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The quarantine station stood atop The Bluff on Peel’s south-east corner from the early 1870s until 1910. Then from 1910 until 1916 its empty buildings housed the Home for Inebriates. In 1916 its wooden buildings were demolished. Today, the area is now thickly wooded, with the only remnants of the station being the so called ‘jail’ and the former well.

Quarantine Station – cell block 2003 (photo: Peter Ludlow)

A former lazaret patient recalls that there was no roof or partition remaining in the ‘jail’ during his stay on the island (1940s). These must have been put in later as a holiday house for a patient (or by a boatie). The iron door was there, however. (It was later taken by QPWS rangers to St Helena Island in about 1990). Also there were no trees around the ‘jail’, only grass, yellow flowers, and daisies. The shape of the previous quarantine gardens could still be seen from the position of the flowers.

Quarantine Station – New well cover (photo Scott Fowle)

The well is bottle shaped with a narrow opening at the top. It seems to be lined with bricks and may have been constructed by prison labour. 

In 2019 it appears to have been dry, but in 1991, Ray Cowie, the then ranger for the Redland Shire Council attempted to pump it out with a portable petrol driven pump – without succeeding to dry it out. Its water content may depend on the current level of the island’s water table.

Quarantine buildings on Bluff (1885)
Quarantine Station map 1893 + remnants 1991
Quarantine Station – map legend (1893)

The ’jail’

In July 1991, I measured the distance between the remaining cement slabs (still to be found under all the leaves and undergrowth) and the ‘jail’ at the old quarantine site. (See plan). By comparison with the sketch plan of 1893, the cellblock proved to be the former oven rooms (#12 on the sketch above), which were attached to the bakehouse (#13).  The term ‘jail’ may have originated when prisoners from nearby St Helena Island were housed there for their overnight detention whilst they worked on the completion of the Quarantine Station’s stone jetty. The building may also have served as a ‘jail’ for isolating obstreperous inmates from the Inebriate home when it operated on the former Quarantine site from 1910 until 1916.

Peter Ludlow