History of the area I live (Roma Street Parklands)


The area where I live has an enormous history that is worth telling. For thousands of years the area was a favorite meeting point for that Aboriginal tribes in the area, the Turrbal people. They had access to fresh water, and they used the land all the way to the river, where they had access to plenty of fish.

The founder of Brisbane Henry Miller noticed the creek and the ponds and saw its potential for the building of the convict colony. Once the population grew, people started to build houses along George Street, Roma Street and Wickham Terrace.

The names Roma Street Parkland, Roma Street, Countess Street, Roma Street Station all refer to Contessa Diamantina di Roma the wife of the first Governor of Queensland George Bowen.

When the railway arrived, the area was chosen for the main station of the city for the line to Ipswich. The railway in these early days was built for the transport of goods. Passenger trains did not start to arrive until early in the 20th century. The railway totally changed the nature of the area, and it became an industrial area. When Queensland Rail decided to move its railway yard to Bowen, Premier Bjelke Petersen wanted to use the site for a casino. Fortunately, he lost the elections and thanks to the next premier we now have this beautiful Roma Street parkland.

So, the boundaries of the area that I will discuss are basically Wickham Terrace in the north, the river in the south, Countess Street and the Victoria Barracks towards the west and the CBD proper to the east.

I have written the history of the Convict Settlement here. Close to where we live there is also the Windmill from 1828.


The Railway

There was another interesting development in relation to our area.  In 1864 at Ipswich Contessa Diamantina turned the first sod for Queensland’s first railway-line between Ipswich and Bigge’s Camp (later Grandchester) using with a silver spade and a cedar wheelbarrow. This line was completed in 1872. It was extended to Oxley West (Sherwood) in 1874 and to Brisbane in 1876 where it ended at Roma Street.

The main purpose of the railway was for the transport of goods (wool, wheat, coal, minerals, fresh produce, dairy products, and other farm products). However, lack of funds saw the rail line ending at the outskirts of the town. This was a far from ideal spot as it was away from the city and not next to the river.

Before the railway arrived the major transport line between Brisbane and Ipswich was the Brisbane River. As a region this was the most developed part of the fledging colony. As a matter of fact, Ipswich was considered to become the capital of the new state and it only just missed out to Brisbane.

The Roma Railway station (known as Brisbane Terminal) was completed in 1875, the goods shed a year later, and the engine shed for the steam locomotives as well as the carriage sheds followed in 1877. Originally built as single track, the section was duplicated from 1885–87, indicating how quickly the traffic volume grew on the line. The Albert Bridge was built to accommodate two tracks in 1876, though only one was laid at the time. While there was some passenger travel in the early years, passengers transport only started to become more prominent in the 1930s and 1940s.

The extension to what is now Central Station was completed in 1887 and the station on Ann Street was opened in 1901. At that time, it became the major passenger’s station, and the Brisbane Terminal name was changed to Roma Street Station.

The railways kept growing and a large section was added to the yards in 1911. For that purpose, a large section of what was Albert Park had to be excavated and the rock wall in Roma Street Parkland shows the extend of the yards. The excavation delayed the project and was not finished until 1920. This now allowed for the building of five large new sheds, the last one completed in 1933.

The ongoing growth of the railway system resulted in the site again be not big enough. By the mid-1960s the plan was to move the yards to the outskirts of the city. However, they decided to build extra lines on an ever-congested area, which became the squealing bends leading to that marshalling yards at Normanby. By 1881 they had to bite the bullet and the State Railway Department after again considering a Roma Street upgrade finally decided to move the yards to Acacia Ridge.  The goods yard was finally closed in 1991. Most of the sheds were demolished but a small part was used for passengers’ platforms.

Historical overview. Roma Street Parkland precinct Brochure by Thom Blake, 2002.

 Countess Street Powerhouse

The Brisbane tramway network served the city of Brisbane, Australia, between 1885 and 1969. It ran on standard gauge track. The first electric tramway ran along Stanley Street, in South Brisbane on 16 June 1897.Horse-drawn carriages were still being used in 1899.

Workshops and administration for the electric tram system opened in 1897 and were initially located in cramped quarters at Countess Street, at the western side of the Roma Street railway yards (now the site of the Roma Street Parkland), but in 1927 were relocated to Milton. This happened after Brisbane’s tramway system came under the control of the newly merged Brisbane City Council in 1925.

The electric system was originally energised to 500 volts, and subsequently increased to 600 volts. Power for the electric trams was originally drawn from a power station operated by the tramway company adjacent to its Countess Street depot and workshops. As the tramway company increased both the number of trams and the length of routes, the power supply rapidly became inadequate. Power stations were added in Fortitude Valley and Wooloongabba. A totally new power station was build in  New Farm in 1928, now used as a theater complex.

