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John Oxley Library

History of the new court complex site

By JOL Admin | 5 November 2009

Did you know that the site of Brisbane's proposed new Supreme and District Court complex was the location of our city's first water supply?  The site, bounded by George, Roma and Turbot streets, was the location of the Roma Street Reservoir which was constructed by convicts in 1838 to create a water source for the new colony.  Convicts, under the direction of Captain Logan, built an earth dam across the creek between Roma and Little Roma Streets.  A pipline made of hollow hardwood logs carried the water down the hill to the soldiers' barracks near Queen and George Streets, and from there to the commandant's house in Queens Gardens.  The engravings below from 1865 show the reservoir in the bottom image in the right foreground.

   View of Brisbane, 1865.  Image No: 19422

In 1842 Brisbane was opened to free settlement and as the population grew added pressure was put on the reservoir.  Many complaints about the putrid quality of the water appeared in the pages of the Moreton Bay Courier including the following:

"We need only point to the neglected condition of the public reservoir at North Brisbane, upon which that section of the town is chiefly dependant for its supply, to prove the utter indifference hitherto displayed in this respect.  Constructed for the purpose of collecting and preserving the waters that drain from the hills in the vicinity; reserved from sale as a public property for the purpose, the reservoir is still abandoned to the destructive ravages of wanton neglect.  Its embankments are gradually being washed away, and the water that should be saved for a time of need is allowed to drain off whithersoever chance may guide it.  The basin is open alike to the uses of herds of cattle, of stray pigs, dogs and horses."  (Moreton Bay Courier, 23/3/1850, p.2)

"Sir - I must crave space in the columns of your journal to draw the attention of the authorities concerned to the present state of the Reservoir, and quality of the water we are compelled to drink.  It does not need any scientific knowledge to see at once the impurity of the water - full of animal and vegetable life, and thickened by the visits of cattle, horses, ducks, &c., stirring up the mud and giving it a body."  (Moreton Bay Courier, 24/10/1857, p.2)

The Roma Street Reservoir remained the main source of water until 1866 when thankfully the Enoggera Reservoir was constructed.


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