Fort Lytton

Fort Lytton is a 19th century fortress which formed the focus of Queensland’s defensive forces, protecting Brisbane until the end of World War Two. Fort Lytton today is a heritage-listed site, located in Brisbane’s suburb of Lytton.

Fort Lytton history

Built from 1880-1882, Fort Lytton was originally a response to fears of colonial naval attacks on Brisbane from powers such as Russia or France. At the time, colonial Australia shared the competitors of the British Empire, and recognised that Brisbane was particularly vulnerable to attack from the French naval base of Noumea, a three-day-sail away.

The fort was designed by Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Scratchley, a British colonial officer, and was constructed in typical pentagonal shape, hidden within a grassy mound and surrounded by a moat on the mouth of the Brisbane river.

The fort’s purpose was to prevent enemy vessels accessing the river, initially achieved with a remote-controlled minefield across the river mouth and heavy artillery. Fort Lytton also served as a major training base, training soldiers for the Boer War, World War One and World War Two there, as well as Queenland’s reserve soldiers.

Fort Lytton took on new significance during the Second World War, now part of a much larger defence system. One of Fort Lytton’s roles was as ‘Inner Inspection Station’ due to its inner defensive position: the fort sent inspection parties to board ships, ensuring they were safe to continue up river.

At the war’s end, Fort Lytton quickly closed down, and only a signal station remained in operation during the Korean War until 1965. The fort’s last defence operation was in the same year, when the signals gathered information of an ‘Indonesian coup’ resulting in the rise of General Suharto. Soon after, the fort was handed to Ampol oil company to build the Lytton Oil Refinery.

Fort Lytton today

Today, Fort Lytton is Queensland’s foremost military exhibit, offering well-preserved and extensive historic fortifications, Queensland’s largest military museum and regular military re-enactments to be explored by visitors. Admission, guided tours and car parking are free from 10am-4pm including Sundays and most public holidays. An interesting day out for families to history lovers.

Getting to Fort Lytton

If driving from Brisbane, Fort Lytton is a 25 minute journey via State Route 23. Via public transport, the buses 111, 169, and 555 will take you to Buranda Station, where you can get the SHCL train to Wynnum North and walk 2.4km to Lytton.

Fort Lytton

Fort Lytton is a heritage-listed 19th century coastal fort in the suburb of Lytton in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. The name “Fort Lytton” is also used to describe the 1 square mile (2.6 km 2 ) military base that surrounded the fort. Fort Lytton was built in 1880-1882, and operated until 1965. The historic fort is now contained in Fort Lytton National Park. The park is open to the public on most Sundays and public holidays. Guided tours are provided by Fort Lytton Historical Association, a non-profit volunteer organisation. [1]


Fort Lytton was constructed in 1880–1881 to protect both the city and the port from naval attack. After the Australian colonies became a federation (the Commonwealth of Australia) in 1901, the fort and the land on which it stood were transferred to the Commonwealth. Fort Lytton continued to operate as a military base until shortly after the Second World War (WW2). It was closed down progressively, the last operation to close being the signal station which closed in 1965. The land and fort were sold to the Ampol oil company in 1963, as the site for the Lytton Oil Refinery. The land contained three parcels that had particular historic significance. These were the land containing the original fort, the land containing Lytton Hill, and the land containing the remains of a WW2 heavy anti-aircraft battery. [2] In 1988 Ampol transferred the parcel containing the original fort to the Queensland Government, and this became Fort Lytton National Park in 1990.

Fort Lytton is open free on Sundays, most public holidays and other special occasions. It features both guided and self-guided tours of the historic fort and other military structures, a military museum and regular historic re-enactments (although not every week). Access to the park at other times is by appointment only, and is subject to fees. [3]

The Lytton Quarantine Station was established in 1913–1914, to accommodate newly arrived immigrants and persons considered to be at risk of causing infection to the general population. The quarantine station was on land adjacent to Fort Lytton. By the late 1980s the quarantine station had closed completely. In 1988 management of part of the quarantine site and buildings, including the quarantine station jetty, was taken over by the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and was incorporated into Fort Lytton National Park in 1999. The quarantine station is only open to the public on special occasions, but visitors can always walk around the outside of the buildings. The Visitor and Information Centre (which is also the headquarters of Fort Lytton Historical Association) previously housed the quarantine station laundry.

The Quarantine Station is only open to the public on special occasions.

The museum has a collection of over 2000 items which are distributed throughout the park including in 5 buildings, 6 gun pits, 2 shelter structures and several open air locations. Admission to the museum is free, although two of the buildings (the submarine mining building and the black powder rooms) can only be accessed on guided tours.

The Old Dining Hall houses a collection of over 10,000 artefacts pertaining to Queensland's military history. Entry to the museum is free. [4]

Soon after the creation of the national park in 1990, volunteers of the Royal Artillery Association of Queensland created a sub-branch to work with the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service to develop a historic military exhibit for the public. [5] That sub-branch became Fort Lytton Historical Association (FLHA) in 1999. [6] FLHA is a non-profit volunteer organization which provides free guided tours of the Fort on Sundays and public holidays. It also operates the Visitor Information Centre and sells basic refreshments. FLHA seeks donations to cover its expenses.

In 2019, the Queensland Military Historical Society relocated from its former premises at Church Street, Fortitude Valley to the old Dining Hall at Fort Lytton. [7]


The former Lytton Quarantine Station is located on low, flat land adjacent to and south of Fort Lytton at the southern head of the mouth of the Brisbane River.

