudon in 1892. HM Nelson served as Premier between 1893 and 1898. [23]

It was during HM Nelson’s premiership in 1896, that newspapers first mention a ballroom at Gabbinbar.[24] A long, rectangular room, the ballroom was constructed in the verandah space between the original 1866 house and the 1877 addition. Gabbinbar was the venue for many social events, including tennis, croquet and horseriding,[25] and a place of meetings for politicians. NSW Premier George Reid came to Gabbinbar in late December 1896 to convince Sir HM Nelson to support Federation.[26]

HM Nelson was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) in 1896. Then, while representing Queensland with T J Byrnes at the Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee Celebrations in 1897, he was made privy councillor, Hon DCL Oxford, Hon LL D Edinburgh and freeman of his hometown Kilmarnock, Ayrshire.[27]

His Excellency the Governor, Sir Herbert Chermside, was a guest of the Nelsons at Gabbinbar in October 1904, at the time of his departure from Queensland,[28] and prior to the arrival of Lord Chelmsford. Sir HM Nelson was appointed Lieutenant Governor in the interim.

Sir HM Nelson, KCMG, died at Gabbinbar on 1 January 1906. His funeral which departed from Gabbinbar was attended by His Excellency the Governor, Lord Chelmsford. He arranged to rent Gabbinbar later that year,[29] initiating another chapter in the history of the house as the summer residence of the Governor; part of a pattern of Vice Regal summer residences in Toowoomba.

Toowoomba was first advocated as a location for a summer residence for the Queensland governor in 1877, because of its mild summer climate. Governor Sir Arthur Kennedy leased Lindenberg’s Freemasons Hotel in 1877[30] and from late-1878 leased ‘Fernside’ [QHR 600843] each summer until 1883.[31] Almost immediately, local properties offered for sale were promoted for their proximity to the governor’s residence.[32] Lord Lamington leased Westbrook Hall near Drayton from 1896-99,[33] and Harlaxton House [QHR 600839] for the summer of 1900-01.[34] In the interwar years, Sir Matthew Nathan’s leased Glen Alpine [QHR 600842] for the summer of 1921-22.[35] The summer Vice-Regal residences in Toowoomba served to enshrine the town as a fashionable resort for the wealthier classes,[36] and places Gabbinbar amongst those elite houses to have served that purpose.

Lord Chelmsford leased Gabbinbar for the summer months from December 1906,[37] and during 1907/8 and 1908/9.[38] A bore was sunk in November 1908, to water Gabbinbar’s gardens prior to the governor’s arrival,[39] remnants of which remain about 160m to the north of the house. A photograph taken in 1908 during the Governor’s visit to Gabbinbar shows a timber servants’ quarters building and stables somewhere in the grounds, most likely to the south or southwest of the house.[40]

By the 1920s, Gabbinbar was a well-established property with mature trees and formally laid out flower and vegetable gardens, pathways and a tennis court. In the early-1920s Lady Nelson had the original 1866 house demolished, and a new wing added in its place by February 1924.[41]  A large sale of building materials occurred in 1920; possibly from the demolition of the 1866 house.[42] The 1920s addition contained three bedrooms linked by a passageway along the northern side and a verandah along the southern side. A bay window projected from the eastern wall, to capture the southern views. The addition was not as wide as the demolished house, revealing areas of excavated rock on the southern and eastern sides where the 1866 house stood.

Further changes of occupants of Gabbinbar occurred through to the early-1940s. Lady Nelson died at Gabbinbar on 2 April 1927.[43] Her son Duncan and his wife Colina (nee Munro)[44] occupied Gabbinbar from June 1927.[45] A small timber, gable-roofed building was moved to Gabbinbar in the early-1930s, to serve as a billiards room.[46] Following the death of D Nelson in 1938,[47] ownership of Gabbinbar and the property on the southern side of Nelson Street was transferred to his wife.[48] During WWII, the 2/1st Corps Field Survey Company, AIF, occupied Gabbinbar between May 1942 and July 1943. The unit was engaged in survey drafting and map production.[49] Local architect MC Williamson was reputedly employed to repair the house before Mrs Nelson’s return in December 1944.[50]

