Hidden history uncovered at the Old Flour Mill

The Old Flour Mill is a distinctive building that casts a strong presence at the Top of Town.

Originally built to house the Ipswich Flour Milling Company Ltd, the building has had many incarnations over the years but the building retains its own distinctive character and identity.

The building is a wooden icon with history dripping from its walls.

One such treasure was recently uncovered during the current renovation.

Not knowing exactly what the building had hidden under its wrapping, the builders were pleasantly surprised to discover a hand painted sign under an enclosed awning.

Not only that, they were further surprised to discover it was not rotted or damaged and still in good condition.

TMJ Architects principal architect Peter Johnston has been tasked with the Old Flour Mill’s renovation which is expected to be finished within weeks.

“The single-storey building on the eastern side had an awning but the three-storey flour mill on the western side did not originally have an awning,” Mr Johnston explains.

“They built the second awning in the 1930s and boxed in the original awning from the 1900s so it looked like one big awning.

“Part of this renovation is that we are taking everything back as we want to get that character back that has been covered over the years.

“When the builders took the cladding off the side they found a sign there. It’s still in reasonably good condition considering it was painted sometime in the 1930s.

“We want to maintain that now, the only shame is that Brisbane Street is a one way street running in the wrong direction, so you only see it if you are on foot heading west along the street.”

The building holds other hidden gems and as Mr Johnston takes the building back he is finding them.

Image Courtesy: Picture Ipswich

“We are reinventing it by taking it back close to original. It has evolved over a long period of time where the interstate owners want to strip it back and we have shifted the entry to the middle of the building which can access all floors,” Mr Johnston said.

“We have very experienced local builders from Kurtz Constructions, who are really skilled tradesmen that have worked in Ipswich their whole lives on buildings like this. They have used a lot of heritage building methods.

“They have redone the ceilings back to how they were and any bricks that were removed for the new entrance were put back into the building elsewhere to fill up windows. Any new floors we have put in have been done with recycled timber.

“There is more light coming in there now and it’s made it very contemporary and a lot more modern by honouring where it came from.”

Mr Johnston has relished the opportunity to work on one of Ipswich’s heritage listed buildings.

“I think it’s really important to maintain our heritage because we don’t have that many high-quality old buildings, so the ones that are around, we really need to look after,” he said.

“We are all working really hard to make this building work for the businesses that are here. If we can get an iconic building to work, get something interesting to happen here, it might get that little spark going again for other businesses in Ipswich.”

Read also:

                  >>> Bert the Old Flour Mill ghost

From coaches to cars, the sign reads:

F.W. Johnson & Sons

In 1926 the building changed hands from Cribb & Foote to the Johnson family. The ground floor housed Johnson’s Garage and a motor showroom.

F.W. Johnson (Frederick William), started his coach business in Ipswich in 1884. He was an Alderman in Ipswich from 1907-1912. His sons, William and E. B. Johnson took over the firm, and in 1926 moved to the Old Flour Mill and the firm began dealing in motor cars.

Image Courtesy: Picture Ipswich

Taken from the Queensland Heritage Register:

Architect George Brockwell Gill designed the flour mill in 1900 and Worley & Whitehead started building it in 1901.

It is part of the historic shopping precinct known as “Top of Town” and makes an important contribution to the streetscape.

The flour mill is associated with politician Francis Kates and his son Francis Henry Kates, and with the development of the family’s milling enterprises.

In May 1910, Cribb and Foote bought the property for less than the mill’s construction cost, using it to accommodate several departments while their new building was being erected. It seems to have then continued in use as the firm’s Stove Department. An awning with decorative timber brackets was erected over the footpath in front of the single storey section and a lift was built.

In 1926, the property was bought by the Johnson family and used as a car showroom. In September 1935, radio station 4IP was established in the top floor, entry being via an external staircase on the western side.

An awning was erected across the front of the building, incorporating the earlier Cribb and Foote section of awning; the date is not certain but was probably in the late 1920s as work appears to be in progress in a 1927 photograph.

Later uses of the mill included housing Paddy’s Market and storing furniture. In the mid-1980s, the upper floor was used for a martial arts school and the lower floors became a bridal shop and fabric shop.

In 1985, the property was purchased by Beverley de Witt and it was converted into a restaurant, function room and shopping arcade in 1993. An additional two-storey wing was built at the rear of the mill section to house the function room.

List of retailers currently trading at the Old Flour Mill

Sacred Cow Yoga https://www.facebook.com/SACREDCOWYOGA/  A community based yoga studio which caters to all levels and ages – also providing pregnancy yoga and deep wisdom teachings.

Martha & Mable https://www.facebook.com/marthaandmable/ A space for artists to come together and sell their work.

Soul Cauldron https://www.facebook.com/The-Soul-Cauldron-509682219415720/

The soul Cauldron is a place for people who are curious about their spiritual side.

AEX Collectables https://www.facebook.com/AEXCollectibles/ A family-owned specialty store for pop culture and classic collectibles.

Embers & Twine https://www.facebook.com/embers.and.twine/ Specialise in unique and thoughtful gifts for any style or occasion.

Nails by Brooke https://www.facebook.com/NailsbyBrookeH/ Specialises in gel nails, toes, spray tanning and eyelash extensions.

Serenity Treatment Room https://www.facebook.com/serenitytreatmentroom.ipswich/ Serenity Treatment Room offers a range of relaxing beauty therapy treatments that use clean, natural and organic products wherever possible.

Underground Hair Culture https://www.facebook.com/undergroundhairculture/ Offer a full range of salon services as well as using organic products and they recycle everything, including cut hair for worm farms.


  1. I remember when it was Radio 4IP my first introduction to radio, i used to go and draw the competition winners out. in evening
    i went on later to work in radio in Brisbane and other stations including NSW and still in the game in Sydney region
    I look forward to visiting and having a look at the renovations ..

  2. My mother’s father and uncle (Johnson’s) owned the building. My mother was born in 1916 and my father Terence Lambert met Mum when he was a radio announcer at 4IP. There are still descendants of the Johnsons living in Queensland.

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