History of St Aubins Village

The grounds of St Aubins Village is Circa 1870.  St Aubins is believed to have been designed and erected c1889 by John (Johann) Rodekirchen. The house site adjoins what remains of the clay pit and brick-making complex which Roderkirchen operated at Lion Creek, West Rockhampton, on land owned by local merchant and politician Albrecht Feez.
 

Born in Cologne in 1846, Johann Rodekirchen migrated from Hamburg to Rockhampton with his wife Eleanore and two children aboard the Fritz Reuter in October 1877. The Rodekirchen family was part of the boom in immigration that occurred in Queensland as a consequence of government attempts to boost development through population. For a time in the early 1880s the rate of increase in Queensland's population exceeded that of all other colonies and efforts to attract immigrants from Germany were particularly successful. Merchant Albrecht Feez was the representative of the German community in Rockhampton at the time.

Shipping records describe John (Johann) Rodekirchen as a worker or arbeiter, aged thirty years. Little is known of his early years, but Rodekirchen may have been one of the six brick-making works which a Capricornian correspondent reported were operating in the Lion Creek area by late 1885.

Such was the wealth in Rockhampton during the decade of the 1880s that the demand for bricks was considerable. Founded in October 1858, the city steadily had increased in importance as a trading centre for central Queensland. After 1882, when gold was discovered at nearby Mt Morgan, many substantial buildings which displayed the local area's increasing wealth and importance were constructed in Rockhampton.

One of those who profited by owning shares in what was then reportedly the richest single gold mine in the world was Albrecht Feez. A well-known merchant and politician, Feez was born in Bavaria in 1826. Before following his brother Adolphe to Australia in 1852, Albrecht Feez had served as an artilleryman in the Schleswig-Holstein war. The newly arrived Feez worked as a gold-miner, timber-getter, jackaroo and wool-broker before establishing a store in Quay Street, Rockhampton, in 1859. During the following decade, his business outgrew this site, after which Albrecht Feez moved to East Street. There he sold wines, spirits, tea, sugar, hardware and what he described in advertisements as 'special lines for squatters'. During the 1870s and 1880s Feez was closely involved with the community of Rockhampton, as a key figure in the German community, Mayor of Rockhampton in 1879 and representative for Leichhardt in the Queensland Legislative Assembly between 1880 and 1883.

Albrecht Feez's ownership of the land on which John Rodekirchen operated his brickworks passed to his sons Adolph and Arthur Feez in 1887. Title to the land was not obtained by John Rodekirchen until 1923.

From the mid to late 1880s, Rodekirchen's Lion Creek kilns supplied bricks not only for his own house, to be named St Aubins by a subsequent owner, but also for a number of the imposing commercial and institutional premises constructed in the city. The list is believed to include Kenmore (QHR 600820), the residence constructed in 1894 by John Ferguson, and the Rockhampton Technical College (QHR 600789) constructed in 1914, now A Block of the Central Queensland Institute of TAFE.

The bricks used in St Aubins are handmade. This labour-intensive process used in the late 1880s kept the price of bricks at £5 to £6 per thousand. By 1895, however, Rodekirchen had mechanized his brick-making. In April of that year he advertised large stocks of machine-made bricks at 'bottom price'. Following mechanization, the price of bricks in Rockhampton dropped to £1 12s 6d per thousand.

Exactly what type of machine assistance Rodekirchen used in unknown, although it was sophisticated enough to produce a constant supply of uniform bricks with the frog marked ‘Rodekirchen Rockhampton'. Firing occurred in the kilns on site. In a February 1988 Morning Bulletin article, Rodekirchen's granddaughter Ethel Lloyd recalled that the 'bricks would be put into the kiln and the front of it would be plastered with clay. All the men in the district would help with the burning which went on all through the night.' Afterwards the kiln was allowed a few days to cool down.
 

The Rodekirchen family is believed to have lived at first in the small weatherboard cottage still on the property. The solid brick house they built to replace it featured two external staircases, one to the south that faced the pit and kilns and the other, which was the main staircase for the house, facing west. Ethel Lloyd's reminiscences suggest that, as originally constructed, the rendered brick stairs on the southern façade finished at a landing approximately one meter below the level of the veranda. The current owners speculate that at some time the stairs may have separated at this point and joined the veranda on each side. An undated, early photograph featured in the 1988 Morning Bulletin article shows an opening in the balustrading that is filled by a long piece of similarly styled gate. It also suggests that ornately carved timber brackets were fitted to the veranda posts at least until the 1930s. The balustrading appears very similar to that which is currently in place.

A second early photograph featured in the 1988 Morning Bulletin article also shows that a front gate and fence were constructed on the property's western boundary. Two Date Palms, which are still in place at this time, are visible in this photograph. The photograph further suggests that there was established planting on the property at this time.
 

Rodekirchen's house and brickworks were inundated by Rockhampton's highest flood on record during the months of January and February 1918. The damage was repaired and he continued making bricks until 1926 when, aged eighty, Rodekirchen transferred the business to his son, also named John. In July 1931, the elder Rodekirchen died.

Although the brickworks remained with the family at this time, the Rodekirchen house was sold in June 1934. A succession of owners followed. In 1952 Henry and Elise Brett purchased the property. It is believed they named the house St Aubins in remembrance of ancestors who had left France at the time of the French Revolution.

The Bleins Family purchased St Aubins in January 1970, restoring it as a family home that was the centerpiece of a tourist business and nursery specialising in herbs. The property, and that adjoining it on Canoona Road where the clay pit was located, operated as a 'historical village' where customers could view a number of timber buildings relocated from central Rockhampton alongside relics found on the site, or purchase and consume light refreshments.
 

Bill and Noelene Gillham purchased St Aubins in 2007 and set about restoring and repairing it, with plans of turning it into a suitable wedding or function venue. Sadly, Noelene passed away with cancer and did not get to see her dream become a reality.

In June 2017 Brian and Janice Dawson (current owners) purchased St Aubins Village, (which had now been closed to the public for the past 12 years), and set upon the task of finishing what Bill and Noelene had started with the first wedding for many years being held at St Aubins in October 2016 (Lauren and Charlie Myors) Lauren is the Daughter of Brian and Janice Dawson and operates St Aubins Village with her parents. Since then, there have been many wonderful celebrations at St Aubins and booking out in years in advance for future weddings.  The Teahouse and Boutique Gift shop were opened to the public in June 2021 and still remains operating for Breakfast, Lunch, Morning/Afternoon Tea and Barista made coffees.