Brisbane City Hall was opened in 1930 following 10 years of construction and was renovated in 2013 at a cost of 215 million dollars. The main entrance is next to St. George Square but the building also has entrances on Adelaide and Ann Streets. Queensland Governor Major Sir Hamilton J. Goold-Adams lay the foundation stone in February 1917, a few years in advance of the construction. A time capsule made from Zinc was laid beneath the stone that contained copies of the Brisbane daily newspapers, copy of the Proclamation of the Incorporation of the City, a copy of the minutes of the first meeting of the City Council, a copy of the minutes of the meeting at which the council resolved to lay this foundation stone, one of each of the current coins of the realm, a message of good wishes from the Governor. The stone was actually removed as it was out of alignment and a second foundation stone was laid by Edward, Prince of Wales in 1920. In 1980 the building was renovated and the Museum of Brisbane opened up in some of the previous administration offices.
Throughout the years the building gradually sank a little as it was constructed over swampy land and in 2010 the hall was closed fro a 3 year restoration project. The building has 3 floors with large columns at the entrance, a clock tower and an auditorium. There is a wonderful chandelier in the main entrance hall, if you look up towards the ceiling. Unfortunately the lights prevented me from taking a photograph.
Tours of City Hall can be arranged by checking the website below. They are free but you must book in advance.
The City Hall Clock Tower tour is FREE OF CHARGE
Originally, this Tower wasn't open to the public, then later it was. Adults were charged six pence, children three pence to cover the cost of the lift operator.
To take the tour, we went by elevator to the 3rd floor reception desk and asked when the next tour was. Even though the tour is FREE and runs every 15 minutes, you have to BOOK A TOUR.
The lift can only take so many people, so your given a timed ticket for the next available tour, which for us meant a 1.5 hour wait. It's very popular, especially on weekends.
On the 3rd floor, we were met by a guide and shown into a very old fashioned hand-operated elevator, one of the last working ones in Australia. From here we were taken nearly to the top of the Tower, the last bit was a few steps and we were there. We walked around the observation platform on the tower and viewed the city centre from behind clean glass, quite ok for taking photos!
On weekends, the clock does not chime, I was quite happy about that, but I guess some people may be disappointed. The chimes are known as "Westminster or Cambridge" and consist of four bells weighing over three tonnes that chime every 15 minutes and a 4.3 tonne striking bell that marks the hour
After everybody having a good look here, we were taken down by elevator to where we could see the works of the clock and the clock face. Here we were told some facts about this clock, like the clock face is nearly 5 metres in diameter and when we could hear the whirring, the second hand was moving.
When the clock was built, it was the largest public clock and most modern time-keeping piece in Australia and the tallest structure in Brisbane until the 1960s.
The clock tower is open from 10am to 5pm, seven days a week.
Cultural heritage public art trail
The mid-19th century building with Victorian architecture and an impressive clock tower, is the only CITY HALL in Australia, the rest are TOWN HALLS.
If you have a look above the Portico and Entrance to City Hall, you will see a beautifully sculptured pediment, known as the tympanum. It was carved by noted Brisbane sculptor, Daphne Mayo in the early 1930's after City Hall was opened. It is considered quite an important Brisbane sculpture.
It depicts "Settlement of Queensland."
Viewing the sculpture, I could see Cattle, Horses, Men & Women and a Kangaroo. In the centre was a female figure, said to depict "progress," and on the sides were white settlers with their cattle and Explorers with their horses. All of these figures were moving out from under the protecting arms of the woman going to claim the land from the indigenous people and native animals. They are represented by two Aboriginal males crouching in the left hand corner, and a fleeing kangaroo. A young European male and female, a sheep and a row of books and an artist's palette, represent the new European nation, agriculture and civilisation
It is an adaptation of the pedimental groupings of ancient Greek temples.
City Hall is open to the public 7 days a week.
Monday to Friday 8am to 5pm
Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays 9am to 5pm
City Hall has FREE TOURS
Available inside City Hall 7 days a week at -
10.30am, 11.30am, 1.30pm, 2.30pm and 3.30pm.
City Hall clock tower tours are 7 days a week
10am to 5pm
On the City Hall tour, we were taken to see the William Bustard stained glass window. This was created approx. 100 years ago and is in the unusual position of being inside City Hall! What is meant to happen, is for the sun to shine through a skylight and to light up the window, unfortunately it was a cloudy day when we were here, so a very dull window is what we saw. We could make out the scenes which the guide explained to us. These were representing colonial Brisbane, (sheep, wheat, Brisbane river, industry) as well as Brisbane’s original coat of arms, floral emblem and motto.
If you have a look at the wall lights in the entrance foyer of Brisbane City Hall, you will see a shield behind the lights also representing colonial Brisbane.
