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

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. 

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:

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

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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.

The Evolution of Bardon House

From being a residence to a number of notable personalities to becoming a parish and then a school, Bardon House has indeed established itself as the most significant home in the suburb of Bardon.

The family that built the home named it Bardon as it reminded them of Bardon Hills in Leicestershire where they used to live in England. The suburb eventually carried the Bardon name as well.

Located at 41 The Drive, Bardon, the iconic residence continues to serve the community and is now a part of the St Joseph’s primary school complex.

Early Days

Joshua Jeays, 1909, builder of the Bardon House. Photo credit: John Oxley Library, State Library of QLD. Image No. : 109863

Bardon House was built in 1863/64 by Joshua Jeays, builder, architect, and early mayor of Brisbane. It is thought that he constructed it for his wife Sarah, who died prior to its completion.

After arriving in Moreton Bay from England in 1853 with his wife and four children, Joshua Jeays established himself as a reputable builder and contractor in Brisbane. Among his notable creations was the Old Government House.

From 1854, Jeays and his family lived in a house at North Quay.

Apart from being a renowned builder, architect, and contractor, he was also involved in local politics. Jeays became an alderman of the Brisbane Municipal Council in its foundation year, 1859 and also served as Mayor in 1864-1865.

Construction of Bardon House

View of Bardon House from the drive, 1930. Photo credit: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image number: 196955

Jeays purchased two country lots in the Brisbane suburb in the first land sales for the area in November 1862. He later acquired 38 more acres of land from Francis Lyon in early 1863. This was where he built the Bardon House.

Jeays reportedly constructed Bardon House around 1863/1864. The house’s name came from Leicestershire County’s highest landmark, Bardon Hill, which was close to Joshua and Sarah Jeays’ respective hometowns of Loughborough and Beeby in England.

Unfortunately, Sarah Jeays died in July 1864 while her husband was serving as the mayor of Brisbane. After her death, Joshua Jeays retired from business and never resided at Bardon House, remaining at their North Quay residence until his death in 1881.

Bardon House’s Prominent Residents

Charles Lilley on his wedding day, 1858. Photo credit: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Negative number: 111372

In early 1866, Jeays’ daughter Sarah and husband [Sir] Charles Lilley (later Premier and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Queensland) lived in Bardon House. However, the Lilley’s occupancy of Bardon House appears to have ended by mid-1867.

Following the Lilley’s is a succession of notable Brisbane residents and their families occupying the property for various periods of time. Famous personalities who occupied the residence included Thomas Harlin, the First headmaster of Brisbane Boys Grammar School, and [Sir] Thomas Mc Ilwraith (later Premier of Queensland).

Hon. Thomas McIlwraith. Photo credit: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image number: 21383

Moreover, John Stennett from the pharmaceutical firm Elliot Brothers and his family occupied Bardon House from 1878-1886. Subsequent residents from the mid-1880s to early 1900s were stock and sharebroker Brownlow Cole and customs officer Charles William Rich, as well as Johannes Christian Brunnich, a government agricultural chemist.

When Joshua Jeays died in March 1881, his Bardon estate remained in the ownership of the Jeays/Lilley family until 1911.

The Exley Family

Bardon in the 1930s. Photo credit: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Negative number: 133637

Bardon House was leased to Arthur Exley who lived there with his wife Elizabeth, five daughters, and son from 1903 to 1925. They are amongst the longest tenants at the property.

Exley had an extensive career with the Department of Public Instruction and was the headmaster of the nearby Ithaca State School when his family moved to Bardon.

Elizabeth also played a prominent role in the community. Her works were related to social services for women and children. She helped establish the first Queensland branch of the Anglican missionary organisation the Mothers Union and the District Nursing Association.

The Exleys remained in the Bardon House until Archbishop James Duhig purchased the property in 1925. Photo credit: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Negative number: 105251

After the death of the estate’s owner, Edwyn Lilley in 1911, Arthur Exley, master builder Arthur Barltrop, and solicitor Patrick O’Sullivan acquired the Bardon property holdings. The three formed the company Bardon Estate Limited and subdivided much of the land for new housing.

Allotments were offered for sale in four stages between 1912 and 1921. The original Bardon House driveway was gazetted as a road called The Drive as part of the subdivision. Five acres of land were retained as surroundings for the house.

The Exleys remained at Bardon house until the property was purchased by Archbishop James Duhig, for the Roman Catholic Church in 1925 for £2250.

The Parish of Bardon

After its establishment, church services were held in St Mary Magdalene’s Church instead of the Bardon House. Photo credit: CC-BY/bertknot/Flickr

The first mass was celebrated at Bardon House in March 1925 by Monsignor Lee of nearby Rosalie Parish. The mass was held in the central room of Bardon House, with the mantelpiece and table substituting as an altar.

