Jimbour House | Environment, land and water | Queensland Government

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Jimbour House

  • 600941
  • 86 Jimbour Station Road, Jimbour East


State Heritage
Register status
Date entered
21 October 1992
Pastoralism: Homestead
2.1 Exploiting, utilising and transforming the land: Exploring, surveying and mapping the land
2.3 Exploiting, utilising and transforming the land: Pastoral activities
2.4 Exploiting, utilising and transforming the land: Agricultural activities
6.4 Building settlements, towns, cities and dwellings: Dwellings
Suter, Richard George
Construction periods
1864, Jimbour House - Store (1864 - 1864)
1868–1874, Jimbour House - Kitchen / staff quarters (1868 - 1874)
1868–1930, Jimbour House (1868 - 1930s)
1868, Jimbour House - Chapel (1868 - 1868)
1870, Jimbour House - Water tower (1870s circa - 1870s circa)
1872–1874, Jimbour House - Homestead - main residence (1872 - 1874)
Historical period
1840s–1860s Mid-19th century


86 Jimbour Station Road, Jimbour East
Western Downs Regional Council
-26.96321927, 151.23406217


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

Jimbour House, as the main homestead on one of the earliest stations established on the Darling Downs, is important in demonstrating the pattern of early European exploration and pastoral settlement in Queensland. The place is associated with the development of the Downs and of the pastoral industry in Queensland and is important in demonstrating the wealth and ambition of early Queensland pastoralists.

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

Jimbour House was an ambitious house in terms of size, style and finish and was intended to support the social and political aspirations of Joshua Peter Bell, an important politician and businessman as well as grazier. It is unique in Queensland as the only really grand country house in the English manner to be built in this State. Other substantial stone homesteads of the era, such as Talgai, Glengallan and Westbrook, came nowhere near to rivalling Jimbour in either size or opulence.

Criterion CThe place has potential to yield information that will contribute to an understanding of Queensland’s history.

As a hierarchy of residential and working buildings, the complex of buildings at Jimbour House has the potential to reveal information about the history of one of the earliest pastoral stations in Queensland, and about the nature of early pastoralism in Queensland, which will contribute to our understanding of Queensland's history.

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

While Jimbour House and its gardens and ancillary buildings are not typical of a Queensland homestead complex, the building techniques and materials used in their construction, together with the relationship existing between residential and working buildings, provides a good example of a 19th century pastoral station complex.

Criterion EThe place is important because of its aesthetic significance.

Jimbour House has outstanding aesthetic significance as a well designed and constructed house that is pleasing in form, materials and detail. It sits within notable gardens and is a landmark against the flats of the surrounding landscape.

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

Jimbour House has special association for the Darling Downs community as a focal point of social life in the region for many years.

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.

Jimbour House is important for its association with early Darling Downs pioneers and Queensland politicians including Sir Joshua Peter Bell and his son Joshua Thomas Bell.


Jimbour House is a large stone house designed in 1873-74 by Brisbane architects Suter and Voysey and completed by early 1877 as the Darling Downs residence of Joshua Peter Bell, a prominent Queensland pastoralist and politician. It was also the head station of one of Queensland's earliest pastoral properties.

Allan Cunningham, botanist and explorer of the Darling Downs in 1827, considered the discovery of this fertile pastoral land as one of his greatest achievements. In 1840, impelled by the push northward for grazing land, the Leslie brothers arrived on the Downs from the Clarence River district and took up Canning Downs, the first pastoral run in the district.

Soon afterwards, in 1841, Henry Dennis claimed a run of about 3,000,000 acres on behalf of Richard Todd Scougall who owned Liverpool Plains. The area was then known as Jimba or Gimba and the boundaries of this vast run were described as between the Bunya Mountains and the Condamine River. By 1842, when the penal settlement at Brisbane closed and the area was thrown open to free settlement, a cluster of huge pastoral runs had claimed most of the productive land on the Darling Downs. At this time Jimbour was stocked with approximately 11,000 sheep and 700 cattle. Financial difficulties caused Scougall to sell the Jimbour run in 1843 to Thomas Bell of Parramatta, for £3200. At that time the area comprising Jimbour Station was reduced, though it remained one of the largest properties on the Downs. In 1844 explorer Ludwig Leichhardt stayed at Jimbour, at that time the most northerly station on the Downs, preparing for his trip to Port Essington. Dennis, who had been retained as manager of Jimbour by Thomas Bell, accompanied Leichhardt on the first two days of his journey north. Following Dennis' death in 1847 Thomas Bell's sons Joshua Peter and John Alexander arrived to manage the property for Bell & Sons, the family business that comprised Thomas, Joshua Peter and John Alexander Bell. Soon, however, the entire management fell to Joshua, the eldest son. Although only 21 when he took control, Joshua built on the foundations of previous managers to develop Jimbour as one of the best-conducted stations on the Darling Downs, running sheep principally. He married Margaret Miller Dorsey of Ipswich in 1861, and at Jimbour they raised their family.

