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Toowoomba City Hall

The Toowoomba City Hall is the seat of the City Council of Toowoomba, Queensland , Australia. It is located on the 153 Herries Street and on 543 Ruthven Street. The building is the location for the proclamation that Toowoomba was a city and was the first purpose built city hall ever constructed in Queensland.


Tenders were called for the construction of a town hall in 1861. It was built by Frederick Stein in 1862 in James Street. The first City Hall was a timber building, which was demolished and replaced in 1881 by a brick building. The School of Arts in Ruthven Street was destroyed by fire in July 1898. The local Council agreed that new municipal buildings and a Town Hall should be built on the place of the School of Arts which had been destroyed that year, pending the sale of the old Town Hall to the Roman Catholic Church for £ 2,000.

The new building was designed by the Brisbane architect Willoughby Powell. In 1900 was inaugurated the present Town Hall at a cost of £ 10,000. The exterior of the building was restored to its original state in 1997. It now houses a regional art gallery and theatre.

The photo of the city hall above was taken in 1915.


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Toowoomba VioletToowoomba's floral emblem, the Viola Odorata is a species of the genus Viola. Commonly known as the Sweet Violet it actually is a European native. It's significance to Toowoomba and hence it being known around Toowoomba as the 'Toowoomba Violet' can best be explained by the following extraction that was found on Jean Ann French's Blog.

Toowoomba Violet – Floral Emblem Viola Odorata “Princess of Wales” commonly known as the “Sweet Violet”

The violet was declared Toowoomba’s Floral Emblem at a meeting of Council on 11th January 1932. the mothers and other family members of the lads who went to war in 1914-1918, picked and sold bunches of violets to raise funds. the bunches each held 50 blooms and three leaves, tied with cotton and were sold for threepence. 1800 pounds were raised to build the Mother’s Memorial now located in East Creek Park.

Characterized by it's sweet scent, heart shaped leaves, and vibrant violet colour, there is more to the Toowoomba Violet than first meets the eye.

Besides it superficial attributes the Viola Odorata has other applications. It has long been known for it's alternative medicinal properties which is commonly used for the treatment of respiratory conditions like sore throats. Other medicinal aspects of the plant are also being studied from a scientific perspective.

The Viola Odorata's usefulness continues, where in cooking the flower can also be used as an ingredient in salads and for decorative purposes . It's cooking practicality is not just limited to the flower but in fact every part of the plant can be used. Tea, for example can be made from using the whole plant.

From a symbolic point of view, the Sweet Violet's significance goes as far back as Ancient Greece where the plant was linked with love and romance.

To discover further useful information about this amazing plant that is the 'Toowoomba Violet' one only has to Google 'Sweet Violet' or 'Viola Odorata'.

Useful Links: Viola Odorata.


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Toowoomba Coat of Arms

A violet and sprig of wattle in saltire tied with a red ribbon is used as the crest in Toowoomba's coat of arms. The wattle and violet are Toowoomba's floral emblems and represent the cities colours of gold and purple respectively. The colours were adopted by the city in 1932.

Wreath (Torse):
In keeping with tradition, the wreath features the same heraldic colour (red) and heraldic metal (gold) as the mantling. It consists of two ribbons coupled together by twisting them several times, then wound around the helmet, designed to hold the mantling securely in place.

Mantling (Trimming):
The mantling streaming from the helmet consists of a heraldic colour (Red) on one side and a heraldic metal (Gold) on the other side.

Helmet (Helm):
The helmet, sitting atop the shield, is a carry over from the days when a coat of arms was used to distinguish combatants on the battlefield.

The shield of the Toowoomba coat of arms is divided into four fields. The charges that occupy the four fields and their origin and meaning are summarized as follows:

  • 1st Field - Horse head on gold background

The horse played an important role in Toowoomba's pioneer days, serving predominantly in the areas of agriculture and transport. The purple horses head on gold background represent the colours of this extraordinary garden city.

  • 2nd Field - Golden Fleece (Sheepskin) on red background

The Golden Fleece symbolizes the sheep that would have grazed on lush pastures. The red background could possibly symbolize Toowoomba's volcanic rich red soil.

  • 3rd Field - Sheaf of wheat on blue background

Wheat grain was the main production crop in Toowoomba's early days. The blue background symbolizes clear skies of the Sunshine State.

  • 4th Field - Emu on gold background

The emu, a large native bird and unofficial faunal emblem of Australia was originally intended to be used as one of the supporters of the shield. This was decided against as the Australian coat of arms already had a kangaroo and emu as supporters. Instead it was incorporated into the 4th field.


Two kangaroos are used as supporters of the shield. A sprig of wattle is placed on each kangaroos shoulder to make it easily identifiable from other coat of arms.

A grassy mount is used as the compartment upon which the two supporting kangaroos, shield and scroll of Toowoomba's motto rest.

Toowoomba's motto, the Latin Prodimus Dum Crescimus, translates to We prosper as we grow, indicating Toowoomba's prosperity and progression as a city.

