Tall and proud - Brisbane City Hall Clock Tower

"If one would see the real beauty of Brisbane; if one would escape the tyranny of hard footpaths and noisy streets; if one would find seclusion in the very heart of the city, it is to be found at the top of the tower of the new City Hall."

Some 83 years ago, for the opening of Brisbane's then new City Hall, The Telegraph newspaper (April 8, 1930) used these words to describe what has become one of Brisbane's most treasured icons, the City Hall clock tower.

Certainly one of City Hall's most ‘striking’ features (pardon the pun) the clock tower stands 92 meters (about 300 feet) above ground level, and when constructed was declared the highest in the Commonwealth.  Indeed for many years, it was the tallest structure in Brisbane.

Tower on Brisbane City Hall's almost complete, ca. 1930. State Library of Queensland. Accession number: 10189/2

Over the decades, many have enjoyed the ride up the clock tower - as did I on my first visit to City Hall in 1990.  The ride up the tower was in the heritage elevator, whose open-cage sides allowed a fascinating internal view as we passed right by the four clock dials on the way to the viewing platform.  Here's one image of the view from the tower lookout back then:

View along Ann St from Brisbane City Hall tower, July 1990

A little digging around recently led me to find some interesting facts and other snippets of information about the clock and the tower:

  • In late 1930, nearby hotel keepers argued that the quarter-hourly chiming of the new clock after dark was disturbing guests, was bad for business and that the “…the pealing of the chimes from the clock tower constitutes annoying noises in the night
  • In 1935, a woman suffered a "terrible ordeal" while visiting the tower.  She reportedly climbed over railings 4 feet high to retrieve her bag which had dropped from the viewing platform, but then found she couldn’t climb back.  When she was seen clinging to the outside of the railing, a constable was sent to her assistance

"...tyranny of hard footpaths and noisy streets..."

For more information about the history of City Hall and the clock tower,  John Oxley Library resources include publications, original materials, newspaper clippings, and images.

Maxine Fisher - Digital Content Coordinator, State Library of Queensland



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.

My grandfather Fredrick Cain was the lift man in the 50's-60"s to the clock tower

When I was a kid of about eight in 1955 or thereabouts,our Grandmother would take us on a trip to town on the Jubilee Bus from Red Hill. The City Hall Clock Tower, a meat pie from Coles Cafeteria, and a visit to McDonnell & East were always on the agenda. We often visited stores in George St including Briggs's Drapery. Sometimes a tram trip to the Valley to visit McWhirters.

With the collection of images you have re city hall and clock tower have you any photos of Fredrick Cain the "liftman" around the 1960's he is my grandfather

Hi Lesley. The State Library of Queensland offers a free enquiry service. Simply fill in our online enquiry form at http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/services/ask-us and we will look into this for you.It could also be worth you contacting the Brisbane City Archives - http://www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/facilities-recreation/libraries/library-…

Always regret not taking a ride up the tower when I was a kid. I can always go and do it now but there's something just insane about going that high up when you're about ten years old. Also, I vaguely recall hearing about some restriction on building heights in Brisbane up until the 70s so that nothing would be that much taller than city hall's clock tower. Not sure where I read it however.

'Actor' - the old BCC building by-laws (pre-Building Act) used to have a height restriction of 110 feet (about 33 metres) as I recall.I also recall it was related to the height of fire-fighting apparatus, rather than the height of the City Hall.Regards Peter