The first wharf constructed in the Moreton Bay Penal Settlement was on the riverbank adjacent to the Commissariat Store. As this 1829 building still exists, it is possible to locate the place where convicts constructed this timber wharf and its accompanying boatshed.
When engineer Andrew Petrie arrived in 1839 these structures were showing signs of age. Petrie subsequently prepared drawings and notes of the wharf, indicating it was a timber structure consisting of round log piers and hardwood decking, ‘the whole in a decayed and falling down state’. Marine cobra worm damage was evident in the logs, many of which were later swept away in a large flood in January 1841.
Thomas Dowse confirmed the sorry condition of the wharf when he arrived in July 1842, noting in his diary, ‘Wearied, cold and almost famished we managed to scramble from the boat onto the dilapidated landing stage erected opposite the Government Stores.’ This landing stage appears to have taken on the name Queen’s Wharf after the ascendancy of Queen Victoria to the throne in 1837. The first newspaper articles using the term appear in 1849.
Bureaucracy dictated the pace of repairs to the wharf. With the Moreton Bay settlement still a part of New South Wales, funding for repairs or a relocation of the Queen’s Wharf had to be approved by the Legislative Council in Sydney. In July 1850, consideration of £100 for this was postponed.
Back in Moreton Bay, opinions were varied as to where a Customs House, and therefore a customs or sufferance wharf, often referred to as a Queen’s Wharf, should be located. The outcome of local disputing was a Customs House and wharf at the northern end of Queen Street, though the name Queen’s Wharf remained securely attached to the government wharf adjacent to the Commissariat Store.
Repairs may have eventuated, though the next documented expenditure on Queen’s Wharf was by the new Queensland government, in conjunction with the erection of the Immigration Depot in 1865-66. Tenders were called and the Queen’s Wharf re-constructed at a cost of £780. The frontage for the wharf when finished was 60 feet (18 metres). By 1875 this was considered insufficient for government purposes.
It took until the late 1880s for an entirely new wharf, 82 feet by 38 feet (25 metres by 11.5 metres) to be designed. Known as new Queen’s Wharf and constructed in 1890, this new structure with its crane was 88 feet (27 metres) downstream from the old Queen’s Wharf. When the land slipped below Miller Park in February 1890 considerable damage was done to the old wharf and repairs followed. Both wharves were covered during the floods of February 1893.
Over time, improvements in land transport infrastructure and a general removal of wharfage downstream reduced the importance of this government wharf. With lack of usage came fewer repairs. In 1909 the old Queen’s Wharf reportedly was much in need of repair. In 1913 the slipway on the new Queen’s Wharf was reportedly not in good condition. A flood peak in February 1931 covered both wharves. By the 1970s the old Queen’s Wharf was a structurally unsound collection of timber at the river’s edge. Both wharves were removed when the Riverside Expressway was constructed.