Hugh Taylor and Ken Grubb have unearthed the original foundation stone for the historically and architecturally significant Blackstone School of Arts building laid in 1891.
Hugh Taylor and Ken Grubb have unearthed the original foundation stone for the historically and architecturally significant Blackstone School of Arts building laid in 1891. Rob Williams

Like a rolling stone, foundation stone returns home

IT'S BEEN a 60-year round trip for the foundation stone of the iconic Blackstone School of Arts building, which used to neighbour Brynhyfryd Castle.

Like its more famous neighbour the School of Arts was designed by renowned architect George Brockwell Gill and contributed to the Welsh Blackstone community from 1891 until it was demolished in May 1956.

Local historian Hugh Taylor said the building was the cornerstone of the community and it is uncanny the stone has found its way home again.

READ MORE ON ON BRYNHYFRYD

"It was an important building for Blackstone with the Welsh community, it was their library, their reading room, meeting room, billiards room, a dance floor up on the second level, they had all sorts of functions there, it was a real hub," he said.

"To see it lost ... there were lots of things in the paper in the late 50s and 1960 where they were going to rebuild the building."

 

However ongoing negotiations with council about an appropriate site fizzled out after the 60s.

It was some time around then a couple of young blokes from Brisbane were up on Castle Hill with their car and trailer. It's here where the foundation stone begins its travels and will eventually return to the site, all by happy coincidence.

"To get it back now to where it used to be would be a fantastic achievement, it's had quite a journey," Mr Taylor said.

Mr Taylor said a Brisbane gentleman salvaged the sandstone block in the 60s and had gone so far as to chain it up at his place in Hamilton.

"For him to be happy to donate it back, he's now in 80s, his wife has passed away, he's wondering what he's going to do with all these things he's collected over the years," he said.

"The story itself is quite amazing, this fellow's brother in law, and his nephew, his nephew is Peter Todd is fairly well-known and high up in Queensland Heritage.

"Peter was a young fellow when they picked the stone up.

"It was just laying there in the grass, this was in about 1960 and he decided to take it home ... He moved home a couple of times in Brisbane as well.

"When I went to see him he was living Hamilton and he had this stone, he'd put a couple of dyna bolt holes in the back of it so he could put some eyelets into it, put a chain and padlock into it and chained it to his carport post so nobody could steal it," Mr Taylor laughed.

"It's an amazing story how it disappeared out of Ipswich all that time and then a chance meeting (brought it back)."

Now council is looking to incorporate the stone into a lookout on the original site where the School of Arts once stood.

But Mr Taylor and council are determined to get it right - they are looking for anyone who may have information about the School of Arts, or photos atop Castle Hill so they are able to ascertain its exact location and return it from whence it came.

"Having seen a number of photos of the building, to locate the stone where the building where it was... you can't see the stone in the building," he said.

"It said the stone was located between the north-east corner and the front door, it narrows it down.

"At the end of the day if we can't pin it down exactly we'll be within 10ft or so of where it is ... the important thing is it will be back virtually where it was and it'll be put into a decent setting and with some interpretive signing and additional signage to tell the story of the stone, the building and the area."

If you have any knowledge of Castle Hill or the Blackstone School of Arts, contact Mr Taylor at the Cooneanna Heritage Centre on (07) 3282 0358.

SUBSIDENCE THE DEATH OF HALL

ACCORDING to the QT in May 1956 the School of Arts outlasted its neighbour by a quarter of a century, but eventually met with 'subsidence'.

Headlined 'BLACKSTONE BUILDING DOOMED BY SUBSIDENCE AT REAR' the story goes on to speak of patron Lewis Thomas and the need for the building.

It only took four months for its construction and cost £895.

The article goes on to say the building was "robbed of its foundations by earth movements and soaking rain, (it) crashed inwards, smashing the wooden floor down on to a full size billiards table in the room below".

LAYING THE FOUNDATION STONE

A QUEENSLAND Times article dating back to April 27, 1891 reports the construction of the Blackstone School of Arts.

It named Blackstone a "progressive little township" and said the two-storey brick building did not have a concrete foundation.

The building had a central passage running almost entirely the whole way through the building, and to the immediate left there was a refreshment room and opposite to that was the reading room.

The article continues the foundation stone was situated between the north-east corner and the front door and bares the marks of the maker, Lewis Thomas (patron), Peter Brown, (builder), and George Brockwell Gill (architect).

Mr Thomas was known as the 'coal king' of Ipswich and also funded the construction of the Italianate neighbouring Brynhyfryd mansion.

MANSION'S LIFE WAS SHORT LIVED

COUNCIL repurchased land at Castle Hill and planned to open Brynhyfryd at Blackstone Hill in 2014.

READ THE ORIGINAL STORY HERE

The original mansion, or castle, was built in 1889 by the "Coal King" Lewis Thomas, the George Brockwell Gill designed three-storey mansion ironically was condemned after undermining, explosions and subsidence structurally compromised the grand building.

Welsh-born Thomas made his fortune as owner of Aberdare Colliery at Blackstone and was also the Minister for Bundamba from 1893 to 1899 and part of the Queensland Legislative Council from 1902 until his death in 1913.

The mansion was demolished in the 1930s with building materials and furnishings auctioned off.



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