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History in stone. Court house should see century out.
Records of some early Ipswich undertakings are difficult to obtain. This unfortunately applies to one of the city’s most interesting relics in stone – the Court House – the only public building presenting the same appearance as it did three-quarters of a century ago. Certainly there have been improvements. A room has been added here and there, an old-fashioned gallery in the court-room has been removed, as also has a balcony mostly used by old-time returning officers when declaring results of elections. But the quaint architectural impressions have not been disturbed.
Twenty-two years ago, “Red Gum’ writing in the “Queensland Times” inquired: “Will the old building see the century out before it is pension off?” The writer lamented the fact that at that time “previously few of the land-marks of 50 years ago remain” and he pointed out that there was no other public building that had not undergone some marked alteration. He seemed to rejoice in the fact that the Court House “still preserves the same stony appearance as when it was thus described: “this beautiful building was finished on September 22, 1859, and is replete with every convenience for the purpose for which it was erected.”
There is a story that convict labour was employed on construction of the Court House, but this may be discounted by the fact that the work did not commence until 17 years after the settlement had been declared free”, and in the year in which N S Wales and Queensland became separate States. Perhaps the story gained currency by discovery in the process of alterations to the building some years ago, of books in which were recorded the doings of transported prisoners engaged here after Logan’s first visit. These records, which are all had little historic value, were sent to Brisbane when Mr W M H Ferguson was Police Magistrate at Ipswich.
It is on record that the contractor for the building was Mr William Trotter, who later became a hotel-keeper here. If the ends of architectural beauty were not achieved in their entirety, it at least must be conceded that a monument was raised to the splendid workmanship of a period in which the utilitarian entered largely into calculations. It would seem the answer to “red Gum’s” query will be in the affirmative. The building should see the century out.
The town had a Court House and lock-up before the East Street premises were opened. Primitive structures, on the site of the present Post Office were used from 1849. Courts of Petty Sessions were held once a month (when a quorum could be got together, the record has it) for there was only one Resident Magistrate in the colony, “a fact duly appreciated both by himself and the commonalty.”
One of Queensland's iconic buildings, the old Ipswich Court House dates from 1859. Constructed by the New South Wales government, prior to the separation of the Queensland, the building was designed by Charles Tiffin, Colonial Architect.
This beautiful building was constructed of brick and stone, lead guttering and a shingled roof. The actual court was located at the centre of the building with the clerk, police magistrate and bar room to the right. To the left were the witness and jury rooms and the court keeper. The building experienced early and on-going problems, for instance, damp as well as leaking sky lights – these were removed in 1864.