JP Bell began the association of the Bell family and Jimbour with Queensland politics. In 1860 he ran unsuccessfully for the first Queensland Parliament, but was elected as Member for West Moreton in 1862. He remained involved in politics for the rest of his life and held several cabinet posts, being first appointed as Treasurer in the Herbert ministry in 1864. In 1868 he was returned for the Northern Downs, a constituency that included his own property (Jimbour), and held the seat until he was appointed President of the Legislative Council in 1879. In 1880 he acted as administrator of the Colony for nine months, reflecting the high public esteem in which he was held, and was appointed KCMG in 1881.

In 1864, utilising their pre-emptive purchase rights, Thomas Bell, Joshua Peter Bell and John Alexander Bell acquired title to 4786 acres (pre-emptive portion 1) of the Jimbour holding as tenants in common. This pre-emptive purchase included the head station site. In the same year they commissioned architect Benjamin Backhouse to design a substantial stone store at Jimbour. A small dwelling formerly used by Dennis had been supplemented by a house built for Scougall that the Bell brothers occupied when they first arrived. This burnt down in 1868 and was replaced by a two-storeyed house built of bluestone. As with most large pastoral properties, a small village settlement developed around the main residence, the buildings including a butcher and smithy, and accommodation for a large number of employees, including a manager and overseer. A timber chapel was constructed in 1868, and this also served as a provisional school in the 1870s.

The Jimbour shearing shed was built some miles away from the homestead complex and could handle 250,000 sheep during the season, illustrating the size of the Jimbour pastoral enterprise.

Following Thomas Bell's death in September 1872, the Jimbour freehold was transmitted to Joshua Peter Bell, John Alexander Bell and a third brother, Marmaduke Bell, as tenants in common.

In 1872 Joshua Peter Bell became a founder member and director of the Queensland National Bank. This was the first and most successful of Queensland's three indigenous 19th century private banks and attracted widespread Queensland patronage. In 1879 it secured the whole of the government's banking business. By 1880 it held 40% of deposits in the colony and dominated the Queensland economy.

The decade from the mid-1850s to the mid-1860s had been a boom period for wool prices and as squatters gained secure tenure of their runs, they began to build handsome houses. About 1873 fashionable Brisbane architects Richard Suter and Annesley Voysey, in partnership from January 1872 to September 1874, were commissioned to design a new sandstone house, handsome and ambitious in scale and quality, as the main residence at Jimbour. These architects had designed homesteads for other prominent Darling Downs pastoralists, including East Talgai Homestead near Allora for Hon. George Edward Clark in 1868 (Suter), and in partnership as Suter and Voysey, Euston at Drayton for William Kent in 1873, and Westbrook Hall near Drayton for Mrs William Beit in 1873-76. These were substantial residences, but none rivalled the scale and grandeur of Jimbour, which appears to have been the largest, grandest and most expensive private house constructed in Queensland in the 1870s.

Work on Jimbour House commenced in late 1874, and was completed by early 1877. With the exception of the Welsh slate used to clad the roof, all the construction materials were sourced locally. Timber included cedar, hoop pine, bunya pine, satin wood, ironbark, spotted gum and blue gum. The quarries at Bunjinnie, a few miles distant from the homestead, provided the sandstone. 10 stonemasons, 9 carpenters and a number of labourers were employed on the house, and nearly 200 men were employed in stone cutting and timber getting and carrying.

The completed residence had a floor space of about 23,000 square feet. The rooms on the ground floor contained the public spaces, including a large dining room, drawing room and morning room. The upper floor contained the bedrooms. Most rooms had fireplaces, and there were also fireplaces in the hallway on both levels. Water, and gas manufactured on Jimbour, were laid on, an exceptional luxury for a rural property at the time. A four-storey timber water tower was constructed to support a large tank and provide water pressure. When the new mansion was complete, the 1868 bluestone residence was converted into a kitchen and staff quarters, connected to the main house by a covered way.

