Queensland Places - Normanton
The Cape York town of Normanton takes its name from the nearby Norman River which was first navigated and chartered in the mid 1860s. The selection of the site and Normanton’s establishment came about as a consequence of the need to identify a more suitable alternative to Burketown which, by that time, had largely been abandoned due to on-going problems with flooding as well as the risk of disease.
The site for the new settlement was formally identified and selected in May, 1867. Once established however, the town grew quite slowly until 1885, when the discovery of gold at Croydon provided a major boost. Later, a further boost to the town’s fortunes was provided by the completion of the Normanton – Croydon railway, with Normanton becoming the acknowledged gateway to north-western Queensland. This new link was to bring both people and wealth to the area.
However, this growth was to slow dramatically as mining diminished on both the Croydon and Cloncurry mineral fields. As well, the completion of the Townsville – Cloncurry railway in 1908, reduced Normanton’s relative importance as a centre. There was a later resurgence in Normanton’s importance within Queensland with the major industrial development that was to take place in the fishing industry in the 1960s. This was specifically the result of significant investment that took place in the prawn fishing and processing industry at nearby Karumba.
There are a number of reminders of Normanton’s history and development that visitors to the area are still able to see today. These include the Normanton cemetery which dates from 1867, the railway station and the station building both dating from 1891, as well as the former Burns Philp & Co. store. As well, there are a number of other surviving buildings and structures all of which give us an insight into Normanton’s long history.
This photograph, dating from 1913, shows the Customs House at Normanton. We can speculate that the people carefully posed in the buggy at the front may be Customs Department employees.
Brian Randall - Queensland Places Coordinator, State Library of Queensland.