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Ipswich, QLD

Elegant inland city west of Brisbane noted for its gracious homes.

There was a time in the 1990s when a certain fish and chips shop in Ipswich became the talk of Australia. The fish and chip shop was owned by Pauline Hanson who, for a brief moment (1996-1997), was the most well-known politician in Australia. Her speeches against immigration and Aborigines, while clearly racist, struck a chord and she became one of the country's most popular politicians with her One Nation party winning a huge vote (and eleven seats) in the Queensland state elections.

This is all very unfair because Ipswich, a large and prosperous city to the west of Brisbane, is overloaded with attractions. With its exceptionally gracious homes on the hill above the city, it is arguably a city boasting the finest examples of domestic architecture in Australia. It has a large number of significant public buildings and a number of excellent parks but it is the domestic architecture which makes it so special and means that the visitor can simply drive around the thill and admire the symbols of late nineteenth century prosperity and elegance.


Ipswich is located on the Bremer River 40 km south-west of Brisbane via the M2.


Origin of Name

When convicts arrived in the district they named it 'Limestone Hills' because they were employed quarrying limestone. This name remained until 1842 when the first town plan was drawn up. The plan is titled 'Proposed Plan of the Town of Limestone' but Governor Gipps over-ruled this and named it Ipswich. No one knows why he chose Ipswich although Henry Rous, the second son of Viscount Dunwich, the Earl of Stradbroke, reputedly said that the area reminded him of Ipswich in England.


Things to See and Do

The City's Brochures
Ipswich has some of the best brochures on historic sites of any city in Australia. They are thoughtfully written and provide an excellent guide to the most interesting buildings and locations in the city. Before exploring the city all visitors should stop at the Ipswich Visitor Information Centre in Queens Park and get copies of:

Top of the Town
Ipswich Heritage Trails - City Centre Then and Now
Ipswich Heritage Trails - Eastern Suburbs Pictorial History
Ipswich Heritage Trails - Churches and Cemeteries
Ipswich Heritage Trails - Rubbidy-Dubs to Pubs
Ipswich Heritage Trails - Coal Mining Then and Now
Ipswich Heritage Trails - Cemetery Then and Now
The Ipswich House - Heritage House portraits
Ipswich Little Theatre and The Burnet Griffin Incinerator

Also get a Discover Ipswich Tourism Map and be prepared to spend a day just wandering around this remarkable city.

(1) Top of the Town
This excellent brochure focuses on the buildings that comprise the area known as "Top of the Town" - the Bostock Chambers, Goleby's Building, Former State Government Offices, Settlers Inn, the Flour Mill, Metropole Hotel, Queensland Times Building, Vogler's, the Lyric Theatre, Big Whites, the Ipswich Hospite, Central Baptist Church and Former Fire Station. It is detailed and paints a fascinating picture of the evolution of the centre of the city

(2) Ipswich Heritage Trails - City Centre Then and Now
It would be quite possible, if you were thorough, to spend a day just exploring everything listed on this single sheet. On one side is a map with 21 places of historic interest from Cunningham's Knoll on Queen Victoria Parade to Claremont (1857) and on the other side is a map of the Top of the Town and eleven places of interest.

Of particular interest are:

2. Ipswich Girls Grammar School was designed in the fashionable Classical Revival style in 1892. The main building is impressive. There is a plaque at the cottage near the front gate with much greater detail.

3. Ipswich Little Theatre and The Burley Griffin Incinerator See below for details.

4. Queens Park Queens Park was first established in 1864. Today it is a glorious and substantial park with excellent views of the city, a fine cafe and interesting gardens.

7. The Old Ipswich Courthouse. The main courtroom and office of the Old Ipswich Courthouse with its impressive sandstone facade was completed in 1859 to the design of Charles Tiffin, who, after the separation of Queensland from New South Wales in that year, became Queensland colonial architect. The side wings were added probably in the 1880s and the rear portion in the 1930s. The building is listed by the National Trust of Queensland and owned by the Queensland Government.

10. Ginn Cottage. William Ginn built this small Georgian-style cottage after he purchased the land from the NSW Government in 1858. Ginn operated as a merchant in Ipswich, and was foundation director of the Ipswich and West Moreton Building Society. Listed by the National Trust of Queensland, Ginn Cottage is among the oldest surviving brick buildings in Ipswich.

12. Belmont Located at 11 Burnett Street this remarkable two storey sandstone townhouse was built in the 1860 for the Welsby family.

16. St Marys Catholic Church and Presbytery This impressive church is part of a larger Catholic complex and is one of the most substantial rural churches in Australia. It was built in 1904 of Helidon sandstone.

