1824 Moreton Bay Penal Settlement was established.
1827 Allan Cunningham was the first European to discover the open, treeless country, west of the Great Divide, which he named Peel's Plains, Canning Downs and Darling Downs by which the area is now known.
1840 As Moreton Bay was a prohibited area, the first free settlement in 'Queensland' (which was not separated from NSW until 1859) took place on the Darling Downs.
Patrick Leslie (aged 26) and brothers Walter (22) and George (20) originally attempted to settle on the Clarence River, taking an inland route from Sydney. Finding the going difficult, Patrick, remembering a conversation with Allan Cunningham, struck out with the convict Peter Murphy to reach the Darling Downs, 20 March 1840. Patrick returned to collect his brothers and together they travelled their sheep back along Patrick's route. "Finding nothing we liked as much as Canning Downs" they took up all the headwaters of the Condamine River, approximately 110,000 acres.
Records at the Mitchell Library, Sydney show that Patrick Leslie was granted Canning Downs as the first pastoral licence in what is now Queensland.
The homestead (the hand hewn slab building) was constructed and is the oldest house in Queensland.
1842 George Leslie over-landed 200 horses to Canning Downs while Patrick brought the imported thoroughbred stallion St. George up to Moreton Bay by steamer. (He had paid £900 for this highly regarded stallion, a high price for the day when a stockman's annual wage was £20 pounds).
Moreton Bay was opened for free settlement.
1843 The Sydney Herald, 25 July 1843 recorded that the first official race meeting in 'Queensland', took place at Coopers Plains, 17 July 1843. W. Leslie's "Buck's-foot" won on the second day.
1844 Patrick Leslie was forced to sell his share in Canning Downs to Walter and George, in order to meet his debts.
1847 Walter and George Leslie stood four stallions at Canning Downs this year – Knave of Clubs, an Arab Horse, Eagle and Conservative.
The centre section of Canning Downs Homestead (east building) was completed in preparation for the arrival of George Leslie's new bride, Emmaline Macarthur.
Part of Canning Downs was given up for the new township of Warwick.
Patrick Leslie overcame his financial difficulties and completed Newstead House in Brisbane. (The name refers to a 'new start'.)
1854 Canning Downs bought by Leslie's Uncle Walter Davidson for his son Gilbert, who continued the involvement in horse breeding and racing.
1859 The Davidsons built the new quandrangular brick (existing) stables after a fire destroyed the original timber stables.
1866 Bought by Wildash and Hutchinson.
1876 Bought by Hon. J.D. Macansh.
1896 Bought by a syndicate of investors for subdivision. F. Needham bought the homestead block of 1,000 acres.
1917 Bought by J.H.S. Barnes and continues in the family ownership today.
1917 – 1998
Part of the appeal of Canning Downs to JHS Barnes was its long association with thoroughbreds and the reputation of the Darling Downs as top breeding country. From JHS's second crop at Canning Downs, he produced Rivoli who won the 1922 AJC Derby. His son, 'Ceb' Barnes assumed control of the Stud after returning from service in the Air Force from 1942-1945. Ceb was delighted to accept a welcome home present of a free service from Jack Macdougall of neighbouring Lyndhurst Stud to three time champion sire The Buzzard. The mating with the mare Perfect Morn produced Basha Felika who went on to win the 1951 Caulfield Cup beating Jack Macdougall's Blue Vest by a neck.
Ceb purchased the 1952 Melbourne Cup winner Dalray to stand at Canning Downs. From a limited numbers of mares, he produced Tails from his mare Dolled Up. Tails went on to become Australia's 2nd highest stakes winner (behind Tulloch) and his wins included the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, The Metropolitan and the Doomben Cup. Tails was sent out favourite in the 1969 Melbourne Cup, following the late scratching of the favourite Big Philou. His placing of only 7th is now of no surprise in the light of recent admissions to the doping of Big Philou and Tails prior to the race. His attempt in the 1971 Cup saw him finish 3rd.
Ceb greatly reduced his thoroughbred interests after being elected as the local Country Party member in the Menzies Government in 1958. He was appointed Minister for Territories in 1963 before retiring in 1972 to again take up his full time breeding interests. However, he was unable to adequately rebuild, to see stakes winners regularly carry his colours. Ceb worked with his horses at Canning Downs until his death in 1998, aged 96.
JHS was reluctant to have any kind of memorial unless it could be useful to horses. A rough granite headstone was erected in front of the stables and in spring the mares and new born foals use it as a rubbing post. Sara (Bine) Barnes and Ceb are also buried beneath this stone.
The property is now in the hands of Ceb's son, John (Mytt) Barnes and his partner Joy Mackay. John's mother, Barbara, still lives in the rambling homestead. Extensive restorations have been undertaken including a three year programme on the heritage listed stables due for completion in 2002. Like most historic properties, many of the improvements and facilities have become outdated or require extensive repair and no longer fulfil today's requirements which has necessitated extensive replacement and/or major restoration of buildings, fences, irrigation systems and supporting infrastructure. Several new buildings have been erected including a foaling complex, winter weanling barns and a vet/utility building.
Group 1* races won by horses bred at Canning Downs and also bred and/or raced by the Barnes family, include:
AJC Derby G1: Rivoli
The Metropolitan G1: Tails (twice)
W.S Cox Plate G1: Highland
H E Tancred Cup G1: Tails
C B Fisher Plate G1: Rivoli
QTC Oaks G1: Ton
AJC Sydney Cup G1: Grand Garry
AJC Doncaster Handicap G1: The Diver
QTC Derby G1: Hendra Lad, Basha Felika, Tails, High Syce
Caulfield Cup G1: Basha Felika, High Syce
QTC Sires' Produce G1: Rayland, Great Idea, Regular Bachelor
QTC Brisbane Cup G1: Canning Queen, Tails
QTC Stradbroke G1: Highland (twice)
VRC Underwood Stakes G1: Highland (twice)
VRC Newmarket G1: Regular Bachelor
BATC Doomben Cup G1: High Society, Tails
AJC Craven Plate G1: Rivoli
AJC Queen Elizabeth Stakes G1: Tails
In addition to the above Group 1 races, Canning Downs horses have won the Rosehill Cup, Coongy Handicap, Mooney Valley Cup, Memsie Stakes, Toorak Handicap, AJC Summer Cup, Chelmsford Stakes, Rosehill Guineas, STC Queen of the Turf Stakes, Queensland Guineas, AJC All-Aged Stakes, VATC Caulfield Stakes and several other black type races.
( * G1 races – as per 1993 and 2001 studies compiled by Peter Tonkes)