The principal structures and elements on that part of the former Lytton Quarantine Station now incorporated within Fort Lytton National Park, include:

Jetty - constructed of timber planks bolted together and supported by wooden piles reinforced with concrete. It is associated with the earliest phase of the development of the quarantine station at Lytton, in the 1910s.

Reception House - a small, timber-framed, weatherboard-clad building with fibrous-cement sheeting and battening in the gabled ends. It has a corrugated iron roof and a verandah at the north end of the building which is constructed over tramway tracks that once linked the quarantine complex to the jetty to the west. The interior has been altered to accommodate offices, but the building remains substantially intact. It is associated with the earliest phase of the development of the quarantine station at Lytton, in the 1910s.

Tram/trolley bridge foundations - these comprise pairs of steel reinforced concrete footings set 2m apart, leading west from the Reception House toward the jetty. In some places wooden sleepers are visible, but the majority of the decking and all the rails are missing. This element is associated with the earliest phase of the development of the quarantine station at Lytton, in the 1910s.

Bath House - a large, rectangular, timber-framed, building with weatherboard-cladding to above sill height, above which is fibrous-cement sheeting and battening. It has a corrugated iron roof with ventilators along the ridge, and rests on a concrete slab. No evidence of services such as shower fittings, etc remains, but the original interior layout is still discernible and the upper level observation post, at the north end of the building, is intact. Two square brick-lined drainage traps [620mm x 620mm] are located on the eastern side of the shower block. The building is associated with the earliest phase of the development of the quarantine station at Lytton, in the 1910s.

Boiler House - a tall, rectangular brick building with engaged piers, corrugated iron roof, substantial external chimney stack and external drains, with boilers and associated fittings internally. The whole is remarkable intact, and is associated with the earliest phase of the development of the quarantine station at Lytton, in the 1910s.

Fuel Shed - this is a small, later, timber-framed, weatherboard-clad structure with a low-pitched corrugated iron roof, adjacent to the eastern end of the boiler room.

Disinfecting block - a large, rectangular, timber-framed, building with weatherboard-cladding to above sill height, above which is fibrous-cement sheeting and battening. It has a corrugated iron roof and rests on a concrete slab. The internal autoclave and associated fittings are in-situ, along with trolley track and trolleys. Trolley or tram lines run west out of the centre of the western end of the building, toward the jetty. An overhead pipeline from the boiler house to the south side of the disinfecting block attaches to the autoclave. The building is remarkably intact, and is associated with the earliest phase of the development of the quarantine station at Lytton, in the 1910s.

Laundry Block- a rectangular, timber-framed, building with weatherboard-cladding to above sill height, above which is fibrous-cement sheeting and battening. It has a corrugated iron gabled roof with iron ventilators along the ridge and on the west side of the roof. The building rests on a concrete slab, and has a verandah over a concrete pathway along part of the western side of the building. There is a later, tall metal roller door at the north end of the building, but the remaining doors and fenestration appear to be original. Concrete footings associated with former tank stands are evident on the east side of the building. The building is remarkably intact, and is associated with the earliest phase of the development of the quarantine station at Lytton, in the 1910s.

Enclosed laundry yard - the yard area to the east and south of the laundry block has a concrete retaining wall approximately 150mm high and 150mm wide. The west and east sides of the yard are bounded by round metal posts capped with concrete while the south side is defined by tram/trolley rails set vertically as posts [1500mm high]. There is an open concrete drain along the eastern side of the yard, inside the fence posts. The yard contains 12 square wooden posts approximately 2m in height, which are likely to have supported clothes lines. A service inspection hatch is located centrally in the southern section of the yard. This has a 1m x 1m concrete housing with a 600mm x 600mm steel lid with embossed cross-hatching and the lettering "Harvey & Son". A block of late 20th century relocatable toilets is also sited in this yard. Despite this, the yard remains substantially intact, and is associated with the earliest phase of the development of the quarantine station at Lytton, in the 1910s.

Two launchmen's cottages - these timber-framed, weatherboard clad cottages are located along the eastern boundary of that part of the former Lytton Quarantine Station which has been incorporated into Fort Lytton National Park, south of the laundry and laundry yard. Originally there were three cottages, but the middle house has been removed. The two remaining houses have corrugated iron roofs and rest on low concrete piers. Although no interior inspection has been made, these houses appear to be reasonably intact. They are associated with the earliest phase of the development of the quarantine station at Lytton, in the 1910s.

Doctor's Quarter's - this two-storeyed building currently functions as the administration centre for Fort Lytton National Park. It was initially a single-storeyed, timber-framed, weatherboard-clad house which has been relocated from elsewhere on the site to its present position south of the Bath House, raised, to create a ground floor which is enclosed with fibrous-cement planking. Although no longer in situ, the place was associated with the earliest phase of the development of the quarantine station at Lytton, in the 1910s.

Workshop - this is a small, rectangular, brick structure, resting on a concrete slab. It has a corrugated iron roof which is lined with timber boards. Internally, exposed roof trusses have been cut and braced to provide higher clearance for machinery. Outside, along the eastern side of the building is a concrete slab and seven pairs of concrete piers in ramp-like formation. On the western side of the building is This structure appears to correspond with a building marked 'workshop' identified on a 1918 plan of the site. It now functions as a machinery store.

Sewerage Treatment Plant - at the far southwest of the site is a small, early sewerage treatment facility 14.8 m long and 5.5m wide. It is of concrete construction, and has a central rectangular wire mesh cage filled with coarse rubble which possibly functioned as primary filtration of effluent. The plant remains substantially intact, and is associated with the earliest phase of the development of the quarantine station at Lytton, in the 1910s.

