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andrew petrie and petrie bight petrie history

Andrew Petrie - Early Brisbane Builder and Explorer

One of the busiest thoroughfares in the city of Brisbane was that part of Queen Street which ran from Wharf Street to the intersection of Boundary Street. The immediately adjacent area, known as Petrie Bight, was named after Andrew Petrie who came from Sydney in 1837 to Brisbane Town, which in those days was merely an outlying penal settlement of New South Wales.

Andrew Petrie (Bio) was born in Fifeshire Scotland, in June 1798, but early in life went to Edinburgh where he held a position with a leading building construction firm and for a period of four years was engaged in Architectural duties. He entered into business on his own account but on the suggestion of Dr. John Lang who was revisiting Scotland at that time, Andrew Petrie came to New South Wales in 1831 by the Stirling Castle.

His first job was to supervise the erection of a building for Dr. John Lang in Jamieson Street, Sydney, but later commenced business for himself. Commissary Laidley became aware of Petrie's ability and offered him a position in the Royal Engineers at Sydney as Clerk of Works.

In August 1837 Petrie and his family came to Brisbane in the James Watt the first steamer to plough the waters of Moreton Bay. Click Here for Other Reference. The underlying reason of Petrie's transfer to this town was that as a practical Superintendent of Works he was to supersede the junior military officers who, with only limited architectural and constructional experience, had erected buildings of inferior design and without substantially skilled workmanship (e.g. the walls of the old Police Court in Queen Street midway between George and Albert Streets were unbuttressed).

On Petrie's arrival, the only available accommodation was in the official quarters of the Female Prisoners Barracks, then only recently vacated when the inmates were moved to the new Eagle Farm Prison. The original Female Prisoners Barracks were situated in the area of the present General Post Office. Petrie commenced his duties and he was given control and supervision of the better class of prisoners and mechanics and others.

The workshop was on the site of the present Prudential Assurance Co. Ltd. building at the top of Queen Street. Andrew Petrie instigated expeditions around the Moreton Bay Settlement taking on the role of the previous explorer Captain Logan. Along with with discovery of the bunya pine and the discovery of coal at Tivoli while on a visit to Redbank station. Click Here for Other Reference.

Petrie Bight

Petrie soon afterwards removed to a house provided for him at the corner of what is now Queen and Wharf Streets. At that time, 1839, Queen Street was occupied by Government and Military buildings on the western side from North Quay to the corner of Albert Street and then continued as a winding bush track from where Edward Street now stands, in a semicircular track to avoid the knoll there to where it crossed the creek at the present day intersection of Queen and Creek Streets. It continued towards the river and on to Petrie Bight and became the Eagle Farm Road (now termed Ann Street). There was no development past Albert Street.

This road avoided the tapering cliff which runs from Adelaide Street towards the river by running much closer to the waters edge than the present alignment of Queen Street at the Petries Bight end.

Petrie Bight

In Petrie's day the road ran about 110 feet from the river whereas nowadays it is situated about 430 feet distant. The area on the opposite of the Customs House towards Adelaide Street was largely stone and was patiently quarried, removed, levelled and carted by horse and dray.

Petrie Bight on the river side from the Customs House was the site of the Government Reserve where the Government Wharves for commercial purposes were first built. The dividing fence had encroached 16 feet upon the road and when the wharves were being constructed in 1877, the Government in consideration of the requirements of traffic consented to give 10 feet from the wharf reserve.

This is the explanation why Queen Street at the Petries Bight portion is 26 feet wider than in its other parts. The substantial stone wall opposite the wharves was constructed in 1882 and prevented the numerous land slides which had occurred and this wall, together with that built on the land on which the Customs House stands, enabled the present day level thoroughfare to be there.

One evidence of his early and remarkable forethought was that when his official house (as Superintendent of Works) was being planned, he stipulated that it be lined up on a frontage with the then existing Government buildings in the area in Queen Street from George to Albert Streets, the then termination of the settled area.

His house was on the comer of what is now Queen and Wharf Streets. True to his prophecy, Queen Street was eventually continued past his house and it was on that comer (later the site of Empire Chambers) that Andrew Petrie's children waved their flags of welcome to Queensland's first Governor Sir George Bowen.