Hornibrook Highway

Guest blogger: Julie Hornibrook – 2015 Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame Fellow

Discovering more about the story of the Highway has been a real treat, combined with learning more about Redcliffe, family, the Museum and Historical Society and the 1930’s era of art deco!

Art deco illustrated header for prospectus for Hornibrook Highway, published in Brisbane Courier, March 31, 1932

Art deco illustrated header for prospectus for Hornibrook Highway, published in Brisbane Courier, March 31, 1932

The 80th anniversary of the opening of the Hornibrook Highway was on 4th October this year and I was invited by the Redcliffe Museum to give a talk in honour of the day. This gave a chance to visit Redcliffe with my brother and to see its ongoing growth, to drive along the Hornibrook Esplanade and see the house where my grandparents stayed, as well as visit the Golf Course, so close to the old Bridge.

More than 70 people came along to the talk and loved to hear more of the story of my grandfather, Manuel Hornibrook (known as ‘MR) and his vision for building a Bridge to Redcliffe from Sandgate during the Depression, creating work for his workforce after building the William Jolly Bridge (then Grey St Bridge) and before the Queensland government invested in infrastructure of the Story Bridge. The local people who came along had wonderful stories of their own – one person remembered being there at the Opening as a child; another said her father was the first to pay the toll and some gave me wonderful photos of the Bridge over the years.

One man gave me a photo of a cabinet MR had made for use in the office during the Highway construction – it has drawers on both sides and was an early ‘in tray’ and ‘out tray.’ Now it’s amongst his own collection of treasured furniture. Whispered stories from the women explained to me that it was a women’s folklore story that a drive over the ‘humpity bump’ of the Highway could help to bring on the birth of a baby when it was due.

The art deco portals of the Bridge have been restored and remain in local splendour as an ongoing respect to the era when pioneers developed the area, worked out how to build Australia’s longest Bridge and created employment and growth in the Depression.

Although the Bridge was demolished in 2010 after being a bicycle and footway road since the 1970’s, the north end is retained as a fishing jetty and the art deco portals at either end take our imagination back to those days when the Bridge was designed, the timber sourced from the Obi Obi forests and brought to the Bay by rail and barge and meeting challenges brought communities together. The portals were designed by architect John Beebe and brought a stately dignity which is valued to this day. In researching the project I was able to meet Iona Cominos who wrote a chapter featuring the art deco portals of the Highway in the book Brisbane Art Deco. Working on the project brings a real sense of ‘coming home’ for me, even though these events took place long before I was born.

The Redcliffe Museum held a display for the 80th anniversary of the opening of the Hornibrook Highway, showing a uniform worn by the toll collector, tickets, the bridge and portrait of MR Hornibrook. In the foreground is the celebratory cake for morning tea. Thanks to Jakob Pfaeffli for the photo.

The Redcliffe Museum held a display for the 80th anniversary of the opening of the Hornibrook Highway, showing a uniform worn by the toll collector, tickets, the bridge and portrait of MR Hornibrook. In the foreground is the celebratory cake for morning tea. Thanks to Jakob Pfaeffli for the photo.

Toll ticket from Highway toll – each car paid a schilling for a crossing. Thanks to Ian Harding for photo.

Toll ticket from Highway toll – each car paid a schilling for a crossing. Thanks to Ian Harding for photo.

Cath Lyndon , daughter of Eric Hornibrook who was Works Manager for the Bridge of Hornibrook Highway, treasures this ribbon that was part of the length cut by a gold boomerang at the Opening of the Highway. Photo by Julie Hornibrook.

Cath Lyndon , daughter of Eric Hornibrook who was Works Manager for the Bridge of Hornibrook Highway, treasures this ribbon that was part of the length cut by a gold boomerang at the Opening of the Highway. Photo by Julie Hornibrook.

Redcliffe honours the Hornibrook Highway with this interactive sculpture of a park seat, near the Museum – the timber is recycled from the Bridge and the ends are fashioned to represent the art deco portals at either end. Photo Ian Harding

Redcliffe honours the Hornibrook Highway with this interactive sculpture of a park seat, near the Museum – the timber is recycled from the Bridge and the ends are fashioned to represent the art deco portals at either end. Photo by Ian Harding

Redcliffe honours the Hornibrook Highway with this interactive sculpture of a park seat, and plaque, near the Museum – the timber is recycled from the Bridge and the ends are fashioned to represent the art deco portals. Grandson of MR, Sam Hornibrook, chats with Marle Juster at the anniversary celebration. Marle remembers being at the Opening of the Bridge as a child of about 12 years old. Photo Jakob Pfaeffli

Grandson of MR, Sam Hornibrook, chats with Marle Juster at the anniversary celebration. Marle remembers being at the Opening of the Bridge as a child of about 12 years old. Photo by Jakob Pfaeffli

Discover more of Julie Hornibrook’s research –

Julie Hornibrook was the recipient of the 2015 Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame Fellowship.