Brisbane’s colonial past uncovered at Cross River Rail site

A cannon ball thought to be more than 150 years old is one of several historical artefacts uncovered so far as part of Cross River Rail works, providing a fascinating glimpse into Brisbane’s colonial past.

Cross River Rail Delivery Authority General Manager Matthew Martyn-Jones said workers on Queensland’s largest infrastructure project uncovered the 1.3kg antique projectile while excavating on site at Victoria Park last year.

“While Cross River Rail is helping to shape Queensland’s future, it’s also providing valuable insights into our past,” Mr Martyn-Jones said.

“Not only was Victoria Park used by voluntary militia in the 1860s, it was also thought to be home to Brisbane’s first rubbish dump, which explains why we’ve uncovered such a range of fascinating items, including a whisky jar, clay tobacco pipes and ceramic doll heads.”

Archaeologist Kate Quirk said the discoveries were particularly significant as many of the items dated back to when Queensland first officially broke away from New South Wales.

“Once Queensland became a separate colony in 1859, it needed its own defence force, and several militias were raised,” Dr Quirk said.

“A large contingent of Brisbane’s militia, including rifle corps and artillery battery, were based at Victoria Barracks and used a rifle range in nearby Victoria Park for training.”

The cannon ball, technically referred to as a ‘round shot’, given it is solid and contains no explosive ordnance, was used by the smallest 19th century artillery, the ‘minion’ cannon, which was used for naval warfare and redistributed and adapted for use on land.

Mr Martyn-Jones said while the project was significantly benefitting the state now and into the future, it was also helping contribute to our understanding of the past.

“Cross River Rail is injecting approximately $4.1 million a day into the economy now, and it will transform the way we travel to, through and from Brisbane in the future,” he said.

“As we build Brisbane’s new underground, we will keep doing our bit to uncover more of Brisbane’s past and preserve it.”

The cannon ball will appear on display from April at the Cross River Rail Experience Centre as part of a new and exciting exhibition on archaeology and history.

The Cross River Rail Experience Centre is open during the week, except Tuesdays and public holidays, between 10am to 4pm, and on the weekend from 10am to 2pm.

Some of the 19th century items found in Cross River Rail’s northern corridor:

  • A cannon ball, or ‘round shot’, used by Queensland’s voluntary militia in the 1860s;
  • Stoneware bottles, including a whisky jar, manufactured in Glasgow circa 1890;
  • Clay tobacco pipes from the late 1800s;
  • A collection of hand-painted ceramic heads from Japanese ‘nodding doll’ figurines from the late 1800s;
  • Glass bottles;
  • A writing slate and slate pencils.