The small settlement intended only as a convict prison has grown to an enormous size. The population has swelled and now in the 2014’s the central Queen Street area of Brisbane has pushed its perimeters up, up into the sky. A few grand old buildings have survived: they still dot the CBD streets, their historical value at last recognized and preserved.
Modern Brisbane has caught up with southern sisters, Sydney and Melbourne: South Brisbane has become the museum, art gallery and performing arts hub of the river’s south bank. Queen Street no longer a traffic thoroughfare linking north to south is now a glittering pedestrian mall thronged day and night with a passing parade of shoppers and office workers.
Gone from sight and mind are the everyday remnants of times past, the quaint corner pubs, the butchers with their sides of beef and lamb hanging in window fronts, the horse and cart trotting by on muddy streets, the sweeping gowns, the days of parasols and moustachioed gentlemen.
Go back through this four part series, view again the transformation of a small insignificant collection of convict gaols and flimsy huts into this busy pulsing metropolis and become enraptured with these people from our past… let your mind wander back in time and you will see and hear them as surely as if you were there, treading in your ancestors footsteps.
BOTH QUEEN STREET AND THE RIVER rushing by were old Brisbane’s major thoroughfares. The river though, and the eternal problem of flood proofing the Victoria Bridge seemed always to be a constant thorn in the best laid plans of a succession of city fathers.
Eventually the river will be spanned by no less than 12 bridges, both pedestrian, traffic and rail but all that will take place in a far distant future.
VICTORIA BRIDGE in all its previous and present persona tells best the story of Queen Streets evolution. After all where street meets river man must provide a way across. The photos show the doggedness of early developers, the triumph over flood.
First there was the temporary bridge joining the town centre to South Brisbane. Worm rot and flood brought that one down and tenders were called to erect a more substantial version. I guess authorities rather hoped they had the problem solved with this single lane iron bridge shown below.
But they hadn’t bargained for the Great Flood of 1893 which ultimately left Brisbane with only half a bridge, and South Brisbane minus their piped water supply.
For the next four years passengers and goods will be carried back and forth by barge and ferry until 1897 when the new Victoria Bridge, a grand steel version with two carriage ways and two footpaths is finally completed.
This graceful arched bridge will outlast the horse and buggy, usher in the advent of modern motorised transport, see the start and finish of WW2 and continue in service until 1969 when it will be honourably retired and replaced with the sleek modern version in use today.
It’s not until you view Victoria Bridge in all its previous guises that you realise its ongoing role in the history of Queen Street. While The City itself was undergoing it’s metamorphose from village to metropolis, Brisbane’s Victoria Bridge was doggedly keeping pace, constantly adapting and changing its width and strength to accommodate the gradual switch from horse and buggy to motor vehicle and tram.
Some of you may not remember Brisbane’s trams; your mothers, fathers and grandparents most certainly will. Their banishing from Brisbane’s streets go hand in hand with the demise of Cloudland and the historic Bellevue Hotel.
LAYING THE GHOSTS TO REST
Victoria Bridge in all its various persona, down through the years has carried and been privy to the dreams and aspirations of a succession of Brisbane’s inhabitants. We’ve walked across the river pausing to watch the ebb and tidal flow below, we’ve watched its demise from the river bank, we’ve ridden across in cars and buses, we’ve sat perched in the back of modest drays and trotted along smartly on high stepping horses: Street and bridge, trusted holders of secrets and whispers, the musings of ghosts from our past.
But Brisbane’s old and venerable Victoria Bridge, solid and long lasting as it was, when finally pulled down and relegated to land fill, did leave behind a ghostly reminder of those earlier days.
A portion of the stately carved stone approach was left standing as a glorious memorial commemorating the untimely death of an 11 year old boy of Greek heritage, Hector Vasyli; killed in a motor accident on the bridge in 1918 while welcoming home soldiers returning from the war.