Brisbane Street, SE5

Place Name

Sir Thomas M Brisbane (July 23, 1773 – January 27, 1860), the Scottish-born Army officer and astronomer who gives his name to one of the largest cities in Australia. Educated in astronomy and mathematics at the University of Edinburgh, upon the recommendation of the Duke of Wellington, with whom he had served, he was appointed governor of the new British colony in New South Wales from 1821 to 1825. A keen astronomer, he built the colony’s second observatory and encouraged scientific and agricultural training. In 1823 Brisbane sent Lieutenant John Oxley to find a new site for British convicts who were repeat offenders. Oxley discovered a large river flowing into Moreton Bay and a year later, its first convicts arrived. The convict settlement was declared a town, called Brisbane, in 1834 and opened to free settlement in 1839. While tackling many of the major problems encountered by a new and rapidly growing colony, Brisbane himself wasn’t always popular with his contemporaries. Rivals besmirched his reputation and the British Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord Bathurst, recalled him to Scotland where he lived out his days as a country gentleman, taking interest in science, his estate, and his regiment. This street was laid out on former fields sometime after Brisbane’s death, appearing unnamed on Ordnance Survey maps dating to 1898.


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