Hidden royal history

Queen Victoria to King Charles, there’s royal history hidden in every Australian city and town. Here are obscure examples from one such place. I told a version of this live on West Bremer Radio.

The royal history of Ipswich in Queensland stretches back a long way. There have been ten royal visits there and you don’t need to look far to find the history galloping at you.

The first royal visited in 1868 and that was Prince Alfred who was the second son of Queen Victoria. His arrival was greeted with total pandemonium. The anticipation and excitement of the locals was so great that hundreds of Ipswich horseman gathered to welcome him but broke ranks and chased the prince along Brisbane road and into town.

But it’s his mother Queen Victoria who can often be found there today. When I went to Brown’s Park in North Ipswich, I found a pocket full of English coins (pictured above) that included the likeness of Queen Victoria herself.

The coins were minted not long after that first royal visit. There were pennies, threepences, and sixpences from as early as 1873, and best of all were two florins dated 1875 and 1890. They were found together and represent a lot of money – two florins is forty-eight pennies and was a day’s wages back then. They would have been lost by some unfortunate soul in a big crowd. The biggest crowd in the park was Ipswich’s largest ever political rally in 1908.

That’s when 1,500 people turned up to support Alfred Stephenson who had been the mayor of Ipswich and would serve in both the Queensland legislative assembly and the legislative council, and Major William Deacon who had been second-in-command of the Queensland contingent to the Boer War and would be mayor of Ipswich three times.

Major William Deacon

But Brown’s Park itself is an unintended reminder of royal history in another way.

That’s because a controversy over the park’s name erupted in 1911. A faction in council wanted to rename Brown’s Park to be ‘King George V Park’ in honour of the new king’s coronation that year.

The five-time mayor of Ipswich Peter Brown had originally named the park after himself. But Major Deacon was one of those who opposed the royal name change, and so it remained known as Brown’s Park as it is today.

Not far from Brown’s Park is 80 Woodend Road in the Ipswich suburb of Woodend. The home boasts a distinct royal connection and it’s still there today.

80 Woodend Road

Fred Robinson lived at the home and worked as a tool sharpener at the Queensland railways workshop. Unknown to many was that back in England he had actually been a valet and butler to royalty. In Queensland he was called upon by the government to take leave from the tool shop, and serve as head butler for three royal visits in the 1920s and 30s.

One of those visits was by the Prince of Wales who went to Ipswich in 1920. The prince was the future King Edward VIII who later abdicated.

Prince of Wales

A constant reminder of that history is of course the Prince of Wales Hotel in the main street of Ipswich. In 1920 the name was changed from the Union Hotel to the Prince of Wales in honour of the prince’s visit.

The hotel today is a direct connection to our new King Charles III through his granduncle who visited the city back then.

There is Royal history everywhere in Ipswich, and indeed in every city and town in Australia. You just need to look for history out there.


Photo credits:
Brown’s Park hidden Queen Victoria history – Harold Peacock.
Major W.T. Deacon Queensland Imperial Contingent 1900 – State Library of Queensland.
80 Woodend Road Ipswich – Google Maps 2022.
Prince of Wales Hotel Ipswich 2022 – Harold Peacock.

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