Salisbury History Walk
Salisbury, a mid-southern suburb of Brisbane has a fascinating wartime history, when today’s light industrial estate area was the secret site of World War II Munitions Works.
With Brisbane at the forefront of the Asia Pacific war effort under General Douglas Macarthur, the area played an important and pivotal role in manufacturing ammunition.
The estate, comprising some 100 acres was constructed during the war on both sides of Compo Road on land that was previously home to small poultry farms, with some 2500 people employed to work in this massive wartime project. Between March 1942 and October 1943 around 150 million rounds of small arms ammunition and over a million brass cartridge cases for 25-pounder shells were produced here.
In its entirety the Rocklea Munitions Works were amongst the largest of the industrial complexes erected in Queensland in World War II. A number of buildings constructed from 1941-43 included a case factory, rolling mill, machining shop and mess facility for workers. Munitions work was promoted as patriotic and even a little glamorous but in reality it was dangerous. Women worked 8 hour shifts and sometimes an entire day or night, while men worked three shifts a day.
Today some of the factories from this time remain in other guises and it is these that can be seen as part of the historical walk (devised by local historian and author Beryl Roberts), which actually commences at an old munitions factory-turned café.
1. Reload Espresso – 9 Chrome St Salisbury
The walk, derived by Beryl Roberts, commences here at this cool café that itself was once a munitions factory (note the name of the streets, as with others in the area, coincides with its manufacturing past) and heads north towards Moorooka’s Toohey Mountain area. Look out for the variety in industrial architectural styles, with the saw-tooth factories dating from the war era. Cross Enterprise St and continue before turning right into Commerce Street, which merges at left into Textile Crescent.
2. Textile Crescent
Just after the saw-tooth factory on the right is a water-retention garden that runs along the footpath out front of the modern building next door, Such water gardens work to contain water after storms, with the plants acting as water filters and it is from here that the run-off will eventually find its way into the old local swimming holes at Rocky Water Holes Creek.
The stony escarpment on Textile Crescent is littered with native trees and vegetation. Turn right into Commerce St and head west.
3. Commerce St
Follow Commerce St past what used to be The Big Vintage and Food Connect, an ethical food distributor that sources produce locally and delivers it to outlets.
4. Raynham St
At the end of Commerce St turn right onto Industries Rd then left onto Raynham St. This is the start of the revolutionary-for-its-time Nettleton Crescent Housing Estate, which features several estate design ideas that were new to Brisbane after World War II: curved streets, cul de sacs and a playground for children. Return via Raynham St, turning left onto Industries Road to continue.
5. Industries Rd
The large granite boulders visible in the cutting on the west side of the road are typical of what Toohey Mountain is renowned for and a reason that it produces such an amazing native wildflower display every August-September. Take care along the narrow footpath, which arrives at a 5 way roundabout. Turn directly right into Davey St.
6. Davey St
The basic little timber and fibro cottages on the northern sides of the roundabout are a good example of the industrial estate workers accommodation from during and after World War II. The land was derived from the estate of omnibus company owner John Soden, whose homestead ‘Clifton’ once stood on Ipswich Rd in the area now known as ‘Clifton Hill’ and whose 25 horse-drawn omnibuses ran from the late 1880s to early 1900s. Continue along Davey St, looking out for the tell- tale saw tooth roofs of the old factories still visible behind modern facades. Just past Sharon St cross the road to where the sign indicates an entry into the Toohey Forest Mayne Estate (once owned by the notorious Queen St butcher and alleged murderer Patrick Mayne).
7. Pegg’s Lookout
Take the bush trail up 172m to Pegg’s Lookout, which is named after the Pegg family who owned one of the earliest farms, ‘Mayfield’ (now Moorooka) in the area. Toohey Mountain, which takes its name from 1850s landowner James Toohey, was previously known as Pegg’s Mountain. From here there’s a great and surprising view south of the entire Salisbury Industrial Estate, and, on a clear day, Archerfield Airport, Coopers Plains, Mt Barney, Cunningham’s Gap and the Border Ranges. Looking east towards Nathan Heights, there’s a view of the rocky escarpment behind the Salisbury Hotel, which is the remnant of the quarry that was used to construct Brisbane’s South East freeway.
8. Tarragindi- Evans Road
Return via the stepped path to Tarragindi Rd and turn left at the Renovator’s Barn ( another ex-wartime factory that still has parts of a public swimming pool painted on its roof to deter bombings (check it out on Google Earth maps at 526 Tarragindi Rd or from the nearby pathway entrance to the Mayne Estate that leads to Peggs Lookout). Follow the road past factories of different eras to Evans Rd and turn right. Continue to the intersection of Industries Road, past the old ’munitions building that houses Karen’s Framing Gallery ’munitions building and go right around Storage King into Industries Rd.
9. Chrome St
Turn right into Chrome st and take time out to refuel with coffee and a delicious bite to eat at Reload Espresso.
Image Credits - Top - Munitions Factory, Rocklea, 1941 State Library Queensland; 4th from Top - Women in wartime house, Rocklea State Library Queensland; Bottom - Inside Muntions Factory - State Library Queensland
Salisbury Industrial Estate
Starts 9 Chrome St
Approx 1.5 hrs
Easy- Moderate Grade
Guided Walks May 2, Jun 6 8.30m