In the mid-20th century the extent of Gabbinbar’s estate was reduced. The corner of Nelson and Ramsay Streets was truncated in 1955.[51] A five acre allotment was excised on the southeast corner in 1967,[52] which was further subdivided in the early-1970s. Portion 563 on the southern side of Nelson Street was sold in 1968.[53]

Gabbinbar was purchased by Treveren and Joan Liesegang in 1970, who undertook extensive restorations. In the early-1970s they purchased a timber barn/stables and shearing shed building from the property Wyallah (since demolished) and relocated it to Gabbinbar.[54] Further subdivision to the east of Gabbinbar house reduced its land area to 9.8ha by 1974.[55]

In 1992, a cottage that had formerly been the home of Toowoomba’s ‘spider man’, Pat Walker, was relocated to Gabbinbar from Jennings Street, Toowoomba. He had previously collected funnel web spiders from Gabbinbar’s grounds, which he provided to the Commonwealth Serum Laboratory to develop a vaccine.[56]

Gabbinbar was sold by the Liesegang’s in May 1995.[57] Extensive restorations were undertaken from 1997, with the intention of establishing a wedding venue. In c2000 a large glazed structure, known as the Conservatory in 2016, was built in the central courtyard area of the house, which necessitated the demolition of the enclosed rear verandahs. Other alterations included: the installation of new bathrooms and ensuites; the renovation of the ballroom, including new access doors; and other alterations to verandahs, particularly in the kitchen wing. At some point an early verandah enclosure on the eastern verandah of the 1877 house was removed and its leadlight windows relocated. In the grounds, the driveway turning circle was reformed, surrounded by new low concrete walls and garden beds, and the tennis court was resurfaced with a new timber shelter shed constructed c2000. In 2016, some early timber joinery removed from the house is stored on site.

While some weddings were held in 2003, there was local opposition to this use,[58] and council approval was not gained until 2011. Also in 2011, the property was subdivided into two lots, (Lots 65 and 66, SP248455). Changes to the grounds were also made, including the construction of a visitors’ car park to the west of the house.[59] From December 2013, Gabbinbar has operated as a specialist wedding venue, and an open-sided wedding chapel was added to the site during 2015.[60]


Located in the southern Toowoomba suburb of Middle Ridge, Gabbinbar is a large villa residence set in picturesque grounds with mature trees, landscaping features and outbuildings. It occupies an L-shaped, 5.7ha property bounded by Ramsey Street to the west and Nelson Street to the south. Residential development lies to the north and east, while land to the south and west of the bounding streets is largely bushland.

Significant features of the property include:

·         A gatehouse (c1877)

·         A tree-lined entrance drive (established c1875)

·         Gabbinbar house (established 1866, extended 1877 and 1920s)

·         Mature trees and remnants of early gardens (established 1875)

·         A bowling green/croquet lawn (established 1878) and tennis court (pre-1894)

·         Remnant fences, earthworks, ruined structures and other early grounds features

The house stands near the centre of the site and occupies a high point in the terrain, which slopes gently away to the north and east, and steeply to the southeast and south. The southern and western areas of the grounds are largely bushland, while the northeast area contains the gardens. The property is accessed via a formal driveway entrance at the northwest corner of the site and a secondary service driveway further south along Ramsay Street. Service areas including parking, sheds and staff facilities are located on the southern and western sides of the house.

The grounds also contain three buildings that have been relocated to the site – a gable-roofed timber building known as the Billiards Room or School House, located west of the house (relocated here c1932); a timber barn and stables building, in the northeast corner of the grounds (relocated here from the Toowoomba property Wyallah in the mid-1970s); and a timber cottage, south of the house (relocated here from Jennings Street, Toowoomba, in 1992). These buildings make an important contribution to the aesthetics of the grounds.

Gatehouse (c1877 with additions)

The gatehouse stands at the entry to Gabbinbar from Ramsay Street in the northwest corner of the site. It is a lowset single-storey timber building with corrugated metal roof set within an area bounded by the entrance drive to the north and east, and to the west by an early timber fence and hedge that runs along Ramsay Street. The early four-room cottage, later extended to the west has an L-shaped verandah truncated to address Ramsay Street and the entrance drive and is distinguished by a corner gable with diagonal boarding.  

