In 1924 Watts purchased Dr E. S. Jackson’s house ‘Glen Olive’ which had been offered for sale for removal. This “enormous wooden building” had been “built in sections” and was “sold in sections.” Dr E. S. Jackson had purchased ‘Glen Olive’ in 1901 which had been architect Richard Gailey’s showcase residence at Toowong, built in 1890-91.
Richard Gailey is one of Brisbane’s most well-known architects. Born in Donegal in 1834 he came to Brisbane in 1864 and decided to settle. Gailey set up his own practice in 1865 and eventually, according to Watson & Mackay, had “the longest and most productive practice of any Brisbane architect.” He is best known for designing gracious and beautiful hotels, such as the Regatta and the Orient; the Baptist Tabernacle and smaller Baptist churches, the now Governors’ residence, ‘Fernberg’, ‘Moorlands’ at the Wesley Hospital Milton, and the Brisbane Girls Grammar School to name a few. Gailey died in 1924 aged 91.
His house 'Glen Olive' was a grand villa built in 1890-91 on the 165 acre Lang Farm Estate purchased by Gailey in 1876. The beautiful landmark building featured a ballroom-sized lounge and extensive verandahs, a large atrium surmounted by a turret filled with coloured glass and multiple rooms surrounded by covered verandahs.
Only a section of the Gailey house was relocated and reconstructed onto Watts' land. Advertisements for the sale of Glen Olive and reports of the sale suggest it was sold in sections and for building materials. William Melbourne Watts’ property was transferred to his son, William Phillips Watts in 1925. William Phillips Watts was an accountant who married in 1916 and appears to have lived in Gympie. Twenty-four and a half acres of Watts’ property was transferred to the Brisbane Franciscan Communities in 1933.
On 4 June 1932, St John’s House of Rest for aged men was opened on almost 25 acres on a hilltop in the “beautiful Brookfield district”. The home was reported to be a commodious wooden building “which formerly belonged to Dr E.S. Jackson of Toowong”. Divided into three large wards with a large dining room and staff rooms, the home was established by the Franciscan order of the Church of England. This Order was established by Reverend Robert Bates, along with an Order of nuns, the ‘Daughters of St Clare’, to continue the tradition of care for the less fortunate modelled by Saint Francis of Assisi. Intended to accommodate 26 inmates, St John’s House of Rest for aged men was to be a counterpart to a home for aged and infirm women opened by the ‘Daughters of St Clare’ in Wickham Terrace the previous year. The purchase of both homes was made possible “by an anonymous benefactress”.
St John's House of Rest was intended to be a self-supporting place of refuge for about 30 aged men, with those who were able, to assist in the cultivation of the land. Reverend Bates intended to establish a home for aged ladies also on this beautiful site, a sisterhood, a chapel and perhaps a children's home. However it was soon found that Brookfield was too remote to suit the needs of aged men and St John’s Home of Rest was transferred to Toowong in 1934. St John's House became a boys' home - St. Christopher's Lodge where, it was stated, “boys whose circumstances are adverse, through no fault of their own, may have the opportunity of developing in a happy atmosphere, surrounded by those religious, moral and cultural influences” enjoyed by their “fortunate brother” with “loving parents and good homes”.
By 1936 a new 'wood and iron convent (dwelling)' was constructed on the property for the Sisters of St Clare to care for the twenty boys housed at the property. Father J. G. Johnston was chaplain and Miss M. Stock was the matron. St Christopher's Lodge stood on 25 acres of ground where “the boys [were] able to do a little farming” with the first boy leaving “some time ago” to go to St Lucia and continue his work as a farmer. At this time Father Bates was attempting to get funding that would enable those boys who were able, to go on to university. In 1937 the Franciscans acquired the adjacent portion 52 enlarging their landholding to 39 acres. The farm work at St Christopher's continued with the boys exhibiting their produce at the Brookfield Show.
In 1955 Father Bates died and St Christopher's Lodge with its training farm closed in the late 1950s as ideas about the correct care for disadvantaged people changed. Eighteen acres of the land was sold to the Presbyterian Church to establish what has become the neighbouring Blue Care Aged Care Facility and Iona Nursing Centre. From 1959 to 1961 St Christopher's and St Clare's buildings was housed the Franciscan Friars who used the property for their community and as a base for the 'Comrades of St George' – a church mission group for 15-25 year olds.
In 1965 title to the property was transferred to the Corporation of the Synod of the Church of England Diocese and the archibishop invited Franciscan Friars from Papua New Guinea and the England to the property. Here they restored the buildings and St Clare's lodge was enclosed for extra rooms underneath. From the 1966 to 1981 the Friary was operated by the Anglican Society of St Francis operating as a self-sufficient farm and manufacturing hand-made as well as working with the community offering practical help, rehabilitation and retreat. In 1971 architects Merrin and Cranston designed a chapel which was built on the property by Henry Clark & Sons. The property attracted 'hippie-types' in the 1970s with massive open air services accompanied by guitars and annual ‘Friary Fayres’ where farm produce, preserves and pottery were sold. The “Friary Pottery” brand was sold in David Jones stores and presented to the Queen and visiting athletes and VIPs at the 1982 Brisbane Commonwealth Games. In 1988 Expo volunteers for the Pavilion of Promise were housed at the property.
In 1990 Jack Thurgood from St David's Parish in Chelmer organised volunteers to restore the house and grounds. Local artist David Binns decorated the house and chapel and established the Brookfield Centre for Christian Spirituality. During this period, voluntary workers planted trees and constructed pathways for contemplation. A gift and coffee shop operated onsite from 1995 – 2004. A new house was built to the northeast the old home for Binns and his family in 1995. This house is not of heritage significance.
In 1998 the lower paddocks to the north were developed and sold as ‘Friary Fields’- a private residential housing estate. Caretakers reside in St Clare’s cottage and the centre continues as a place of worship and retreat, as well as a venue for community, exercise and music groups. In addition, the chapel can be hired for weddings, and the former St John’s Home has hosted folk concerts and art exhibitions.