- Category: General
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As Queensland's largest inland city, Toowoomba offers all the benefits of urban living without any of the big-city ‘hassles’. Being the hub of the fertile Darling Downs region has resulted in a city with extensive manufacturing, education, health, retail and professional services.
Toowoomba offers the best of both worlds, a relaxed lifestyle and easy access to Brisbane and the Gold and Sunshine Coasts.
Toowoomba truly has something to offer everyone. So take your time to look around and you’ll soon find out that there’s more to this ‘Garden City’ than meets the eye…
- Category: Regional
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Toowoomba is an urban Centre in south-east Queensland and is the gateway to the Golden West region, also known as the Darling Downs. Just an hour and a halfs drive from the the states capital city, Brisbane.
Offering the best of both worlds, the city retains it's country heritage, whilst offering all the amenities of a bustling modern city.
Toowoomba is full of culture and there are many things to keep you busy all year round. Some of the major events in and around Toowoomba include the Ag Show, the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers, Toowoomba Royal Show, Easter-fest – formally know as the Australian Gospel Music Festival, and Farm-fest.
Toowoomba has no shortage of educational institutions and has more capita of primary, secondary, tertiary and universities per person than many other regions in Australia.
- Category: Miscellaneous
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Did you know...?
- Toowoomba is built on top of the caldera of a now extinct volcano!
- It has been known to snow on rare occasions in the higher parts of the city!
- The Lamington was invented in Toowoomba!
- Toowoomba's floral emblem is the Toowoomba Violet (Viola Odorata) also known as Sweet Violet.
- The original inhabitants of where Toowoomba city now stands were the Aboriginal People know as the Giabal!
- A section of Prince Henry Drive, known as Gravity Point (also known as a magnetic hill or gravity hill), appears to be on a slope but a car will not move if placed into neutral.
- Category: History
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Toowoomba's history can be traced back to 1816 when English botanist and explorer Allan Cunningham arrived in Australia from Brazil where he had been searching for native trees and plant life that would be suitable for the Australian climate.
In June 1827, he was rewarded for his many explorations when he discovered 4 million acres (16,000 km²) of rich farming and grazing land bordered on the east by the Great Dividing Range and situated 100 miles (160 km) west of the settlement of Moreton Bay (later to become Brisbane). Cunningham named his find Darling Downs after Ralph Darling (later Sir Ralph), then Governor of New South Wales.
It was not until 13 years later when George and Patrick Leslie established Toolburra Station 56 miles (90 km) south-west of Toowoomba that the first settlers arrived on the Downs. Other settlers quickly followed and a few tradesmen and businessmen settled and established a township of bark-slab shops called The Springs which was soon renamed Drayton.
Towards the end of the 1840s Drayton had grown to the point where it had its own newspaper, general store, trading post and the Royal Bull's Head Inn which was built by William Horton and still stands today. Horton is regarded as the real founder of Toowoomba, although he was not the first man to live there.
Early in 1849 Horton sent two of his men, William Gurney and William Shuttlewood, to cut away reeds in a marshy swampland area a few miles away that nobody from Drayton ever visited. When Gurney and Shuttlewood arrived they were surprised to find a pitched tent among the reeds. The tent's owner was bush worker Josiah Dent who was the first man to live in "The Swamp". This extraordinary news was the main talking point in Drayton for weeks and people became interested in developing The Swamp as useful farming land.
Plans were drawn for 12 to 20 acre (49,000 to 81,000 m²) farms in the swamp (later to be drained and become the foundation for the establishment of Toowoomba) in the hope of attracting more people to the area to support the land and build up the town. Two years later people began purchasing the land but not new settlers. The new farm holdings attracted buyers from Drayton.
1851 saw the establishment of a National School at Drayton, which later became Drayton State School.
On 29 August 1852 the town's only churchman, the Rev. Benjamin Glennie who had lived in Drayton since 1848, christened both children at the Alford home. It was the first Church of England service held in Toowoomba and the first day the word "Toowoomba" was written on a public document.
How the name Toowoomba was derived is still a point of argument. There are several theories, including:
- that it derived from the aboriginal word for swamp which is Tawampa as the Aborigines had no "s" in their vocabulary.
- that the aboriginal interpretation for "reeds in the swamp" Woomba Woomba was used as the original source
- that the word Toowoomba was taken from the aboriginal term for a native melon "Toowoom" or "Choowoom" which grew plentifully in the township.
Drovers and wagon masters spread the news of the new settlement at Toowoomba. By 1858 Toowoomba was growing fast. It had a population of 700, three hotels and many stores. Land selling at £4 an acre (£988/km²) in 1850 was now £150 an acre (£37,000/km²).
On 30 June 1860 a petition of 100 names was sent to the Governor requesting that Toowoomba be declared a Municipality. Governor Bowen granted their wish and a new municipality was proclaimed on 24 November 1860.
