The 1880’s were a boom time for coal exploration in Queensland – coal became the primary source of energy and expanding railways provided a growing market. The Queensland Land and Coal Company, established in 1881 was one of a number of companies formed to search for coal at that time.
Historically located at Homestead Park in the north of Forest Lake, Archerfield Station was on the edge of the Ipswich coal measures – Redbank and Goodna had shaft mines from the 1860’s. The Queensland Land and Coal Company purchased Archerfield Station in 1884, hopeful of finding coal on the property.
Michael Durack had bought Archerfield Station in June 1882. His elder brother, Patrick Durack, “assessing his brother’s new acquisition, inspected the stock and scratched about for mineral possibilities.”
“The land’s not up to much but ye might find ye’ve got a coal mine here,” Patrick said.
“I’ll put a drill down when I get back,” said Michael. (Durack, p212.)
Michael never did put down a drill. From the start he was pre-occupied with the new stations in Kimberley, then he fell on hard times and had to sell Archerfield.
However, the Durack family stayed at Archerfield House for some time. They were certainly still there in 1885, when the company’s managing director Mr Callaghan brought a party of possible investors to inspect the property.
“Passing through a gate the party emerged onto a good road, at the top of which could be seen the romantic and picturesque residence of Mr Durack, known as Archerfield. This was a welcome sight after the hot and dusty drive, and the house appeared like a haven of rest as it sat snugly perched on the summit of the hill.
The land surrounding has been cleared, and the cattle could be seen browsing the pasturage, whilst on the right could be discerned the tents of the men engaged in their drilling operations. The party drew up at the front door and were hospitably received by Mr and Mrs Durack. – (The Telegraph, January 19 1885 p5.)
“The diamond drill, belonging to the Queensland Land and Coal Company, which was set to work on their property at Archerfield, Oxley on the 17th instant, has now penetrated to a depth of over 100ft, mostly through rock. (The Queenslander, January 31 1885 p165.)
“COAL BORING AT ARCHERFIELD … The diamond drill was acquired, and it has since been kept at work on several parts of the estate with most encouraging results. The boring which has proceeded thus far clearly indicates that coal in considerable quantities exists on the property, and only a little more time and labour are necessary to ascertain whether it can be worked with profit or not.” (The Brisbane Courier, September 30 1885 p3.)
But no workable coal was found on Archerfield Station – and the company had more problems at its Burrum mine (Fraser Coast). A company reorganisation did not rectify the situation. The Queensland Land and Coal Company was unable to continue with the property, and Archerfield Station was auctioned by the Royal Bank of Australia in February 1888.
By Vicki Mynott, Before Forest Lake – Adapted for print by Jamie Furness