Apart from the relocation of the former Doctor's Quarters to the northwestern end of the site, the surviving buildings and other structural and archaeological elements maintain their original spatial relationship. The surrounding grounds are mostly grassed, with a new bitumen road, which leads to the present entrance to Fort Lytton, established west of the original metalled roadway into the quarantine station. There are a number of mature, though not large, trees, at the southern end of the site, associated with the former quarantine station.

At the north east end of the site is an unoccupied block, fenced off, and formerly the site of the administrative building, attendant's quarters, stores, isolation hospital and observation block, associated with the establishment of the Lytton Quarantine Station in 1913-14. All of these buildings have been removed from the site, but a number of archaeological elements associated with the quarantine station have been identified. These include the concrete foundation slab and some wall remnants of the former Laboratory Building/Morgue at the far eastern end of the site the concrete foundation slab of a building marked 'laundry' on a 1918 plan, at the western side of the site the concrete foundation slab of a small building identified as 'Receiving Shed' on a 1918 plan, at the northern end of the site and elements of the early drainage system associated with the former Lytton Quarantine Station.

The Lytton Quarantine Station extended a considerable distance to the south of what is now Fort Lytton National Park, and included a venereal diseases hospital and animal quarantine facilities. The 1994 archaeological survey of all 31 hectares of the site identified 237 features associated with the historic use of the site from at least the 1910s. That part of the former Lytton Quarantine Station not included within Fort Lytton National Park is not included within the listing boundary for the entry in the Queensland Heritage Register.

Culture and history

Fort Lytton is the birthplace of Queensland's military history. Built in 1880&ndash81 to protect Brisbane from enemy attack, the Fort is the principal remaining landmark of a reserve that for 40 years was the focus of Queensland's defence activity.

The Fort itself is a typical nineteenth century garrison - a pentagonal fortress concealed behind grassy embankments - surrounded for greater protection by a water-filled moat. Located near the mouth of the Brisbane River, it was designed to support the controlled river mines and counter any determined effort by enemy ships to attack the Port of Brisbane and hold the city to ransom.

The Australian colonies were part of the British Empire, which had made many enemies by the nineteenth century, when colonial powers were rapidly expanding their empires. At the time the Fort was built, Brisbane had fewer than 100,000 people, with an annual trade worth more than four million pounds.

Brisbane was more vulnerable to naval attack than Sydney or Melbourne as it was just three days' sail from the French naval garrison at Noumea. Local defences were essential.

Based on the recommendations of the illustrious British soldiers and military tacticians Jervois and Scratchley, Queensland opted to rely heavily on Fort Lytton as a fixed defence position for its capital and wealthiest port&mdashBrisbane.

Initially, the Fort had four heavy gun positions. By the turn of the century, it had six gun pits and two machine-gun posts. Its main ordnance was the 6-inch 5-ton breach-loading Armstrongs, called disappearing guns, which could be raised rapidly to fire over the Fort's ramparts and lowered below the parapet just 20 seconds later.

By Federation, Fort Lytton had a veritable arsenal:

  • two 6-inch BL 5-ton Armstrong guns
  • two 6-pounder QF Hotchkiss guns
  • one 4-barrel 1-inch Nordenfeldt machine gun
  • one 10-barrel 0.45-inch Nordenfeldt machine gun
  • two 64-pounder RML guns

The controlled minefield, supported by the guns, was operated from a concealed tunnel under the Fort. The tunnel was built in the early 1890s and can be visited today.

From statehood in 1859 until Australian Federation in 1901, Queensland relied mainly on volunteers for its defence. The Queensland Defence Force started with volunteers in 1860. By the time of Federation, Queensland was able to contribute a highly qualified military force for defence of the new nation.

Before the Great War began in 1914, Lytton was the main training ground for the Queensland Defence Force. The first annual encampment held at Lytton in 1881 was the fourth annual training camp for Queensland's volunteer soldiers. The annual camps were run by permanent defence staff and provided the only regular training for the volunteers. They became a highlight in Queensland's political and social calendar. Every year, Brisbane's citizens would travel by train or boat to Lytton to watch the spectacular military manoeuvres and ceremonial displays. Tales of camp revelry, daring and fellowship survive that era.

Fort Lytton was put to the test twice in World War l. The Fort's guns were used to warn a Dutch steamer and a fishing vessel which tried to ignore the official procedure before going upriver. During World War II the Fort was upgraded with additional weapons and a new searchlight. The fort played a secondary role to the more modern batteries on Moreton and Bribie Islands, but had the important responsibility of keeping enemy vessels from entering the river by the operation of a boom gate across the river. The remains of the winch system that controlled the boom are adjacent to the searchlight. In 1945 the fortifications were decommissioned and the main operations became signalling on Signal Hill.

The land was included in property obtained by Ampol to build an oil refinery in the early 1960s. Ownership of the Fort Lytton site was transferred to the Queensland Government in 1988. Although Ampol had carefully maintained the site, public interest in heritage gave the Fort a higher profile as an historic site under the management of Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.