Useful Links: Coat of Arms
Please report inaccuracies: Contact


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  • October 29th: Allan Cunningham departs England on H.M.S. Duncan for Rio de Janeiro to collect specimens in Brazil where he remained for two years.


  • September 16th: Thomas Alford born in Somerset, England
  • On the 20th December, Allan Cunningham arrives at Sydney Cove, Australia, aboard the Surry.


  • In June of this year, Allan Cunningham discovers the Darling Downs.


  • On his return from Brisbane, Cunningham discovers what later becomes named Cunningham's Gap.


  • December: Patrick Leslie leaves London.


  • May: Patrick Leslie arrives in Sydney, aged 20.


  • May 10: Thomas Alford leaves England, aged 22.


  • January 25th: Thomas Alford arrives in Sydney.
  • June 27th: Allan Cunningham dies in Sydney.


  • June 9th: Thomas Alford's first child Elizabeth junior born at Patterson NSW.
  • July: Patrick Leslie establishes his headquarters at Toolburra.


  • The Springs established (later to be renamed Drayton).
  • March 21: Thomas Alford departs for Brisbane.
  • May 7: Alford's second child, Mary born.
  • July 11: Elizabeth Horton arrives in Brisbane.
  • July: Thomas Alford and family arrive in Cambooya.
  • August: The Alfords move on to 'The Springs'.


  • December, Battle of One Tree Hill (A battle between white settlers and the Jagera people of the Lockyer).


  • Mail service commences in Drayton (Thomas Alford's store licensed as first post office).


  • First general census taken, Population 658 (551 males, 107 females).


  • Royal Bull's Head Inn first built.
  • Drayton population 50.


  • Rev. Benjamin Glennie moves to Drayron.


  • Horton sends William Gurney and William Shuttlewood to clear away reads a few miles north east of Drayton. (surveyed Drayton Agricultural Reserve)
  • Josiah Dent is found living in a tent amongst the reads, possibly the first person to live in 'The Swamp'.


  • The National School (later renamed Drayton State School) established.


  • Thomas Alford moves to 'The Swamp'.
  • July 22nd: Henry Alford - First white child born in Toowoomba.
  • August 29th: Both of Thomas Alfords children christened by Rev. Benjamin Glennie.
  • First day the usage of the word Toowoomba was noted on a public document.


  • Town blocks surveyed and became known as Toowoomba.
  • July, Thomas Alford and family move back to Brisbane.


  • St. Luke's church established.
  • Thomas Alford leaves Brisbane and moves to Pikedale station, past Warwick.


  • 28th May: Toowoomba's official name gazetted.


  • First Toowoomba post office (in James Street).


  • January, Thomas Alford and family move back to Toowoomba.
  • June 6th: Queensland separates from New South Wales.


  • The area's first newspaper, the Darling Downs Gazette, published in Drayton.
  • Toowoomba's population is now 700.
  • 'The Swamp' is renamed to Toowoomba.


  • June 30: a petition of 100 names was sent to the Governor requesting that Toowoomba be declared a Municipality.
  • On 24th November, Toowoomba becomes a municipality.
  • Toowoomba population now 1000.


  • 4th January: first town council election took place, William Henry Groom polls the most votes.
  • Toowoomba Chronicle begins publication.
  • First School of Arts was erected in 1861 on land which would later be used for construction of third Town Hall.


  • January, Toowoomba's first town hall built in James Street.
  • In August of this year, telegraphic communications channel between Brisbane and Toowoomba established.


  • First St. Patrick's Church built on James Street.


  • January 9th: Thomas Alford dies. (8th January 1884?).
  • William Horton dies aged 47.


  • Toowoomba State South School, first actual school in Toowoomba established.
  • Council gains Queen's park.


  • April: Rail link between Toowoomba and Ipswich opened.


  • Alderman Spiro replaced William Groom as Mayor.


  • Toowoomba Foundry established.


  • Council was granted control of the swamp area and offered a prize of £100 for the best method of draining it.


  • Toowoomba Gas and Coke Company floated.
  • Council pledged to erect street lamps with the assistance of the company.
  • Toowoomba Grammar School founded.
  • Toowoomba Permanent Building Society formed.


  • February 1: Toowoomba Grammar School first opens it doors to students.


  • Toowoomba's second town hall opened, designed by Sydney architect Albert Myers.


  • August 12: Patrick Leslie dies in Sydney.



  • Foundation stone of current day St. Patrick's Cathederal laid.


  • Site of the School of Arts in Ruthven Street acquired by Toowoomba Council.


  • March 17: Current day St. Pat's cathedral opened (St. Pat's day).


  • Toowoomba proclaimed a township (1887?).


  • Summer, The Lamington cake possibly invented in Toowoomba (Harlaxton House).


  • Darling Downs Building Society formed.


  • 21 June: School of Arts building is badly damaged by a fire.


  • February 20: Foundation stone laid for third Toowoomba City Hall.
  • New hall opens on December 12 of this year.



  • Toowoomba Philharmonic Society founded.



  • 29th October: Toowoomba becomes a city.



