Thomas Roper - A Walk Through Brisbane

On the right hand stood the residence of Mr Andrew Petrie builder and contractor. He has ever stood in the front rank in the early development of Brisbane. He was for many years previous to Brisbane being proclaimed a free port in the services of the Government. He was afflicted with blindness for many years during which the business was conducted by his co-partner and son, Mr John Petrie.

Their business was very extensive employing a large number of hands with whom they were very popular. From here the road into town crossed a salt water creek (approx Creek Street). Over this was a dilapidated wooden bridge. The creek was fringed with mangroves under the shade of which sundry boats were moored.

After crossing the creek the road diverged, one to the right circuitous to avoid the hill and emerging into Queen Street from behind the present site of the Courier buildings,(Edward Street) the other straight over what was then Jail Hill, the Jail (Women’s Factory) occupying the site of the present Post and Telegraph Offices (G.P.O.) and was under the care of Mr Feeney - Governor. This is the first building after leaving Mr Petrie’s.

At the intersection of Edward with Queen Street was the beginning of Queen Street proper. But very few who are traveling Queen Street of today would have the slightest conception of what it was in the Forties. Then there were no friendly gas jets streaming forth to lighten the path of the luckless pedestrian - nothing more than a few oil lamps from the various little pubs by law compelled.


There were no asphalt pavement, no Macadamised streets. Water worn ruts were allowed to travel where fancy guided them, with here and there an old stump of a tree to entrap the unguarded wanderer. I remember meeting an old friend of the Samaritan type with his horse and dray drawing a load of stones to fill in a few of the deepest ruts around the corner of Messer’s Grimes and Petty. This was the only attempt I saw at repairing streets.

In order to give a slight description of Queen Street I will start from the corner where now stands Hunters Boot Palace. ( Edward Street Intersection) This corner was then vacant enclosed by a rough split rail fence. Adjoining this was a large brick building in course of erection by Mr M Skyring, in later years occupied by Mr E Southerden, now the site of the new arcade.

There were two small shops occupied by Mr I H Robertson and Mr Birch somewhere about the site off the present Oxford Hotel. Mr Robertson was afterwards appointed Post Master in Maryborough. Opposite these were a few tumble down cottage tenements.

On the left again was a marine store kept by Mr Charles Whitmore. Next door was the residence of Mr Thomas Haynes who was then one of the town caterers of milk. On the site of these now stands the business premises of Jack and McKenzie. Opposite on the right was neat private dwelling, the residence of Wm Duncan Esq. sub collector of H M Customs.

He was well known as the Blackman’s friend. Adjoining were some cottages belonging to Mr David Petrie. Opposite this was a Hotel in process of erection by Mr Wm Sheehan opened as the St Patrick's Tavern, the present site of the Hotel.

On the right opposite was low wooden structure called the Sawyers Arms, also a bakers shop kept by Mr D Savoy, next came a butchery conducted by Mr Newbould. The ground that these once occupied is now the present site of A.I.S. Bank, Stewart, and Hemmant and others.

There were a few small tenements intervening between these and the corner of Albert Street. On the corner was a brick building owned by Mr Phelan. In after years it was occupied by Mr McNab, it was then a Horse Bazaar. Crossing Albert Street where the present butchering establishment now is, was then occupied by Mr Cairncross as a bakery.

Higher up was Mr G F Poole, chemist and drugstore and Mr Sparks, general store on the opposite corner. Now Messrs Grimes and Petty was the business premises of John Richardson Esq. then the leading merchant of the place. Next to him was Mr James Sutherland general store.

A little higher up on the opposite side was Mr George Edmonstone, butcher. Close alongside was the Smithy of Mr Lachlan McLean. Here the ring and anvil could be heard from early morn to dewy eve. There were no eight hour regulations then in existence.

Adjoining was the little Wesleyan Church, a wooden structure of humble appearance and dimensions free from all architectural adornments. It would accommodate about eighty worshipers. The first Wesleyan Church in Queensland, pastor the Rev William Moore, late Missionary from Fiji. The first wedding celebrated was Mr and Mrs James Sutherland.

There was a new Wesleyan Church in course of erection in Albert Street on the ground now occupied by the Queensland Deposit Bank. This in its turn had to give place to a more commodious building in the year 57. As time rolled on this church had to make way for the noble edifice erected on the corner of Albert and Ann Streets. The Telegraph Newspaper Buildings now occupies the site of the Smithy and the Church.

A little higher up was the Sovereign Hotel kept by George McAdam the usual resort of the Darling Downs squatters who occasionally made things hum. Both Brisbane and Ipswich were very lively on the advent of the shearers after the seasons clip. Cheques would be knocked down with a free hand called Lambing down.

Opposite the Smithy stood the Court House (building on extreme right). This was the most conspicuous and extensive block of buildings in the street erected in the penal days. The main entrance was a large stone archway with stone stairway on either side.

Many a bitter wail, many a heart breaking narrative could be told of scenes enacted within those somber walls. The clank of the prisoners chain, the shrieks from the triangle brought forth by the cruel lash are heard no more.

The leg irons and hand cuffs are passed into oblivion and the building then tenanted by the happy and the free, the first home of the newly arrived immigrants. There were one or two flogged after Brisbane was proclaimed a free port with a few exceptions (one of these being Mr Eldrige, chemist) .

There was continuation of Government Buildings which were being used as Police Barracks, Watch House and cells. The last of these is the Post Office, Mr W A Brown, postmaster. The allotment forming the corner of Queen and George Streets, is vacant enclosed by a rough fence where now stands Mr Troutous chemists shop. The opposite corner was a brick building occupied by Mr Pickering, wine and spirit merchant, now the Bank of New South Wales.