The suburb is bounded by the Brisbane River to the north-west. [5] It is 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) north-east of the Brisbane CBD, but travel by the railway or road is considerably longer. [6]

A pilot station and a village were established at Lytton in 1859. It was most likely named after Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803–73) who was the Colonial Secretary of State in 1858–59. [6]

It would be two years before a road was surveyed from Norman Creek. [ when? ]

A telegraph line was run from Brisbane to Lytton in 1862. [6]

The hulk "Prosperine" in the Brisbane River off Lytton was used as a floating Reformatory for Boys. From 1871 to 1879 the boys were taught by the Reformatory's Sub-Inspector. From 22 July 1879 a qualified teacher was supplied by the Queensland Public Instruction Department to the Hulk "Proserpine" School, after which it was variously known as the Lytton Stockade School and the Lytton Reformatory School. In 1900 the reformatory and its school moved to Westbrook, west of Ipswich, where the facility was known as Westbrook Reformatory for Boys and the school was renamed Westbrook Reformatory School, then later renamed Westbrook Farm Home School. On 5 July 1961 the school and its primary school-aged boys moved to the Wilson Youth Hospital in Windsor, Brisbane and the school was renamed Wilson Youth Hospital School, while the older boys remained at Westbrook and had correspondence classes if desired. Wilson Youth Hospital School closed in 1968. [10]

During the years 1876–1908 a local post office was open. [6]

Due to Lytton's location on the south-east bank of the Brisbane River at its seaward end Fort Lytton was built in the 1881 to guard the mouth of the Brisbane River. The fort had a moat and was an pentagonal structure concealed behind an embankment. It was fortified with two six-inch disappearing guns, also in 1881 a rifle range was added. [6]

The layout of the village can be seen in an 1889 map. [11]

Lytton State School opened on 18 September 1882. In 1911 the buildings were relocated to Wynnum North and the school renamed Wynnum North State School in 1911. Wynnum North State School closed on 31 December 2010 as it was amalgamated with Lindum State School and Wynnum Central State School to create a new Wynnum State School. [10]

Lytton Hill

Lytton Hill - also known as Signal Hill, Reformatory Hill, or the Lytton Redoubt - is highly significant in Queensland history. Strategically positioned at the mouth of the Brisbane River, the hill has been used as a customs lookout, signal and telegraph station, observation post and redoubt commanding the Fort Lytton defence complex, and boys' reformatory. [1]

The history of the Lytton district is closely aligned to the establishment during the 1840s and 1850s of the Port of Moreton Bay at Brisbane Town, on the Brisbane River, rather than at Cleveland on the Bay. In 1857 the New South Wales colonial government began to investigate the suitability of establishing a customs station at the south head of the Brisbane River (present-day Lytton). In August 1857, surveyor James Warner completed a preliminary survey of a site for a village at the south head, which was approved in November 1858, and in December 1858 tenders were called for the construction of a Customs Station nearby on the river. In February 1859 Warner officially surveyed sections 1 to 13 of the village of Lytton, as well as sites for a customs landing place and a signal station (possibly Lytton Hill). [1]

Between 1860 and 1863 some Lytton township allotments were alienated, mostly by Brisbane speculators who anticipated the development of wharf facilities at Lytton. Few private buildings were erected there. The Crown and Anchor Hotel at Lytton held a license in 1865-66 - about the time a government wharf adjacent to the Customs Reserve was built in 1866 to tranship railway stores and plant. From 1878 until c. 1905 the Lytton Hotel served local farmers and the annual military presence. [1]

Following separation from New South Wales in December 1859, the Queensland Government maintained Lytton's role as the customs entry to the Port of Moreton Bay. In 1860-61 an electric telegraph line was constructed from Brisbane to the Lytton Customs Station - the first telegraph line in Queensland built specifically for internal administrative use, to communicate shipping intelligence and meteorological observations from Moreton Bay. The Lytton Telegraph Office opened on 1 June 1861, the third to open in Queensland after Brisbane and Ipswich on the inter-colonial line, which had commenced operation in April 1861. In 1864 the electric telegraph was extended from Lytton via Cleveland and undersea cable to Dunwich on Stradbroke Island and north to Cape Moreton on Moreton Island. [1]

It is possible that Lytton Hill was functioning as a signal station as early as 1859, semaphoring news of the movement of ships to and from Moreton Bay to the Customs Station below, and from 1861, to the Lytton Telegraph Office. From 1866, Signal Hill, as it became known, also proved a useful post from which to observe semaphore messages from the prison on St Helena Island, which was not connected by telegraph. [1]

Sir George Bowen, on completion of his term as Queensland Governor and departure from Moreton Bay on 4 January 1868, officially named and designated Lytton as Brisbane's port. [1]

The telegraph line at Lytton appears to have been extended from the Customs Reserve to Signal Hill in the early 1870s, when in 1873 tenders were called for the construction of an electric telegraph station and residence on the hill. This was a double-gabled timber building which combined office and residence, and a detached kitchen house at the rear, erected at a cost of £534. The style was the forerunner of the most common 19th century type of post and telegraph office, with decorative finishes to verandah fascias, and sun hoods. Only four of this type of post and telegraph office were constructed in Queensland - the others being at Blackall (1883–84), St George (1885) and Cunnamulla (1889). The former Lytton Telegraph Office is the only one of these four remaining, and is also one of the earliest surviving, purpose-designed, post and telegraph office buildings in Queensland - pre-dated only by the former Cardwell Post and Telegraph Office (1870), and contemporaneous with the Mount Perry (Tenningerring) and the first Ravenswood Post Office, both erected in 1873 and both substantially modified. [1]

From 29 April 1876, the Lytton Telegraph Office also functioned as a post office. In the 1880s, telegraph lines were extended from Lytton to the Pile Light (constructed 1883) in Moreton Bay and to Fort Lytton. [1]