  • South Toowoomba Boys' School built on site of Toowoomba's second Town Hall.



  • The Glennie School first opened as The Church of England Girls Grammar School with sisters Miss Margaret Lawrance and Miss Grace Lawrance as Co-Heads of School. There were 5 staff and 25 students.



  • Completion of new Glennie School in Herries Street (on current site). Staff Day students and boarders moved to new building. The Main Building was designed by prominent Toowoomba Architect in the 1900’s, Henry James Marks.



  • June, Empire State Theatre opened, Technical college built on corner of Hume and Margaret Street.



  • August 19: Henry Alford (First white child born in Toowoomba), son of Thomas Alford dies.



  • Colours of purple and gold adopted by the city.



  • February, Fire breaks out at the Empire Theatre, almost completely destroying it.



  • McCaffertys establishes bus company.



  • March, HMAS Toowoomba (J157) launched at Maryborough.
  • Cooby dam completed.



  • Toowoomba/Drayton celebrate centenary of establishment.



  • Drayton becomes a suburb of Toowoomba.



  • First Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers.



  • Perseverance dam completed.



  • Heritage Building Society formed (Merger of Toowoomba Permanent Building Society & Darling Downs Building Society.



  • Cressbrook dam completed.



  • Grand Central Shopping Centre opens.



  • 16th May: HMAS Toowoomba (FFH 156) launched.


  • Toowoomba celebrates a century as a city.


  • July 29: Majority of Toowoomba residents vote against drinking recycled sewage water.



  • Toowoomba celebrates the 60th Annual Carnival of Flowers.



  • January 10: Flash flooding after more than 160mm of rain fell in the preceding 36 hours caused the death of four people and millions of dollars worth of destruction in a matter of hours.

Your assistance is required. If you are able to assist in the compilation of this timeline, or if you would like to report inaccuracies, please contact.


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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).


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PF 002501/14

Toowoomba City Library's Local History Library

476 Ruthven Street, Toowoomba QLD 4350

Phone +61 7 4638 7766

There are many theories regarding the naming of Toowoomba. The theories known are summarised below. For further information please refer to the sources at the end of this brochure.

When Toowoomba was first discovered, it was known as the 'Drayton Swamp' and was often referred to as 'The Swamp'. It is believed that Aborigines trying to say 'The Swamp' pronounced a word sounding link 'Tawampa', which easily becomes Toowoomba.

A second version features a letter to the Toowoomba City Council from Stelle Rudd claiming that his father told him that in 1848 he first saw Toowoomba and in 1849, attached to JC Burnett, he assisted to lay it out. He believed that it was derived from the native name of 'Toogoom' because of the reeds that grew here.

A third versionand a widely accepted theory of the use of Toowoomba's name comes from Mrs Alford, wife of James Alford, on of the first businessmen in both Drayton and Toowoomba. It is believed that Mrs Alford asked the natives what they called the area. The replied 'Woomba Woomba' meaning 'the springs and the water underneath'. The Alford's realised that two woombas would not be a suitable name for their house and store but by using TOO which is also a type of plural it would become Toowoomba.

In 1875 W.H. Groom wrote an account of Toowoomba, stating the name 'Toowoomba' derived from an Aboriginal word meaning 'great in the future' however he gave no source to this information.

The fifth theory came from a botanist by the name of Archibald Meston. In 1895 Meston wrote a book titled "A Geographical History of Queensland", which included his explanation of the name "Toowoomba".

"Toowoom" or "Choowom" was the local blacks' name for a small native melon (Cucumus pubescens) which grew plentifully on the site of the township. The terminal "ba" is equal to the adverb "There", so the whole word means "melons there", and to an Aboriginal it meant "the place where the melon grows".

This melon still exists and can be found growing in the Balonne and Warrego areas as well areas closer to Toowoomba however there is no evidence that the melons grew in or near the Toowoomba swamps.

The sixth version came from a man called Enoggera Charlie who wrote his story in the Sydney Morning History. He claimed when he was looking for work as a tar boy, he had camped overnight near the Toowoomba Swamp. Questioning an old shepherd sage of the naming of the Toowoomba Swamps he was informed that near the junction of the East and West Swamp there was a log with the inscription informing tramps the way to a well-known homestead where there was a certainty to rations. The inscription read 'To Woombrah'.

At around the same time that Enoggera Charlie wrote to the Sydney Morning Herald another man by the name of Ardlaw Lawrence put forward his theory. He suggested that the name Toowoomba may be an Anglicised version of the 'Boowoomga' which meant 'thunder' in the dialect of the Upper Burnett and Gayndah tribes. However he could give no reason for the name being transferred to the Darling Downs.

Writing in a pamphlet in 1899, George Essex Evans wrote that the name Toowoomba meant 'meeting of the waters' however this was again written without authentication.

Controversy surrounds the various theories of the naming of Toowoomba. Opinions vary and verifying the theories is difficult with some theories having little if any written evidence ti support them. In the final analysis though, Toowoomba became "Toowoomba" regardless of which theory is correct.