After crossing George Street on the left stands a large stone edifice known as the Commissariat Store then occupied by a detachment of soldiers. The ground was enclosed by a high close paling fence, the site of the present Treasury Buildings. The soldiers were removed just previous to the outbreak of the Crimean War.

Immediately opposite was the little Episcopalian Church built of brick, free from all architectural designs further than a small turret where swings a solitary bell. It would seat about 200 people . The Rev Glennie was clergyman.

There is one more interesting spot before we leave Queen Street. On the bank of the river is a small enclosure where some tombstones may be seen in various stages of decay.

From the inscriptions they were evidently officers attached to the different regiments located here during the penal times. Every vestige of these has long since been swept away. It must not be forgotten there were some advantages in walking Queen Street in the forties that we do not now enjoy.

There were no inconvenience through being jostled or crushed by the passing crowd or slipping on the glassy pavement or being knocked down whilst crossing by a passing bus or cab. Brisbane was singularly free from these accompanying dangers of civilisation.

There is one rather peculiar feature of both professional and businessmen. They appear to be associated in pairs, namely two doctors, Messrs Ballow and Karman, two chemists, Messrs Poole and Eldridge, two lawyers, Messrs Little and Ocock, two bakers, Messers Savoy and Cairncross, two blacksmiths, Messrs McLean and Davis or (Durumboi) (Bio), two butchers, Messers Edmonston and Newbould.

This will apply to North Brisbane only as there were others on the south side. Writing from memory after so many years have elapsed there will naturally be many omissions and inaccuracies. However, I doubt not there are many still living who will remember some of the old familiar names who departing left their footprints in the sands of time.

Starting from George Street west of Queen Street there were not many buildings. On the left was Davis Blacksmiths shop (there is an interesting history of this man who lived for some fourteen years with the Aboriginals and was by them named Darumboi).

Near his shop stood the Hospital now the site of the Supreme Court. Opposite where the Imperial Hotel now stands was a neat Villa , the residence of Robert Little Esq. A few other cottages terminated the buildings in George Street.

On the opposite corner the present site of the New Crown Hotel then stood the Caledonian Hotel kept by Thomas Clune. All around from this on every side was open Commanage. The camping ground of bullock teams, said teams would frequently monopolise Queen Street during the process of receiving loading for Up Country. Many of the bullocks would be lying down in their yokes chewing the cud of contentment perfectly indifferent to the requirements of traffic regulations.

At the back of Rankin and Morrow's Store, George Street, was large waterhole, a continuation of a chain of these running from the present Market reserve. The town was supplied with water for domestic purposes from this. There was no enclosure of any kind or any convenience of raising water. The waterman simply backed their drays into the water and with rope and bucket filled their casks usually three for a load and sold at 9d. per cask.

What is lost in transparent purity was compensated by being both food and water, more especially after thunder storms. This was a favourite resort for dogs to get a luxurious bath. There were no galvanised tanks in those days and the great objection to catching water from the roofs was the houses were all shingled and discoloured the water.

What is now the Observatory was then a dismantled Grain Mill. Here the convicts formerly ground their maize and wheat for daily food. Further on in the vicinity of Warwick and Sapsford stood the Government pound in charge of Mr Hughes. Crossing Queen Street on the bank of the river near D L Brown & Co Warehouse was the residence of Wm Thornton Esq. of H M Customs.

The whole of the present Botanic Gardens was grazing ground in common for all who owned a horse or cow. Goats were plentiful in those days. No restrictions or registrations were then enforced. There were a few stunted Lime trees, Guavas etc. that the cattle had not completely destroyed.

A few clumps of Cactus or Prickly Pear and one of Bamboo. The latter was famed as being the secreting place of an enormous Boa Constrictor. This was gratuitously retailed to all new comers by the Blacks. I never saw the snake or met with any one that had.

In Elizabeth Street about the side of Mr McLeans present business establishment stood and old building at one time a Government Barn. This was used by the Roman Catholic's for holding religious services previous to their building the little stone church alongside the present Cathedral. Father Stanley was then Parish Priest. must not forget Frogs Hollow which will ever remain fresh in the memories of all residents. Its location is rather difficult.

At the intersection of Albert and Elizabeth Streets. North was a large shallow swamp about one acre in area. After a thunder storm it would be a miniature lake. It was the receptacle of all the town refuse.

Dead cats, fowls and dogs would lie putrefying in the sun. (No Sanitary Inspector walking about). It was tenanted by myriads of bull frogs. Their nightly concerts (more especially after a fall of rain) is beyond description and must be heard to be appreciated.

In George Street the late Captain Coley's old residence is yet standing near Gardner Bros Cordial Factory also Mr Kannans which has since been considerably renovated. There was no Bellevue Hotel or Club House or Parliamentary Buildings or Government House or improvements of any kind.

Eastwards of this the South Brisbane Ferry was at the back of the Museum. Close alongside was a wharf and store known as Tom Dowses Wharf; he was the first Town Clerk after Brisbane being proclaimed a municipality. South Brisbane held an important position in the early days. The Hunter River steamers moored here and discharged and received their cargoes.

The bulk of the wool from up country was delivered here into the Receiving Stores of the Company. Many of the station teams delivered their loading in Ipswich. It was conveyed form thence to Brisbane chiefly by punts. The principal stores were the late I & G Harris, A I & H Hockings and Captain Daniel Peterson. John McCabe and Grenier conducted the leading hotels. Mr W Kent ran the drug store.