Collective Memory and Memorial in an Urban Public Space: Queens Park and Cunningham’s Knoll, Ipswich. A Field Report.
Roger Ford , Ph D candidate, Griffith University 2021

The limestone outcrops were situated near a navigable stretch of the Bremer River, with a suitable landing point located on the river bend near present day King Edward Parade. A small jetty and some huts were constructed at this site with a rough track following a creek line up to the limestone outcrops. There the limestone was quarried and burned to create powdered lime in pit kilns. [4] The main area for the convict quarry did not lie within the boundaries of Queen’s Park but at an adjoining location which by the 1930s was named Cunningham’s Knoll. A postcard photograph of the site was taken in the early 20th century. At the time the image was made, the area still bore physical signs of its mining past, with horizon lines from the quarrying process visible on the slopes of the limestone hummock to the right of the knoll.

(Image three: Limestone Hill, Ipswich circa 1912-1914, Picture Ipswich website)

While the cultural memory of the residents of Ipswich recognised this location as the site of the first convict labour force in the district, they also identified the knoll and its cresting fig tree as the campsite of the explorer Allan Cunningham. After his expedition to the summit of Mount Barney with Logan and Frazer in August 1828, Cunningham separated from Logan’s party and travelled to the Limestone Hills. Here he rested his bullocks for five days at the convict out station before venturing southwest, determined to find a gap in the Great Dividing Range and a pathway to the northern plains of New South Wales. [5] In his journal Cunningham makes no mention of resting underneath the branches of a shady fig tree while convicts toiled away close by with picks and shovels, but it is a historical image that resonated with the people of Ipswich.

In the early 1930s a depression era work project supported by the Ipswich City Council, transformed the rough limestone slopes of Cunningham’s Knoll into one of Ipswich’s largest public monuments. Stonemasons and labourers shaped the site into a regimented arrangement of terraces and paved pathways reminiscent of a stepped pyramid. At the front entranceway two identical memorials were fixed on either side of the structure, in the shape of low obelisks formed of limestone rubble with pyramidal limestone caps. [6]

(Image four: Cunningham’s Knoll with memorial, 1952, Picture Ipswich website)

The first of the obelisk memorials commemorates Allan Cunningham with the inscription, ‘To Perpetuate the Memory of Explorer Allan Cunningham, who camped under these fig trees in the year 1828.’ The second memorial honours the life and achievements of the Labour politician and member for the seat of Bundamba, Thomas Glassey. Neither memorial makes any mention of the site’s convict past.

4. Queensland State Archives, Item ID 714313, Survey of the town of Limestone, 1843.

5. Cunningham’s Journal, August 1828, in Steele, pp.280-281.

6. ‘Queen’s Park’, Queensland Government Heritage Register website.

7. ‘Queen’s Park’, Queensland Government Heritage Register website.