The history of Lytton Hill from 1880 is closely associated with the establishment of a military facility in the locality. In 1876, in an unprecedented act of colonial cohesion, the principal Australian colonies commissioned military experts General William Francis Drummond Jervois and Colonel Peter Scratchley, both of the Royal Engineers, to advise on colonial defences. As a consequence of their reports, a system of east coast seaboard fortifications was adopted, including Jervois' 1877 recommendation that the Brisbane River be defended with the establishment of a fortification and redoubt at Lytton, commanding lines of submarine torpedoes across the shipping channel at this point. Jervois recommended that the redoubt (an independent fortlet commanding Fort Lytton) be established on Signal Hill, which he considered would be an excellent point whence to watch the movements of an enemy in Moreton Bay. [1]

Despite some political debate, the Queensland colonial government voted to proceed with Jervois' and Scratchley's recommendations for the defence of Brisbane. Plans for the defence complex at Lytton were prepared in the Queensland Colonial Architect's office, and approved by Jervois in February 1879. The redoubt on Signal Hill was to include a large, single-storeyed, hardwood-framed, Reformatory building with chamferboard walls and a shingled roof kitchen wing WCs and a boundary fence enclosing 2 acres (0.81 ha). [1]

The Reformatory buildings on Signal Hill were erected in 1880-81, before work started on the redoubt, using day labour assisted by the Reformatory boys. Dormitory accommodation was provided for 120 boys, along with schoolroom, workshops, store-room, kitchen and other facilities. A large vegetable garden was established and a superintendent's cottage was erected to the south of the Reformatory building, beyond the fortification earthworks. This cottage has been identified as an 1864 timber building - possibly moved from the Customs Reserve to Signal Hill c. 1880 . The 1873 Post and Telegraph Office remained within the Reformatory stockade, and the complex was completed and occupied early in March 1881. At this period, Signal Hill became known as Reformatory Hill. [1]

Following the "Russian scare" of March 1885 (the mobilisation of British and Russian troops along the Russia-Afghanistan border), Colonel George Arthur French, Commandant of the newly created Queensland Defence Force, took the opportunity to complete the fortification of the redoubt on Reformatory Hill, without which Fort Lytton was vulnerable to attack from land. To this end the stockade fence on the south side was re-erected 20 yards (18 m) nearer the Reformatory, arrow-headed demi-bastions were formed at the northeast and southwest corners, a ditch was constructed around the fortifications, the trees in front of the redoubt were cleared, a telegraph line was installed from Signal Hill to Fort Lytton below, and ordnance were ordered. In much of this work, the Reformatory boys assisted. By 1887 the Redoubt had been completed, its armament had arrived (although never mounted in position), and French recommended that the Reformatory now be removed. Finally in 1899, just prior to Federation, tenders were called for the removal of the Reformatory buildings from Lytton and their re-erection, with additions, at Westbrook near Toowoomba. [1]

The Lytton Redoubt was used as a semi-permanent military camp from 1881 until the early 1930s, principally during the Queensland Defence Force's annual Easter Encampments, at which militia from all over Queensland gathered at Lytton to practice manoeuvres. [1]

When the Lytton Defence Reserve of 120 acres (49 ha) (48 hectares (120 acres)) was finally gazetted late in 1887, it included Reformatory Hill, Fort Lytton, and possibly part of the Customs Reserve. By 1901 the Defence Reserve had been extended to 640 acres (260 ha) (259 hectares (640 acres)) following the resumption (in two stages: 1891 and 1900) of Lytton township for defence purposes. In the early 1900s this land and all military structures at Lytton were transferred to the new Commonwealth Department of Defence, and the Post and Telegraph Office on Lytton Hill was transferred to the new Commonwealth Post Master General's Department. At this time the only other building identified on Lytton Hill was a military store, erected in 1898 at a cost of £515. This is thought to be the brick building extant at the north end of Lytton Hill, possibly replacing the building marked "store" on an 1886 plan of the Lytton Redoubt. [1]

The fortifications on Lytton Hill remained in use until at least the early 1900s, when Queensland troops camped and trained on the slopes of Lytton Hill for active service in the South African War (1899-1902). The preparations for war was the longest continual use of the Lytton defensive positions since they were constructed in the 1880s. Some improvements to Lytton Hill were made at this time, including the construction a 20-stall timber stables building in 1901-02, and in 1903 the erection of a tent store and barbed-wire entanglement around the Redoubt. Subsequently, the site deteriorated, prior to its re-occupation by the military during the First World War (1914–18). In 1917 a dermatological hospital for Australian Infantry Forces and huts for men and officers were erected at Lytton Hill. [1]

Between 1919 and 1931 the flats adjacent to the Lytton Quarantine Station (established 1913-15) were used as Brisbane's first airfield, and it has been suggested that Lytton Hill may have acted as an air traffic control observation station. This has yet to be substantiated. [1]

During the Second World War (1939–45), Lytton Hill was occupied by military signallers and engineers. A number of concrete structures were erected on the hill in association with this use. In addition, the c. 1880 s brick store at the north end of the hill was remodelled as a signals building, and a timber wing added. [1]

After 1945 the Lytton defence facilities were virtually abandoned, but military authorities maintained Lytton Hill as a communications base into the 1950s. In 1954 a wireless station with radar facilities was erected on the hill for the use of the pilot service. It was staffed on a 24-hour basis, seven days a week. Lytton Hill remained part of the Lytton Defence Reserve until title to the reserve passed to Ampol Refineries in 1963. Subsequent construction of the oil refinery and holding tanks has removed most traces of the Second World War defence installation, which included an airfield, with the exception of the top of Lytton Hill and a Second World War anti-aircraft position with concrete bunkers and gun emplacements, in the refinery grounds adjacent to Fort Lytton. For some years the post and telegraph office on Lytton Hill was occupied as a residence by an employee of the Ampol Refinery. [1]

