Burdekin History and Heritage

Burdekin Bridge "50" Year Celebration

The Burdekin Shire has a solid history of progress and development, and an exciting future in a changing world.  It was water, good soil and relatively easy access that attracted the first settlers to the district, and those attributes will undoubtly assure its future. (expert: Senator the Hon Ian MacDonald).

  • Bridge7MS

    Burdekin Bridge

    The Burdekin Bridge was opened on 15 June 1957, after 10 years of construction and $6 million. It is a vital connection between southern and northern Queensland.

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    Burdekin Bridge known as the “Silver Link”

    The construction of the first Railway Bridge began in 1912 and was plagued by stoppages during its completion. The flooding of the Burdekin River was a regular cause of disruption. Large amounts of debris floating down the river often became trapped in the bridge structure and the immense weight would cause the bridge rails to buckle and bend. The bridge was officially opened on September 8, 1913 and was known as the Inkerman Bridge. Several floods over the next 15 years caused major damage to the rails of the bridge and took months to repair on each occasion. It was not only passengers aboard trains who were affected by these long delays but various types of goods were sometimes in short supply.

    Road traffic between Ayr and Home Hill was limited in the early 1900s by the amount of water at the Bowen crossing. A low-level traffic-bridge was finally gazetted in 1929 after much pressure from Burdekin residents. The Traffic Bridge was constructed at the Bowen Crossing and although it served the district for more than 25 years it was regularly out of action because of the rising river.

    The long-awaited new high-level road-rail Bridge construction was started in April 1947. During its construction local residents and tourists longed for the completion. Construction included many obstacles, the main one presented by the absence of rock in the river bed. The construction team was forced to sink huge concrete caissons to depths of over 30 metres.

    Burdekin Bridge

    The new Burdekin Bridge was opened on 15 June 1957, after 10 years of construction and $6 million. The Engineers were Harry Lowe, Noel Ullman and Bill Hansen. The structure was made of 42,000 cubic yards of concrete and 10,000 tons of steel. There were 235 men employed on the bridge at one time. It is now envisaged that only in severe floods would the Bruce Highway again be closed in the Burdekin Shire. Today, the Burdekin Bridge is a vital connection between southern and northern Queensland.

  • Heritage Attractions

    Brandon's Heritage Estate The Brandon Heritage Precinct is located in Spiller Street, Brandon.  It includes the restored St Patrick’s Church, the former Brandon Railway Station, and an extensive display of machinery used in the sugar industry housed in the former Renown Theatre building, the John Tait Steam Gallery and the Alf Shand Blacksmith Shop and [...]

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    Brandon’s Heritage Estate
    The Brandon Heritage Precinct is located in Spiller Street, Brandon.  It includes the restored St Patrick’s Church, the former Brandon Railway Station, and an extensive display of machinery used in the sugar industry housed in the former Renown Theatre building, the John Tait Steam Gallery and the Alf Shand Blacksmith Shop and Fielding Engine Shed.  The precinct is operated by the Burdekin Machinery Preservationists.

    The most significant item on display is the restored Burdekin Tractor – a c.1911 Marshall Colonial Class C 2 cylinder single speed model oil tractor, rated 16 H.P. (30-35 B.H.P.), with closed circuit cooling system.  It is the only remaining tractor of its type in Australia.  It was imported by the Drysdale Brothers in 1913.  The brothers were highly influential in the history of the Burdekin sugar industry, pioneering new mills and cane lands in the district.

    Charlie’s Hill
    Located south of Home Hill, Charlie’s Hill was part of the frontline defence of Australia during World War II and included a radar station noted in the Queensland Heritage Register for its historical and military significance.

    Drysdale Clock Tower
    The original town clock built in 1930 in honour of John Drysdale can be found in Queen Street, Ayr.

    Gudjuda Reference Group Aboriginal Corporation’s Cultural Centre and Keeping Place
    Opened in 2005. The centre that was formally the historical School of Arts building is fully air-conditioned and beautifully restored to include original polished floors and re-located at Plantation Park.

    Home Hill Lions Club’s Diorama
    A tribute to the region’s pioneers, the Diorama traces the river and the sugar industry from its roots. As you cross the Burdekin Bridge from Ayr and approach Home Hill it is on the left of the highway.

    Home Hill’s Pioneer Avenue
    Located in Eighth Avenue is a monument to the pioneering families of the Home Hill district. Bollards underneath the shady trees give details of pioneering people and families and outline their contribution to the area.

    Juru Walk
    At the rear of Plantation Park in Ayr is an important link to the Burdekin’s Aboriginal history. The walk winds its way through what is believed to be the Burdekin’s last remaining remnant rainforest – includes a bat settlement and lagoon.

    Living Lagoon
    In front of the Burdekin Theatre in Queen Street recognises the importance of water to the Burdekin community.

