In those old days it was a town with some prestige, inhabited by capable clever men, "fine old English gentlemen," with the rare courtesies and manners of that race.[1]

Ipswich landing place November 24, 1851 (sketch by Conrad Martens)

The dynamic between the first towns in the free settlement of the Moreton Bay district, Brisbane and Ipswich, was prickly, to say the least.

In 1891, the “travelling reporter” for the Queenslander, an illustrated weekly, began a series of articles about Ipswich and its history, entitled “The Land of Coal and Corn”.  The relationship between the two settlements is frequently mentioned.

The Queenslander 17 October 1891

The explorer Cunningham had been the first to notice the “Limestone Hills”.

Writing to Governor Darling on the 16th December, 1828, Allan Cunningham, the explorer, made use of the following words:--

"It is therefore highly probable that upon the site of these limestone hills a town will one day be raised."

Some two months before the penning of the despatch which contained this sentence Cunningham had rested for awhile on the calcareous hummocks called the Limestone Hills, on the right bank of the Bremer River, and almost on the very spot where the Ipswich Girls' Grammar School now stands.[2]

Not long after the establishment of the convict settlement in Brisbane, an outstation was set up at the Limestone Hills to produce lime to be used in the mortar that held together the stones in the buildings constructed with convict labour.

The Commissariat Stores building in Brisbane was built using this lime and still stands today.

Cunningham's Knoll and Hummock, postcard, Ipswich, 1912-1914 (Picture Ipswich)

At the end of the convict era, the outstation at the Limestone Hills became the township of Limestone. It did not retain its original name for too long because the Governor of the Colony of New South Wales was on his way.

Governor George Gipps (State Library of NSW)

In 1843 Governor Gipps visited Moreton Bay, and in company with Surveyor Warner, Surveyor Wade, Andrew Petrie, George Thorn, and others proceeded to Limestone in an open boat examining and surveying the river Bremer.

The Governor was struck with the place; a new township was speedily laid out, and duly and officially christened as Ipswich[3].

The first section of the town was at once marked out, including East-street and Bell-street, the former being the first street laid out and named in Ipswich. [4]

The change of name did not sit well with many of the original settlers.

It is questionable if Governor Gipps did well in changing the name of the place. Limestone is not an unmusical name, and it was at least suggestive of the formation of the surrounding country, while Ipswich has neither grace nor association nor anything else to recommend it. 

It may be truly said that the evil which men do lives after them.[5]

Ipswich was in a strategic position at the head of navigation of the Brisbane and Bremer Rivers, and with the rapid growth of the pastoral industry to the west became a busy river port.

The town also became the meeting place for the new wool barons and a rest and recreation centre for the up-country workers spending their pay cheques.

Brisbane Street, looking towards Limestone Hill, Ipswich, 1887 (Picture Ipswich)

While boom-town Ipswich became the squatter’s capital, Brisbane was considered down-market and still bearing the odour of the convict years.

It was the meeting place of all the sheep kings in the colony, and the old Club-house was the scene of many a midnight revel; it was the seat of learning, of politics, science, art, literature, and sport - the modern Athens.

Ipswich was then spoken of as the headquarters of the elite of Queensland and Brisbane a deserted outlying hamlet fit only to give a bandicoot the blues!

 .  .  .

In those old days it was a town with some prestige, inhabited by capable clever men, "fine old English gentlemen," with the rare courtesies and manners of that race.

And how hard they fought to make Ipswich the capital of Queensland! [6]

When Queensland became a separate colony in 1859, Brisbane was named as the capital. This resulted in an animosity between the citizens of Brisbane and Ipswich that lasted well into the 20th century.

pswich Punch cartoon showing a review of the Ipswich Volunteers in 1866 (John Oxley Library, SLQ)

In 1866 some of the clever young men in Ipswich created the satirical magazine, “Ipswich Punch”. The publication was hand-written and illustrated with jokes, lampoons, and cartoons.

One very effective weapon which they used was the Ipswich Punch, published monthly at the School of Arts by members of the "Punch Club."

It was Brisbane, however, which was the butt of all jokes and a popular object for ridicule. 

Contempt was poured upon the metropolis in every way. We find a schoolmaster eliciting from an Ipswich pupil the following replies to his questions:-

"Where is Brisbane, and for what is it noted?

The situation of Brisbane has never been dearly ascertained owing to the shifting of the mud, and it is noted for sheep's heads, lollies, corner allotments, insolvents, stagnant sewers, and the ancient ruins of a bridge.

Where is the great city of Ipswich, and for what is it famed?

It is situated on the banks of a noble river 16ft. 5½in. broad, and deep in proportion.

It is a convenient distance from Woogaroo[7], where the inhabitants take it in turn to reside free of charge.

It is noted for loafers, light weights, lawyers, sharp practice, and tight lacing."[8]

But perhaps with the hindsight of history, it is a matter of, as the French say, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.[9]

[1] The Queenslander Saturday 14 November 1891
[2] The Queenslander Saturday 17 October 1891
[3] Named after Ipswich in Suffolk, England, one of the oldest towns in Britain. Interestingly the town's            medieval name was 'Gippeswic', and hence the connection with Governor Gipps.
[4] The Queenslander Saturday 17 October 1891
[5] The Queenslander Saturday 17 October 1891
[6] The Queenslander Saturday 14 November 1891
[7] Now Goodna, the site of what was then called the Lunatic Asylum.
[8] The Queenslander Saturday 14 November 1891
[9] the more things change, the more they stay the same (French proverb)

© K. C. Sbeghen, 2013.


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