The house has a hipped roof with battened eaves, a simply detailed brick chimney and  a curved verandah roof supported on stop-chamfered timber posts and beams decorated with brackets (capitals and astragals have been removed). There is no balustrade and the timber verandah floor is unpainted. At the rear, on the southern side of the house, there is a small lean-to addition with a low-pitch skillion roof.

The building is clad in weatherboards with mitred external corners and its timber joinery comprises single-hung sash windows of various sizes and panelled doors. The north elevation of the original cottage features an entry door at its centre, flanked by windows either side. Set back from the north elevation, the western addition is accessed via a door from the verandah and a bay window that faces Ramsay Street is finished with fine timber glazing bars. The building is supported on timber stumps, concealed at the front by dark painted timber battens. The stonework base to the fireplace is also intact.

Internally, the layout comprises four rooms in the original cottage, a large room in the western addition (fitted out as a kitchen in 2016), and a double-sided brick fireplace between the two sections. The ceilings and walls of the original cottage are lined with beaded boards, with wall linings fixed vertically on internal partitions and horizontally on external walls. The fireplace in this section has an arched opening and features a decorative frontispiece of moulded timber. The western addition has beaded boards to the ceiling and eastern walls, and vertical, V-jointed, tongue-and-groove (T&G) boards to other walls. Its painted brick fireplace is simply detailed with a shallow arch on a metal lintel and a tiled hearth. Early door and window hardware is retained, and the floors throughout are lined with wide timber boards. Internal doors have been removed. Non-significant elements include the kitchen floor lining, and modern lighting and curtain fixtures.

The gatehouse setting is defined by mature plantings that include a large Cypress (Cupressus sp.) at the front, a large Jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifolia) to the southeast, hedging and mature trees along Ramsay Street to the west, and a clearing to the south, defined by a row of trees along the southern edge. More recent landscaping of ferns, shrubs and low sculpted hedges to the front and sides is not of heritage significance. A modern brick paved pathway provides access from the entrance gates to the front verandah.

Entrance drive (established c1875)

The main access to the property is via a pair of reproduction timber gates at the northwest corner of the property. A dense planting of mature Bamboo stands behind the gates on the northern side. The formal entrance drive skirts around the gatehouse and heads south, before curving around to the southeast to reveal the principal view of Gabbinbar house. The drive culminates in a turning circle in front of the northern side of the house. The entrance drive has a recent gravel surface and is densely lined with both recent and mature plantings. The most significant plantings are tall, mature trees of a variety of species including Hoop Pines (Araucaria cunninghamii), Bunya Pines (Araucaria bidwillii), Cypresses (Cupressus sp.); Jacarandas (Jacaranda mimosifolia), Figs (including Moreton Bay Figs, Ficus macrophylla), and Silky Oaks (Grevillea robusta).

Gabbinbar house (established 1866)

Gabbinbar house is U-shaped in plan and orientated to face northeast. Lowset on stumps, it is largely timber-framed and -clad, with the exception of the brick kitchen wing, and has a variety of roof forms, all clad in painted corrugated metal sheeting. Gabbinbar house comprises four main sections constructed at different times. These are:

·         An 1866 kitchen wing in the southwest corner

·         The main 1877 house along the northern side

·         A ballroom (constructed by the 1890s) on the southern side of the east end of the house

·         A 1920s addition on the southern side of the ballroom

Enclosing the centre of the U-shaped plan and adjacent former verandah spaces is a c2000 glazed structure forming a function room known as the Conservatory. This structure is not of heritage significance, however it is physically joined to early, significant elements of the house.

Kitchen wing (1866)

The kitchen wing is rectangular in plan, with a brick core and chimney and a broken-back hipped roof. The north and south verandahs are partially enclosed and the eastern verandah has been demolished for the construction of the Conservatory. The walls of the core are load-bearing red brick laid in Monk bond, with arched lintels over original door and window openings.

The wall dividing the core into two rooms has former fireplaces on each side. The larger eastern room (used as a kitchen in 2016) has a tall fireplace with exposed brick surrounds, while the western room (used as an office in 2016) has a brick oven with a cast iron door above a smaller fireplace, and a brick-enclosed laundry tub in the northeast corner. Walls are painted brick and ceilings have been re-lined in flat sheeting.

The northern verandah enclosure (used as a bar in 2016) has a large opening in the eastern wall for a counter. The walls and raked ceiling are lined with modern V-jointed (VJ) tongue and groove (T&G) boards, except for the northern wall which is clad in wide timber chamferboards.

