The European history of Ipswich began with the exploration of the Bremer River in 1827 by Captain Patrick Logan, the commandant of the convict settlement at Brisbane. He discovered hills of limestone along the banks of the Bremer, and in the following year, sent an overseer and five convicts to quarry limestone and erect a lime-burning kiln. This settlement was known as Limestone Station. The convict period began in 1827 and lasted for fifteen years. It was initially little more than a convict camp for supplying lime and sheep for Brisbane’s needs. However, in 1842 a site for a town was surveyed.
In 1842, following the opening up of the region to free settlement, Limestone Station was transformed into a town and the following year it was renamed Ipswich. Being at the intersection of routes to the Darling Downs and Upper Brisbane Valley gave Ipswich strategic significance and for a time townspeople and graziers alike hoped that it would become the capital port on the river. However after Queensland separated from New South Wales, Brisbane leapt ahead and became the new state’s capital city.
While the colony of Queensland was struggling for independence, so too was the fledgling settlement of Ipswich, which gained municipal status in 1860. In the early 1860s, the first railway line in Queensland began construction and by 1865 the line from Ipswich to Bigge’s Camp (later known as Grandchester) was officially opened. However, it was another decade before the line between Ipswich and Brisbane was completed. But for the shortage of cotton during the American Civil War, the town might have been seriously hindered, due to droughts, floods, high unemployment and depression which the people of Ipswich faced in the late 1860s.
Because of the demand for local produce and manufacturers, Ipswich was commercially buoyant by the end of the 1870s and enjoyed prosperity during the boom of the 1880s. As coal was required for the increasing number of steam engines employed in boats, trains, mills and works, there was a remarkable growth of mining to the north and east of the town from the mid-1870s onwards, swelling the population of the Ipswich area.
By the 1870s, however, America had regained its economic impetus, so that local farmers turned increasingly to dairy farming. In 1893 floods and severe economic depression were once again having a serious effect on the Ipswich area. Nevertheless, Ipswich was partially insulated by its diversified economy.
By 1901, when Australian colonies became a federation of states, the district headed into another period of industrial, business and residential growth. There was a renewed mining impetus, while railways and tramways were laid to tap the coalfields, engineering works opened and meat preservation plants developed. Following the disruption of the First World War (1914-1918), the region, like the nation at large, was riding on a wave of euphoria.
Upon the arrival of one of the worst droughts to ever hit the area in 1930, which was then accompanied by the Great Depression, and followed by the Second World War in 1939, Ipswich could have faced a number of significant set-backs. However, the local industries remained significant and the area gained a military airbase at Amberley as well as air raid shelters and other installations.
During the post-war period of immigration and reconstruction, Ipswich got back onto its feet. Progresses continued with the development of new collieries, an expansion in meat and butter processing, the production of timber products and the introduction of chemical and tobacco manufacturing, which were accompanied by a marked growth of industry at Redbank. In 1949 the Moreton field was still the largest producer of coal in Queensland, with 67 small mines yielding 47% of the state’s output.
By 1960 the railway workshops at North Ipswich employed 2500 people while coalmining engaged 3000 and the woollen mills another 1000. Other major works included sawmills, foundries, brickworks, potteries, printeries, engineering and boiler making works, plywood and bond wood factories and abattoirs. The total population was 43,200.
Agriculture was still important, especially cotton, which was closely followed by barley, sorghum and wheat. Other crops included maize, lucerne, potatoes, soybeans and onions. None of these crops except barley, which was used locally in the production of malt, were processed in the area. Though little timber remained in the vicinity, other reserves were being used for production purposes. The major joinery, cabinet-making and woollen textile industries were in New South Wales and Victoria, while the engineering and steel fabricating industries supplied the needs of both the southern states and Queensland. Since then, changes in the Queensland economy have seriously eroded the traditional mining, industrial and agricultural base, so that Ipswich is now developing in new directions.
During the 1970s the buildings around Ipswich changed to cater to the growing population. The Bundamba Swimming Centre and the Ipswich Civic Centre were officially opened and a new railway line was constructed in the city centre. The Bundamba TAFE and the Birch, Carroll and Coyle Picture Theatre also began construction. Although Ipswich was on the rise, there was major setback when the 1974 floods swept through the area and its surroundings, wiping out a large numbers of houses and buildings, leaving heartbreak and devastation in its wake. But the Ipswich community was able to pull together to clean and repair their once beautiful city, making it better than it was before.
Further disaster followed in 1985 after the historical Cribb & Foote building, housing Reid’s Department Store, was destroyed in a fire. What was left of the building was demolished and the Ipswich Mall was built in its place as a way of revitalising the city and was opened in 1987. During the early 1990s the Ipswich City Council and Moreton Shire Council underwent major changes after their amalgamation in 1995 to form the new Ipswich City Council. The city also became the first local authority to provide public access to the Internet through their Global Info Links initiative in 1995. Education was also on the agenda, with the establishment of an Ipswich campus for the University of Queensland at the old Challinor Centre. At this point, Ipswich was looking to the future with other projects such as the establishment of the Global Arts Link project and the purpose built Information Centre which would house the Ipswich Library. Today Ipswich is still looking to the future.
At the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games a local Indigenous dance troupe, “Nunukul Watamaa”, was selected to perform at the opening ceremony, which was a great honour for the Ipswich community. In 2004, Ipswich also reached a major milestone when the city turned 100 years, which was celebrated with special events and parties that were held throughout the year for residents. The suburb of Goodna also celebrated its 150th year in 2006 as did the Ipswich Chamber of Commerce. The new millennium was also a time for further development in Ipswich and surrounding areas with the opening of the new University of Southern Queensland in 2006 at the Springfield “Education City” and the development of the Orion Springfield Town Centre and Riverlink Shopping Centre in 2007. In 2010 the city also reached another significant milestone, with the city holding celebrations for 150 years of a municipal government in Ipswich, after being proclaimed in 1860.
In 2011, the city of Ipswich was devastated by a flood that destroyed many homes and commercial buildings in the CBD and surrounding suburbs. The Coles grocery store was one such building that was destroyed in the flood. However, following redevelopment it opened again in February 2013, making it the second largest Coles store in Queensland. In 2011 it was also announced that Ipswich would receive $1 billion to assist in the CBD revitalisation, which would include the revitalisation of the Ipswich City Mall and shopping precinct. In conjunction to this development the ICON Ipswich building in Brisbane Street was also proposed. Construction officially started in 2012 and was completed in 2013. During construction the tower gained a new level every ten days, with the completed building being nine stories high. ICON Ipswich currently houses a number of Queensland State Government departments.