A piece of history: how water came to Wynnum - The Community Leader and Real Estate New and Views
Local History

The well in Florence Street, early 1900s. All photos supplied.


Rainwater fell in creeks, was collected in dams, and was captured in wells in the early days of settlement. Horse-drawn trucks delivered water to citizens before each house had a rainwater tank.

In November 1919, an agreement was made with the Wynnum Town Council and the Queensland Government to fill a reservoir on Roles Hill from the Somerset Dam through the Brisbane Water mains for £25,000. The building of the first reservoir began in 1921. On 31 March 1921, the first tap in the original reticulated water system in the principal streets of Wynnum was turned on.

The Roles Hill No 1 Reservoir is the original reservoir and is an in-ground reinforced concrete reservoir both above and below ground, mostly above ground, with landscaped stepped embankments. If you walk down to No.30 Preston Road, you’ll see a set of steps. Mount the steps. A flat lawn is at the top, with four vent pipes. This is the roof of the reservoir. Only the top edges of the side wall are visible on Preston Road (NE), and the NW sides of these edges are concealed by a porphyry retaining wall.

At the top of the steps to the left, there is the remains of a “Roles Hill” sign, now partly obscured by vegetation.

Why Roles Hill?

Herbert William Roles was a schoolteacher at the old Normal School, Edward Street, Brisbane. He left teaching to join the firm of Smellie & Co, Engineers. Later, with a few friends, he founded the Engineers Supply Company of Australia. He built a large house for his parents and himself at Belmont. In 1906, when he purchased eight acres of land on the heights of Manly from Mr Connolly, the station master, for £150, he is said to have moved the family home to this location.

In 1919, the Wynnum Town Council Water Board purchased three acres of Mr Roles’ land for a water reserve. Four large tanks now stand on the site as the district’s population grew. The prime use of the towers, as well as water storage, is as a booster for reticulation, being built on the highest area in the district.

The old house from Belmont, “Burwells,” was relocated to the two acres that remained and the house still stands on the corner of Preston and Manly Roads. Herbert Roles lived there until his death on 11 February 1953.

This No.1 underground reservoir was cleaned out every year or so. The water was let run out. The silt that had settled on the floor of the Reservoir was hosed away along channels in the floor, as seen in the June 1969 picture.

The smaller elevated metal water tank, Manly No.1 Tank (now covered with the Wynnum Manly logo), opened in 1953. Roles Hill No. 2 Reservoir, a large concrete above-ground tank with a pumping station, opened in 1970. Close by, on Preston Road, stands the original Turncock’s Cottage.

Wynnum Manly Historical Society’s resource centre is located at room 1.08, 105 Florence Street Wynnum, and is open weekdays from 10.00am to midday.

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