Rockhampton History Bike Tour

Sunday 18 June 2017

Quick Historical Background


Ludwig Leichhardt.jpg

Ludwig Leichhardt

Image result for gracemere station rockhampton

Gracemere Station

In 1844 and 1846, Ludwig Leichhardt and Sir Thomas Mitchell explored the general area (further inland). In 1853, the Archer brothers visited looking for grazing lands and ‘discovered’ and named the Fitzroy River; and in 1855 they set up Gracemere Station.

Rockhampton was established beside the Fitzroy River on land that was originally part of Gracemere Station. It was initially known as a ‘name without a town’ (with probably about four inhabitants), being merely a landing place for Gracemere. In 1857, Rockhampton had only a few buildings: The Bush Inn (owned by Mr R A Parker) where the Criterion Hotel now stands (near the Fitzroy Bridge, or Old Bridge); Richard Palmer’s store in Albert Street, where the Neville Hewitt Bridge (New Bridge) is now (although it quickly relocated to near The Bush Inn); and a rough woolshed and a few huts or humpies.

In 1858, a gold discovery at Canoona station (about 50km from Rockhampton) caused thousands to come to Rockhampton in pursuit of gold. In September 1858:

“The whole place was a mess of tents, the river was full of steamers, some lying on sandbanks, others at the wharf [at Fitzroy St, where the Fitzroy Bridge (or Old Bridge) is] and some which never reached the wharf…” (Bird, 1904).

Although the Canoona rush quickly ‘failed’, some of these people stayed. And in October 1858, three surveyors were sent:

“to lay out the town of Rockhampton: Arthur Wood, district surveyor, Isaac Rowland and Clarendon Stuart. A plan for the town had been prepared by Francis Clarke, but an alteration was found necessary, which was made by Mr Wood. The actual pegging out of the allotments was done by Mr Rowland and Mr Stuart. Mr Wood had previously assisted in laying out the city of Melbourne, and he followed the Melbourne plan when surveying Rockhampton…

“The plan adopted for Rockhampton was broad streets and narrow lanes alternating from east to west. For many years the lanes were called little streets, as, for instance, Little Quay-street, Little East-street. Strange to say, Little Quay-street – now Quay lane – was at first the principal thoroughfare of the town, and remained so for some years.”

Following completion of the survey, the town of Rockhampton was proclaimed on 25 October 1858.

Interesting Note:

Arthur Wood had previously worked with the surveyor Robert Hoddle in surveying Melbourne. In 1837, Robert Hoddle surveyed the town grid of Melbourne (arriving with New South Wales Governor Bourke, who came to regularise the fledgling unauthorised settlement). The unusual dimensions and the incorporation of narrow ‘little’ streets were the result of a compromise between Hoddle’s desire to employ the regulations established by Governor Darling in 1829, with square blocks and wide streets; and Bourke’s desire for rear access ways (now the ‘little’ streets). The wide main streets were also to accommodate the large number of bullock carts that would travel through the centre of town, so they would not hold up horse drawn traffic when making right turns.

The involvement of Arthur Wood and Francis Clarke probably explains a certain similarity between Rockhampton and Melbourne’s street plans; as well as the generosity of scale with which Rockhampton was laid out.

A municipal council was formed on 15 December 1860; and in 1861, Rockhampton had a population of about 700.

Rockhampton’s current population is about 86,000 (2017) and is forecast to increase by about 30% to about 110,000 in 2035 (next 20 years or so).

Map of Rockhampton

Here is a map of Rockhampton. You will see the city centre is bounded by East, South, West and North Streets. There are wide thoroughfares interspersed with narrow lanes. These lanes now provide great potential for future bike tracks throughout the city centre?

We will start on Quay Lane (the first principal thoroughfare of Rockhampton) and explore the history of the lanes as we head along them from east to west.

Plan of attackOur general plan of attack is:

Quay Lane until Stanley Street (heading south)

East Lane until William Street (heading north)

Bolsover Lane to Fitzroy Street (heading north)

Alma Lane to Stanley Street (detour at William Street) (heading south)

Deniston Lane/Kent Lane to Albert Street (heading north)

Campbell Lane (heading south for a bit)

Then return to our starting cafe (still to be finalised!)

DangerDanger alert: A key risk of this trip is that we will pass a lot of cafes on the way….Cafes



Bird, J.T.S. (1904). The early history of Rockhampton: dealing chiefly with events up till 1870.  Rockhampton. The Morning Bulletin, 1904.

Clark, W. (1917) The Founding of Rockhampton and The Archer Brothers.