Telegraph, Friday 11th October 1889
Highgate Hill Reservoir
Completion of South Brisbane Water Supply
The works for the improvement of the South Brisbane’s water supply at Highgate Hill are now practically completed, and on Wednesday at the invitation of the contractors, a party of gentlemen paid a visit to the large reservoir recently constructed on the summit of Highgate Hill. The reasons which determined its construction, have been before referred to in these columns, and may be briefly stated to be the inadequate service of the pipes laid across the Victoria bridge. Before the construction of this Reservoir, South Brisbane had been forced to depend upon these pipes for the whole of its water supply, and the pressure being at times very low, the higher parts were necessarily but poorly supplied.
Upon the completion of the Gold Creek reservoir a plan was adopted, whereby this state of things might be remedied. The plan was to lay a main to the river bank at Toowong nearly opposite Hill End, and by means of a syphon laid at the bottom of the river to convey the water direct to a service reservoir on one of the higher parts of South Brisbane. It was eventually, decided to construct the reservoir on Highgate Hill, and the plan has been strictly adhered to.
Shortage of water was initially a major inhibitor to the residential development of Highgate Hill. In an article in the Courier Mail in 1930 describing the history of the suburb, the water issue merits its own section. It describes how early residents made brick lined underwater tanks to collect rain water, and fetched water from water holes along Gladstone Road or from the spring which existed at the site of the Boundary Hotel.
‘Mr. A. B. Wilson distinctly remembers his mother and a Highland lassie named Katie Campbell, who accompanied the Wilsons to the new land, as well as other members of the household, troop to the spring in Boundary-street with buckets, tubs, or any other handy container, and trudge back through paddocks, over gullies, and through bush with the precious water.’
Another article in the Courier in 1930 described West End. It mentions that a creek ran down from the vicinity of Dornoch Terrace to Melbourne Street. A reservoir was built on the creek at the corner of Melbourne and Manning Streets from where, after rain, water was sold by the cask.
Later, when corrugated iron became available, water tanks made with this material were very popular and were still common in Brisbane backyards in the 1960s. Water was also supplied by horse drawn dray. The cost of this supply was 20 shillings (approximately $130 in 2015 dollars) per 1,000 gallons compared to the cost after reticulation of 3 pence (around $1.60) per 1,000 gallons.(Cameron 1989)
The lack of reticulated water made house fires particularly dangerous. A prevous post in this blog, Rat Causes Fire on Highgate Hill 1887 gives a typical example of the difficulty of fire fighting with closely spaced wooden houses.
In 1886 the Gold Creek Dam near Brookfield was completed supplementing the existing reservoir at Enoggera. The decision to build the dam was made early in the great drought that impacted eastern Australia in the period from 1880 to mid 1889.
The stepped spillway was the first of its type in the world..
It was decided to build a pipeline from Gold Creek to a suitable high point in South Brisbane to improve the poor existing suply and Highgate Hill was chosen.
The Highgate Hill reservoir is located on Gladstone Road, close to the corner of Dornoch Terrace and adjacent to Hazelwood Street, mentioned in a previous post, Hazelwood Street. Being approximately 96 metres above sea level, water from the dam reached the Highgate Hill reservoir at around 60 metres above sea level via a syphon effect.
As well as the gravity feed to the Highgate Hill reservoir , there was also a tunnel connecting the dam with that at Enoggera. Gold Creek dam was decommissioned in 1991.
Despite these works, subsequent extension of reticulation was not automatic. There is mention in the Telegraph , 30th August 1916 of an application to Council for extension of water supply to Fraser Terrace and to Dudley and Sankey Streets.
For further reading on Brisbane’s water supply please see this blog from the State Library
Highgate Hill. (1930, November 22). The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), p. 19. Retrieved December 3, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article21606866
Growth of a Garden Suburb. (1930, November 8). The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), p. 19. Retrieved March 24, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article21602186
Cameron, Ian (1989) 125 Years of State Public Works Brisbane Boolarong Publications