It’s no secret that H & H love New Farm. We adore this tight-knit little community for so many reasons; the people, the houses, the little businesses, the cafes, the dogs, the proximity to the city… we could go on!
If New Farm is rich in anything (aside from fabulous coffee culture) it’s history. The suburb is amongst the oldest in Brisbane and over the last 150 years it has changed and grown into the inner-city suburban haven it is today. So, let’s take a step back and look at where New Farm began!
Before colonisation… (Prior to the 1870s)
New Farm is the land of the Turrbal people. The Turrbal people are the traditional owners of most of Brisbane, with their land reaching as far up as North Pine River and as far south as Logan River.
The Brisbane River is of great importance to the Turrbal nation and is seen as life-source of food. The traditional name for New Farm is ‘Binkenba’ which means ‘place of the land tortoise’. The Turrbal people are fishing people, and the marshy area at the very end of New Farm was a popular place for catching tortoise and fish.
The Turrbal people have Native Title over the land of New Farm. Native Title is a recognition of their people and culture, however, it is not the same as Land Rights which would recognise the land as legally belonging to the traditional owners.
The convict settlement… (1820’s-1840’s)
The Moreton Bay Penal Settlement was a large settlement that took up most of what we know today as Brisbane and it’s inner-city suburbs. The colony stretched from Stradbroke to Ipswich and housed 2400 men and 145 women.
New Farm was, shockingly enough, farming land tended to by convicts from the Moreton Bay Penal Settlement. New Farm became Brisbane’s second major farm, established in 1839 to replace the South Brisbane farming area. Therefore, New Farm was once upon a time literally a new farm.
The beginning of a suburb… (1840’s-1920’s)
The farming area (which would later become New Farm Park) was bordered by two main thoroughfares. The roads were later named Brunswick Street and Merthyr Road. European families settled on sub-divisions around these thoroughfares. While it wasn’t unheard of to find an English, Irish, or Scottish family residing in New Farm, the majority of immigrants were of Italian descent.
To this day, the Italian culture continues to be a massive influence on the suburb. You’ll find everyone seems to know each other and they’ll drop what they’re doing to have a chat over coffee, cheese, and cured meats.
The old farming land became a racecourse in 1846. The racecourse then closed in 1861. Brisbane City Council acquired the land in 1913 and reopened the area as New Farm Park in 1919.
The suburb continued to grow through the 19th century, with the horse tram service converted into an electric tram service in 1898. The service ran through Baker Street, Moray Street, and Merthyr Road up to the New Farm Wharf and the Hawthorne Ferry.
St Michael’s Anglican church and school opened in 1891. Additionally, a post office, a fire station, and the New Brunswick Hotel also opened. Industry by this point was booming in New Farm, with the lime kilns running from 1870 and the sugar refinery starting a business in 1893. The bowls club and picture theatre opened in 1908 and 1914 respectively.
War, progress, and community spirit… (1920s-1950s)
New Farm continued to grow and prosper throughout the 20th century. In 1925 the Brisbane City Council took over the electric tram service after realising the method for powering them was costly and inefficient. Their solution was to open the Brisbane Powerhouse in 1926 which successfully powered the entire electric tram system and a few inner-city suburbs.
World War 2 was declared in 1936. New Farm’s location on the Brisbane River made the suburb vulnerable. Additionally, the area was the largest US submarine base in the southern hemisphere. The US presence caused tension in the area, but most families treated the soldiers well. They would often invite them for dinners and offer them lodging within their own homes.
Life in New Farm was different throughout the war. Food was scarce and the children attended school sporadically. On days school was in session, half the students would go in the morning and the other half in the afternoon to minimise the number of children at risk at any given time. However, New Farm didn’t see a huge amount of action.
The community rallied around the war efforts. Women in the community learned to made camouflage nets, socks, gloves, balaclavas, and parcels of food to send to the front lines. They also taught themselves key communication methods of the times; semaphore and Morse code. In addition to this, many New Farm homes had signs from the Red Cross declaring that the residing family donated three pence a week for the Australian prisoners of war. In a time of hardship, this was an incredible contribution from the New Farm community.
Moving forward… (1950s-2000s)
In 1969 the Brisbane electric trams were replaced with buses and the Brisbane Powerhouse was no longer needed. It was officially decommissioned in 1971 and the derelict building was used for other purposes. A site for army target practice, an underground stage for the arts, a canvas for graffiti artists, a film location for aspiring directors, and shelter for Brisbane’s homeless community; the Brisbane Powerhouse wasn’t completely abandoned.
In 1989 the Brisbane City Council reclaimed the site with a vision for art and an entertainment space in mind. These dreams became a reality and the Powerhouse as we know it today was opened in 2000.
Throughout this time, the rest of New Farm was continuing to grow. The population of the suburb by 2000 was almost at 10,000 people and the community was thriving. House prices were beginning to soar. Between 1994 and 2004 the average house price in New Farm had gone up by a staggering $500,000. It was considered the third wealthiest suburb in Brisbane surpassed only by Ascot and Hamilton.
The future looks bright… (2000-present day)
The first Australian census in 1911 told us there were around 5500 people living in New Farm, many of whom were Italian immigrants. The 2016 census revealed New Farm’s population boasting 12,500 people from a wide variety of backgrounds.
While the area has fallen prey to the unpredictable nature of Brisbane floods, the community has continued to bounce back with spirit. Renowned throughout Brisbane for it’s tree-lined streets and large houses, New Farm continues to make it onto ‘Brisbane’s Top Suburbs’ lists from all kinds of publications. When you visit the area, it’s not hard to see why.
The average house in New Farm sells for around $1.5 million and the average apartment sells for around $555,000. These values are only set to increase as the suburb continues to grow.