How Charles Tiffin Built Queensland Parliament House

How Charles Tiffin Built Queensland Parliament House


When the first session of
Queensland Parliament was called in 1860, they met at the Prisoner’s Barracks in Queen Street. While there was plenty of space, it wasn’t
salubrious or befitting the dignity of Parliament. Queensland’s first Colonial Architect, Charles
Tiffin, won an Australia-wide competition to design Parliament House. He donated his £200 prize money to Ipswich
Grammar School to establish the Tiffin Scholarship. Tiffin put forward a classic revival design
in the French Renaissance style featuring magnificent staircases, decorative stained glass windows, ornate plaster and chandeliers. The design had two impressive sandstone wings
made from Woogaroo sandstone sourced exclusively from Joshua Jeay’s quarry in Goodna. Tiffin designed over 300 buildings during
his 14 years as Colonial Architect, including Old Government House, the Ipswich Court House and the Maryborough Post Office. He was an innovative thinker and trialled
his answer to the state’s poor sanitation – the self-earthing closet – in Parliament
House and the Brisbane Hospital. Later on these would be known far and wide
as Thunderboxes and they improved health conditions for thousands of Queenslanders. Tiffin also championed the rights of his workers. During the building of Parliament House
he spoke out in favour of trade unions. He adopted an eight-hour day for his labourers, but when the financial crisis hit in 1867,
work was suspended for a year and his day-labour system was abandoned. Although the foundation stone was laid on 14 July 1865 and Parliament House opened on 4 August 1868, building work was not completely finished until 1880. Over the past 160 years, Queensland’s history of responsible government has seen many changes but Queensland Parliament has been
consistently at the centre of democratic reform and has certainly been a house for the people.

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