Flashback: Discovering Deception Bay

Published 6:00am 3 September 2023

Flashback: Discovering Deception Bay
Words by Jodie Powell

Deception Bay has a rich history and is filled with hidden treasures – you just have to know where to find them.

The suburb was once home to two sea baths created by early pioneer and respected medical practitioner Joseph Bancroft.

While they are now silted over, an excavation in 2004 revealed the remnants of the past.

Joseph, his wife Ann and children Louisa and Thomas migrated to Queensland from England in 1864, with Joseph fast gaining a reputation as one of the leading medical practitioners in the state.

Seaside home

Flashback: Discovering Deception Bay
Bancroft home, 1897. Image courtesy The City of Moreton Bay

The Bancroft family’s association with Deception Bay began in 1881 when Joseph bought 60ha on Burpengary Creek – by 1890 he owned more than 1500ha in addition to a home in Wickham Tce and 5ha at Kelvin Grove.

The family used the Deception Bay property as their seaside home, building a house at what is now the northern end of Captain Cook Pde.

They visited regularly on weekends and holidays and Joseph started a number of business ventures in the suburb, among them running cattle, manufacturing dried beef and attempting to artificially cultivate pearls.

Supplies for the war

Flashback: Discovering Deception Bay
The Australian Pemmican Concentrated Beef Factory. Image courtesy The City of Moreton Bay.

Bancrofts’ Australian Pemmican Concentrated Beef Company supplied tins of the dried beef to the British War Office, which included them as emergency rations in every soldier’s kit. Each tin was divided down the centre, with meat on one side and a chocolate and honey mixture on the other.

During his time at Deception Bay Joseph carved a sea bath from the sandstone on the beach close to family’s house and another located off Joseph Ave, near what is now the Deception Bay Community Facility.

There are varied accounts about the purpose of the bath nearest to the Bancroft residence, among them that it was built for recreation, or as therapy for Ann, who suffered from rheumatism, or even as a research aquarium for Joseph’s scientific investigations into parasites attacking bivalves – especially oysters.

Hidden treasure

That bath was accompanied by a shelter for dressing and resting, but there is speculation the other could have been used more regularly for bathing because it is smaller, shaped like a bath and contains a drainage pipe.

Adding to the intrigue are oyster shells studding the walls of the first bath, which were revealed when both were excavated in 2004. There is speculation the oyster shells are remnants of Joseph’s work, or possibly even part of a cultivation project by the Dunne brothers, who bought the land from the Bancrofts in the early 1900s.

Pioneering discoveries

Joseph and Thomas were among the early pioneers of medical research in Queensland and the people of Deception Bay played an important role in their studies.

Among Joseph’s discoveries while at Deception Bay was the Wucheria bancrrofti, a 2.5cm threadlike parasitic worm that causes elephantitis by invading the human lymphatic system.

Joseph was the first to suggest the parasite was transmitted by mosquitos, although his theory about transmission was wrong.

It was Thomas who discovered the disease was transmitted when people were bitten by mosquitos that had sucked up water containing the worm larvae.

Important research

After his father’s death in 1894, Thomas continued Joseph’s research into mosquitos with the help of local children, who brought him the insects they found in the mangroves in matchboxes.

He collected hundreds of mosquitos that were sent to the British Museum and more than 60 other insects bear his name.

A keen botanist, Thomas tasted more than 1000 plants, tested more than 150 plant extracts and documented dozens of plants previously unknown to the Western world as part of his pharmacological research.

Discover more about the Deception Bay Heritage Trail here.

Source: Deception Bay – The History of a Seaside Community by Thom Blake and Peter Osborne


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