The first town council election took place on 4 January 1861 and William Henry Groom, who had led Toowoomba people in their petition for recognition, polled the most votes.
On 12 August 1862 Alderman Groom was elected to State Parliament as Member for Drayton and Toowoomba. Also in August 1862, telegraphic communication was opened between Toowoomba and Brisbane.
In 1864 Toowoomba Gaol was opened. After closure in 1900, it became the site of the Austral Hall (1904), a woman's reformatory and laundry (1883-4), Rutlands Guest House, and various other modern sites, including a motel, a restaurant and a town house block.
In 1865 Toowoomba South State School opened, the first State School in Toowoomba itself.
In April, 1867 Toowoomba's rail link with Ipswich was opened.
In 1870 Alderman Spiro replaced William Henry Groom as Mayor.
In 1873 Council was granted control of the swamp area and offered a prize of £100 for the best method of draining it.
The Toowoomba Gas and Coke Company was floated in 1875 and the Council pledged to erect street lamps to assist with the establishment of the fledgling company. Due to its financial situation Council leased part of the swamp to town brickmakers and also approved construction of the Toowoomba Grammar School. The school's foundation stone was laid in this year.
In 1892 the Under Secretary of Public Land proclaimed Toowoomba and the surrounding areas as a township. By 1898, the existing Town Hall was inadequate for the demands of a growing community. In July, Council agreed that new municipal buildings and a Town Hall should be constructed on the site of the School of Arts which had been destroyed by fire earlier that year, pending the sale of the old Town Hall for £2,000 to the Roman Catholic Church.
Council offered a prize of 25 guineas for the best design. Architect Willoughby Powell's design was awarded first prize and the contract to erect the building at a cost of £10,000 went to Alexander Mayes who later was elected Mayor. The new building was opened in 1900 and still stands in Ruthven Street today. At noon on 20 October 1904 Toowoomba's status of a township was changed to a city and every bell and horn was sounded for half a minute to celebrate the event. A refurbishment program was completed in 1996 at a cost of $3.4 million and Council meetings are once again held there.
A suburban rail motor service commenced in May, 1917, running to Wyreema, 10 miles (16 km) away. It was extended to Cambooya and to Willowburn in 1918. They ceased around 1923.
The Second World War saw an invasion by American and Australian troops who took over the parks and major buildings for recreational, hospital and training purposes. Downlands College was opened in 1931.
Since the 1950s, Toowoomba has added the provision of tertiary services, military installations, public service departments to its traditional role as a commercial, agricultural and educational centre.
A tertiary education centre, the QITDD, was established in Toowoomba in 1967. It became an autonomous college of advanced education, the Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education (DDIAE) in 1971; a university college (UCSQ) in 1990 and subsequently the University of Southern Queensland (USQ).
- Category: Arts and Literature
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Toowoomba is located in a large depression which in earlier times contained extensive swamps. To the east a steep escarpment separates the cooler uplands from the warmer, more humid coastal lowlands. Like the ridge which separated the swamps, it was heavily wooded prior to European settlement.
Underlying the basin and outcropping along the escarpment or the 'Range', is a basalt cap, with much evidence of the violent volcanic activity which shaped this land more than 20 million years ago.
Remnants such as Tabletop, viewed from Picnic Point, remind us that the escarpment is an erosional one which once stretched much further to the east.
The imposing rock face, rising over 300 meters from the plain, also acts as a divide separating the streams flowing into the Pacific Ocean from those such as Gowrie Creek, which flow inland to become part of the Murray-Darling System.
For over 40,000 years the Aboriginal groups of the area - the Giabal and Jarowair people, made good use the food and water readily available in the swamps and shared this bounty with other groups as they made their way north-west to the Bunya Mountains for the festivals held every three years.
European settlement began with the entry of squatters seeking fresh lands for their large flocks of sheep. Following the route taken by Allan Cunningham, they made their way north through the New England District to the Darling Downs.
One of the earliest was Arthur Hodgson who in 1840 settled Eton Vale Run to the south of where Toowoomba stands today. The Westbrook and Gowrie Runs to the west and north of Toowoomba were taken up soon after, with Gowrie alone covering 50,000 acres (20,230 hectares).
With the encouragement of Hodgson, Thomas Alford became the first storekeeper on the Downs at the Springs in 1842. This settlement which later was named Drayton after Alford's home in England, quickly became an important transport centre for the commerce passing to and from the Downs through Gorman's and Hodgson's Gaps.
The first official European movement into what was then called the Drayton Swamp took place in 1849 when Surveyor Burnett laid out twelve allotments between West Street and the West Swamp. He pointed out that the swamp would have made a better settlement than Drayton because of its fertile soil and abundance of water. Prior to this survey, little use was made of the area apart from some timbre getting.
