The History Of The Reservoir

The Wickham Terrace service reservoirs are an historic expression of demographic growth, improvement in livingm standards and local politics in Brisbane during the years of early self-government. In Queensland they are the first of a series of inground reservoirs, but quite unusual in being the only ones known to have been built of brick with arched baffle walls rather than concrete.

The sub-surface pits, chambers and pipes, and the sites of the two former houses have the potential to reveal technical and archaeological evidence. In Australian context there are important differences in form, material and dating between each of the above reservoirs; but their similarities, particularly between Wickham Terrace and Adelaide, are such that the former may be treated as a significant example of its type.

In addition the reservoirs have long formed a pleasing part of the ‘Windmill Hill’ reserves, which also include the old convict tower mill, a reconstructed signal flagstaff and surrounding parkland. Their dimly lit, resonant and monumental interior spaces are also atmospheric in character.

As an important part of the Enoggera waterworks system, and a simple but handsome solution to the problem of an adequate water supply, the reservoirs represent both a technical and a creative achievement of the Colonial era. The reservoirs were built as an essential part of Brisbane’s second phase of water supply development. During the first
self-service stage, the inhabitants relied mostly upon natural water courses, wells, tanks and water-carriers.

The only public supply was the old convict dam and a hardwood pipeline in the Roma Street hollow (1838), supple-
mented by an elevated tank in Tank Street (1859). So inadequate and polluted was the water supply that this became a controversial issue as soon as the Brisbane Municipal Council was formed and Queensland’s Separation gained in 1859.

Despite strenuous debate amongst aldermen regarding the best solution, and continual conflict between council and parliament over control, the new water supply system from Enoggera Dam was constructed by the Brisbane Board of Waterworks and their engineer Joseph Brady in 1863-1866. This was the first reticulated gravity supply and the first municipal engineering undertaking in Queensland.

Though Mayor TB Stephens proposed a service reservoir on Windmill Hill (Wickham Terrace) as early as 1862, this was postponed for financial reasons until 1871, when the water pressure was already inadequate due to population ex-pansion and increased consumption. Henry Holmes was the prominent building contractor.