“The Way we went to Wivenhoe by way of Australia.”

by Paul and Maggie Brown  

When on duty as Town Crier at the 2004 June Market, Town Mayor Cllr Peter Hill said, “When you’re off to Australia, Paul, go to Brisbane to find the Wivenhoe Dam.” 

“Oh, yes, “I thought, “small chance of that!  Doesn’t he realise Australia is the size of Europe?”

Anyway, we did arrive in Brisbane from Singapore, hired a car and made our first adventure the hunt for the infamous dam.  “You can’t miss it,” they said.  “It’s the one next to Lake Somerset.” 

It didn’t have too much of a reputation amongst Brisbane locals including the girl at the Queen Street Tourist Information office.  “What do you want to go there for?  It’s so boring!  My grandfather does there every year for his holidays.  He grew up there.  I’ll ring him to ask who named the dam Wivenhoe.”  But no luck!

Cheryl, of the Queensland Museum, was more positive.  “Every time I come round that bend and spot the lake my breath gets taken away!  That big expanse of water.  I just love driving across the dam.”

So, off we set, frequently asking directions from Aussies who did say, “Gday” but not “streuth”.  Rapidly we understood that they call it Wyvenhoe.  Interesting as that’s the way we pronounced it in Victorian times.  We changed, they didn’t!

Thirty miles later, Lake Wivenhoe appeared.  It’s a whopping great place; beats the boating lake at Brightlingsea any day.  More like Lake Conniston!

After standing on a sort of viewing platform which gives you a funny feeling somewhere in your body…… we went for a photo’ on the dam.  Road repairs everywhere, screaming diggers and trucks with enough yellow sand to make you wonder what it would be like when they bring the cement.  Anyway, we asked a nice “stop the traffic lady” if she would take our photo.  She got her make to hold up the traffic while she took a shot.  The queues of motorists were only too happy to be late for lunch!

Later we found there was an historic Bellevue Homestead moved piece by piece when they dammed the Brisbane River in 1973.  Just like our Wivenhoe Dam, designed to make another place free from floods, this time Brisbane and not Colchester.  Bellevue Homestead was on the Wivenhoe stock run, funny that.  Just who had been there all those years ago, 120 years, I reckon?

Does anybody have the answer or was it just coincidence?  Nobody out there knows.  Ferritt and Uhr were the original settling pastoralists.  Not Wivenhoe names that I know of.  

A good chap showed us round the Bellevue Homestead; took an hour over it.  He was off to the pub to meet his mates but delayed for us.  That’s one unusual Aussie!  The homestead had been owned by the National Trust of Australia but sold on with this “gent” custodian/caretaker.  In a dark outhouse he warned us of “Joe Blakes” while expressing his dislike of the “blue-rinse mob” who visit on their ladies’ outings.

He refused my five dollars for a beer but I told him he was a “little bottler” – a hero – and that the people of Wivenhoe would think him a “half-tidy sort of chap”.


Paul and Maggie Brown

September 2004

Above: The Wivenhoe Dam, near Brisbane Australia

Below:  Paul Brown enjoying the view across Lake Wivenhoe   

Above: Wivenhoe bear from Essex at Lake Wivenhoe, Australia.

Below: Belle Vue Homestead, Wivenhoe, Queensland 


Note: Ray Harvey, a descendant of John Harvey, and who lives in Brisbane, researched the following for me. Wivenhoe, the property was named after a maritime town in Essex, England, on the River Colne, near Colchester. It had been taken up by the Uhr brothers, one of whom was killed by the Aboriginals while working sheep in a yard near the present Lake Manchester (near Ipswich). The surviving brother, together with a retired naval man, J.S.Ferriter, held the property for some time. It was bought by the North family in 1849. Wivenhoe Inn nearby became a popular stopping place. The name has been given to the dam built to augment Brisbane’s water supply.  Peter Hill