Victoria House

Victoria House

The Lighthouse

Ghost House

Wedding Cake House  

They’re the creative names given to Victoria House, built by Fountain Pikett for Jacob Pearen in 1882, the incredible home which stood on the corner of Victoria Ave and Clifford St in Woody Point.  

Jacob was an interesting character, born in England in 1838 he left his wife Fanny and young daughter Lucy sometime in the mid 1860’s and set sail for Australia. 

 

Not much is known about exactly when he left England, (Lucy was born in 1863 though so sometime after that) or when and where exactly he arrived in Australia.

Anyway, he popped up in Gympie during the gold rush in 1867. Jacob and some partners struck it big, they found what is alleged to be the largest nugget to come out of the Gympie Goldfields with a present day value of over $11 million! Eu-bloody-Reka! (Totally true).

Soon after Jacob dashed home to England (I’m using some serious creative license here) he spent so many years away from his beautiful wife and daughter, but it was worth it (I assume) he now had them set up for life!  He’d worked hard in this strange and foreign land, risked everything and came out on top. It was time, time to be reunited with his family and whisk them away from filthy life that was Victorian era England, to start again in sunny Australia (seems plausible right?).

Jacob went bursting into the family home (he probably at least knocked), but alas he was too late! Fanny had taken another man and bore a son to him! (That is actually true)  It’s said you could hear Jacob’s heart break all the way back in Moreton Bay (it’s definitely not said at all).

I have to stop for a second, I’m making it out like Jacob’s some hard done by 1800’s FIFO worker who sacrificed everything for his young family only to have his unfaithful wife leave him for another man…but who knows? Realistically he was gone for anywhere up to 12 years. Jacob could of been a wild reckless hooligan gallivanting all over the world mining for gold and leaving his poor wife and wee child to fend for themselves and poor old Fanny had to find a new husband or starve. I don’t know, but that seems far more likely to be honest. 

This is the thing about history, you can only find out what has been documented well and what was deemed worth documenting, and there’s often a lot missing. We also tend to look at things from the past with the eyes and opinions of today, which can sometimes make things seem better or worse than the actually were. 

 

But it’s fun right? So I’ll continue…

Heart broken (I guess) Jacob returned to Australia with his now 12 year old daughter Lucy and his sister Emma (presumably to take care of Lucy). Lucy was enrolled in boarding school and Emma was married soon after they arrived, Jacob went back to working in the Gold Fields and continued to bring in a decent income. 

On life went, Jacob had Victoria House built in 1882, so by this time Jacob’s 44 years old, Lucy’s about 19. She was married two years later so we can assume she probably only spent a little bit of time living in the house.

By all available accounts it was quite the frat house, four storeys tall with the top floor a lookout that could see all the way to Sandgate. A lamp burnt continuously in the small top room, and while it wasn’t an official lighthouse type light, I get the idea that perhaps it was more of a “come on round lets party” type light. 

The Gympie Gold is reported to have said of the light “it became so well known that sailors used to watch for it, and whenever a ship anchored off the point a boat or two would soon row ashore” and of Jacob “regarded with awe by the local Aborigines but with affection by sailors, who always found a warm welcome in his house. Whenever there were ships in the bay, the lighthouse would be ablaze from all floors and resounding with chanties and stamping feet as guests found their land legs after long days at sea.

Yep. Sounds like a party house to me!

 I’ve read of sailors being winched down by a pulley on the side of the house to be hosed off come morning. Interestingly though lots of people who knew him denied the parties, but it’s a Redcliffe rumour I can’t help but want to believe. A glowing house full of sailors drinking till all hours and singing sea chanties! The best right? 

 

Jacob lived in the house until he passed in 1916 aged 78, with the house left to his three granddaughters, but care of the home was the duty of his nephew Harry, he didn’t share the same love of the sea as Jacob did, the light was never lit in the top cabin and sailors no longer frequented the house. Harry lived in the home until he died 1938, but the house was slowly deteriorating already. 

After Harry’s death the house stayed in the family, and wasn’t put up for auction until 1967 but was passed in at $7400.

 By February 1968 it had become the property of an airline pilot and his wife…

 Now it’s important to remember that Victoria House was well loved by the Redcliffe community, it was an icon. I’m sure it featured in many imaginative stories and daydreams and anyone about in it’s time no doubt has a story to tell about it. 

Unfortunately buildings that capture the imagination of a community are rarely thought of by the dreamers in a practical sense, when daydreaming about owning a beautiful old home, you don’t think of rotting wood and damp issues, or what the cost might be to rewire the house. You basically just dream of abundant vegggie patches and painting everything white or what novel you’d curl up with in front of the fireplace.  

The practical aspects of owning and up-keeping a property, and daydreams of living there rarely align.  The couple who purchased the house in 1968 were keen to demolish and build a new home, you can imagine how that went down, people were upset.

 

The Redcliffe Historical Society got involved and tried to save the building, they raised as many funds as they could and asked the council to buy the house and resume the land it stood on.   Many people thought their pleas would be successful, but on the 5th June 1968 the Redcliffe Herald ran an article stating that in a special meeting the local council had decided they would not be pursuing the request.

 

Just five days later the iconic landmark was burnt to the ground, all that was left in the ashes was her brick chimney. A sad end for a grand old house, that captured the imaginations of generations of locals.

 

What do you think? Was the fire intentional? Accidental? I think we can agree it’s certainly one way to rid yourself of an unwanted house… But on the other hand, maybe the real problem began when it was let to get in such a state of disrepair?

 

One thing is for certain, our present is our future history and if we want things to last for generations and generations, we need to take care of and cherish them now.

 

 

 

Pictures above credited as listed below, in order of their appearance.  

 Victoria House in the 1950’s

Image courtesy of Moreton Bay Regional Council REF RMPC 100-10125

Jacob Pearen

Image courtesy of Moreton Bay Regional Council REF RMPC 101-101-107

Victoria House date undocumented sometime late 1800’s-pre 1950’s 

Image courtesy of Moreton Bay Regional Council REF RMPC 101-101-613

Victoria House Burnt Down 

Image courtesy of Moreton Bay Regional Council REF RMPC 100/100218

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