Friday, November 9, 2012

Clarence Corner, Woolloongabba

Until the advent of the railway line to Ipswich the way you got there was by coach (for passengers) or wagon (for goods). The wagons were usually pulled by bullocks, making for a very slow trip.

A place for the bullocky to stop to wet his whistle just outside the boundary of Brisbane was at One Mile Swamp, a declared water reserve that we now know as Woolloongabba. It must have been a fairly wet area, because the shortcut that the bullock drivers took to the Ipswich road became known as Boggo Rd (now Annerley Rd). In 1863 a hotel called the Clarence opened there. Where roads go, people are sure to follow and housing allotments began to be sectioned off in the area. The increase in local population required the Clarence Hotel to be replaced by a new building in 1889. It was called the Clarence Corner Hotel, and this is a photograph of the area taken around 1906. The building on the right edge of the photograph is the Clarence Corner Hotel.
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(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #4048)

Woolloongabba and South Brisbane became quite commercial areas. Leading up to the massive 1893 floods, there were many businesses on Stanley St, which at one stage  had no fewer than 17 hotels dotted along its length! Further east along Stanley St the Brisbane Cricket Ground held its first match in 1896, and since then has grown to be known simply as "The Gabba" and is recognised as one of the major world cricket venues. Just across Annerley Rd from the Clarence Corner Hotel, the Mater Hospital was completed in 1910 on land that had been purchased by the Sisters of Mercy in 1893. Patients were transferred from the previous venue, a house at North Quay. Here is a more recent picture of the Clarence Corner Hotel.
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(Photo: Courtesy Brisbane City Council; P4280045)

Regrettably, South Brisbane and Woolloongabba are no longer the commercial centres they once were. In the case of South Brisbane, the 1893 flood caused so much damage that many businesses either closed down or moved across the river to Brisbane Town. As far as Woolloongabba goes, it was still a vital transport hub through to the 1960s, when the arrival of the suburban shopping centres heralded the doom of major precincts such as Fortitude Valley and Woolloongabba. Then the construction of the South-East freeway severed the Wooloongabba strip into two parts and the area is now a ghost of its previous incarnation. But the construction of medium density apartments has recently added some life to the area. A large shopping and residential complex has been built opposite the Gabba, and the Clarence Corner Hotel has also just had a makeover. It is now known as the Brisbane Brewhouse - here is a current photograph.
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(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

And here is a link to a newspaper article that outlines the changes in store for this landmark hotel.

Click here for a Google Map.



  1. Suburbs rise and suburbs fall, don't they? Sometimes it is through careful town planning, changing public transport or the success/failure of commercial enterprises. Sometimes it is as random as floods or bushfires.

    You noted that the Wooloongabba area is now a ghost of its previous incarnation but the construction of medium density apartments has impacted on the suburb. I suppose it depends how many ks Wooloongabba is from the CBD, how much decent housing has become available and will all the other community facilities be built eg schools.

  2. Yes, as may become more evident in future posts, this area is undergoing profound change again. It is only a couple of kms from the CBD and after having been deserted for a while services are trickling back in, and more importantly, so are the people.

  3. Of course the big development in the suburb is just across the corner from the Clarence Corner, the Mater Hospital. It is getting bigger and bigger, attracting ancilliary services and more hospitals - the Qld Children's Hospital.

  4. I agree Austories - there is a post about the Mater coming shortly...

  5. I've seen a few photos of this hotel in its early days and I am confused. The buildings across the street look like they were closer. Was the street always so wide?

  6. Tff...thanks for the story on Clarence Corner and only last week my new wife and I were walking past the Clarence Corner pub and you must check out the the full length of awning perimeter hanging baskets of real living 'not artificial' green succulents, is a sight to behold...they have done a beaut job to reduce the stark heat ever so evident in the 2012 pic posted. in further background my first career job posting was as a graduate trainee at the National Bank Clarence Corner in 1971 and well I remember the then branch manager Terry Grehan lamenting the Wilber Smith Freeway/Captain Cook Bridge/South East Freeway cutting of Stanley street in half...looking back it's still hard to see how they could have put a tunnel underneath or an overpass? In that same year I was on site Clarence Corner was renamed Mater Hill and one of the bank's customers was an elderly Jewish textile merchant Jacob Ray. I see the name Ray above the awning only a few doors back from where he traded in 1971....and years later in our family business Greens Hardware Mitre 10 of South Brisbane one of our customers was John Ray, his son, who was still in the fashion game, just off Montague road. I was happy to tell John that one day with the NAB and in learning teller duties, I had served his Dad and ended up $10.00 down in my cash balance that day...I rang a few customers trying to make sense of it and later his Dad came in to give me $10.00 but to this day I think he did it as a kind gesture and not that I had given him too much change.


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