Industry, Retail and Commerce

Potten's General Store and Post Office in Sunnybank, Brisbane, 1937. (John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. 211476)

The first land auction in South Brisbane was in 1843, and in 1855 building lots opened at One Mile Swamp, near Vulture Street. The swamp became a water reserve, and served as a rest stop for livestock. The water reserve was drained in 1889 by which time a major township had been established at Clarence Corner, and Stanley Street led through the early five-way Woolloongabba intersection.

In fact because the earliest docks on the South bank were much more serviceable to river traffic than the north bank with its steep cliffs, the emerging South Brisbane Township became a major commercial hub. Although the port of Cleveland was a competitor, with backing of the Ipswich establishment, produce from the rural properties across the South Brisbane district were directed towards the Stanley Street docks. The South Brisbane Dry Dock opened in 1881. This was followed in a few years (1884) by the opening of the South Brisbane coal wharf.

In 1857 the government surveyor, George Pratten, completed a survey of farm land in the Parish of Yeerongpilly. There was no railway line through the district until the early 1880s, and side roads coming off the main routes between villages were no more than access tracks along property boundaries. The most productive farm near the Boggo ridge was Fairfield farm belonging to the Grimes family. Producing sugar and arrowroot, it extended from its access road (Tamar Street from the top of the ridge at Annerley Road) and followed down to the river into the Yeronga area.

Thomas Blacket Stephens purchased one of two farms in the first land sales in the Parish of Yeerongpilly. It was 94 acres on the bank of the upper Norman Creek; that part of the creek was commonly known as “Ekibin Creek”. The western boundary of the land became Ekibin Road and the southern boundary became Gilmore Street (West) and a line to Esher Street (East). Its eastern boundary was the north-south track that crossed the creek, and part of this access roadway was what eventually became Toohey Road. The property housed a number of early rural industries. In 1859 Stephens established a large wool scour, and in 1862 established a fellmongery and a tannery that employed 200 workmen. The tannery is said to have existed on the bend in Sunshine Avenue at the right from Essie Street. Stephens’ landholdings became extensive in the district, and took up what is currently the Annerley Junction area east of Ipswich Road, between what is now Dudley Street and Gowrie Street, as well as Stephens Mountain (Greenslopes Hospital area on the north bank of “Ekibin Creek”).

From 1859 Joseph Thompson developed a career as a rural entrepreneur. Thompson’s property was 200 acres. It started in the north to the present day O’Keefe Street up to Cockerill’s paddock on the rise and followed Norman Creek. Little is known about Thompson. It is said that he cleared timber near Grimes’ farm around what is now Dutton Park. Thompson and a partner shipped to Melbourne 40,000 pine shingles from the Boggo Road scrub on the boundary of Fairfield. The key role that Joseph Thompson had is that he created, in the mid-1880s, the Thompson Estate when he sub-divided his paddocks with newly formed Carl, Fern, Oxford, Regent, Myrtle, and Junction streets.

William Henry Baynes was one of the first to establish a butchering business in the South Brisbane district, located on what was commonly referred to as Baynes’ Paddock, on the Norman Creek. With his brothers, he ran Graziers’ Butchering Company and also exported canned and salt meat beyond the British colonies (the Graziers’ Meat Export Company). Sons of William Baynes, Harry, George and Ernest, took over the commercial enterprises. The new partnership expanded with meat preserving in leased premises at Queensport, nearly thirty suburban butcher shops, a plant at Belmont for fellmongering, wool-scouring and soap-making, and a factory at South Brisbane to supply cooperage, saddlery and vehicles.

Farming rapidly developed over the Brisbane Southside from the 1850s. Food produce manufacturing were partial, mostly experimental, and came much later. A floating sugar mill and distillery, the ‘Walrus’, commenced crushing sugar and rum production on Oxley Creek in 1896.

Non-primary industrial manufacturing got going on the Brisbane Southside when Dixon’s boot factory began production at South Brisbane in 1872. The following year the Brisbane Bootmakers Union was formed. The Tristrams’ soft drink factory began in 1875 but the well-known Tristrams’ Drink Factory in West End did not open until 1928.

Heavy industries came to the fore in 1880 when the Brisbane Municipal Council placed the whole of the Kangaroo Point cliffs reserve under their control for quarrying.