The Main Auditorium is included in the FREE TOUR OF CITY HALL.
This was the highlight of the tour for me! The auditorium has a history of many famous musicians and dignitaries including the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, KISS, two Popes, two Dalai Lamas, six Kings and Queens of Europe, including Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales, all visiting or performing in this magnificent space.
The Main Auditorium was originally known as a 'Concert Hall' and was so vast that early performers dubbed it the 'two acre paddock'. It is a circular design with large, fluted Corinthian pilasters based on the Pantheon of Rome and in keeping with the Corinthian columns on the front facade. A decorative frieze of nymphs playing trumpets and cymbals runs above the stage.
Below it, is the massive Father Henry Willis Organ built in 1892 by Henry Willis and Sons of London. It looked massive just viewing it from the front, but what you and I can't see, is all of the 4,300 pipes that go in behind the wall.
A special organ viewing room will be located behind the organ so visitors can see the workings. As of June 2014, this is still not available, nor is hearing the Organ, as it is still being tuned. Our guide hoped it would be ready by the end of 2014, to be played again.
This is only one of two Organs in the world, the other is at Westminster Cathedral in London.
I think you will be like me and immediately drawn to the new LED lighting system in the main auditorium's 23 metre high ceiling. In the centre of this domed ceiling is a most beautiful lantern which changes colour all the time.
As you can see in my photos, the roof is transformed into a pulsing rainbow effect - it's a wonderful and amazing experience to watch!
The Main Auditorium is used for large-scale gala events, ceremonies, concerts and performances.
A MUST SEE
Can only be seen on city hall tour
The auditorium is not available for tours on Tuesday, due to free concerts being held from 11.30am – 2.00pm.
The Shingle Inn is a Café located on the ground floor of City Hall. As you walk into City Hall, turn right and go as far as you can - That is where the Shingle Inn is located.
Shingle Inn City Hall is open for breakfast, lunch and Traditional Afternoon Tea daily. I came here with my VT friend for a light lunch. No complaints here! Food was good, so were the surroundings and the service!
This historical building was originally opened in 1936 on Edward Street, Brisbane. The Shingle Inn was well known for its superior quality cakes, unique environment and outstanding service. It was there the ladies came dressed in their finest clothes complete with hat and gloves on, to socialize and to be seen! The Shingle Inn closed, then was pulled down and piece by piece rebuilt in City Hall.
It still is what I call fine dining, where fine china and good silver ware is used.
People don't come here in Tshirts or thongs, they are dressed in lovely clothes nearly like they used to be years ago, only in this modern age, hats and gloves are hardly ever worn.
Lunch commences at 11.30am daily and as the Inn is popular, it may pay to book.
Australian and New Zealand wines while you dine or your choice of champagne or beer, coffee or try one of their 15 loose leaf teas.
Afternoon Tea is available at 2.30pm daily and at 11.30am on Saturday and Sunday.
If only these old walls could talk!
It is not cheap. You can check out the Menu on the website I have listed.
After 3 years of restoration and refurbishment, the City Hall is open to the public again and is offering FREE CITY HALL TOURS.
Go by elevator to the 3rd floor and at the reception desk as to do the city hall tour. There, you will be told when the next available tour is and your name entered. Pick up your tickets from the Conceirge desk located on the ground floor near the entrance doors.
There is sign at the bottom of the staircase to signal the meeting point for the tour. Our guide arrived, collected our tickets, ticked off our names and soon the tour began with our lovely, informative guide.
We were told City Hall was built in the1920s at a cost of around a million pounds, making it one of the most expensive Australian buildings at the time. Back then, this was a huge amount of money!
We learnt City Hall had to be restored as it was built on reclaimed swamp land and the concrete was deteriorating badly. The foundations had to be re-done and other major structural defects repaired.
After this initial information, we then started our walk, firstly beginning in the huge foyer area, where the huge beautiful lamp style lights hung. These are quite different, and I haven't seen any others like them in Australia. The foyer floor was patterned in a "fish scale" design, a unique design we found through-out the building even as window pattern. The hall way too had ornate ceilings and more of the lamp lights.
A surprise was learning of the streetscape which was revealed during renovations. It was situated 3 meters under the auditorium and dated back to the 1880s. The original cobblestone street and drain artefacts have now been used in the Enoggera courtyard.
At one stage in City Hall, a false ceiling had been added. When they removed the false ceiling, an old fan was found that was still working, it had never been switched off! They must have made them good back then for it still to be working and it hadn't caught on fire!
We went to the basement and saw part of the original wall and how it had deteriorated. The surprise down here, was where the mens urinal was once located. When they were removing plaster from the wall, they found an area of signatures above the urinal. It turns out they were US Soldiers who were here in Brisbane during WWII. As they had their serial number beside their name, each Soldier was able to be traced. Incredibly, it was found each of these men had returned home safely from the war!