Along with the official designation of the suburb, the parish of Bardon was declared in 1926. It was the 38th Parish of the Archdiocese.

Appointed in 1925, Father Max Irvine, the Chaplain at Stuartholme Convent, became the first Parish Priest of the parish of Bardon. He also resided at Bardon House. However, by the following year, services were no longer held in Bardon House, since a church-school named St Mary Magdalene’s (originally spelt Magdalen) was constructed within the grounds.

Bardon House as a School

Bardon House as St Joseph’s Convent, Bardon, 1959. Photo credit: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Negative number: 74791

Original plans for the parish of Bardon included using it as a school but this did not happen until 1938. When Parish Priest, Dr O’Donoghue vacated Bardon, Archbishop Duhig invited nuns of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception to occupy the place.

The Franciscan Sisters moved in on 19 January 1938 to establish a convent and new primary school, to be known as St Joseph’s.

St Joseph’s School was opened on 24 January 1938 with 31 male and female pupils. With the help of an anonymous donation of £1000, a separate school building located between Bardon house and the church was constructed on the site by the end of the year.

As part of Bardon House’s adaptation for a convent and school use, the north facing verandah was enclosed to accommodate a classroom. Moreover, the eastern verandah was also enclosed with lattice around whilst the stone walls of the enclosed verandahs were also rendered.

Bardon House Now

After the war era, St Joseph’s School continued to develop and grow. Several school buildings and sporting facilities have been constructed on the grounds since this time. Furthermore, most structures on the school site now date from post-2000 era.

Today, the earliest surviving school building is the 1958 Forrest building, immediately west of Bardon House.

Bardon House was added to the  Queensland Heritage Register on 21 October 1992. The iconic residence-church-school remains to be a part of the St Joseph’s primary school complex.

The Victorian Gothic style stone house continues to impress passersby with its fine workmanship and architectural style.

Bardon’s Blast From the Past: A Walk Down Memory Lane Through Heritage Homes

The leafy suburb of Bardon is also home to several beautifully-constructed heritage homes that delight and charm passersby. Have you stumbled into a uniquely-structured house in the area? If you do, then it might have been a part of the area’s heritage homes that holds so much history.


Oogarding: Mediterranean Style villa
Address: 100 Simpsons Road

Photo credit:

Just when you’re about to make that sharp bend in Simpsons Road, you will notice a Mediterranean house against the tall gum trees. The Oogarding home was built in 1940 by architect Melvyn Rylance who was commissioned by James Gervase and Edith Joyce. Gerb (Mr Joyce’s nickname) Joyce is the owner of the Helidon Spa soft drink company, where the name of the house was derived from as “oorgarding” is its Aboriginal name.

The Oorgarding home sits on a perfect location in Bardon as it’s safe from flood and has sweeping views of the city.


Bardon House: Victorian-style, stone structured home
Address: 41 The Drive

Photo credit:

Joshua Jeays, the early mayor of Brisbane constructed this house between 1864 and 1926. He sourced stone from a quarry at Woogaroo which he also developed to use for the house. The two-storey Victorian Gothic structure, with a pitched roof, gables and dormer windows was passed on to his daughter. Mr Jeays never lived in the house. Some say that it was because his wife died even before the construction was finished.

In 1911, the Exleys bought the house from the Jeays. After years of living in the house, the Catholic church bought the house in 1925. I(t served as a temporary church until an actual church was built in the suburb. In 1937, the Franciscan Sisters moved into the house to run St. Joseph’s, a school. Today, the house is still part of the school.


The Fairy House
Address: McGregor Terrace

Photo credit:

A magical home can be spotted along McGregor Terrace. The Fairy House was built shortly after the World War II by Russian artist and architect Grigori Mekhonoshin. The uniquely designed home was intended for his daughter. When walking along the busy street, the apex of the attic is visible. When you come closer, you will see several sculptures adorning the house.

The house actually has three levels. Each level, as well as each room, has outside access. The upper level is the most interesting. It has a trap door with a ladder that provides access to the room below. Its external access is accessible via a charming walk bridge.


Rainworth House
Address: 7 Barton Street

Photo credit: Heritage branch staff / Wikimedia Commons

Vital to the evolution of Queensland’s history, the house is an example of an 1860s vernacular dwelling. The house was built by Sir Augustus Charles Gregory KCMG CMG FRGS MLC, a famous explorer and surveyor-general of Queensland in 1862. He built the house to serve as a peaceful place where he can retreat to regroup his thoughts, create, write, and invent.

Each house in Bardon has a story to tell, but what makes these Bardon heritage homes special is that they have played a huge part in the suburb’s history and served as a bridge to a time long gone but fondly reminisced.