In 1881 a shortage of working capital led the Bell brothers to merge their financial interests in Jimbour with those of Premier Thomas McIlwraith and JC Smyth, forming The Darling Downs and Western Land Company. In October 1881 most of the Jimbour freehold was transferred to the Company, but an area of 100 acres (sub 1 of pre-emptive portion 1), containing the house and most of the outbuildings, was retained by the Bell brothers as tenants in common.

JP Bell died suddenly in December 1881 and his family commissioned a memorial obelisk that was placed to the west of the main house, near the water tower and church. At this time JP Bell's interest in Jimbour House was transferred to his wife Dame Margaret Miller Bell, Sir Arthur Hunter Palmer and Boyd Dunlop Morehead as Trustees. In 1886 JP Bell's Trustees, John Alexander Bell and Marmaduke Bell raised a mortgage on Jimbour House from the Queensland National Bank.

Following JP Bell's death Dame Margaret travelled to England with her children to further their education and did not return to Jimbour until 1889. In the interim, the Darling Downs and Western Land Company experienced financial difficulties and the Queensland National Bank foreclosed on the company in 1884.

Jimbour House continued as the principal residence of Dame Margaret and her eldest son, barrister Joshua Thomas Bell, following their return to Queensland in 1889. JT Bell became a director of the Darling Downs and Western Land Company, and served as private secretary to Premier Sir Samuel Griffith 1890-92. Following the collapse of the Company in the early 1890s, it is understood that the Bell family assigned their interest in the Jimbour freehold to the Queensland National Bank, on the condition that the family was allowed to occupy Jimbour House, which they did until c1912.

JT Bell entered the Queensland Legislative Assembly, serving as Member for Dalby from 1893 until his death in March 1911. He served as Secretary for Lands 1903-1908 and briefly as Secretary for Public Lands and Railways from 6 February to 3 July 1907, during which time he introduced land reforms under the Closer Settlement Act 1906, and paved the way for environmental reform with the State Forests and National Parks Act 1906. He served as Speaker of the Legislative Assembly from mid-1909 until his death in 1911.

In 1899 Jimbour still comprised close to 130,000 acres and ran about 100,000 sheep. Merino and Lincoln studs were kept, and sheep and cattle from western properties were fattened at Jimbour. In 1907, during JT Bell's control of the Public Lands portfolio, the Queensland Government purchased 121,061 acres of Jimbour land from the Queensland National Bank, under the provisions of the Closer Settlement Act 1906. This land was released for farm selection between 1907 and 1910. The Bank retained 6000 acres of Jimbour land adjacent to Jimbour House. Also during his period in office, JT Bell lobbied for construction of two branch railway lines through the newly opened Jimbour lands, to transport the new wheat crops. The first line, opened in 1906, ran from Dalby to the new town of Bell, named after JP Bell, and the second, opened in 1914, was constructed from Dalby to Jandowae, passing through the new town of Jimbour.

In 1903 JT Bell had married Catherine Jane, widow of Rockhampton solicitor Sydney Jones and daughter of John Ferguson. With JT Bell heavily occupied with his political career, they resided much of the time at their Graceville home, Rakeevan, with Bell returning to Jimbour House when Parliament was not sitting.

Following the death of JT Bell in 1911, the contents of Jimbour House were auctioned in July 1912 and Dame Margaret retired to Brisbane. Through the remainder of the decade the house was occupied by Messrs Thomas and Ryder of Jimbour Station, although they did not acquire title to the house site. In the early 1920s the house on its 100 acres was sold by order of the mortgagee, the Queensland National Bank, with title transferred in November 1922 to Charles Whippell.

The association of the Russell family with Jimbour House commenced in the 1920s when Roma pastoralist Wilfred Adams Russell purchased the property from Whippell. Title was transferred to Russell in January 1925.

WA Russell was born in Queensland in 1874 and educated in New South Wales, where he later acquired pastoral and agricultural interests. In 1909 he acquired an interest in Dalmally Station near Roma and took up residence there in 1910. He further extended his pastoral interests with the acquisition of properties at Cunnamulla and Jimbour Station. Like the Bells before him, WA Russell of Jimbour became involved in local politics. He served as an alderman of the Dalby Town Council and as the member for Dalby in the Queensland Parliament from 1926 until his death in 1932.