Copy of Burnett's Plan of Drayton Swamp 1850
The first allotments were slow to sell until 1851 when a group of investors including Thomas Sutcliffe Mort bought allotments 10, 11 and 12. These would later be developed as the Mort Estate, Toowoomba's first residential subdivision.
Next to be surveyed was the land between the East and West Swamps, which was to become the town's centre. It was in this survey, completed in 1853, that the main streets were named.
James, Ruthven, Herries, Margaret and Hume are names associated with an incident in Scottish History known as the Gowrie Conspiracy. Ironically, the nearby Gowrie Station, from which the idea of the names probably came, had no Scottish connections but it is thought to take its name from a fresh-water mussel.
Drayton and later Toowoomba responded to the transport needs of the squatters as bullock wagons carried wool from the stations to the coast and returned with supplies.
Cunningham's Gap was always too steep and both Gorman's and Hodgson's Gaps served the squatters until the Bridle Track, later known as the Toll Bar, became the most favoured route ensuring Toowoomba's growth.
After completing the steep ascent up the Toll Bar, travellers emerged where Ipswich Street now meets Tourist Road and then continued down James Street where the first Town Hall was located. In 1857 a newspaper reported that between 50 and 60 drays has camped at the "Toowoomba and Drayton Swamp" in one week.
For some time leading citizens resented their rapidly growing town being named "The Swamp" and on New Year's Day 1858, during a sports meeting a red flag was hoisted bearing the name "Toowoomba" in white letters.
Of the many opinions regarding the origin of the name "Toowoomba" the most favoured is that it is a corruption of the Aboriginal word "Tchwampa" meaning 'water sit down' or 'place where the rushes grow'.
Industries rapidly followed rural development; some near the swamps adding to the domestic pollution by discharging effluent. Epidemics of typhoid and cholera occurred until the swamps were drained in 1874 and a articulated water supply introduced in 1880.
Toowoomba's growth is also reflected in its buildings, many of which grace the tree-lined, basalt-kerbed streets contributing to the city's identity.
These include places of worship such as the Wesley Church in Neil Street, now an adjunct to the outstanding art deco styled Empire Theatre next door, commercial buildings like the imposing Railway Station built in 1874 and recently restored and Clifford House, originally intended as a Gentlemen's Club. Private residences add to the character of the city with larger ones on the Range and more modest Queensland houses and cottages pre-dating World War II in locations such as Mort and Caledonian Estates.
Toowoomba's importance as a transport centre continued with the upgrading of the Toll Bar Road and the coming of the railway, the first over the Divide, in 1867, linking Toowoomba to Ipswich. this saw the commercial centre of town move from James Street towards Russell Street.
The rail link to Brisbane was not completed until the construction of the Indooroopilly Bridge in 1875. Branch lines soon linked Toowoomba tocentres such as Crow's Nest and Pittsworth and until 1930 the only rail link between Brisbane and Sydney was through Toowoomba with passengers changing trains at Wallangarra.
Road transport firms including Western Transport and Bolton's Cobb and Co. also operated from Toowoomba.
Toowoomba Railway Station
Development of the city business centre grew withing the triangle between the original swamps with Ruthven Street taking over from James and Russel Streets as the main business and shopping centre up to the 1960-70s. From that time the development of suburban and inner city "drive in" shopping centres has led to the fragmentation of the central shopping centre and a move in focus to the west of Ruthven Street.
From a population of 1000 in 1860, Toowoomba in 2002 has a population approaching 90,000. The University of Southern Queensland, the Southern Queensland Institute of TAFE and numerous boarding and day schools make the city the most important regional education centre in Southern Queensland. The city contains a General Hospital and two large private hospitals serving not only the city but remote country areas as well.
Toowoomba became a municipality in 1860 and was incorporated as a city in 1904, while Drayton became a suburb of Toowoomba in 1949.
The Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery, Cobb and Co. Museum, thriving theatre groups and annual festivals such as the Carnival of Flowers identify Toowoomba as the region's cultural centre as well as the commercial, transportation and services centre of the Darling Downs.
Thomas Memorial in the Botanic Gardens c. 1905
This brochure has been produced as a community service by
The Toowoomba Historical Society Inc.,
49 Lindsay Street,
PO Box 1171, Toowoomba 4350.
The Society's Collection holds - Maps, Books, CDs of pioneer & Federation Indexes, Newspaper Cuttings & Photographs
Monday, Wednesday & Friday - 10:00AM to 4:00PM
Tuesday & Thursday - 1.00PM to 4:00PM
Closed Public Holidays and 4 weeks in December - January
A more detailed history of Toowoomba is contained in the Historical Society's publication Toowoomba's Story - In Brief compiled by Peter Cullen. Copies are available from the Visitor Information Centre and from the Toowoomba Historical Society as are the following:
The Toowoomba House - Styles and History produced by Toowoomba City Council, text and photographs by David Roessler
A series of self-directed walks brochures under the general title A Walk Through History produced by the Toowoomba City Council.