A store room and food preparation room occupy the enclosed southern verandah, which has modern interior linings. Externally, these rooms have been re-clad in modern chamferboards.

Early joinery (much of which has been relocated) includes: low-waisted, part-glazed timber doors with early hardware; low-waisted panelled timber doors with early hardware; six-light, double-hung windows; timber vertical board doors, and two sets of double-hung, leadlight windows.

Non-significant elements include: timber posts and decorative elements to the verandah; kitchen, office and bar fitouts; modern doors; modern wall and ceiling linings; modern floor linings including tiles and linoleum; and a skylight in the kitchen roof. 

Main house (1877)

The 1877 house is a long, symmetrically arranged building featuring prominent gables at either end of the main, northeast-facing elevation. Wrapping around three sides are stepped, skillion-roofed verandahs, with a gable over the wide, centrally-located, concrete entrance steps. External walls are clad in wide timber chamferboards. Two brick chimneys ornamented with bands of concrete render project from the ridgeline. Both are topped by a pair of terracotta chimney pots. The eaves of the main roof feature paired, ornamental timber brackets. The two main gables are detailed with boarded gable panels, large braced finials and bargeboards with a curvilinear pattern.  The small gable over the entrance is infilled with diagonal timber boards and topped with a finial.

The verandahs have a timber floor; paired timber posts ornamented with stop-chamfered edges and cornices; simple valances between posts, ornamented with circle cut-outs; and raked ceilings lined with wide, beaded timber boards. Opening onto the verandahs from each room are low-waisted, part-glazed French doors with rectangular, two-light fanlights. French doors along the northern elevation and one in the western wall are protected by louvred timber shutters. The main entrance has double, low-waisted, panelled doors with central door knobs, surrounded by a fanlight and part-glazed side panels.

An early verandah enclosure survives on the western verandah, featuring double-hung, multi-pane leadlight windows and accessed by a part-glazed, low-waisted door fitted with matching leadlight panes. Identical leadlight windows from a similar early verandah enclosure (recently demolished) on the eastern verandah have been relocated to the kitchen wing.

The layout of the 1877 house comprises a central entrance hall with two large rooms on each side, linked by a rear passageway. All rooms have timber floors; stained timber door architraves and wide skirtings; plastered walls (some covered with modern wallpaper); and VJ board-lined ceilings, with a variety of ceiling roses and timber cornices. Each of the four main rooms has a fireplace with early bell-pull levers attached to the sides.

Beneath the entrance hall is an excavated area, measuring approximately 1.5m square and 1m deep, formerly used as a wine cellar (inaccessible from the house interior). The doorway between the entrance hall and passageway features a semi-circular archway with capitals.

The room on the western side of the entrance hall (known as the Drawing Room) features a marble mantelpiece and arched, cast iron firebox. A narrow picture rail runs around the room.

The far western room (known as the Dining Room) has a mantelpiece of carved black stone and a cast iron firebox. This room also has picture rails and some walls have timber belt rails.

Both the room on the eastern side of the entrance hall (known as the Library) and the far eastern room (formerly a bedroom, used for storage in 2016) have replacement timber mantelpieces.

Internal doors are single, stained timber, panelled doors with timber fretwork fanlights and early door hardware. The passageway doors to the two western rooms feature hand painted flowers on the rear face, reportedly painted by a daughter of one of the past owners. The door from the passageway to the rear of the house has side panels and a fanlight, similar to that of the main entrance but with a single leaf door. A door at the eastern end of the southern wall of the passageway leads to the ballroom.

Rooms within the enclosed western verandah have raked ceilings and a variety of internal linings, including wide timber chamferboards to former verandah walls and wide beaded boards to one section of ceiling. A small enclosure on the eastern verandah (containing a toilet) is a modern addition and not of heritage significance.

Ballroom (constructed by 1890s)

The ballroom comprises a single long, rectangular room with its eastern wall aligned with the 1877 verandah. It is clad externally in wide chamferboards and has a hipped roof. Paired timber brackets ornament the eaves, and a skillion-roofed hood shelters two tall windows symmetrically placed in the eastern wall. These timber-framed, vertically-sliding windows feature semi-circular tops and borders of patterned and coloured glass.