21. Claremont - It was near the present site of 'Claremont' that Captain Patrick Logan came ashore from the Bremer River and discovered the Limestone Hills in 1826. Built on sandstone in 1858 for the merchant John Panton, 'Claremont' is a good example of single storey Colonial Georgian architecture. George Thorn, who had been appointed overseer of stock at what was then known as the ploughed station at Limestone (Ipswich), purchased 'Claremont' in 1863. Thorn went on to become an MP and his son became Premier of Queensland. After a succession of owners and almost derelict, the property was purchased by the National Trust of Queensland in 1975.

B. Post Office and Old Town Hall Located at 114 Brisbane Street the building was opened in 1901 although the hall section dates back to an earlier building completed in 1861.

F. St Paul's Anglican Church Located at Ellenborough Street, this church was recognised as 'one of the nicest churches in New South Wales' by the clergyman who held the first service on 12 June 1859. It is recognised as the oldest Anglican Church in Queensland.

G. Ipswich Uniting Church Located at 27 Ellenborough Street this church was completed in 1858 and claims to be the oldest church in Queensland that has been in continuous use.

(3) Ipswich Heritage Trails - Eastern Suburbs Pictorial History
This brochure focuses on Redbank and Goodna which lie to the east of Ipswich. This is more a pictorial history of the area with interesting photos of floods, early churches and pubs and the important military camps in the area.

(4) Ipswich Heritage Trails - Churches and Cemeteries
If you are interested in churches and church architecture, this excellent brochure lists ten local churches stretching from Grandchester in the west through Rosewood, Walloon, Marburg and Peak Crossing to Ipswich. Most of the churches in the district, apart from those in Ipswich, are timber in construction with St Brigid's Catholic Church in Rosewood being the largest timber church in Australia.

(5) Ipswich Heritage Trails - Rubbidy-Dubs to Pubs
A comprehensive overview of the interesting and historic churches in the district. A total of 12 pubs in Ipswich and 8 pubs in the surrounding area are listed with comprehensive information about their origins and their history.

(6) Ipswich Heritage Trails - Coal Mining Then and Now
Coal mining started in Ipswich as early as 1848. This interesting brochure recounts the history of coal mining and identifies the sites - from the disused coal loading facility at Tivoli to the new open cut mining operation at Rosewood - where visitors can inspect the evolution of the industry around the town.

(7) Ipswich Heritage Trails - Ipswich Cemetery Then and Now
There is something charming about a community which provides a brochure to guide the visitor on a conducted tour around the cemetery. There are no particularly famous people in the cemetery and yet the journey will pass by the graves of a Colonial Treasurer of Queensland, an obscure Premier of Queensland, a South Sea Island kanaka from the Loyalty Islands, a headstone in the shape of a tree, another headstone with an angel gazing down on an entire family, and so on. If you are interested in cemeteries this is a genuinely useful and informative guide. Nearby is the American war cemetery where a total of 1,260 American service personnel were buried during World War II.

(8) The Ipswich House - Heritage House portraits
Of all the brochures this is my favourite. It identifies 16 elegant houses in the Ipswich are by a combination of a map and a photograph. So you really can't get lost. It sucks the essence out of elegant Ipswich and houses like Garowie (1888), which are private residences but easily seen from the street, are reminders of the wealth that existed in the city in the late nineteenth century.

(9) Ipswich Little Theatre and The Burley Griffin Incinerator
Located in Queens Park the Walter Burley Griffin Incinerator is now the home of Ipswich Little Theatre. There is a detailed brochure on the incinerator which recounts how Burley Griffin, famous for his design of Canberra, established the Reverberatory Incinerator Company and subsequently designed 13 incinerators of which the Ipswich building is the only one in Queensland. The building operated as a municipal  incinerator until the 1960s when it became derelict. Fortunately people in the Ipswich community recognised the importance of the building and by 1969 it had been turned into a theatre (in the early days the design was so tentative that at one point people had to cross the stage to get to the toilets) and it has remained an active theatre ever since. It is estimated that the Little Theatre Company have spent over $3 million refurbishing this remarkable building.

A Meal of Fish'n'Chips at Pauline Hanson's Old Fish Shop
In 1997 a Fish’n’Chip Shop in Ipswich became the most famous plaice (sorry I couldn’t resist that) in the country. Located at 122 Blackstone Road in the Ipswich suburb of Silkstone, Pauline Hanson served cod, barramundi, John Dory, Sea Perch, snapper and whiting to customers at her takeaway shop.

She would go on to become one of this country’s most famous, populist right wing politicians being dubbed the Oxley Moron by Mike Carlton (she won the federal electorate of Oxley); being reviled because she didn’t know what “xenophobia” meant – “please explain”; and being an endless source of media speculation and denigration. In her maiden speech to parliament, Ms Hanson stood up and declared that Australia was “in danger of being swamped by Asians” and “they have their own culture and religion, form ghettos and do not assimilate.”

Ironically the new owner of the fish’n’chip shop is a Vietmanese woman named Thanh Huong Huynh. If for no other reason than pure irony the ex-Hanson fish’n’chips shop is a must-do in Ipswich.



* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the Ipswich district was occupied by members of the  Jagera, Yuggera and Ugarapul Aboriginal language groups.

* The first Europeans into the Ipswich area were exploring west of the penal colony at Moreton Bay. On 16 September, 1824 a party comprising John Oxley, Allan Cunningham, Lieutenant Butler of the 40th Regiment and the crews of two boats rowed up the Brisbane River.

* After rowing up the river, the exploration team began the return journey to Redcliffe on 25 September, at 5 pm they made a camp on the north bank of the Brisbane River, opposite a tributary which Oxley named 'Bremer's Creek'. At that time Captain James Gordon Bremer was in charge of the H.M.S. Tamar, in New South Wales. The captain's name was adopted for the newly discovered creek.

* The Jubilee History of Ipswich (first published in 1910) records Captain Logan's exploration of the district: 'Captain Logan, the Commandant of Brisbane, appears to have been the first to make definite exploration about the locality where Ipswich now stands ... In his journal of June 7th, 1827, it is recorded - "left the settlement (Brisbane) at 4 o'clock in the morning; proceeded up the Brisbane and arrived at Limestone Hills on the left branch at 10 o'clock; distance 57 miles." Captain Logan sent the boat back to Brisbane ... and for a fortnight he traversed the country along the courses of the Bremer and the Logan Rivers. He saw plenty of kangaroos, emus, parrots, and so on, and was highly pleased with the country, reporting that at one point he had "a grand and extensive prospect - the Limestone Hill bore N.N.E."; while on another occasion he says: "I may safely rely that there is in this beautiful vale at least half-a-million acres excellently watered, and fit for any purpose to which it may be applied."

* In 1828 the explorer Allan Cunningham wrote Governor Darling: "a few remarks on the future importance of Bremer's River as a navigable stream... It is, therefore, highly probable that upon the site of these limestone hills, a town will one day be raised."

* By 1830 convicts were in the area quarrying limestone and a limestone kiln was built which produced 300-400 baskets of lime a week. The lime was mixed with mortar to build Brisbane's stone buildings.

* In 1836 a Government station was established at Redbank. It bred sheep and cattle.

* In 1838 George Thorn, who arrived in the area to take charge of the Government's cattle, sheep and horses, became Ipswich's first free settler.

* By 1840 a small settlement, nothing more than a couple of houses and a general store, had grown up in the area.

* In 1842, when the area around Brisbane was opened to free settlers, the town was surveyed by Henry Wade. Squatters, who had settled on the Darling Downs, travelled through Cunningham's and Spicer's Gaps and took up land in the area.

* Coal was discovered at Redbank and by 1843 there were a number of mines (there were as many as 50 at one time) in the area. The first one was established on the river at Redbank by John Williams.

* Between 1840-1860 the district was dominated by wool production. The head of navigation on the Bremer River became the point for shipping wool to the coast.

* In two weeks in 1859 60 drays with over 500 bales of wool arrived at the port.

Development of the township was rapid.

* Ipswich was proclaimed a municipality in 1860.

* In 1864 the railway to Grandchester was completed.

* The railway to Brisbane was completed in 1876.

* By 1904 Ipswich had become a city. At the time it had a population of 8,637.

* In 1906 the Ipswich Chamber of Commerce was formed.

* By 1950 the area around Ipswich was producing 58% of Queensland's coal.

* By 1965 open cut mining had started in the district.

* In 1996 Ashleigh Barty, Australian Open tennis champion, was born in the city.

* In 1997 the last underground mine in the area was closed.


Visitor Information

Ipswich Visitor Information Centre, Queens Park, 14 Victoria Parade, tel: (07) 3281 0555, open 9.00 am - 5.00 pm daily.


Useful Websites

The town has a useful tourism website with information about accommodation, eating, heritage trails and historic sites. Check out http://www.discoveripswich.com.au.

Got something to add?

Have we missed something or got a top tip for this town? Have your say below.

4 suggestions
  • Ipswich was to be the capital of Queensland, but it was later given to Brisbane due to the size of the river being too small in Ipswich. (The boats couldn’t get everything through)

    Brianna Fitzgerald
  • I always thought that, descriptions of towns and their people should be written in an unbiased perspective and especially where it comes to political beliefs.

    While I am NOT a supporter of this person mentioned, I have found your writing on this town is very disappointing.

  • The Yuggera was not a tribe. It was a word the aboriginal groups used to trade. It was used when Paul Pisale was the Mayor for Ipswich and he done a lot of bad things in office including bringing other Aboriginal people in to walk the land and look for artefacts that was not their land. He also went against the tribe warning him not to build in Springfield it’s a bad place. And Riverlink at North Ipswich there’s a mundagutta (River monster) that lives under there, want proof – just take a look you can see Cracks all over Riverlink.

    Tracey Miller