Warryn James looks at the floorboards of his Birkdale home and surmises that this was where one of the cellars used to be.
Despite the research, there are gaps in knowledge about Birkdale House, built in 1888 and this is part of the mystery and intrigue about living in an historic house.
Mr James and his wife bought Birkdale House in September 2020 and since then have been exploring the house’s origins and with it the history of the Redlands.
“We have always loved historic homes. We love the timber, the high ceilings, the fireplaces,” Mr James said.
“I like the detail in the workmanship and the history of the place. But we also like to work out the puzzle of the house.”
The first puzzle is the actual age as there is some speculation that the house may have been moved to its current site in 1888, making it older than believed.
The first owner was James Baron, an engineer for Gilbert Burnett’s saw and sugar mills. The sawmill was at Wellington Point.
Baron lived at Station Street and it is believed the train line was re-routed to accommodate the mill.
The house, now sitting on half an acre, was built on a seven-acre property where Mr Baron grew grapes and made wine (hence the cellars).
“When you explore history of a house like this, you explore history in general,” Mr James said.
Mr James also has a copy of a discourse told by former Redland council Chairman Victor Drury who also lived at the house.
“He talks about taking a bank manager to visit Mr Baron. Apparently Mr Drury, Baron and the bank manager tasted some wines in the cellar, gradually moving from formal names, to surnames to first names,” Mr James said.
The account states that: “Unfortunately politics were introduced – the south sea island labour traffic and the two pals nearly came to blows. Old Mr Baron said, “look here, R, you don’t know anything about growing sugar cane, but we will have another.”
The house’s modern history is equally interesting, with the James’ purchasing the house from interior designer Anna Spiro.
As a result, the house is featured in a number of books and is the topic of various magazine and newspaper features.
“We haven’t changed much (about the house). But we did paint the rooms that Anna had painted a dark blue, orange and bright pink,” Mr James said.
“We loved the colour, but the look didn’t match our antique furniture.”
Mr James said they chose furniture that fitted the Victorian era.
“We just love old homes. We have lived in a few now, but this is the oldest. This is our dream home,” he said.
The James’ moved from what was once the Norman Park post office at Camp Hill where they lived for 15 years before moving to Birkdale.