Internally, the room has wide timber skirtings, plastered walls, and a plaster ceiling (date unknown) with a decorative border, cornice and round ceiling roses. In the southern wall, a panelled timber door with glazed fanlight and early door hardware leads to the 1920s addition. A similar door in the north wall leads to the passageway of the 1877 house.

Non-significant features include the double doors and glazing to the western wall; and pilasters, belt rails, picture rails and fixed frames attached to the walls.

1920s addition

The 1920s addition comprises three former bedrooms linked by a passageway along the northern side. It is clad in timber weatherboards with a hipped roof and has a verandah with a stepped skillion roof along the southern side. Partly sitting on bare rock, excavated areas on the south and east sides of 1920s addition are evidence of the location of the original 1866 house.

The verandah has a timber floor; timber verandah posts with stop-chamfered edges and cornice decoration; and an unlined raked ceiling. The verandah wall is clad in timber chamferboards. Opening to the verandah are three sets of part-glazed, low-waisted French doors with rectangular fanlights and early door hardware. A single, part-glazed, low-waited timber door at the western end of the verandah leads to the conservatory. Windows in a wing wall at the east end of the verandah are modern replacements.

The eastern elevation is characterised by a rectangular bay window with timber-framed double-hung windows, sheltered by a hip-roofed hood that is supported by curved timber brackets. In an alcove to the north of the bay window is an entrance door leading to the passageway. Surrounded by glazing and a rectangular fanlight, all fitted with patterned glass, the single door is a low-waisted, panelled timber door with early hardware.

A decorative timber archway forms the entrance to the passageway from the conservatory. The passageway has a high, flat ceiling, and both walls and ceiling are lined with flat sheeting with cover strips. A timber picture rail aligns with the top of the door openings. Three doors open off the southern side of the passageway, all panelled timber doors with rectangular fanlights and early door hardware, including reeded timber handles.

The eastern and western rooms both retain wall and ceiling linings of flat sheeting with cover strips and picture rails. The western room has been converted into ‘ladies toilets’ and has two toilet cubicles along the northern wall. Early features retained in this room include the timber-framed, double-hung window in the western wall, and lambs tongue-profile skirtings. The eastern room retains built-in timber seats on each side of the bay window.

The centre room has been divided into two rooms –‘men’s toilets’ accessed from the passageway, and an ensuite bathroom and toilet accessed from the east room. The added partitions and internal fitout of these rooms are not of heritage significance. The ensuite door is a panelled timber door with fanlight, similar to the passageway doors.

Conservatory (c2000)

The conservatory is a large room with a hipped, glazed roof and enclosed by glazed walls at the southern end. The space is edged by the kitchen wing to the west, the main house to the north, and the ballroom and 1920s addition to the east. The verandahs which previously edged this space have been demolished and replaced by a raised, flat ceiling and rows of timber verandah posts. All structures relating to the conservatory beyond the building line of the surrounding house are not of heritage significance.

Visible from within the conservatory is a surviving early feature mounted on the southern wall of the 1877 house - a series of brass bells and cords, formerly part of the internal bell system. Traces of the location of former verandah walls are also visible on the exposed brickwork of the eastern kitchen wing wall.

Northern gardens

The gardens to the north and east of the house, between the entrance drive and the eastern boundary, comprise lawn areas, pathways and a wide variety of trees and plantings, some of which are very mature. Of particular note are two very large trees: a Moreton Bay Fig (Ficus macrophylla) to the north of the entrance drive turning circle; and a Camphor Laurel (Cinnamomum camphora) north of the east end of the house. Other mature tree and plant species represented include a variety of Pines (including Hoop, Bunya, Brown (Podocarpus elatus) and Norfolk (Araucaria heterophylla) species), Cypresses (Cupressus sp.); Eucalypts; Jacarandas (Jacaranda mimosifolia), a Magnolia tree (Magnolia, sp.), Palms (Arecaceae, sp.) and Bougainvilleas (Bougainvillea, sp.). Stumps of three large Camphor Laurel trees are located in the northeast corner of the grounds, on the south side of the barn and stables building.

A set of old timber gates (date unknown) stands to the north of the house, comprising thick, square posts supporting wide, battened gates. A second set of timber gate or fence posts stand to the northwest, close to the entrance drive. Near the northern boundary is a timber-framed, hip-roofed gazebo (date unknown) with glazed walls. In 2016, the blades from a former windmill are propped against a tree in the northeast corner of the gardens.

