The European History of Ipswich

The Convict Era (1827- 1842)

The European history of Ipswich began with the exploration of the Bremer River in 1826 by Captain Patrick Logan, the commandant of the convict settlement at Brisbane. He discovered hills of limestone along the banks of the Bremer, and in the following year, sent an overseer and five convicts to quarry limestone and to erect a lime-burning kiln. This settlement was known as Limestone. Thus Ipswich owed its foundation to the presence of mineable limestone close to the Bremer River, down which quicklime could be readily transported.

The convict period, when very few settlers were admitted, began in 1827 and lasted for fifteen years. The place was initially little more than a convict camp for supplying lime and sheep for Brisbane needs.

Free Settlement

In 1842, following the opening up of the region to free settlement, the site for a town was surveyed at Limestone Station. The following year the new town was renamed Ipswich. Being at the intersection of routes to the Darling Downs and upper Brisbane Valley gave Ipswich a strategic significance. For a time townspeople and graziers alike hoped that it would become the capital port on the river. However after Queensland's separation from New South Wales, Brisbane leapt ahead and became the new state's capital city.

While the colony of Queensland was struggling for independence, so too was the fledgling settlement of Ipswich, which gained municipal status in 1860. But for the shortage of cotton during the American Civil War, the town might have been grievously retarded, due to droughts, floods and then high unemployment and depression in the later 1860's.

The Growth Years

Because of the demand for local produce and manufactures, Ipswich was commercially buoyant by the end of the 1870's and enjoyed prosperity during the boom of the 1880's. As coal was required for the increasing number of steam engines employed in boats, trains, mills and works, there was a remarkable growth of mining to the north and east of the town from the mid 1870's onwards. Miners swelled the population of the Ipswich area.

By this time, however, America had regained its economic impetus, so that local farmers turned increasingly to dairy farming. Floods, droughts and severe economic depression also affected the Ipswich area by 1893. Nevertheless Ipswich was partially insulated by its relatively diversified economy.

Turn of the Century

By 1901, when the Australian colonies became a federation of states, the district headed into another period of prosperity including industrial, business and residential growth. The mining impetus was renewed, railways and tramways were laid to tap the coalfields, engineering works opened and meat preservation plants developed.

The inter-war years were varied in fortune for Ipswich. Following the disruption of the First World War in 1914-18, the region, like the nation at large, was riding on a wave of euphoria.

Then one of the worst droughts ever hit the area in 1930, accompanied by the Great Depression, and followed by the Second World War in 1939-45. Nevertheless industry remained significant and the area gained a military airbase at Amberley as well as air raid shelters and other installations.

Industrial Development

During the post-war period of immigration and reconstruction, Ipswich got back onto its feet. Progress continued with the development of new collieries and expansion in meat and butter processing, the production of timber products and the introduction of chemical and tobacco manufacture in general, accompanied by a marked growth of industry at Redbank. In 1949 the Moreton field was still the largest producer of coal in Queensland, with 67 small mines yielding 47 percent of the State's output.

By 1960 the railway workshops at North Ipswich employed 2500 people while coalmining engaged 3000 and the woollen mills another 1000. Other major works included sawmills, foundries, brickworks, potteries, printeries, engineering and boilermaking works, plywood and bondwood factories and abattoirs. The total population was 43,200.

Agriculture was still important, especially cotton, closely followed by barley, sorghum and wheat. Other crops included maize, lucerne, potatoes, soybeans and onions. None of these crops except barley, which was used locally in the production of malt, were processed in the area. Though little timber remained in the vicinity, other reserves were being used for production purposes. The major market for the joinery, cabinet-making and woollen textile industries was in New South Wales and Victoria, while the engineering and steel fabricating industries supplied the needs of both the southern states and Queensland.

Since then, however, changes in the Queensland economy have seriously eroded the traditional mining, industrial and agricultural base, so that Ipswich is now developing in new directions.

Milestones in Ipswich History

1827 - Captain Logan established a convict camp at Limestone Station to supply quicklime and sheep for the convict settlement at Brisbane.

1842 - The region was opened up to free settlement and the site of a town was surveyed at Limestone.

1843 - The name of the settlement was changed to Ipswich.

1860 - Ipswich was proclaimed a municipality.

1863 - Queensland's first secondary school, Ipswich Grammar School, was established.

1865 - Queensland's first railway line was completed between Ipswich and Grandchester.

1904 - Ipswich was declared a city.

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