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Queensland Places - Burns, Philp & Co., Normanton

By JOL Admin | 6 June 2014

The former Burns Philp & Co. store in Normanton has long been a feature of the town’s streetscape, with the company’s history and involvement in the area dating back to the 1870s.

In 1879, James Burns purchased the Normanton business of Clifton and Aplin, which had been trading on the site as agents and general merchants since 1873. With this purchase, the store then became part of the rapidly expanding Burns Philp & Co. business empire, particularly when the company founded its Townsville based operation as its North Queensland base.

In the mid 1880s, as business through the port of Normanton grew, Burns Philp & Co. announced that the company would build a new and larger store. This new Normanton store was to become the company’s most important northern trading base, servicing both the Gulf area as well as the company’s growing shipping interests in New Guinea and the Pacific Islands.  Burns Philp & Co., during this period, was by far the main trader in the region with this growth only slowed by the depression of the 1890s, as well as the downturn in mining at Croydon.

From around 1910, Burns Philp was again expanding its operations. However Normanton was by then less strategically important, with centres such as Townsville and particularly Cairns becoming more important as company bases.

The Burns Philp & Co. building in Normanton continued to be used as a general store and mixed business for a period.  Later, it gained prominence as a centrepiece within the town’s heritage precinct.

Burns Philp & Co., Normanton, ca. 1920

This photograph, dating from 1920 shows the store and warehouse during the period when its importance, as compared with the company’s other locations, was diminishing.

In acknowledgement of the importance of the Burns Philp & Co. store within Normanton’s history and development, it has been listed on the Queensland Heritage Register.

Brian Randall - Queensland Places Coordinator, State Library of Queensland


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