A lawn on west side of house contains a garden bed in the centre, which was the former location of a very mature fig tree (removed c2011).

Non-significant elements of the northern gardens include: low concrete walls forming the edges of pathways and the driveway turning circle; a fountain in the centre of the driveway turning circle; a large, recently-constructed, open-sided shelter shed known as the Pavilion; modern gravel and concrete pathways; modern garden ornaments, including an oversized chessboard; and recent garden beds, plantings and hedges.

Eastern grounds, including tennis court (pre-1894) and bowling green/croquet lawn (1878)

Northeast of the house and close to the eastern boundary is a tennis court, established prior to 1894. The court has been resurfaced. The southern end is cut into the terrain and the sloping banks are planted with vegetation. An early gate is located near the southwest corner of the court. Non-significant elements include modern fencing around the court, the tennis net, and an adjacent timber shelter shed (constructed c2000).

On the east side of the house is a built-up rectangular lawn area edged by hedges. Formerly used as a bowling green and croquet lawn (established 1878), it is a very early feature of the grounds. A set of stone steps ascends the eastern sloping bank, in line with an entrance to the 1920s section of the house.

Other features of the eastern grounds include: traces of a former carriageway in the terrain, which extended from the turning circle in front of the house, around the bowling green, and continued in a southwest direction; mature trees; and remnants of fencing.

Southern grounds

Extending from the house to the southeast corner of the grounds is a steeply sloping lawn area, interspersed with a few large trees. A single Bottle tree (Brachychiton rupestris) stands on the eastern boundary. To the south of the house are a large clump of mature bamboo and a line of timber posts that are likely remnants of a former fence line.

Further to the south the house, within an area largely overgrown by bush and scrub, are remnants of former outbuildings. These include segments of a collapsed, timber-framed structure with a corrugated metal-clad roof; sections of a timber fence and gate; sheets of metal; and what appears to be a concrete drinking trough. To the southwest of these, is a large pile of white-painted, weathered timber pieces. Two corrugated metal, cylindrical water tanks, lowset on timber and stone stumps, are located to the north of this pile, in a separate section of dense vegetation. 

An old timber gate remains in the fence line of the southern boundary.

Western grounds

Southwest and west of the house are driveways (including two driveways exiting to Ramsay Street), car park areas, pathways, modern sheds, a septic tank, and modern plantings including hedges. None of these features are of heritage significance.


Significant views of Gabbinbar house are obtained from the entrance drive and northern gardens, and are enhanced by its setting of mature trees, lawns and gardens.  Numerous picturesque vantage points are encountered when walking through the gardens. The 1870s entrance drive also provides a deliberately dramatic arrival point, as the curve at the southern end of the driveway provides a long view, past the screening vegetation, to an oblique view of the house. Views of the entrance gates and gatehouse from Ramsay Street are also an important part of the arrival sequence and hint at the grandeur of the house itself.

The view corridor from the house and grounds towards the east and southeast was an important influence on the layout of the property, as it was in this direction that views of the wider landscape of the Range and valleys below were obtained. In 2016 these views have been obscured by trees and neighbouring residential development.


