About the Old Friary

Owners of the Friary

The Old Friary was owned and run by the Anglican Church in Brisbane from 1932 to 2021.  The Old Friary was not a parish, but a special centre within the Anglican Church.  It is now under the ownership of Uniting Care.

History of the Friary

The Old Friary was once a Friary - between 1965 to 1987 it was home to the Anglican Franciscan Brothers who also ran a pottery and nursery from the site which were well patronised by local people, and, among other activities, provided a nucleus for young people to gather as a focus for Christian action and worship. The Friars carried out significant social work in the Brisbane area.  Their impact on the Kenmore region was such that local people came to refer to the site as "The Friary".  But the story of the Old Friary began well before their tenancy.  

Folklore tells that a house on North Quay was relocated by bullock dray in two parts to the site in 1890.  However, records suggest that the main house was built on the site in 1924 using sections of an 1890s house at Toowong called Glen Olive (designed by Richard Gailey in 1890 as his family home and later sold to Dr Sandford Jackson).  In 1932, Fr Robert Bartlett Bates, Rector of All Saints Wickham Terrace, purchased the property.  He opened St John's Home for Aged Men which later relocated to West Toowong. Then in 1934, he opened St Christopher's Lodge for Boys, a farm school for orphaned or disadvantaged boys.  Fr Bates was the Principal and Founder of this school as well as continuing his duties as Rector of All Saints Wickham Terrace.  For further information:  [A History of The Old Friary]

Recent decades

After the Franciscans left, it was disused for a few years until a group of hardworking "Friends of Brookfield" led by Jack Thurgood from St David's Anglican Parish, Chelmer, brought it back to health and beauty.  At the same time, Fr David Binns was looking for a venue to use for contemplative spirituality.  This resulted in a unique and badly needed ministry, providing retreats, workshops, innovative liturgy and a place to nurture spirituality including spiritual direction, theology, meditation, music, drama and the arts, under the brilliance, wisdom, artistry, guidance and hard work of Fr Binns. In this incarnation, the Old Friary was renamed the "Brookfield Centre for Christian Spirituality".  After his retirement at the end of 2003, the "Brookfield Centre" diversified to accommodate a range of community groups and activities.

The Old Friary story continues

Franciscan Friars or Brothers traditionally live in community, working, eating and praying together.  The brown habit, sandal-clad Brothers, who take life-long vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and worship, worked within the community through Meals on Wheels, a self-help project for young unemployed, as well as providing assistance with the Ecumenical Coffee Brigade which served food and refreshments to street people and park dwellers.  As the community of Brothers grew, they also pioneered residential care for social dropouts – men with psychiatric disorders, youngsters on probation, those who had served prison sentences – needing rehabilitation as well as offering the venue as a retreat to others seeking peace and serenity. Although the Old Friary was not originally a monastic house, something of the spirit of those communities remains as a place of worship and work, of community and contemplation.   Uniting Care, the new owners, intend for the historic heart of the site to continue its engagement with the wider community, as well as continuing its use for worship and prayer.  Although the Old Friary's role is changing, it continues to be used for worship in the Chapel of St Mary St Francis and St Clare.  It is a much-loved place for the local community.

Looking to the future

The role of the Old Friary has changed throughout the years.  As we look to the future, it is likely to evolve as demographic and financial pressures dictate.  We, the Friary Community, are trying to support initiatives that maintain the site's important spiritual value and physical integrity so that future generations will have the opportunity to appreciate it and draw value and strength from its peacefulness, community placement and local history.  Find out more.

Documents & resources

For those who are interested in the management and technical records of the Old Friary, a series of resources will be made available in time.  For the present, please contact Ian Ross (rosses.home@gmail.com) for more information.