Bardon House, The Villa That Inspired The Name Of A Suburb

bardon house
Bardon House as St Joseph’s Convent, Bardon, 1959 (Photo credit: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland)

Did you know that Bardon was originally known as ‘Upper Paddington’ before it was renamed in 1925 after Bardon House, a heritage-listed stone villa in the area?


Read: Here’s Why Bardon is the Coolest Inner City Suburb of Brisbane


The 159-year-old house was built by prominent builder and architect Joshua Jeays who also served as a mayor of Brisbane. Based on records, Bardon House was construction started in 1863, only a year after the area was first surveyed. 

The first land sales for the area took place in November 1862. Jeays purchased two lots there and later bought 38 more acres of land from a man named Francis Lyon. It was where the iconic Bardon House was built.

Early Years

Barhon House was taken after Jeays’ birthplace, Leicestershire, England, which was home to Bardon, a former village and ‘Bardon Hill,’ which was known as the highest hill in the land.

Photo credit: State Library of Queensland

Jeays trained as a carpenter and builder in Leicestershire before he emigrated to Moreton Bay in 1853 with his wife Sarah and their four children. 

Tower Ad

They lived in North Quay for a time, but his wife, who was suffering poor health by then, wanted to live near the calmness of the hills and requested her husband to build their home on one of the heights outside the town.

Jeays was known for building homes for well-known Brisbane residents such as Walter Hill, who founded the Botanic Gardens, Patrick Mayne, who owned a house in Auchenflower, and the Cribb family.

bardon house
Joshua Jeays (Photo credit: State Library of Queensland)

Jeays chose the elevated area of the Paddington hills and built a home there for his wife. However, Jeays refused to reside there after his wife did not live to occupy the house. It was passed to his son, Charles Jeays and then to his daughter Sarah Jane.

Joshua Jeays retired shortly after his wife’s death and stayed at his home in North Quay until his death in 1881.

Prominent Residents

The Lilleys

Sarah Jane Jeays lived at the Bardon House in 1866 with her husband Sir Charles Lilley, who was a former Premier and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Queensland.

Sarah Jane and Sir Charles had five daughters – Annie, Ethel, Gertrude, Sibyl, and Grace, and eight sons – Edwyn, Charles, Walter, Harold, Arthur, Alfred, Bertram and Wilfred.

Sir Charles Lilley (Photo credit: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland)

Sir Charles was a barrister and journalist, who gained popularity for advocating the separation of Queensland from New South Wales.

The Lilleys were believed to have stayed there for only a year, after it was advertised in 1867, describing the house, as a “stone villa, containing ten rooms beside coach-house, stables, out-offices, and garden, and 40 or 90 acres of land securely fenced.”

Exley Family

Exley was born and raised in London but came to Queensland under contract to the QLD Government and was admitted to the Department of Public Instruction.

He also worked as an assistant teacher at the Brisbane Central Boys’ School before being appointed as headmaster of the Ithaca Creek School, which is one of the oldest schools in the State.

Arthur Exley, fifth from left, on the back row (Photo credit: garlandmemorial.com)

Meanwhile, his wife Elizabeth was also known for her work on social services for women and children. She was among the people behind the establishment of the first Queensland branch of the Anglican missionary organisation the Mothers Union and the District Nursing Association.

Arthur and Elizabeth lived at the house along with their five children until 1925.

Franciscan Sisters

Franciscan Sisters (Photo credit: Missionary Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception Australia)

Following the Exleys, the residence and the surrounding land was acquired by Archbishop James Duhig for the Roman Catholic Church, for use as a convent and church for the new parish of Rosalie (now Toowong).

The Franciscan Sisters resided there and held classes for around 31 students. Later on, a benefactor donated a significant amount of money for a new school, now St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School.

From Upper Paddington to Bardon

Bardon in the 1930s (Photo credit: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland)

In 1925, the same year the house was turned over to the Catholic Church, the Ithaca Town Council renamed the area Bardon, taken after Jeays’ villa.

An advertisement for the lot sales in the area described it as “high and healthy with magnificent views” and “only six minutes from the Paddington Tram Terminus.”


Read: Why Well-off Families Choose This Bardon School For Their Kids


During this time, the area became so popular with young families that a new school was needed.

In 1928, Rainworth State School, now one of the leading schools in Bardon, opened its doors to 238 students. Back then, there were only five teachers and eight classrooms.

Bardon’s population grew and car ownership saw a gradual increase. Around this time, Bardon became a more convenient and desirable suburb.

Bardon House at Present

bardon house
Bardon House in 2017 (Photo credit: Queensland Government Heritage Branch Staff)

Today, Bardon House is considered as one of the oldest landmarks in the area. It is located at 41 The Drive, Bardon and forms part of the campus of St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School.

As part of the Catholic school, Bardon House served as a convent, classrooms, school administration and music rooms.

The house is one of the few examples of Victorian Gothic style stone houses in Queensland, featuring a complex steeply pitched roof of intersecting gables and dormer windows. Other houses with the same style as the Bardon House are the old Roma Villa in Roma St, which has undergone renovation, and the Kedron Lodge.


Read: Discover the Rich History of Rainworth House in Bardon


It was constructed of a combination of coursed and uncoursed squared rubble and rough faced sandstone, providing protection to corners, doors and windows.

It was entered on the Heritage Register on 21 October 1992. Because of its elevated position, Bardon House is a prominent feature along The Drive and makes an important contribution to the streetscape.