Hearsay ... the Journal of the Bar Association of Queensland
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Dispensing Justice Alongside the Tank Stream - A History of the Site Print E-mail


The site of the new Courts Complex formed part of an area that was an important meeting and ceremonial place for several Aboriginal tribes living within Brisbane and the surrounding area.

In terms of early European settlement, it was where the colony’s initial water supply was provided in 1842 from a dammed water hole bounded by the present day Turbot, Roma and George Streets known as Tank Stream (which gave its name to Tank Street).

1001.jpgFollowing construction of the Roma Street railway station in 1874 a public market dealing in farm produce known as the “Roma Street Market” was established on the site and subsequently expanded to include buildings in Turbot Street. By the early 1920s the fruit and vegetable markets popularly known as the “Turbot Street Markets” formed a major commercial hub for Brisbane until their relocation to Rocklea in 1964.

When the site was no longer required for water supply purposes, the area was surveyed in the 1880s into some 50 blocks, sold to private purchasers and built on for a range of commercial purposes including the produce markets.

transcontinental-hotel.jpgWith the high-rise redevelopment of the city centre in the 1960s and 70s, this area declined in commercial importance and only two of the original buildings with historic importance remain - the Transcontinental Hotel (constructed in 1883-1884) opposite the Roma Street Transit Centre, and the McDonnell and East department store which was built in several stages between 1912 and 1963 following the use of earlier buildings on the site from about 1901.

During the time of city redevelopment in the 1970s to 80s, a number of vacant commercial buildings in the area were used for temporary art studios and performing art spaces prior to being demolished, in an effort to encourage the establishment of a fledging arts precinct for Brisbane. Many of the derelict blocks in the area were purchased by the State Government in 1989, with a number being amalgamated to form the precinct on which the new Complex will be constructed.

Following the demolition of buildings, this precinct was used for some 15 years or more as a public car park, prior to the recent construction of the Brisbane Magistrates Court on part of the site. The property is currently in freehold ownership by the State Government and is held in trust by the Department of Public Works.

Photos © Collection John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Image numbers: APO-033-0001-0038 and 1880.

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