At the time of Russell's purchase, Jimbour House was derelict, with several of the ceilings collapsed and only parts of the building habitable, and the gardens were a wilderness. In 1924-25 WA Russell commenced a major programme of restoration and repair. Ceilings were replaced; a new kitchen was added behind the house, incorporating part of the former covered way between the 1870s house and the 1868 bluestone house; and the gardens were redesigned and extended by Brisbane landscape designer Harry Stokes. The bluestone building was badly damaged and parts of the upper floor had crumbled so it was decided to salvage the ground floor as a single storey building and use this as men's quarters.

On 21 November 1925 Jimbour House was formally re-opened with a fund raising fete for Dalby Hospital. This commitment to work for the well being of the community has been continued by the Russell family.

Wilfred Russell died in 1932, and the management of Jimbour passed to his son Charles Russell and Charles' wife Hilary. Continuing the connection between Jimbour and Queensland politics, Charles Russell was elected as a Wambo Shire councillor in 1936 and served as the Member for Dalby in the Queensland Parliament from 1947 to 1949. From 1949 to 1951 he held the Federal seat of Maranoa.

In the 1930s, two large wooden pergolas over the drive at each end of the house and four smaller pergolas in the rose garden were erected, and the rose garden was divided into the four quadrants that now define it. In 1938 the drive was constructed from the front gate to the water tower, and Jacarandas and shrubs were planted along both sides.

In the 1950s and 1960s the Russells developed agriculture (especially wheat) in conjunction with livestock at Jimbour, and new facilities were constructed such as stores, grain silos, feedlots and piggeries. Work on the early buildings and the garden also continued. In 1950 a large swimming pool and wading pool were constructed in the front grounds of Jimbour House and children from surrounding properties were welcome to visit Jimbour and use the pool during the summer months. An airstrip was established at the rear of the house in the 1950s. In 1956 the timber water tower was converted into a four-level residence for the gardener. In the 1960s, the 1864 stone store was converted into two flats with the construction of a mezzanine level and the insertion of dormer windows, and a citrus orchard was planted to the east of the swimming pool.

Charles Russell died in 1977, but Jimbour House remains the property of the Russell family. In the late 20th century a stone fruit and pomme fruit orchard was established to the west of the swimming pool and avenues of trees (planted by distinguished visitors) were commenced on the eastern and western sides of the garden. A vineyard was established on Jimbour land in the late 1990s, but this is not included within the heritage boundary.


Jimbour House is a rural homestead complex located in open country on the Darling Downs north of Dalby and approximately 250 kilometres northwest of Brisbane. The main residence is situated on a slight rise but is now masked by the mature trees of the surrounding garden. The complex includes a substantial two-storeyed sandstone residence set in extensive gardens and a number of auxiliary buildings and structures, some of which predate the main house.


The house is approached along a drive planted with mature Jacaranda trees. Beyond the entrance gates, the house is surrounded by a large formal garden, laid out and largely planted in the 1920s, with a curved gravelled driveway wrapping around a circular garden bed divided into four sections with a fountain at the intersection of the bisecting paths. The gardens feature planting out beds and large mature trees including a number of Queen palms (Arecastrum nomanzofflanum), and furniture of substantial construction. A low stone wall marks the southern boundary of the 1870s garden. Beyond this there is a swimming pool (1950) to the south of the front circular drive and a productive kitchen garden at the rear of the main house.

Main House (1874-77)

Jimbour House comprises three bays; two longitudinal projecting end bays with a central transverse bay, lined on the principal façade with an open terrace on the upper level supported on Doric order columns on stone plinths, paired in some places. Centrally located on the principal façade is a semi-circular projection, apparent in the roofline and through both storeys. This defines the principal entrance. The roof is steeply pitched, hipped over the three bays of the building and clad with Welsh slates. Dominating the roofline are four large brick chimneystacks with corbelled caps. Projecting from the two ends of the building are classically-inspired single-storeyed wings with parapets concealing their rooflines. The terrace on the upper level of the house has been built in at the rear and there is a single-storeyed brick kitchen block below it.

The interior of the house has a wide hall running for most of its length on both levels. The lower level hall has a fireplace on one wall, reminiscent of the galleries in English country houses used as winter promenades. The joinery is of a high quality.

