Willards Farm recommended for State heritage register

One of Redlands Coast’s oldest surviving farms and residences which was saved by Redland City Council in 2016 from being demolished and subdivided into housing has been recommended for entry into the Queensland Heritage Register.

Willards Farm at 302 Old Cleveland Road East, Birkdale.

Willards Farm, built during the periods of the 1860s to 1910s, was bought by Council in March 2016 and entered into the local Heritage Places Register in June of the same year.

Redland City Mayor Karen Williams said Willards Farm at 302 Old Cleveland Road East, Birkdale, represented a core value within the 62-hectare Birkdale Community Precinct and is a centre-point for the precinct’s current stage of draft master planning.

“The Department of Environment and Science has recommended Willards Farm be entered into the Queensland Heritage Register (QHR) with the Queensland Heritage Council (QHC) expected to make the final decision by March this year,” Cr Williams said.

Cr Williams said Council had identified Willards Farm and all heritage values in the Birkdale Community Precinct as being a priority for protection in the site’s draft master planning.

“We have been and we will continue to manage heritage values within the precinct appropriately,” she said.

“In 2021, Council commissioned an updated Conservation Heritage Management Plan which informs the best ways to protect and restore the heritage values of Willards Farm.

“The original Willards homestead and some original surrounding buildings, such as the milking shed (pictured right) and creamery, are still standing and help to define the whole precinct in terms of our city’s European pioneer history.

“This is such a well-loved and important property. It will no doubt become a jewel in the crown of Birkdale Community Precinct as we go forward.”

Cr Williams said Council budgeted $250,000 in the 2021/22 financial year to undertake primarily detailed design works for the restoration of Willards Farm and is appointing a heritage architect to undertake this work, in preparation for its restoration. The work was temporarily halted during the QHR consideration process.

Division 10 Councillor Paul Bishop said Council was committed to protecting Willards Farm due to its significance for the community.

“This is quite a remarkable property which offers our community many more layers of value and significance than appears at first glance,” Cr Bishop said.

“It is a portal into our pioneer past with a wealth of stories, lessons and knowledge to impart, including stories of connection with First Nations People and South Sea Islander labourers. It also remains a place that can be enjoyed, treasured and celebrated by generations to come.”

This is the second time an application has been made to the DES to enter the property into the QHR, with an ultimately unsuccessful submission being made in July 2015. Both applications were made by the Birkdale Progress Association. QHC has the discretion to make a decision which differs from the current DES recommendation.

Willards Farm timeline:

Willards Farm on Birkdale Community Precinct.

1865: Land registered to the Willard family for farming.

1876: James and Margaret Willard take out a mortgage on the land. It is believed this may have been to start construction of the homestead.

Until mid-1920s: The Willards run a dairy farm on the property, also known as The Pines.

1933-1941: The property changes ownership a couple of times.

1941: Rosemary Cotton and her husband Doug buy the farm.

1942: After the Australian Government asserts possession of most of the site, the US Army Signal Corps builds radio receiving station and transmission towers. The Pines homestead and farm remain on a much reduced foothold.

1942-1979: The Cottons farm their portion of the land up until Rosemary Cotton’s death in 1979.

1979-2016: The farm changes ownership several times.

2016: Council buys Willards Farm following community concern that the site was subject to a development approval for subdivision into residential allotments

2019: Council buys the adjoining 61 hectares of Commonwealth land.

Dec 2019-2021: Community consultation begins and commissioned studies are conducted to gain an understanding of the site’s environmental, heritage and historical values.

Mar 2021: A two-month formal community consultation process opens to seek ideas and identify suitable community uses for the entire site known as Birkdale Community Precinct.

You can read more about Willards Farm and Birkdale Community Precinct on the dedicated Your Say page.