Historic Willards Farm looks to the future within Birkdale Community Precinct

Maintenance work and an updated Conservation Management Plan (Heritage) are underway for the historic heritage-protected Willards Farm as its future place within Birkdale Community Precinct begins to take shape.

Redland City Mayor Karen Williams said a program of works was being prepared around future restoration priorities for the site, which is one of the oldest surviving farms and residences on Redlands Coast, believed to date back to the 1870s.

“Works were completed recently to help stabilise the structural integrity of the farmhouse’s main supports,” Cr Williams said.

Historic heritage-protected Willards Farm at Birkdale Community Precinct.

“This is such a well-loved and important property in terms of our city’s European history and it will no doubt become a jewel in the crown of Birkdale Community Precinct as we go forward.

“On-site investigations have been completed as part of developing the updated conservation management plan for Willards Farm.

“There also will be maintenance work carried out on some of the farm’s significant trees in coming months.”

Cr Williams said that as well as Willards Farm, Birkdale Community Precinct’s protected heritage areas included the former World War II radio receiving station built in 1943 by the US Army Signals Corp and its associated rhombic array of radio antennas.

“The heritage values of this precinct are incredibly important, genuinely fascinating and will be protected,” Cr Williams said.

Division 10 Councillor Paul Bishop said Willards Farm, aka The Pines, held a special place in both history and the heart of the Birkdale community.

“There are so many heritage values tied up in this place, there are gateways to knowledge and ongoing stories of significance yet to be explored here,” Cr Bishop said.

The original homestead and surrounding buildings, such as the milking shed and creamery, help to anchor the entire Birkdale Community Precinct within its early European and pioneer context.

“The place is of so much value to future generations it cannot be underestimated.

“The structures were built by the Willards using simple bush carpentry techniques made from local timbers felled on site, including white beech, swamp beech, cedar and pine.

“The exact date the homestead was constructed is uncertain but it was likely around 1876 when owners James and Margaret Willard took out a mortgage on the land they had owned and farmed since 1865.”

An early photo of the Willards farmhouse in Birkdale.

Cr Williams said Council bought the property at 302 Old Cleveland Road East, Birkdale, in March 2016 following community concern that the site was subject to a development approval for subdivision into residential allotments.

“Once Willards Farm was saved, Council worked long and hard to negotiate the purchase of the neighbouring 61-hectares of Commonwealth land,” she said.

“The Commonwealth had indicated this land was tagged as surplus. As such, it also was in threat of being subdivided into residential allotments, with the Government suggesting it could accommodate 400 houses.

“Council managed to secure the purchase of the land in December 2019.

“The combined properties now form Birkdale Community Precinct.

“It is such a large property that a large number of uses and facilities can be accommodated without impacting on the precinct’s heritage values.

“Other uses will also bring attention and appreciation to the heritage-listed sites that it contains.”

Cr Williams said a vision document for the precinct was currently being prepared and would be presented to Council shortly.

“The document will include high level, aspirational concepts for Willards Farm and its surrounding land to reflect ideas as suggested by the community during Council’s seven-week community engagement program earlier this year,” she said

Some of the ideas put forward for Willards Farm by the community include ventures such as farmers’ market place, bush food gardens, a café or restaurant, paddock-to-plate dining experiences, and an agrifarm experience demonstrating traditional and contemporary farming methods.

Further community consultation will occur at the master planning stage, Cr Williams said.

For more information on Birkdale Community Precinct go to: yoursay.redland.qld.gov.au/imagine