Skip to main content
state library of queensland
John Oxley Library

The Great Fire of Brisbane, 1864

By JOL Admin | 11 September 2008

Did you know?

On 1 December 1864 a huge fire destroyed all of the buildings in the block bordering Albert, Queen, George and Elizabeth Streets, Brisbane.  Fifty houses and a number of businesses, including two banks, three hotels and four drapery establishments, were completely destroyed in the space of two and a half hours. 

Great fire in Queen Street, Brisbane 1864

Great fire in Queen Street, Brisbane 1864, Negative number: 125754, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. 

All attempts at fighting the fire were impeded by the fact that Brisbane had virtually no water supply at this time.  In addition most of the buildings were constructed of timber, causing the fire to spread too rapidly to be contained.

Considering the extent of the fire, casualties were very few and there was no loss of life.  Only four people were taken to hospital, mostly suffering from bruises.

Following the conflagration the area was redeveloped, with more substantial buildings constructed of brick and stone, rather than timber.

A detailed description of the fire appeared in the Brisbane Courier, 2/12/1864.  A brief extract follows.

"Last evening will be long remembered in the annals of Queensland as the date on which occurred one of the most disastrous and crushing conflagrations that ever brought ruin and desolation on a town.  Indeed, it would be almost impossible to convey with the pen anything like an adequate idea of the exciting and appalling scene, which certainly beggared description.  At all events, the whole of the business premises and private residences which occupied what may fairly be considered the most valuable site in Brisbane, were, in a couple of hours, reduced to a heap of ruins, in spite of all that could be done by hundreds of willing and courageous men to stay the fearful progress of the devastating element."

Further reading:

Digital story of the Great Fire of Brisbane by the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services

Digital story of the Great Fire of Brisbane by the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services.


Your email address will not be published.

We welcome relevant, respectful comments.

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.
We also welcome direct feedback via Contact Us.
You may also want to ask our librarians.