[1] Maurice French and Duncan Waterson, The Darling Downs: A Pictorial History 1850-1950, Darling Downs Institute Press, Toowoomba, 1982, p.130; Ivan McDonald Architects in association with Mark Baker Town Planning Consultants Pty Ltd, Toowoomba City Centre Heritage Study, p.16.
[2] Brisbane Courier, 18 July 1865, p.9.
[3] Queensland Parliament Biographies of former members,; Presbyterian Church of Queensland Standing Orders,
[4] Darling Downs Gazette, 3 January 1914, p.9
[5] Queenslander, 23 February 1924, p. 40.
[6] Telegraph, 25 January 1940, p.16.
[7] Darling Downs Gazette, 3 November 1908, p.5.
[8] RP 17722 and Title 10207104.
[9] Darling Downs Gazette, 8 January 1876, p. 2.
[10] Watson, Don and Judith Mackay, Queensland Architects of the 19th Century, 1994, Brisbane: Queensland Museum, p.146-7.
[11] Watson, Don and Judith Mackay, Queensland Architects of the 19th Century, p.146-7.
[12] Toowoomba Chronicle and Darling Downs Gazette, 30 December 1876, p.3.
[13] Toowoomba Chronicle and Darling Downs General Advertiser, 25 July 1876, p.3.
[14] Moreton Bay Courier, 15 September 1858, p.1; Brisbane Courier, 20 August 1866, p.1; During 1873 Wenzel relocated his design business to Warwick and then Toowoomba, Warwick Examiner and Times, 26 April 1873, p.3; Darling Downs Gazette and General Advertiser, 18 October 1873, p.3.
[15] Darling Downs Gazette and General Advertiser, 22 January 1870, p.3; 7 February 1874, p.3
[16] Darling Downs Gazette and General Advertiser, 5 May 1879, p.3; 11 June 1879, p.2
[17] Title 10267220.
[18] Brisbane Courier, 22 April 1876, p.4; Telegraph, 4 April 1927, p.14.
[19] Title 10296236.
[20] Darling Downs Gazette and General Advertiser, 13 July 1878, p.1
[21] Waterson, Duncan, ‘Squatter Selector and storekeeper, a history of the Darling Downs’,1968 Sydney University Press, p.80.
[22] Darling Downs Gazette and General Advertiser, 25 April 1881, p.2.
[23] Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol 10, 1986.
[24] Brisbane Courier, 4 June 1896, p.7.
[25] Queenslander, 24 Nov 1894, p.1004; 16 March 1895, p. 535; Brisbane Courier 1 Feb 1898, p.6.
[26] Western Star and Roma Advertiser 25 December 1896, p.2; North Queensland Register, 13 January 1897, p.24.
[27] Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol 10, 1986.
[28] Warwick Examiner, 12 October 1904, p.3.
[29] Telegraph, 15 December 1906, p.4.
[30] Dalby Herald, 13 October 1877, p.2.
[31] Toowoomba Chronicle and Darling Downs General Advertiser, 5 October 1878, p.2;
[32] Toowoomba Chronicle and Darling Downs Advertiser, 29 April 1879, p.4
[33] The Week, 31 July 1896, p.23.
[34] Telegraph 4 January 1900, p.5.
[35] Telegraph 8 September 1921, p. 5.
[36] Waterson, D B, Squatter, ‘Selector and Storekeeper; a history of the Darling Downs’, 1968, Sydney: Halstead Press, p.82.
[37] Telegraph, 15 December 1906, p.4
[38] Telegraph, 11 December 1907, p.9; 16 January 1909, p.4.
[39] Darling Downs Gazette, 3 November 1908, p.5.
[40] Historic photo of Servants quarters and stables at Gabbinbar Toowoomba, 1908, John Oxley Library, image no. APO-028-01-0021.
[41] Queenslander, 23 February 1924, p.40.
[42] Darling Downs Gazette, 26 March 1920, p.6.
[43] Telegraph, 4 April 1927, p.14.
[44] Queensland Figaro, 7 May 1914, p.8.
[45] Brisbane Courier, 19 May 1927, p.23.
[46] Information provided by Beris Broderick to the National Trust of Queensland. Timber decoration on this building matches decoration on two houses built by the Munro family, Argyle [QHR 600436] and Haddington, suggesting that it may have been relocated from one of these properties.
[47] Telegraph, 30 December 1938, p.5.
[48] Title 10267220 and Title 10296236.
[49] Toowoomba Chronicle, 20 July 1992 – copy of article in site file;
[50] Queensland Country Life, 21 December 1944, p.8.
[51] Survey Plan 96379.
[52] Title 13996108.
[53] Title 10296236.
[54] Information provided by Joan Liesgang, telephone conversation, 18 November 2016. Titles search confirms that the Wyallah estate was sold to developers in 1972. Wyallah house, near Toowoomba racecourse, was originally built as a town house by grazier Francis Claudius Brodribb, who owned Kurrowah Station, and was later home to the family of John Shannon.
[55] Survey Plan RP142240.
[56] Toowoomba Chronicle, 1 July 1992.
[57] Toowoomba Chronicle, 4 May 1995.
[58] Toowoomba Chronicle, 13 August 2004.
[59] Survey plan SP248455
[60] Toowoomba Chronicle 3 December 2013, p.17;

Image gallery


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