YESTERYEAR: The old courthouse
YESTERYEAR: The old courthouse beryl

Tough living for Ipswich's distant, neglected police

IN THE book Ipswich Municipal Centenary written by Leslie E. Slaughter, published in 1960, there is a description of the local "lock-up” (jail). It read: " It was a miserable lock-up 6ft x 7ft (1.88m x 2.13m) which was then being used for prisoners from the Darling Downs (in the 1840s).

"There were large cracks between the slabs of which the structure was made.

"The police constables lived in bark huts.

"The site was in the police barracks which was 34 acres and this extended eastward from its triangular apex at the junction of Roderick and Gordon streets. Ipswich was then in New South Wales and the police property was under control of officials in Brisbane and the government was miles away in Sydney.

"It was an example of the many instances of neglect by the government affairs in the Moreton Bay District.

"It was also neglect as well as the desire in certain quarters for the reintroduction of transportation, which fostered agitation for separation of the northern districts from NSW.”


In July 1847, the government decided to erect a court house and a new lock up.

A tender had been accepted to erect the small rough buildings in the police paddock at the rear of the policemen's huts and the site was near a deep gully.

The townspeople were satisfied, as they didn't want the building in town.

They were confident the town was not likely to extend to that position.

Brisbane St in West Ipswich.
Brisbane St in West Ipswich. beryl


By 1870, the accommodation provided for members of the Ipswich police force still left much to be desired.

Indeed, it is mockery to call it accommodation at all.

"Most of the men were lodged in the prison cells which were, of course, not provided with any conveniences for cooking etc.

There prison cells were only lit and ventilated by the doors and the small and unglazed apertures near the ceiling.

It seemed hardly creditable a building should be in the course of erection on the police grounds for the accommodation of horses and vehicles, while police themselves were almost totally unprovided for.


New buildings in Canning St, North Ipswich, on 0.5 acre of ground, were a police station and barracks in 1887. The contractors were Robert Wilson and Co and the work was carried out under the personal supervision of William Wilson.

The building had a frontage of 54ft (16.45m) was 15ft (4.57m) deep with two wings extending back a distance of 25ft (7.62m) the right-hand portion was the married men's quarters and the left for single men.

In the married section was a large sitting room, two bedrooms and kitchen, while the single quarters had a large room which was known as the day room.

The doors were cedar with fan lights above and two 4546 litre tanks were attached to the houses.

There were two cells each lined ceiling and floor with one-and-a-half-inch hardwood and the doors inside were lined with 1.3in (3.3cm) gauge iron and had a small cage door through which the prisoner's food was passed.

Plumbing for the building had been by Messrs J.W. Boothman and Co. Mr R.H. Rogers erected the chimney and Messrs Jackson and Andersen were the painters.

Senior Sergeant Patrick Short was in charge of the station.


"I beg to inform the persons who have been stealing my pumpkins that I have poisoned several with strychnine to destroy possums etc. and shall not be responsible for the effect should the thieves continue with their depredations after this notice.”

Signed H.L. Cardew of Woorooba.


In June 1911, this notice appeared in the Queensland Times newspaper.

Even the most unobservant person who has had occasion to pass along the main streets of Ipswich cannot help noticing the diligence with which the police are discharging the new duty of controlling the traffic which recently imposed on them.

Scores of people in charge of horses have had this diligence brought prominently under their notice through being accosted by a constable for having committed a breach of "the rule of the road” whenever the police observe a horsemen or driver on the wrong side they approach him or her courteously and give instructions repeating the rule of the road which is "keep to the left and walk around corners”.

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