Sanitation centre

The rebuilt Sanitation Depot wharf is at the lower left side of the image, making its contribution to the industrial nature of Queen’s Wharf in the first half of the twentieth

The history of the Queen’s Wharf precinct is linked to infrastructure, industry and transport rather than residential development, a matter clearly shown in the location in 1890, slightly upstream of Queen’s Wharf, of the Sanitation Depot.

In the years before Brisbane was sewered, what to do with the waste collected in earth closets (often referred to as ‘nightsoil’) was a serious problem confronting the municipal authority. Until the 1880s rates of mortality, especially infant mortality, remained high, in part due to unhygienic conditions and the haphazard methods of dealing with nightsoil.

From the 1870s, under regulations of the Brisbane Municipal Council, nightsoil was transported to a depot just north of the city boundary along Kelvin Grove Road. Nearby residence complained. Eventually the Brisbane Council elected to dispose of noxious wastes at sea.

Accordingly, in September 1889, Council called for tenders for the construction of a wharf and sheds between the Morgue and Queen’s Wharf for use in connection with the shipment of nightsoil. A five year contract was signed with the Brisbane Sanitary Company. Carters brought the nightsoil from around the city to the wharf where it was loaded onto the Walker (Maryborough) built steamer, Pacific, for removal downriver and out into Moreton Bay where it was dispersed.

The building was barely operational when in January 1890 a landslip relocated the sheds to the river, with the end of the wharf raised three metres above the water. Many of the contractor’s stored pans and lids were lost downstream.

The Sanitation Depot was rebuild and continued to serve the needs of the city until sewerage was introduced in the 1920s. The Sanitation Depot shed was removed from Queen’s Wharf in 1929 by the contractor.

Additional Reading

  • Brisbane Courier, 8 February, 1890, p. 5.
  • Brisbane Courier, 21 January 1893, p. 4.

Additional Image



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