A 1994 field survey conducted by Austral Archaeology identified 50 archaeological elements visible on the surface of Lytton Hill, and all located above the 20 metres (66 ft) contour line. The bulk of these remain, but the former Post and Telegraph Office was vandalised in 1994, resulting in loss of interior casement windows, doors, light fittings and fireplace surrounds and grates. [1]

Lytton Hill is a small, low hill located about 250 metres (820 ft) south and west of Crab Creek, near the mouth of the Brisbane River. It is situated east/southeast of Fort Lytton and commands views over the Fort and Moreton Bay. It is located on freehold property owned by Caltex Australia Ltd, toward the eastern side of the Lytton Oil Refinery, with large oil and gas holding tanks to the north and west. The eastern side of the hill has been heavily quarried for land fill, and currently presents a red escarpment. The north and west sides of the hill have been cut back somewhat and the slopes modified to reduce water run-off and erosion. [1]

The principal surviving historical elements in mid-2000 include: [1]

  • The former southern access road to Lytton Hill, which skirts the western margin of the site before curving north-east. The surface is of crushed blue metal gravel for about fifty per cent of its length, then is sealed for the remainder (LH-003). Since 1994, the road has become overrun with grasses (mostly kept mown), and an erosion ditch has been cut along that part of the road which curves around the western side of the hill. It appears that during this process the cattle grid (019) across the road was removed. [1]
  • A small concrete shed (LH-002) with a timber-framed, galvanised-iron gabled roof, of uncertain date, located in the southwest corner of the site near where the access road begins to curve around the hill, and marked "9" near the entrance door. The raised concrete platform inside the building, and a small concrete unroofed extension on the southern side, suggest this may have been used as a generator shed. It may have been associated with Second World War defences, but possibly is of earlier date. [1]
  • Part of the southwest demi-bastion (LH-005), a raised earthwork which formed the southwest section of the redoubt, completed in 1885. The remainder of the redoubt has been either demolished or eroded following fill being removed from the hillside. [1]
  • A timber fence (LH-004) possibly dating to the Second World War, on the western side of Lytton Hill around the former southwest demi-bastion. As the site was heavily overgrown with lantana and grasses when inspected in July 2000, it is not clear how much of the fence survives. In 1994 the fence consisted of sawn timber uprights (average height 2.5 metres (8 ft 2 in)) spaced 3.3 metres (11 ft) apart, drilled through to accommodate barbed wire strands 0.22 metres (8.7 in) apart. The uprights were sawn diagonally at the top with a bolt-fixed angled crosspiece to accommodate a further three strands of barbed wire, as in a security fence. [1]
  • The site of the former Reformatory Superintendent's compound (LH-006) - a flat area 20 by 20 metres (66 by 66 ft) on the east side of Lytton Hill, south of the Reformatory compound and Redoubt, with possible garden remnants such as freesias and guava trees. [1]
  • A lineal planting (LH-012) approximately 35 metres (115 ft) in length and 10 metres (33 ft) wide, dominated by two mature fig trees and an understorey of lantana and other fig spp. This is located just south of the former Post and Telegraph Office. [1]
  • An alignment of Pinus radiata trees (LH-018) following the access road which curves around the northern end of the site. A 1972 aerial photograph shows these trees once lined both sides of the road, forming an avenue approach to the former signals building - by 1994, all but one of the pines on the outside edge of the road had been removed. [1]
  • The former Lytton Post and Telegraph Office (1873) (LH-024), a weatherboard building on timber stumps (with some replacement concrete piers). It has a hipped roof with gabled transepts at each end. The roof is clad with corrugated iron, covering the original shingles, and there are two brick chimneys, which have sandstone bases. The front (north) has a small central verandah, which has been enclosed. The original kitchen house is extant, and has a skillion-roofed extension of later date. There is a timber-framed external bathroom shed clad with corrugated iron. The interior of the main building has been modified with the removal of one wall. The interior is lined with horizontally-jointed tongue and groove timber boards, much of which is wide, centrally beaded. [1]
  • A rectangular concrete structure (LH-023) adjacent to the former Telegraph Office, probably associated with the Second World War facility established on Lytton Hill. The long axis is aligned east-west and the entrance is via a sliding timber door on the southern side. The structure has a flat concrete roof surmounted by a square concrete footing which supports an inset timber frame covered with corrugated iron. This appears to have functioned as a recess and mounting for an internal structure or machinery no longer present. Internally, the structure comprises two rooms, the east room being larger than the west room. [1]
  • A former butcher's shop/meat store (LH-027) - a timber framed structure clad in fibrous cement and corrugated iron, with fly-wire windows on the south, west and north sides, and a corrugated iron roof. Internally, the building has a small servery at the western end, behind which is the butcher's shop, with two overhead pipes for hanging carcasses. Beyond this is a timber cool room with sheet metal floor covering and sheet metal around the cool room door. The latter is a wooden unit on runners with a guiding overhead rail. There is an access chute to an adjacent holding pen. [1]
  • A holding pen (LH-028) associated with the former butcher's shop/meat store, measuring 9 metres (30 ft) long by 6 metres (20 ft) wide, with a perimeter fence of steel posts with wire mesh. A plywood chute on the west side provides access to the butcher shop/meat store. [1]
  • A former signals building (LH-031), comprising a c. 1898 brick (English bond) building aligned east-west at the northern end of the site, with a substantial northern annex of vertically-jointed tongue-and-groove timber boards (1940s). The brick building rests on a concrete foundation, has a corrugated iron roof, early 6-paned double-hung sash windows in the western and northern elevations, and a doorway in the eastern wall. Internally, the brick section has two rows of cone-shaped porcelain insulators attached to the ceiling, and remnant material used to insulate high tension electric wiring or antennae entering the building. A timber floor has been constructed above an earlier concrete floor, and a network of underfloor channels, possibly once housing for cables, is visible between the two floors. In the southwest corner of the room is a heavy duty switch board, and a large power board is located in the middle of the western wall, in front of a window. There are tiles, possibly of rubber, on the floor. A large opening in the north wall of the brick building leads, via a timber-framed enclosed walkway, to the Second World War timber extension, which is high-set on reinforced concrete piers and has a corrugated fibrous-cement roof. It is accessed externally from the northern end, via a small flight of timber steps. The fibrous-cement ceiling of this extension has been removed. [1]

