The major problem of agriculture has ever been, not in the growing of the products of the land, but in the selling of these at a satisfactory price. Our early land settlers endured this experience, which still prevails except in the disposal of a few price-stabilized crops.
Prior to the establishment of a market, these early day farmers brought their agricultural products to Brisbane Town in horse drawn drays and wagons and in sturdy rowing boats from farms situated on the Brisbane River as far down as Doughboy (Hemmant) and upstream as far as Oxley.
The products were then hawked around the town or from shop to shop in an endeavour to effect disposal. This system (or the lack of a proper system) was unsatisfactory, as it involved a lot of additional traveling, and this could only be accomplished by the slow means of horse drawn vehicles, which had already come lengthy distances from outside the town.
It was also unrewarding to farmers to be subjected to the iniquitous practice of the few shop-keepers who regulated the purchase price so low that the thought often welled up in the minds of the producers that it could be almost as profitable to feed the farm animals with some of the produce and utilize the remainder as fertilizer for the soil.
The desire of the residents of Brisbane for the prosperity of the farmers and small agriculturists swelled the agitation for the establishment of a produce market in the year 1866.
By that time, the population of the town had reached approximately 8000 and it was considered sufficiently large enough to support the market and from which it was hoped to procure the various agricultural products plentifully and cheaply instead of under the previous system of scarceness and dearness.
In the early planning of Brisbane, the requirement for a market reserve had been kept in mind by the authorities of New South Wales under which, of course, the area now known as Queensland was then governed.
James Warner, one of the original surveyors sent by Governor Gipps from New South Wales to the Moreton Bay Settlement as the area in which Brisbane was then termed, accordingly had completed his survey “showing the position in the Town of Brisbane proposed as a site of a market” and it was duly signed by him on the 10th December 1849.
He recommended that allotments Nos. 5 and 6 of Section 34 be converted to form a street on the southern end of the reserve. The area of the reserve was 1 acre 20 perches and in present day identification is bounded by Charlotte Street, the lower end of Eagle Street, and by Market Street, the street which was formed by the conversion of the two allotments Nos. 5 and 6.
A condensed description of the area would be the block of land opposite the rear portion of St. Stephen's Cathedral to the Queen's Hotel thence opposite the sheds of the present A.U.S.N. Co Mary Street wharf as far as the Grand Hotel at the corner of Mary Street, and Market Street.
The area actually “used for the market was, of course, only that occupied by a long market shed, built parallel on an alignment about 25 feet from the frontage of lower Eagle Street.
The contract to build the Brisbane market was given to Dath and Gillies and plans were prepared by R. G. Suter. It consisted of a long shed built of wood on a stone foundation and the roof was of corrugated galvanized iron.
The contract price was £879 and the time for construction was 15 weeks. Objections were raised by the residents against the class of materials used in the construction, particularly as the Brisbane Municipal Corporation (Council) regarded the area as a first class section of the town.
The building consisted of two lines of stalls totaling 30 with a roadway between, while the wholesale shed was at the back of the market to which the produce had to be carried. Fruit and vegetables were the main commodities marketed at these premises, after construction had been completed about October 1867.
However, previously, a row of shops on this site had been erected during the year 1865 when A. J. Hockings was Mayor of Brisbane. Subsequently, the shops had been removed by order of the Town Council. In the year 1867 when A. J. Hockings again became Mayor, a plan was afoot by the Council, wherein it was proposed to erect 30 shops which would, no doubt, be taken by fruit and vegetable dealers in the town.
The deputation of those interested in the matter was held in the Queen's Hotel nearby and the Mayor's attention was drawn to the fact that no definite provision of space had been made for the growers.
In April, 1868, the lease for one year was auctioned and knocked down to H. Skinner for the collection of tolls and dues arising from the Brisbane Market for the sum of £375. However, owing to his inability to furnish the necessary security for finance, it was again auctioned and the successful bidder E. B. Cullen Accountant of the Queensland Treasury obtained the lease for £270 per annum.
Under the management of the Treasury, which sought to obtain the maximum revenue from the Brisbane markets, the trade therein did not flourish and this seeking for revenue had the effect of creating the desire among the purchasers to pay as little as possible for produce. Opinions were then expressed that unless it could be successfully operated, the market house, wharf and grounds should be let for other purposes.
