Queensland Places - Brynhyfryd Park, Blackstone

Brynhyfryd Park is an important site in the context of Ipswich and Blackstone’s development as it marks the locations and creates a permanent record of two early Ipswich buildings, now lost to the city’s history.

The first of these historic buildings was Brynhyfryd, constructed as a grand mansion and residence by the well-known coal mining magnate, Lewis Thomas, in 1890. The name Brynhyfryd was said to mean ‘Pleasant Hill’, a suitable name as the residence was situated at the top of Blackstone Hill. The house had three floors, a tower, a hydraulic lift and was surrounded by carefully tended, terraced gardens.

Ipswich mansion, Brynhyfryd State Library of Queensland Negative No 19718

Lewis Thomas was also responsible for the construction of another important building in the area, the Blackstone School of Arts Hall. This large, two-storey building was located at the actual site of the present Brynhyfryd Park and was a gift from Thomas to the local community. The Hall was designed and constructed in 1891.

Lewis Thomas, M.L.C. ca.1910 State Library of Queensland Negative No 110844

The present day Blackstone-Ipswich Cambrian Choir traces its history back to the period when these two buildings were first constructed. The Choir’s early records have not survived, however the Blackstone School of Arts building would have been an important centre for the community, including the early Choir. It was a large and imposing building in the local landscape and no doubt played host to a wide variety of community events and celebrations.

Both buildings were to disappear when demolished in the 1930s, as a result of the expansion of mining in the area.

Brian Randall - Queensland Places Coordinator, State Library of Queensland


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I remember playing on Blackstone Hill as a child in the early 1960s. At that time the mansion was still visible as a ruin and smoke rose up through cracks in the ground from the burning coal mines that riddled the hill. Needless to say, our parents didn't know that we went up there - we were being very daring. I understand that the coal continued to burn for many years. My brother and I went up there again today (20th April, 2013) for old times' sake, but there was very little to be seen: just a brick wall, some tumbled dressed stones and a mess of fly-tipped rubbish. A lovely little gully of trees and plants runs down the hill - clearly in private ownership and beautifully tended.

I also as a teenager early 1960s poked around Thomass castle ruins. There was a flat area atop the hill either paved or concreted with large blocks jumbled around. Through a hole in the floor one could look down into a dark area, either cellar or cistern. Smoke from the smouldering coal seams rose up through fissures lower down the western side of the slope with sulphuric smell if I remember. The School of Arts still stood at that time but some of the roof was gone, the large doors ajar and library books were scattered inside on the floor.

Sorry but I disagree with the comment that the School of Arts disappeared in 1930. I played around there as a child peeking into the 'sinful' billiards room with its beautiful blue toned light shade almost the full length of the table. The shop in the front left was still operating as was the reading room. I was not born until 1944.