Later structures on the site include a sheet and corrugated iron lined garage shed on a concrete slab, located to the southwest of the former telegraph office (010) and SEQEB substation SG1061 - a brick generator shed set on a concrete slab, with a corrugated iron roof and roller door entry (021). [1]

A pile of broken concrete to the southwest of the signals building suggests that some "tidying" of the site has occurred since 1994. A number of elements identified in the 1994 report may or may not survive, including: a large rectangular concrete slab with part of a stone wall base along the north side, adjacent to the brick section of the former signals building, and known to have been extant by 1890 (LH-043) a concrete pier (001) iron posts (009, 022) a concrete footing (011) an iron water pipe (013) near the service wing of the former telegraph office a small earthwork (016) collapsed timber and wire fencing (017, 033) concrete slabs (007, 025, 026, 029, 035, 037, 038, 039, 040, 041, 045, 050) a concrete pathway (030) a concrete pit (032) a concrete culvert (034) a small timber-framed lean-to with corrugated asbestos cladding to three sides and a corrugated iron roof, damaged by fire (036) a north-south aligned bridge with east-west aligned culvert headwalls spanning a former drainage channel (042) a Y-shaped path and junction to the south and east of the butcher's shop/meat store (044) a small rectangular concrete housing for metal taps (046) a concrete drain (047) a cast iron grate (moveable relic - 048) and fragments of earthenware piping near the quarry on the east side of the hill (049). [1]

In July 2000 there appeared to be little evidence of the collapsed galvanised iron tank and stand (LH-014) to the southwest of the former Post and Telegraph Office, identified in the 1994 survey nor of a flagpole (LH-020) comprising a galvanised iron upright with pulley, located northeast of the former cattle grid across the access road on the western side of the hill, and likely associated with a Second World War facility. Two corrugated galvanised iron tanks on concrete slabs (LH-015), aligned east-west, west of the tank stand, have collapsed and have been crushed and left as a pile of rusting iron. [1]

The site has numerous plantings associated with occupation of the hill since at least 1873. A mature Ficus macrophylla (Moreton Bay Fig) to the northeast of the former Post and Telegraph Office may pre-date non-indigenous occupation. [1]

Lytton Hill was listed on the Queensland Heritage Register on 25 August 2000 having satisfied the following criteria. [1]

The place is important in demonstrating the evolution or pattern of Queensland's history.

The place demonstrates rare, uncommon or endangered aspects of Queensland's cultural heritage.

The site has rarity value, not least for its layering of strategic communication, observation and defence roles for over 130 years. The 1873 former Telegraph Office is the only known surviving example of its age and type in Queensland, and is one of the earliest surviving purpose-designed post and telegraph offices in the State. The surviving section of the Redoubt is a rare example of a defence fortification built in Queensland in the 1880s. [1]

The place has potential to yield information that will contribute to an understanding of Queensland's history.

As an archaeological site, the hill has the potential to reveal traces of occupation from Separation until the present. [1]

The place is important in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a particular class of cultural places.

The 1873 former Telegraph Office is the only known surviving example of its age and type in Queensland, and is one of the earliest surviving purpose-designed post and telegraph offices in the State. [1]

The place is important because of its aesthetic significance.

The place has aesthetic value for its sense of dramatic isolation and ruin within the surrounding well-ordered oil refinery, and for the panoramic views both from and to the hill. [1]

The place has a strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group for social, cultural or spiritual reasons.

The site is significant socially for its association with the development of military culture in Queensland from the 1880s to the 1930s and as the site of the Reformatory where boys were educated and trained in Queensland in the last two decades of the 19th century. [1]

Attribution Edit

This Wikipedia article was originally based on "The Queensland heritage register" published by the State of Queensland under CC-BY 3.0 AU licence (accessed on 7 July 2014, archived on 8 October 2014). The geo-coordinates were originally computed from the "Queensland heritage register boundaries" published by the State of Queensland under CC-BY 3.0 AU licence (accessed on 5 September 2014, archived on 15 October 2014).

Stories from Fort Lytton

As a result of conflict between the expanding British Empire and Russia, Fort Lytton was built in 1881 on the advice of British engineers, Jervois and Scratchley. Situated at the mouth of the Brisbane River, the pentagonal shaped fort was surrounded by a water-filled moat. It boasted four heavy gun positions – two to fire down the river and two to fire across. An underwater mine system could also be placed across the river in times of emergency. By the turn of the century the armaments had increased to six heavy guns and two machine guns.

