Ipswich mayor Teresa Harding inside the old Woollen Mills in North Ipswich. The property was acquired by the council in 2015.
Ipswich mayor Teresa Harding inside the old Woollen Mills in North Ipswich. The property was acquired by the council in 2015.

Woollen Mills unused six years after council purchase

THERE is no clear future ahead for the old Woollen Mills in North Ipswich, six years after it was purchased by Ipswich City Council.

Disgraced former mayor Paul Pisasale had grand plans to transform the historic property into a cultural precinct which would have housed local artists and markets.

The council has conducted regular maintenance and minor capital works to preserve the heritage-listed site over the years since acquiring it in 2015 but it still sits unused.

Woolen Mills North Ipswich: Inside look at the Woolen Mills in North Ipswich.
Woolen Mills North Ipswich: Inside look at the Woolen Mills in North Ipswich.

Murals and graffiti are scattered all across its walls.

One step inside the run down space and its potential is obvious.

It holds a special place in the hearts of many local families.

The Queensland Woollen Manufacturing Company was formed in 1875 with the aim of setting up the first woollen mill in Queensland in Ipswich.

The company bought 7.25 acres on a bend of the Bremer River.

The woollen mill factory was officially opened in 1877 by Governor Sir Arthur Kennedy.

An ad in the QT in 1879 stated the products were manufactured from Queensland Merino Wool and were "free from shoddy mixtures of cloths gathered from prisons, hospitals and asylums".

Inside the Woollen Mills in North Ipswich.
Inside the Woollen Mills in North Ipswich.

Extra space was needed for worsted manufacture and the wooden factory was replaced by a large brick and iron building in 1890.

While other industries in Ipswich provided work for men and boys, the woollen mill gave opportunities for women and girls.

A government inquiry into working conditions at the factory found the majority of employees, 152 out of 226, were women.

It was one of three woollen mills eventually established in the city.

In 1968 the Queensland Woollen Manufacturing Company bought out Ipswich Woollen Mills at East Ipswich to become Australian Fabric Manufacturers.

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The combined firm was then purchased by Sydney-based firm of Max Frost.

In 1984 Hancock Bros Pty Ltd bought the older part of the woollen mill and used it for manufacturing plywood.

Boral purchased the firm in 1995 and renamed it Boral Hancock but that closed in 2011.

Ipswich mayor Teresa Harding said the council was exploring how to restore the facility, possibly in stages.

She said quotes obtained while the council was under administration estimated it would cost about $10 million just to get it up to scratch for any use.

Inside the Woollen Mills in North Ipswich.
Inside the Woollen Mills in North Ipswich.

While other projects are taking priority, including the $250 million CBD redevelopment and the North Ipswich Sport and Recreation Precinct planned for just down the road, Cr Harding said the Woollen Mills was "certainly on the council's radar".

"Council has, over the years, considered redeveloping the property, noting that significant community consultation and external financial investment would be required to progress," she said.

"There are other significant projects in progress that we need to consider when determining the future use of the Woollen Mills property including the North Ipswich Sport and Recreation Precinct which is currently finalising stage two of its business case.

Inside the Woollen Mills in North Ipswich.
Inside the Woollen Mills in North Ipswich.

"We are investigating what it would take to, say, just do up the western side.

"Instead of doing the whole shebang over 10 or 20 years, let's look at what we can do incrementally to utilise the space."

Cr Harding said it was important to come up with a plan for the site which would be well-used by residents and visitors and be a good investment of ratepayer funds.

"There's a lot of passion and a lot of history here," she said.

"There's a lot of people with mums and grandmas and aunties who worked here and you can see it's a really unique site.

Inside the Woollen Mills in North Ipswich.
Inside the Woollen Mills in North Ipswich.

"It's a historic part of Ipswich.

"We're certainly exploring (options) but can't make any commitments.

"Last year we had our very first Creators of Ipswich Summit and we're going to be setting up an advisory panel from there.

"So we want to put forward options to them to see what the leaders in the creative community think of it.

"I think we're open to all options and opportunities."

Read more stories by Lachlan McIvor here.