Constructed in 1920, this hall is the home of the 1st Brisbane Company of the Boys’ Brigade, which is also the oldest continuously serving Boys’ Brigade unit in Australasia. The Brigade has occupied the same premises at 80 Enoggera Terrace since 1920, after having been formed at the Ithaca Presbyterian Church at 78 Enoggera Terrace in 1913. The unit was highly successful; constructing its own hall in 1919-20, six years after the Company was raised. Since the 1920s, both the unit and the hall have been an important component of community life in the Red Hill and Enoggera Terrace area.
The property on which the hall stands has been in the continuous ownership of the Presbyterian Church of Queensland since 1890. It is on the same parcel of land first purchased from the Crown in 1869 by John Nott. Nott subdivided his land, retaining some from which to run his business as a produce merchant. The hall stands on Subdivision 1 which was first made in 1877, the ownership eventually passing to trustees, probably on behalf of the Presbyterian Church, in September 1890. The land was held by trustees until 1906 when it was transferred to the Presbyterian Church itself, which maintains ownership to this day.
The Boys’ Brigade 1st Brisbane Company was formed by George Orr at the Presbyterian Church on Enoggera Terrace in 1913. Orr was a Scottish master plumber who had been involved with the Boys’ Brigade in his home country where he had become a staunch advocate of the Brigade’s aims, which had been laid down by the organisation’s founder William Alexander Smith: “the advancement of Christ’s kingdom among Boys, and the promotion of habits of Obediance, Reverence, Discipline, Self-respect, and all that tends towards true Christian Manliness.” An organisation much influenced by the military, these objectives were met by the Brigade through parade drill, bible study, and regular meetings and camps. Although the boys drilled with dummy rifles in the United Kingdom, and the Brisbane Company used army rifles blocked to prevent firing, this was only as an accoutrement to drilling and the Brigade did not train members in the actual use of weapons. After 1926, the practice of drilling with dummy or “blocked” weapons ceased.
Orr had migrated to Australia in 1912 to work on the Brisbane sewerage scheme. He became an Elder of the Church in 1914, and under his guidance the 1st Brisbane Company became immensely successful. By 1919 the Company was able to commission the construction of a hall at the cost of £1500. The boys raised £400 of the money themselves and obtained loans for the rest which they were able to repay in total by 1924. By this time 134 boys were enrolled in the Company. The Company grew rapidly through World War I. In the early 1920s, the Company was visited by the Governor General of Australia, Sir Matthew Nathan, and was widely considered at this time as the best run Boys’ Brigade unit in Australia. It was used as a model for other Boys’ Brigade groups being established at the time. In 1926, the Boys’ Brigade amalgamated with the Boys’ Light Brigade, a similar organisation. This did not affect the Boys’ Brigade unit in Enoggera Terrace.
The 1st Brisbane Company of the Boys’ Brigade has been regarded as the first really successful unit of its type in Australia, and is Australia’s longest continually active Boy’s Brigade unit. It is still based in the original hall, eighty years after it was constructed, and eighty-seven years after the unit itself was formed.
There is no doubt that such a successful organisation would have had a significant presence in the local community. All the local boys would have been well aware of the Boys’ Brigade, and possibly attracted by the organisation’s focus of camps, drill, and weapons training. That it was a noteworthy part of the fabric of Red Hill society in the first part of the 20th century seems certain. The formation of a Boys’ Brigade unit in the area also demonstrates the population growth that took place in the region, a growth which was gradually more and more able to support various community organisations, culminating in the establishment of bases like the Boys’ Brigade Hall.
This hall has a corrugated iron gable roof and chamfer clad timber walls. The front facade and the building plan are symmetrical. A separate roof covers the front portion of the building with a gable projecting from the centre, over the entry doors. The large front gable end is clad in fibre cement sheeting with timber covering strips.
Timber framed windows with multi-paned sections are located above the entry gable, and to either side of the entry door. Windows are also along both sidewalls.
The building is raised above ground on the steeply sloping block of land, but it is still slightly below street level. Under the hall and at the back of the building some small rooms have been added.
Statement of significance
Relevant assessment criteria
This is a place of local heritage significance and meets one or more of the local heritage criteria under the Heritage planning scheme policy of the Brisbane City Plan 2014. It is significant because:
The place has a special association with the life or work of a particular person, group or organization of importance in the city’s or local area’s history
as this hall is the locus of the longest existing Boys' Brigade Company in Australia, and has been in constant use by the unit since 1920.
Brisbane City Council Water Supply & Sewerage Detail Plans
Department of Natural Resources, Queensland. Certificates of Title and other records
Hoare, Michael E. Boys, urchins, men: a history of the Boys’ Brigade in Australian and Papua New Guinea (Reed, 1980)
McKellar's Map of Brisbane and Suburbs. Brisbane: Surveyor-General’s Office, 1895
Information kindly provided by Mr Graham Milliner, Boys’ Brigade, 25 Jan 2001
Citation prepared by — Brisbane City Council (page revised September 2020)