    Lloyd Mann Park
    Situated on Eighth Avenue, Home Hill next to the Police Station. A cement walking track to guide tourists to its many natural and cultural attractions i.e. aboriginal artwork inscribed into the walking track. Lloyd Mann Park has an interesting history in that it was originally the police horse paddock before being used as a World War II petrol dump.

    Plantation Park’s Serpentine Sentinel
    The totem animal for the local Juru tribe located at Plantation Park. It is a 53 metre statue.

    Zaro Cultural Centre
    Now located in Queen Street, Ayr. Its owners are the first Torres Strait Islanders to open a business for the retail of traditional and contemporary indigenous art and crafts.

     

  • Heritage Listed Buildings

    Queensland Heritage Register The register protects the past and the present for the future. It ensures our cultural heritage is protected for the enjoyment of future generations. Established under the Queensland Heritage Act 1992, the Queensland Heritage Register is a list of places, trees, natural formations, and buildings of cultural heritage significance. Each entry in [...]

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    Queensland Heritage Register

    The register protects the past and the present for the future. It ensures our cultural heritage is protected for the enjoyment of future generations. Established under the Queensland Heritage Act 1992, the Queensland Heritage Register is a list of places, trees, natural formations, and buildings of cultural heritage significance.

    Each entry in the Register includes information about the place’s history, its physical fabric, statements of its significance, and location details.

    Once a place is in the Register, anyone wanting to change it must get approval from the Queensland Heritage Council, which maintains the Register.

    Click here for details on Private development in a registered place, Exemption Certificates and Development by The State in a registered place.

    Cultural heritage places can also be listed in other registers. These include the National Heritage List, the Commonwealth Heritage List, the Register of the National Estate, a list maintained by the National Trust, and lists compiled by local governments (e.g. the Brisbane City Council).

    What is it?

    The Queensland Heritage Register is a list of places or buildings of cultural heritage significance in Queensland. Developed under the Queensland Heritage Act 1992, the Register recognises the value of Queensland’s cultural heritage. It gives community recognition to the value and importance of significant cultural heritage places.

    Once a place is entered in the Register, the Queensland Heritage Council must assess any changes to be made to the place. Overall, the Register protects significant cultural heritage places, so that they are conserved for future generations.

    What is a Register entry?

    The Register consists of documents that summarise the significance of places throughout the state. Each entry includes a brief history of the cultural heritage place, a description of its physical fabric, statements of its significance, and location details.

    Who maintains the Register?

    The register is maintained by the Queensland Heritage Council, which is established under the Queensland Heritage Act 1992. The Council consists of 12 members from a number of organisations concerned with heritage conservation and property interests throughout the state.

    The Environmental Protection Agency’s Cultural Heritage Unit employs architects, historians, and expert conservationists to give advice on conservation of registered properties.

    How can I search the Register?

    You can search the Queensland Heritage Register by:

    • ordering an extract from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Cultural Heritage Unit (fees apply)

    You are also able to view summary information on places in the Queensland Heritage Register online.

    Other Registers

    A place can be listed in one of several registers, each with their own criteria. The National Heritage List is Australia’s list of places with outstanding heritage values to the nation – whether natural, Indigenous or historical or a combination of these. Places on this list are assessed by the Australian Heritage Council and are protected to the full extent of Federal government powers.

    The National Trust of Queensland has developed a list of significant cultural heritage places.

    The Trust researches and records details of significant places throughout the state.

    Local government registers are becoming common. Established through local government planning schemes and development control plans, the Registers list places of cultural heritage significance to a particular area.

  • The first Ayr Post Office

    History of the Burdekin

    The Burdekin River was discovered by Captain Wickham in H.M.S. Beagle in 1839, first called the Wickham River, changed to Burdekin by Leichhardt.

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    1839

    Burdekin River discovered by Captain Wickham in H.M.S. Beagle, first called the Wickham River, changed to Burdekin by Leichhardt.

    1846

    Portait of James Morrell

    James Morrell

    James Morrell was one of 14 crew members shipwrecked on the Great Barrier Reef on board the barque, the Peruvian. Cast ashore at Cleveland Bay 42 days after the wreck, he was the first European to inhabit the area, living with the Bindal people (a local Aboriginal tribe) for 17 years.

    1859

    Lower Burdekin visited by Captain Sinclair and James Gordon from Bowen in the year of separation.

    1861

    Great Land Grab occurred for land in the area north of Bowen. Jarvisfield Station was taken up by Robert Towns and Alexander Stewart, of Sydney, for the running of stock. Jarvisfield was much larger than that known by that name at the present time.

    1864

    Burdekin’s most disastrous flood. The schooner “Three Friends” was carried down the river on to land nearby, later to be refloated after a trench had been dug and the river rose again.

    1877

    Portrait of A.C. MacMillan

    A.C. MacMillan

    A.C MacMillan took up country on the Burdekin for the purpose of raising stock; one of the earliest settlers.

