The establishment in 1824 of a penal settlement at Redcliffe, by a party of convicts and soldiers, proved to be unsuitable and upon searching for a better location to settle, fresh water was found 15 miles upstream of the Brisbane River, which was to become the City of Brisbane. It is significant that the creek – known as Wheat Creek – rose from behind the Boys’ Grammar School in an area known back then as Yorkes Hollow and flowed along, where the Roma Street Parklands exist today, with marshes and reeds, into an area called the “Horse Pond” where the City Hall stands today, and then into the Brisbane River near Creek Street.
As the population of Brisbane grew, wells were placed away from the creek and around 1838 Andrew Petrie, who was a civilian engineer, installed an earthen dam near Tank Street.
In 1839 the transportation of convicts to Australia ceased, which in 1840 saw many free settlers and squatters moving to Brisbane from the Darling Downs area, greatly adding to the population and usage of the existing water supply. By 1845 the population of Brisbane had reached 812.
In 1859, just prior to our State of Queensland leaving the Colony of New South Wales, the Municipal Council of Brisbane was formed. One of their first actions was to control the sources of supply – including the Tank Dam, Spring Hill and Yorke’s Hollow (now Victoria Park) to erect a tank on the edge of the dam and to license water carriers.
The first years of the 1860s were drought stricken and by 1863 the situation was desperate. Thomas Oldham, an engineer who had a lot to do with Melbourne’s first water scheme, reported the two best options for Brisbane were water by gravitation from Enoggera Creek or Ithaca Creek to Windmill Hill (now Wickham Terrace). The original Euoggera spelling meant ‘running water’ in the local Aboriginal dialect, becoming `Enoggera’ via an early printer’s error.
In April of 1864, Joseph Brady was appointed to the Board and detailed planning commenced for Enoggera Dam. At The Gap during this period, the land where construction was to take place was owned by Moses Adsett who received £2 17/- for fencing and an area jointly owned by the Adsett and Paten families was awarded £150.5/- for the land which was taken to create the Enoggera Dam. The Surveyor General, A. C. Gregory, turned the first sod to get construction under way on 18th August 1864.
The original dam was an earth bank with a puddled clay core and was 65 feet high by 1,100 feet long. Construction started from each end with the 125,000 cub yards of material in the dam being hand dug and the contractor had to use horse and carts to assist with consolidation, as opposed to trucks on rails.
Unseasonal heavy rain in September 1864 caused major flooding which swept away 18,000 cubic yards of fill. Conditions were tough – wages paid were:
Masons – 13 shillings per 8 hour day
Blacksmiths – 11 shillings per 10 hour day
Miners – 10 shillings per 8 hour day
Fitters – 10 shillings per 8 hour day
Labourers – 8 shillings per 10 hour day
On Wednesday 25th and Friday 27th January 1865, the newspaper of the day carried the advertisement:
– WANTED –
50 GOOD NAVVIES Wages 7/6° to 8/6° per day. None but good hands need apply.
The dam was completed in March 1866. After completing the installation of the reticulation system, water was finally turned on in Queen Street at the end of August 1866 to serve 94 chains of mains, servicing Queen, George and Edward Streets. The reservoir, being 208 feet above sea level, saw the underground pipes mostly following the creek (which flows down hill).
To save almost two and a half kilometres of piping, from a spot 100 yards downstream from the School Road Bridge, it tunnelled through the hill to emerge where Whitehead Road meets the creek. This is known as “Adsett Tunnel No. 2” taking its name from Moses Adsett who owned the land at the time. Completed at a cost of £65,000 ($130,000) the Enoggera Dam – Reservoir has served the people of Brisbane well.
Sources of Information:
“One Hundred Years of Brisbane’s Water Supply” by G Cossing, B.E. Arnie (Australia)
“Reflections – Memories of The Gap” by R. Speechley