Queensland’s defence force had started with volunteers in 1860 and by the mid 1880s included some permanent soldiers. Fort Lytton was their main training ground. Annual camps were run there, which in the early years were a highlight in Queensland’s political and social calendar. Thousands of Brisbane’s citizens would travel by train or boat to Lytton to watch the spectacular military manoeuvres and ceremonial displays.

Army camp at Fort Lytton in the early 1900s.
(Photo courtesy Rob Poulton)

Fort Lytton was well entrenched in the psyche of Brisbane’s inhabitants. The following references reveal some glimpses not just the way of life at the Fort but of life in Brisbane and Moreton Bay during these times:

Clarrie Phillips recalls:

“The artillery at Fort Lytton had fairly regular practice in the early part of this century. The light guns fired across the Brisbane River at a target in the vicinity of Luggage Point. The heavier guns fired mostly towards Tangalooma or on the Naval Reserve Banks on the South Passage. Their target was a float with several red flags – towed there on a long line by either the Midge or the Mosquito, small fast Naval craft about 50 feet long. The target practices were advertised in the daily press, and a large red flag was flown from Lytton fort before practice commenced”. (1)

“I joined the Royal Australian Engineers during the Depression in 1932 and was stationed at Fort Lytton at the mouth of the Brisbane River. It was an active garrison then and its six-inch guns commanded a view of the entrance to Moreton Bay right up to Caloundra. I remember there was a moat of water round the guns so that they couldn’t be taken from behind. The ground was very swampy and the mosquitoes were bad – so bad, in fact, that the horses would drag their tethering pegs right out of the ground.” (1)

“I remember too that in the 1930s the army had camps at Fort Lytton where they would practice fire the cannon across the boat passage out towards St Helena. Quite a lot of the shells would end up in the mudflats at Wynnum. One of our childhood pastimes was to look for the artillery shells buried there.” (1)

“Lytton was a military fort. One part was called Reformatory Hill, where deserters were quartered. Sentries were posted but still some got out, looking for money or tobacco. Later before WWII, Lytton was a training camp. My father’s shop supplied the Officers’ Mess with extras. I used to deliver them in our truck, but only at certain times because they used to have firing practice there. Once, General Chauvel visited there to review the troops, and we had to supply the flowers and tablecloths for the mess.” (2)

Throughout World Wars I and II, Fort Lytton continued its defensive role and remained a major training facility. A submarine boom was mounted across the river during World War II. After World War II the fort no longer met the defence needs and was gradually abandoned.

The remnants of Fort Lytton in 2008
(Photo courtesy Karen Ludlow)

In 1963 it was included in land sold to Ampol (now Caltex) to build an oil refinery. Ownership of the Fort was transferred back to the Queensland Government in 1988 under the management of the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.3

1. Ludlow, Peter. Moreton Bay People-The Complete Collection. privately published, Stones Corner, 2000

2. Ludlow, Peter. Moreton Bay Letters. privately published, Stones Corner, 2003

3. Heritage Parks of Moreton Bay – Visitor Guide. Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, 2007

History Alive @ Fort Lytton

Journey through time this weekend at Fort Lytton National Park and experience 2000 years of living history.

See life as it was over the centuries, from Roman to Medieval, Renaissance, Napoleonic, Colonial through to 20th century and enjoy a walk through the ages. This writer loves wandering through the historic festivals smelling the campfires, tasting traditional foods and learning how things were done in a time when life was more simple and people took my care of their fellow neighbours.

Enjoy the market stalls selling food, jewellery, weapons and armour.

History Alive showcases traditional practices, campsites, military vehicles, arms and armour, artillery and equipment, with demonstrations on how they were used.

History Alive is presented by the Queensland Living History Federation, consisting of 60 members group and over 800 members, formed to represent the interests of Living Historian and Re-enactor groups in Queensland.

Gates open each day at 9.30am with events beginning at 10am. Featuring:

Renaissance fencing
Women in history
Knights Templar church service
Historic skills demonstrations including vase making,medieval rope, leatherwork, medieval cheesemaking, hnefetafal spoon carving, bucket making, woodturning,maypole workshops, textile arts, washing displays, as well as a host of other interesting talks and demonstrations to interest everyone

The activities also include battle and arms displays through the ages.

For a full list of the activities, demonstrations and times, see the Event Program on the History Alive website.

While you walk around enjoying the huge array of festivities, enjoy a variety of music from different lands and eras to get you in the mood.

Look out for the firing of the 64 pound cannon and drill at 2pm, followed by a 13th Century Knights Templar Tournament at 2.30pm. In fact, there are so many great events on the main stage throughout the day that you won't want to miss any of them.

Kids will be fascinated by their walk through history, and are sure to be kept occupied with the Childrens Games at 3pm.

Lytton Hall plays host to a range of talks sure to fascinate history buffs and enthusiasts.

The event is held over two days at Fort Lytton, which in itself is an important piece of our history, being built in the 1880s to halt fears of a Russian attack on British colonies in the Pacific.

Each day closes at 4pm with cannon fire.

Tickets are available online or at the gate:

Family (two adults and up to four children)
- Day Pass: $45, Weekend Pass: $60

- Day Pass: $15, Weekend Pass: $25

School age children and Concession:
- Day Pass: $10, Weekend Pass: $15

Children under five are free

For details on how to get there and other important information, check out the official website.

This is a fun family day or weekend at historical Fort Lytton National Park, and is a great way for kids to learn more about our history.

Before you get to event on the day, there are a couple of points to note. Eftpos is available at entry for ticket purchase, but nowhere else in the festival.

While dressing up in traditional clothing is encourages, swords and weapons are not permitted into the event.

Watch the video: Fort Lytton Under Lights (January 2022).