More about the auditorium in the next review.
The tour takes 45 minutes, IS FREE and I thought very interesting. I learnt a lot that I didn't know before!
The Museum of Brisbane is located in City Hall on the 3rd floor from where you leave for the clock tower tour.
After our clock tower tour, we decided to go and see what this Museum had to offer.
This museum has a lot of reading material and photos, not a lot in the way of displays. Here it is a chance to read about how Brisbane developed, how the people lived and made do in hard times. There was quite a bit of information and many photos of Aboriginal Australians. It was interesting to see photos of the old sailing ships coming right up into Brisbane, something the ships of today can't do. There were ferries loaded with horse & cart as there weren't any bridges back then. Another photo was of a travelling Sugar Mill!
It is the history of Brisbane from the past to the present.
If your interested in the history of Brisbane, then this is the place to come
The Museum of Brisbane is located on Level 3, Brisbane City Hall.
Enter through the King George Square foyer of City Hall. Take the lifts located on the right of the building to level 3.
You can not access the Museum via stairs.
Open 7 days a week, 10am - 5pm
The Museum is a purpose built gallery on the third floor of the Brisbane City Hall. It has a number of exhibits that will change over time. At present there is a fantastic photo history of Brisbane display based on the discovery of the river. There is also a display remembering Expo 88 for the 25th anniversary, and an exhibition on 'Fellow Humans' by Steven Hart.
Museum of Brisbane is open seven days a week from 10am to 5pm except for the following.
Closed on Good Friday, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Day.
Open from 1pm to 5pm on Anzac Day.
To get to the museum, enter City Hall via the King George Square foyer and take the lifts outside of Shingle Inn to Level 3.
When it was built the clock was the largest and most modern time piece in Australia. The face is made from white opal and is almost 5 metres across. The minute hand is 3 metres long. The clock rings a Westminster Chime and the largest bell that marks the hour is 4.3 tonne.
The tower is 92 meters high with a viewing platform at 76 metres. Originally not open to the public the lift operators started taking visitors up the tower for the price of sixpence for an adult and thripence for children.
Although the view from the tower has changed dramatically over the years (the Brisbane City Hall was the tallest building in the city for almost 40 years) it is a time honoured tradition to take a ride up the tower. The old cage manually operated lift has been restored and departs from the third level of the building every 15 minutes from 10am. The lift takes you to the viewing platform where you can walk around for a few minutes to take in the view and on the way back down stops level with the clock faces. Unfortunately, for safety reasons, you are not allowed out so have to peer through the mesh of the lift walls.
The ride is now free but tickets must be obtained from the desk outside the Museum of Brisbane on the third floor. It pays to book early as the trip is still very popular and the lift can only hold a small number of people.
This magnificent auditorium deserves a tip of its own.
With a diameter of 31 metres the copper roofed dome is the largest in Australia. The outer copper roof was replaced in its own restoration prior to the main work which started in 2009. The dome is supported by a strong brick base which means there are no internal pillars to block the audience view. The ceiling of the dome had become badly damaged and was unable to be restored. It has been replaced with an acoustic ceiling which also holds electronic gadgetry and lighting. The dome can hold its own light show.
The main feature of the auditorium is the magnificent five-manual Father Henry Willis Organ. It is one of the best preserved examples of this type of organ anywhere in the world. The instrument was built in London in 1892 for a different Brisbane organisation but was bought by the city council after the original owners went bankrupt in 1987. In 1928 the organ was enlarged and refitted for its new home and had its inaugral performance with the opening of Bridbane City Hall in April 1930.
The organ was removed for restoration in 2010 and all 4,300 pipes were cleaned prior to being re-installed in 2013.
Above the organ is a beautiful freize by reknown sculptor Daphne Mayo.
This 45 - 50 minute tour takes you to 4 levels of the City Hall from the newly excavated basement to the museum on the 3rd floor. After discovering major structural damage in 2009 a massive restoration project took place and the City Hall was reopened in April 2013.
Everything have been faithfully restored including the floors which had to be lifted and refitted - especially the magnificent mosaic floor in the foyer. Modern adaptions such as safety and fire modifications have been skillfully achieved. The beautiful marble staircases have been cleaned and chandeliers polished.
Tours leave hourly from the main foyer starting at 10.30am and are completely wheel chair friendly using lifts (elevators) to get between floors. You start off in the which has been extensively excavated to install a commercial kitchen to cater for the functions. Down here is a curious piece of history - once the wall of the men's washroom is a panel covered with signatures dating around WWII. It is known as the Signature Wall. From the basement the tour makes its way upwards visiting courtyards, function rooms and the auditorium until it finishes at the Museum of Brisbane and the starting point for the Clock Tower tour.