    1878

    Burdekin Delta Sugar Co. formed by R.W. Graham and Macmillan.

    1880

    John Spiller, founder of the sugar industry in Mackay, and Henry Brandon started Pioneer Estates, selling out in 1882 to Drysdale Brothers.

    1881

    Township of Ayr surveyed by Mr E.W. Lymburner and was gazetted in 1882. Brandon gazetted soon after. It was named by Premier of Queensland, Sir Thomas McIllwraith, after his Scottish birthplace.

    First shop erected by Benjamin Bros.

    1882

    Township of Clare officially named Clare after being known by many other names such as “Mulgrave”, “Burdekin Crossing” or “Hamilton’s Crossing” in earlier years.

    Pioneer Hotel opened in Brandon, the first hotel in the area. It was blown down 21 years later by Cyclone Leonta and rebuilt into houses.

    First town blocks sold in Brandon.

    Kalamia opened by Charles and John Young.

    1883

    First Post Office was opened in Queen Street, Ayr followed by Police Station and Court House.

    Airdmillan Sugar Mill began crushing the first sugar cane.

    1884

    Seaforth Sugar Mill

    Seaforth Sugar Mill

    Seaforth, Kalamia and Pioneer Mills start crushing sugar cane.

    1885

    Irrigation of sugar cane lands introduced by George Russell Drysdale.

    1886

    First school established in Ayr.

    1888

    Queens Hotel in Ayr

    Queens Hotel in Ayr

    Queen’s Hotel opened on Queen Street. It became the centre of district life.

    Ayr Divisional Board inaugurated as first local authority with Charles Young as Chairman. Later became a Shire Council in 1903.

    1897

    First newspaper published in the district called “The Ayr Chronicle”. The current Burdekin community newspaper is called “The Advocate”, printed twice a week on Wednesday and Friday.

    1898

    Amalgamation of Seaforth and Kalamia mills effected by John Drysdale, then manager of Kalamia.

    1899

    Ayr Tramway Joint Board formed by Townsville, Thuringowa and Ayr local authorities under the chairmanship of Joseph Hodel.

    1901

    Ayr linked with Townsville by rail, the 44 miles from Stewart’s creek, or Ayr Junction, being laid in 10 months.

    Population of the district was about 1500 and the town was 338.

    1903

    “Cyclone Leonta” practically demolished the township of Ayr and Brandon; the towns were rebuilt.

    1906

    Delta Iron Works

    Delta Iron Works

    The Delta Ironworks, formerly known as the A.J.Green Engineers, Metal Founders and Boilermakers, which had been a big asset to the township and district, was established by Mr A.J. Green.

    1909

    Population of the Shire was 2300 and the township of Ayr was approximately 700.

    1910

    Delta Theatre

    Delta Theatre

    The Delta Theatre officially opened with a bachelors’ ball. Next evening, The Amateur Theatrical Company, assisted by the Australian Natives Association from Townsville, staged the military comedy drama “All for Gold”.

    1911

    The name for the township of “Home Hill” was adopted. It was first called “Inkerman”.

    1912

    Home Hill settlement had begun with news that a mill would be erected.

    1913

    Inkerman Bridge

    Inkerman Bridge

    The first railway bridge over the Burdekin river officially opened and was known as Inkerman Bridge. Ayr and Bowen now linked by rail.

    1914

    Inkerman Sugar Mill

    Inkerman Sugar Mill

    Inkerman mill, erected by John Drysdale on the southern bank of the Burdekin, crushed for the first time.

    1915

    Power House was constructed in Ayr, one of the first country towns to be electrically lighted.

    1917

    Lower Burdekin District Hospital

    Lower Burdekin District Hospital

    Lower Burdekin District Hospital opened.

    1922

    Inkerman irrigation Scheme opened by Premier, Mr E.G. Theodore.

    1923

    First edition of Home Hill newspaper “The Observer” was printed. The Observer is printed weekly on a Thursday.

    1928

    Drysdale Clock in Ayr

    Drysdale Clock in Ayr

    Death of John Drysdale, memorial clock in his honour unveiled in 1930.

    1929

    The streets of Brandon were illuminated for the first time by five or six street lights.

  • Local History Books

    Books that are available for purchase or loan on the history of the Burdekin region.

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    Available for Purchase

    “Bridging the Gap” – Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of The Burdekin River Bridge ($10.00).

    On sale at the Burdekin Libraries 

    “50 Years-Let’s celebrate” ($7.00). A Celebration of the Burdekin River Bridge.

    “A Trilogy of Historic Events”

    1882-Town of Ayr-2007

    1957-Burdekin Bridge-2007

    1982-Burdekin Shire-2007

    On sale at the Library for $75.00

    Available for Loan

    Black Snow and Liquid Gold

    Burdekin Shire History Publication

    Burdekin Cultural Complex Book  – A history of the Burdekin Theatre.

    Note: All books are also available for loan from the Burdekin Shire Council Libraries.

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