I was recently the guest of Glennis Philbey and her family, gracious hosts at Cecil Plains Homestead B&B.
The Homestead you see today was built around 1859 by James Taylor, who had bought out the original settler, Henry Stuart Russell. Russell had taken up vast tracts of land on both sides of the Condamine River in 1841. He played host to Ludwig Leichhardt prior to two of his expeditions, the last proving to be fatal.
Cecil Plains Station was a village of around 25 buildings. Before decent roads and railways, properties had to be self-sufficient. Employing up to 20 men, Taylor’s brother-in-law GG Cory often managed the Station while Taylor lived in Clifford House, which he built in Toowoomba.
Now only a few of the original buildings are left, but thanks to the Philbeys, they have been retained and restored. You can visit the Slab Hut Museum, which displays memorabilia from the time. Another slab hut, closer to the entrance, was the original stables. Many of the other buildings, including the original 1842 house, burnt down.
Taylor Estates Ltd was paid £2 per acre when the 120,000 acre property was resumed by the Government in 1916. WWI soldiers, by ballot, were allotted 640 acres from 1919. Other settlers purchased land for dairying. The railway also arrived in 1919, making access to markets in Oakey and Toowoomba easier.
When I arrived, Glennis showed me into a beautifully appointed bedroom and explained, “This was Mr Taylor’s bedroom.” My immediate reaction was, “Oh good, there should be ghosts.” To me, the whole property appeared a fertile hunting ground for ghosts.
Glennis told me of the “ghostbusters” who have visited and experienced other-world spirits. Even her husband, Darryl, who said adamantly, “I don’t believe in ghosts,” then related his experience of the supernatural: “When there was no breeze, we were sitting in a room when one door opened and closed, and Glennis’s long hair moved as if someone had brushed past it, then the opposite door opened and closed.”
I was lucky to visit before the busy Easter period with 50 campers expected. Workers from the nearby Cotton Gin sometimes stay during the season. Cotton and sorghum are the main crops grown now on what was once a huge sheep run. Cotton growers Stuart and Maxine Armitage have lived on one of these blocks since the mid 1970s.
Glennis is a great cook and loves history, making the perfect hostess. She may let you browse in her library which includes two of her own books on early Queensland exploration. You can stroll around the gardens, fish or swim in the nearby Condamine River, or visit the General Store and Victory Hotel.
Words by Wendy Moline | Images supplied. Acknowledgements: Historic photos and other information supplied by: Glennis Philbey, Toowoomba and Cecil Plains Historical Societies, Stuart and Maxine Armitage, Sally and Peter Bligh.