The ground floor contains receptions rooms, a billiard room and a large, square entrance hall with the main bedroom opening off it. The upper floor echoes the layout of the ground floor and has an open paved terrace, bedrooms, and suites of rooms. One bedroom has two hunting scenes frescoes (drawn directly onto the plaster of the walls) dated 16/11/1879.

Bluestone Building (1868 residence, remodelled in the 1870s as a kitchen and staff quarters and in the 1920s as men's quarters)

To the rear of the main house and separated from it by a garden area, is a single-storeyed, low-set bluestone building with sandstone quoins, rectangular in plan, which was formed from the lower storey of the 1868 main homestead residence. It has a hipped roof clad in corrugated iron. The wall at the eastern end of the building is of weatherboards with bricks infilling between the quoins, following the removal of an adjoining wing. The rooms are arranged in a linear fashion, each opening onto a verandah along the southern side. The interior has fibrous cement linings and battened ceilings. One room has a brick fireplace.

Outbuildings (various dates) and Airstrip (1950s)

Several working buildings are set low to the ground around an open area to the rear (north) of the bluestone house. These include a timber and corrugated iron stables and garage that shows variations in building methods and materials corresponding with the various historical stages of construction. A workshop, situated between the stables and the bluestone house, is of timber construction with a gabled roof clad in corrugated iron, a verandah along the front (western) elevation, and a later lean-to extension along the rear (eastern) elevation. It contains a shaft and drive belt from a shearing machine. This group of ancillary buildings also includes a small timber cottage, originally two-roomed, relocated from the site of an early woolshed complex to the north of the airstrip. It has a gabled roof clad in corrugated iron and an attached verandah. To the east of this small building is a metal arched hangar of the 'igloo' type, and beside this is a small timber framed and corrugated iron clad fuel store, with a gabled roof. The airstrip is located to the north of the outbuildings.

Chapel (1868)

At some distance west from the main house and north of the main drive is a simple timber chapel set on low stumps. It is rectangular in plan with the sanctuary under a separate roof at one end and a porch at the other. The main roof is clad with late 20th century tiles and has a small belfry. The roofs of the belfry, sanctuary and porch are clad in corrugated iron. The porch roof has been raised to accommodate a small film projection room above the door, illustrating the multi-functioned use of this building. Small projection windows perforate the wall into the church. Inside, the main roof is supported on scissor trusses and is ceiled with timber. The nave is lined with composite board and is lit by small lancet windows with coloured glass. There are carved altar rails and font and timber pews.

Water Tower (1870s, converted 1950s into residential use)

West of the chapel and the main drive is a tall timber tower, 4 storeys in height and square in section, with walls sloping inwards, supporting a large, square, cast iron water tank. The framing is of trimmed tree trunks and hand hewn timber, clad externally with weatherboards dating to the 1870s. The interior now accommodates residential use and is lined with fibrous-cement sheeting and timber cover strips. The ground floor has modern metal-framed sliding doors and windows and contains a visitors' centre and gift shop. The top storey room is decorated with several naïve paintings, executed between 1924 and 1956 by a former employee at Jimbour. From this level, there is external access via a timber ladder to the water tank above. A single storey timber extension has been added to one side.

Bell Memorial (c1881)

The Bell Memorial is located to the south of the water tower. Modern metal railings surround the memorial, which comprises a painted masonry obelisk decorated very simply with a border of acanthus below the plinth on which the shaft rests. The memorial below this is square in section with a plaque to each face, two of which are inscribed in memory of Sir Joshua Peter Bell who died in 1881 and of his son Joshua Thomas Bell who died in 1911. The other two faces are blank.

Stone Store (1864; converted 1960s into residential flats)

To the west/southwest of the main house is a large, rectangular building of pecked sandstone blocks, which now accommodates residential accommodation on two levels. Originally constructed as a store, evidence remains of the massive barred windows and catshead to the upper level. The building has a gabled roof with close eaves, clad in corrugated iron, into which dormer windows have been inserted. The end walls have arched openings on the upper level, which are now glazed. One of them has a small balcony. The building has sash windows and one of the external doors has a mail hatch from the days when this building was used as a post office. Partition walls and some ceilings inside are timber. One of the rear rooms has a blue-green lime wash finish that is believed to be early.

Adjacent to the store is an underground tank or silo and to the north is an early underground water tank or well.

Image gallery


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