DE MOLAY HOUSE
It is possible that DeMolay House was the early site of the Toowoomba Court House. The Darling Downs Gazette of 22/1/1863 reported that the new jail building was to be erected at the back of the new court house building. Kempton Bedwell, in the Toowoomba Chronicle of 28/4/1951 stated about Toowoomba’s early days: “From the creek the land was vacant up to the Court House, now known as Rutlands.” Rutlands was a guest house which is now the DeMolay building.
The Toowoomba Chronicle of 19/4/1881 reported that the Industrial & Reformatory School for Girls was proclaimed a public jail. The Government Gazette of 25th June, 1881 (p.1514) announced that the, “jail was to be an industrial & reformatory school for girls.” In the Government Gazette of 9/4/1881 it was announced that the school was to be moved to the old Court House (p.1030). Yet another proclamation appeared from the Colonial Secretary’s office dated 4/11/1881. The proclamation indicated that education was desirable for half caste children and that these children should be arrested, treated as neglected children and admitted to the reformatory schools at either Toowoomba or Lytton. The Chronicle. of 2/1/18.82 said that the building was now occupied and had 12 inmates.
Tenders were called for a hospital at the female Reformatory in the Government Gazette of 10/5/1883. (Did Richard Godsall build this?). The next reference to the Girls Reformatory is seen in the Darling Downs Gazette of 25/2/1889. It states that the reformatory consists of a nice new roomy well arranged building immediately outside the jail wall and facing Margaret Street. The building was well off the ground, verandah’d and spacious. The matron was Mrs Blaney, wife of the jail governor.
The kitchen and laundry were adjoining. Many families used the facilities to do their own laundry. Ten large tanks from St Helens provided the Reformatory with water. The schoolroom had 22 pupils whose ages ranged from 6 to18. Miss Blaney acted as teacher. Off the schoolroom and dining room were the bedrooms which were described as cozy little compartments. A detached building was erected as a hospital but has not been used for that purpose.
The Reformatory included children who have been abandoned. Perhaps the old court house building was used for the Reformatory until this building was erected in 1889.
The Toowoomba Chronicle of 12/12/1902 reported that enteric or typhoid fever was prevalent at the Reformatory. The fever was blamed on the unhygienic water supply.
The Reformatory, together with the jail, was officially closed on 19/10/1903. The girls went to various homes in Brisbane.
The property, together with the Toowoomba jail, was purchased by the Austral Association and became a museum for Toowoomba. Early displays included polished timbers from a local timber merchant and another of aboriginal & island artefacts. Because of financial difficulties the property was sold c.1917.
The property may have become a clothing factory later but it was also “Rutlands guest house” for many years. It was purchased by the DeMolay Order for 6000 pounds in 1960. The property was officially opened by the Deputy Premier (Mr Morris) on 4/3/1961.
The Order was named after .Jacques Demolay, the last Military Grand Master of the order of Knights templar, who was born in France in 1244. This Order was founded about the year 1100. Its principal purpose was to protect Christianity in the Holy Land and prevent invasion and conquest of Europe by the Turks. Crusade followed Crusade and the Order amassed great wealth which aroused covetousness of powerful enemies and ultimately resulted in its downfall. King Philip of France outlawed the movement and .Jacques Demolay was bumed at the stake for failing to name his loyal adherents. (From The Chronicle 30/10/82) The building is still owned by the Order. It is one of the oldest buildings in Margaret Street as a side or back view would quickly reveal.
At night the ghost of a reformatory inmate can be seen in the attic on the first floor of the building. One of the girls was so unhappy with her situation that she committed suicide by hanging herself there.
By John Clements May 1993. Revised in .June 2006 and checked by Mrs Nola Robinson.