Another lessee, George Brooks secured the lease by auction for one year from October 1868 for £160. Improvements, such as the concreting of the whole of the ground interior, the laying on gas for illumination, the fitting up of the 30 stalls as shops and the removal of Market Wharf steps to the Charlotte and Creek Streets end, were efforts to improve the conditions.
One continuing complaint was that as the market had been built and consisting, as it did, of two lines of stalls with a roadway running between these, the situation arose that a producer on going inside must either take a stall, at some expense, or trespass upon Lower Eagle Street in front of the market.
The general facilities and accommodation were of a poor standard but the lessee had sufficient confidence in the future of the market that he secured a five years' extension of the lease at the same figure of £160 per annum. Authority was now granted for the storage of produce overnight in the market.
The Brisbane markets strived to continue, but in the late 1870's opinion grew that the situation was not sufficiently central to bring buyers and sellers together and that the original establishing of the project had been the result of much agitation by a number of well meaning friends of the farmers.
The market erection scheme had thus been forced on the Brisbane Municipal Corporation (Council). Activities in the market gradually waned, so that by the year 1881 no market existed for the sale of fruit and vegetables.
The incidence of railway construction particularly that which then terminated at Roma Street had an influencing part in determining the site of a new Brisbane market. A loan of £6000 for the erection of a new wholesale market was offered to Brisbane Municipal Corporation on a site in Upper Roma Street (near the original Roma Street Railway Station) and adjoining the (old) Albert Grammar School Reserve.
Briefly, it consisted of a large covered shed 300 ft. long and 100 ft. wide with a double set of railway lines running between the two landing platforms. A cooling room 100 ft. by 25 ft. for the storage of meat and the necessary offices were built on the adjoining Roma Street frontage. As a result of the rapid growth of Brisbane's population from 30,000 in 1880 to 50,000 in 1885, a larger market became necessary.
A new Roma Street market consisting of seven sections was established in Roma Street, on the site of the original sale and pound yards. The land was a free grant from the Government to the Council and the building, cost £13,000. An extension of the Roma Street market was made a few years later to front Turbot Street.
Auction sales were held on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Some dissatisfaction regarding the amounts of rents demanded resulted in thirty of the fruit and vegetable agents of the market forming themselves into a company called “The Brisbane Fruit and Produce Exchange Ltd" in 1906. Several small cottages were purchased in Turbot St. and later more property in Ann Street on which was erected a more commodious market.
The location of produce markets in South Brisbane was likewise provided for in Stanley Quay (now Stanley Street) western side and the corner of Glenelg Street. A market reserve of 1 acre and 20 perches is shown as being so designated in September 1847.
Meetings were held in the Mechanics' Institute (the later site of Tunley's Ltd. at 95 Stanley Street, South Brisbane) as early as 1882 to consider the question of establishment of the Stanley Street Market with a section for horse and cattle yards as well as space for the marketing of fruit and produce.
Prior to this meeting the Woolloongabba Divisional Board, in 1880 had been granted by the Government an area of 10 acres from the corner of Stanley Street, and Merton Road, to Vulture Street at the western end of the Woolloongabba, (Railway) Reserve for a Board Room and a market. The Board Room was built and stood until about 1930 on the abovementioned spot (on the opposite corner block to the Hotel Morrison).
Further meetings were held as long afterwards as 1888 and the weight of opinion was for the market to be built on the comer of Stanley and Glenelg Streets. It may be here stated that no railway had been built to the adjacent wharves at this time.
The South Brisbane Municipal Market was subsequently built on the Stanley and Glenelg Streets site. It consisted of a long shed with unloading bays on each side of a raised concrete floor of the required height to unload the produce from the farmers' wagons when backed into position.
These markets continued for some years, but about 1910 the trade had dwindled to half a dozen farmers' wagons attending on Saturday mornings and the trade diminished to that of the residents adjacent and the markets in a few years time' were unused. A service station was then built on the actual shed site.
In the block facing Wickham Street between Ballow & Constance Streets, a long brick building was erected in the late 1920's for use as the Valley Markets but the venture was unsuccessful and was later occupied as a Motor Car Salesroom.