Roma Street Markets

As we can see on early maps in what is now the railways precinct, there was also a sale yard, it was established but is failed to become a financial success. In 1881 the municipal market hall in Market Street – established in 1867 – had become too small and the site of the cattle yard was consequently used for the new market.  There are still several building around the Roma, Turbot and George Street that are reminders of the once busy Roma Street Markets.  In 1964 these markets moved again this time to Rocklea where they still operate.


Brisbane Boys Grammar School

By far the most pleasing building in the area was the Brisbane Boys Grammar School, opened in 1869. However, when the railway arrived, the site proofed to be no longer suitable like the situation of the orphanage. So just over a decade later they moved to a new school build only a few hundred meters further at its current site on the corner of Countess Street and Gregory Terrace. The old building survived as an office building for the railways but was finally demolished in the early 1900s when track expansion was needed for the ever-increasing railway yard. The Brisbane Girls Grammar School was opened in 1884 next the boys school.

1Brisbane Boys Grammar School

On 1879, Portion 322 of the Kelvin Grove development was granted by the colonial government to the Brisbane Grammar School as an endowment. The school retained the endowment until 1911, leasing grazing rights to the holding as a means of raising funds for the school. No buildings were thought to have been constructed on the site throughout this period.

In May 1911, the Commonwealth Government acquired the endowment, and renamed the site the Kelvin Grove Defense Reserve.  Soon they military erected here the Gona Barracks, for the purpose of military training for specialist units of compulsory militia forces. The site continued to develop and became a Citizens Military Force training complex in the 1950s, and later an Army Reserve recruitment centre. Gona is a beach in PNG where the Australians landed and started the Kokoda campaign.


Cricket Ground

The first cricket match played at the Green Hills Sports Ground (located where our buildings 6 and 7 now are) commenced on 6 May 1860 between Married and Single Members of the Moreton Bay Cricket Club.  A report stated that “the Benedicts cut rather a queer figure, averaging per man only a fraction of a run. Their score amounted to 10. Seven of their opponents were dismissed for 61 runs, Messrs. Birley and Coles scoring 22 and 18 respectively.”

In December 1861, it was resolved to invite a team from England to play here, but “the desired visit of the Englishman did not eventuate.”

Another Married vs Single match took place in February 1862. The report of this match concluded “the bowling, batting and fielding throughout the game plainly showed the amount of practice that is needed before we can hope to make up a team of cricketers that would make even a decent show in comparisons with the ‘crack elevens of the other colonies.”* The dinner after the match was at least more successful: “the company broke up at a quarter to twelve after having spent a most pleasant evening, the harmony of which was not marred by any unpleasant occurrence.”

A “grand match” between 22 players from Queensland and 11 from New South Wales commenced on a wet, wintry, Green Hills day on 3 June, 1864. The Brisbane Courier reported:
“Portions of the field there were 2 or 3 inches of water; but seeing very few hits were made very far away from the wicket, no very inconsiderable inconvenience was caused thereby”  “The players and their friends partook of an excellent lunch provided by Messrs. Stewart and Shaw, towards the conclusion of which, His Excellency the Governor and Lady Bowen arrived.  The whole of the cricketers turned out and greeted the vice-regal party with three hearty cheers“those individuals who preferred outside the fence and a bad view of the ground to the payment of one shilling for entrance, their conduct savours somewhat of meanness.“With regards to the play, we can only say it was admirable on both sides; and although some astonishment was created at the New South Welshmen being all out for 32 runs, when it is remembered that the ground is so very much inferior to that of a well-grassed Domain, that the twenty-two, with one or two exceptions, fielded with perfection; and that the bowling was anything but indifferent, we certainly cannot see that there is much cause for surprise

The final scores were:

  • New South Wales fist innings: 32; (Foden 6 wickets, Shaw 4 wickets)
  • Queensland first innings: 45 (Lawrence 14 wickets, Thompson 7 wickets)
  • New South Wales second innings: 145 (Clarke 42 runs, Deedes 3 wickets)
  • Queensland second innings: 49 (Bolger 26 runs, Moore 11 wickets)

Alas, this was to be the first and last inter-colonial game to be played at Green Hills.


Hutcheon, E.H. A History of Queensland Cricket, 1934.

*Queensland won the Sheffield Shield for the first time in 1995.

The Cricketers’s Arms, Cricket Street, 1880s. (from Steve Woolcock)