View of the broad open central business district of Rockhampton's wide street

News of the day

Brisbane Courier, Monday 30 June 1890, page 5


An extraordinary disturbance occurred here yesterday, and was renewed today. About twenty sharpers arrived from the South for the races early last week, and have remained here since. On Saturday morning two of them were gambling in an hotel with a young man, a miner, who won. They then quarrelled with him, and in the melee which ensued it is alleged that they took from him a gold watch and albert chain. In the evening he, in company with a friend, met the men in the street, and a row was started. The sharpers thrashed the others, but the latter returned again with other companions and beat the sharpers. A mob gathered quickly, and other sharpers came round, and a perfect riot followed.

The mob hunted the sharpers all over town, and visited the hotels and brothels in search of others. Finally, a crowd numbering several hundred drove eighteen of the sharpers into the Argyle Hotel and blockaded the place. The mob was dismissed about 2 o'clock in the morning, but gathered again about 9 o'clock and maintained a close siege till 2 o'clock, when all the constables in the town were mustered under Sub-inspector Judge, and escorted the sharpers to the tender which was leaving to meet the steamer going North.

A great disturbance followed, and the police were jostled all the way to the wharf, where the tender was lying off, so that none could jump on board. After a great struggle, in which many of the sharpers were severely handled, all were got on board, and the tender then shoved off to midstream and anchored. When all the tickets were collected some of the sharpers had not sufficient money to pay their passages, but the others made up the deficiency, and all left. There are said to be one or two in town still hiding.

The mob was composed of larrikins and the residuum of the town. No respectable people contenanced the disturbance. The police detachment, which is ridiculously small at all times here, was quite powerless yesterday.


Rockhampton, the biggest city in the Fitzroy River Basin, is 640 km north of Brisbane, just north of the Tropic of Capricorn. It is 40 km upstream from the mouth of the Fitzroy River, and is the largest town in the Fitzroy River Basin, a region extending further inland than the area usually thought of as Capricornia. With its spectacular riverside setting, it was, by the 1890s, along with Charters Towers, Toowoomba and Ipswich, one of Queensland's greatest inland cities. Many of the main buildings of that era survive, giving the central area of the city a continuing sense of grandeur.

Europeans first settled the district in 1855 when Charles and William Archer established Gracemere pastoral station, ten kilometres south-west of the site of the later town. The Archer brothers were followed by other settlers in a matter of months, and they established a rudimentary wharf facility as far upstream on the Fitzroy River as conditions allowed for the movement of livestock. The colonial government decided to establish a site for a Court of Petty Sessions in the north, and the wharf was the best option available. Lands Commissioner Wiseman apparently fixed on the name Rockhampton, derived from the rocky bar upstream from the wharf and adding 'hampton' to denote a town.

Rockhampton's tourist attractions tend to be of the cultural kind: the botanic garden, reputedly the finest tropical one in Australia; Quay Street historic precinct has nearly twenty heritage sites, including the Customs House. East Street has the court house (1886) and the former post office (1892). Bolsover Street has eight heritage sites, including the school of arts, the town hall (1939-41) and the Railway workshops (1915). The Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran and Presbyterian churches/cathedrals are also listed on the Queensland heritage register, and the grammar schools and the Range Convent high school are prominent buildings.

More than 50 heritage sites are found in Rockhampton, south of the river, along with the central shopping mall. The city's growth area has been North Rockhampton, necessitating a second bridge in 1980. Beside the first bridge the Kershaw Gardens offer a fine prospect upon entering North Rockhampton.

Controversy arose in 2003 with the re-emergence of an urban legend alleging that Rockhampton's city lights spell out the word 'Hell' when viewed from Mount Archer. Councillors voted against a proposal to install additional lighting that would turn 'hell' into 'hello'.

Extracted from Queensland Places


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