Paul Budde's History Archives

The creeks

Wheat Creek

In 1825 Henry Miller explored the site what would first would become the Moreton Bay Penal Settlement and later Brisbane Town. He also located fresh water at the lagoons in the area now occupied by the Rome Street rail yards. The area here was rather flat and flanked by some low laying hills and the escarpment. Creeks from these hills (both from Spring Hill and Petrie Tce) came down to swampy area where they combined in a range of ponds and from here the creek went via what is now the CBD to the river.

The swampy area was changed into a reservoir, which supplied water for the settlement. Water pipes made from iron bark logs with a diameter of approx 15 cm were used to distribute water to the Convict and Soldiers Barracks, and the officers houses.


Water supply map 1839

Wheat Creek  top blue cross Roma Street source and reservoir,  bottom cross  outlet at Alice Street. Map Queensland State Archives.

The creek became known as Wheat Creek. The name of the creek indicates that the flats next to it was used for agriculture (maize – the humid climate in Brisbane was not suited for wheat). The creek joined the Brisbane River where currently the River Quarter is situated.  The name Creek Street in the City reminds us of this creek.

Creek Street 1893 flood

Creek Street flooded in 1893


During the 1860s and 1879 the creek was piped in and slowly the CBD area became more liveable.


Wheat Creek Culvert = Adelaide Street - 1861

Culvert under Adelaide Street built in 1861. This short section was preserved as a feature in the King George Square busway station.

At the spot where now the City Hall stands was another swampy area. It remained council land but was leased to Cobb & Co who operated a livery from here. People who travelled into Brisbane could ‘park’ their horse here. The swampy are became known as the horse pond. In the 1930s City Hall.

Drain from the horse stables

Drain from the horse stables. In a courtyard of City Hall.

Cost were estimated at A£300,000, however in the end it costed just under A£1 million. However the horse pond would haunt the building. Serious problems were identified with the building, including subsidence, concrete cancer, a lack of reinforcing in the concrete and old wiring. An urgent restoration was launched in 2010,  it was completed three years later at the costs of A$210 million.

Cracks in the mosaic floor City Hall

Cracks as a result of the subsidence still visible in the mosaic floor City Hall

One of the springs flows under the Parkland Boulevard Apartments and is visible through a grid in the lower basement. They have built a pipe from here to North Quay, where some of these watercourses are now drained into the river. The rest follows the creek through the CBD  (now in pipes) to the original outlet on other side of the river.

Drains for springs

Drains from Wheat Creek to River under Makerston Street


The old Wheat Creek also sometimes referred to as Big Creek runs from Upper Roma Street to the River. It is still traceable thanks to gutter markers. The first marker I could find was in Upper Roma Street (near the backpackers places) from here: Mc Cormack Place (close to the old burial ground), Roma Street (at the top only on the northern side), at the station on both sides of the road, George Street – than under the Supreme Court back into Roma Street, into Albert Street, here it goes under King George Sq, than a sharp turn to the left into Adelaide Street and a similar turn to the right into Creek Street (last two markers that I could find here), from here I know it goes under Riverside Centre and flows into the River.

Wheat Creek - Gutter Markers

Wheat Creek – Gutter Markers


Close to where the creek flowed into the river was Brisbane’s first bridge. Tom Petrie indicated that it would roughly be opposite the warehouse of Campbell & Son (since demolished at that stage occupying 12-20 Creek Street) which was at the end of the garden of the Petrie’s. The bridge was simply three long logs spanning the creek. However, it must have been rather substantial as it crossed a large flat bank as well. This spot provided a good hiding place where the crow-minder of the corn fields could cook his own maizemeal. The Petrie brothers chipped in some tea, flour and sugar. The crow-minder at that time called Andy made doughboys which they all enjoyed.

In 1849 the bridge was also the site of a tragic accident, the twenty-two year old Walter Petrie, Andrew Petrie 2nd son,  slipped on the beams of the bridge, hit his head became unconsciously and drowned in the creek. Tragically in 1857 another Walter Petrie, this time the 22 months old son of John Petrie, Andrews oldest son, drowned in the creek a bit further up stream near Queen Street.

Approx site of bridge over Wheat Creek

Approx site of bridge over Wheat Creek

The mouth of the creek was a rather broad ‘delta’ with mangroves. Here the convicts had built a construction to catch crabs and fish. Beams on both side in the mud provided the access in the middle a block and tackle construction with in the river a large basket. They used the ebb and flow of the tide to catch the fish. In order to not frighten the fish they only used the trap two or three times a week. In Tom’s time the basket maker was Bribie. He was on a short sentence and had access to a boat to collect cane for his baskets. Tom mentioned that Bribie Island had been named after him.

Wheat Creek flowing into the river

Wheat creek is still flowing beneath the streets. It was possible to see where it entered the river up until around the 1980s

A second bridge was built in 1828 over the creek, at the back of the Convict Barracks, roughly where Albert Street and Adelaide intersect (behind the former North Brisbane Hotel). The road from here led to the mill on top of the hill of what is now Wickham Terrace.

Little Creek

Another low laying area known as Frog’s Hollow  bordered what is now the City Botanical Garden, this was another – the main – farming area of the settlement, known as the Government’s Garden. There was also running a creek through this area (Little Creek) and it entered the river at the end of what is now Alice Street. There was also a small plank bridge here just before the creek went into the river.

The convict buildings were all established on the ridges. When the free settlement opened up people started to fill in other areas in the settlement the creeks and the various hollows and ponds became flood hazards.

Little Creek outlet Brisbane River

Little Creek outlet Brisbane River


Boundary Creek

The city boundary was revised in 1856, expanding it from Petrie Bight (Eagle Terrace) out to Boundary Street (now Boomerang Street) in Milton. Boundary Creek marked the extension of the city’s new boundary. There was a bridge on Moggill Road/River Road/Coronation Drive where the creek flowed into the river, known as Bennett’s Creek and this was an ongoing problem for the new settlers here as it was in need of ongoing repairs, especially after heavy rain when parts kept be washing away. The bridge got that unofficial name after E.J. Bennett who had settled into the locality in the 1860s. He was the Chief Draftsman of the Surveyor General’s Department. Before that it was known as Milton Bridge and Boundary Bridge.


There were serval more creeks in or close to the centre of town: West Creek in Milton and Norman Creek in southern Brisbane.

The Convict compound

The building of Brisbane TOC

Convict History of Brisbane TOC