Travelling Australia - Journal 2011
27 June 2011 - Richmond - Cambridge Downs Heritage Display Centre
Replica Cambridge Downs
Cambridge Downs Heritage Display Centre in Richmond is a building based on the homestaed built at nearby Cambridge Downs in the 1860s showing the solid stone walls and the barred window opening designed to make it more difficult to successfully attack the residence.

Cambridge Downs Heritage Display Centre was opened in Richmond, Queensland, in May 2009. This is a stone building based on the homestead built at nearby Cambridge Downs in the 1860s; the building is also used as a display centre for local historical material.

Cambridge Downs pastoral property was taken up in 1864 by Kennedy and Macdonald as part of the inexorable expansion of graziers across Queensland. That expansion took the form of herds of cattle or flocks of sheep being driven ever further inland in search of unclaimed pasture and water for stock.

In 1864 Cambridge Downs marked the limit reached by herds and flocks; it was recognised as an outpost of settlement and the threat of attack by local aboriginals was ever present as they recognised the disastrous impact the white man and his animals was having on their traditional way of life.

More widely known narratives of pastoral expansion in Western Queensland by Patrick Durack describe how Durack and his extended family were helped by local aboriginals between 1863 and 1868 as they struggled to establish the Thylungra property during a drought. That experience was not repeated in Central Queensland around the Richmond and Hughenden region where contemporary narratives (see Information section below) contain references to attacks by natives. The number of references to shepherds being speared by natives, to droving parties being armed with revolvers and rifles, and to punitive raids on nearby aboriginals indicates substantial hostility between natives and pastoralists. North of Hughenden, at Bottletree lookout near Porcupine Gorge, there is an isolated grave of a mailman speared by natives as he passed this spot in 1886. The date of these attacks indicates hostility lasting for an extended period of at least twenty year; prudent settlers would provide for defence when designing houses.

The need to take precautions against native attack was fundamental when the Cambridge Downs homestead, now replicated in Richmond, was built. The walls are of local flagstone rock mostly up to three centimetres thick laid horizontally and cemented one above the other in a wall 30 to 40 centimetres thick and about two metres high. Windows are square openings without glass but with vertical iron bars two and a half centimetres thick. Doors are solid timber swung on solid timber frames. The roof was initially thatch in a timber frame laid on top of the walls; when galvanised iron came available that was use on the roof.

There were no chimneys or fireplaces in the house; the cookhouse was out the back connected by a walkway. Separating the kitchen with its dangerous fire from the flammable house (especially the thatch roof) was standard practice in those days.

Travelling Australia - Cambridge Downs Heritage Display Centre - pg2
Edge of back wall The thickness of the back wall of the house. The space on the right of the photograph leads to the rear entrance.

The building looks more like a fortress than a house. It was situated 300 metres from the wooded Cambridge Creek so nobody could creep up on the house unobserved. Water was hauled from the creek in a ships tank on a sled or dray. The ships tank was the forerunner of the shipping container, it was an iron cube about 1.5 metres used as a general storage medium.

  "Pioneering Days: Thrilling Incidents", Across the Wilds of Queensland with Sheep to the Northern Territory in the Early Sixties, by George Sutherland (1855-1905). Published by W. H. WENDT & Coy. Ltd, Printers, Brisbane, 1913. A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook at ; eBook No. 0701081.txt
  "Early Days in North Queensland", by The Late Edward Palmer. Published 1903. A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook at ; eBook No. 0901071.txt
  Australian Dictionary of Biography - Durack, Patrick (1834-1989) at