The prevailing, practice of early day traffic in Brisbane Town, as well as elsewhere in the Moreton Bay Settlement, prior to the roads being surveyed, gazetted, aligned and formed, was to travel the distance in a circuitous way between the various centres. A hill was skirted, a lagoon or a creek avoided, except at convenient crossing places, and then suitable ground was chosen on which to complete the journey.
Illustrative of this was the original dray track, dignified by the term road, to the northern suburbs of Brisbane and Eagle Farm district of the early days. This track, on the western side of the creek ran along on the side of the grounds of St. James School (originally an Orphan School) about a hundred yards from the western comer of Boundary Street and the present day Wickham Street.
Later, this track was moved to the eastern bank of the creek at that spot. The creek flowed through Fortitude Valley, (Brunswick Railway Station side) to the Water Reserve Lagoon adjacent to the Valley Baths (now situated in Wickham Street).
Surveyor Henry Wade's carefully drawn plan dated 23 October 1843 and that of James Warner in 1848 shows the route of the track as passing in a slightly circular direction and eventually linking up with the present day area near the Waterloo Hotel and the street now identifiable as Ann Street. In those times, the survey plans showed Ann (then correctly shown as Anne) Street as merely a "proposed" road.
If there had not been difficulties in traveling, as there were over Duncan's Hill opposite All Hallows' Convent's present situation, it would have had precedence over Wickham Street as a trafficable street. The survey plan of J. C. Burnett dated 1 October 1851 shows the original direction of the 700 yards of Wickham Street from its intersection with Boundary Street to where it then terminated at Brunswick Street.
Surveys were made in 1856 of the area in which Wickham Street runs as far as the Valley Police Station, or Police Office, as shown on the plan. The area bounded by Ann Street, Church Street to the Railway Line and Brookes Street was portion of the Water Reserve which became the Lock-up Reserve and from the eastern part of this last named area, the Church of England Reserve was granted in 1858.
An air of tardiness seemed to have prevailed regarding the erection of the church and the building of the street. The original Holy Trinity Church of England facing the Ann Street portion of the Reserve was opened by Bishop Hale 28 July 1877 while Wickham Street surveyed in 1856 was opened from near Brunswick Street comer to Bridge Street near the Valley Baths 28 April 1876.
It was not until 1880 that Wickham Street was further extended from Bridge Street, through the Lock-up Reserve, the Church Reserve and the land of nine owners between Brookes Street and the spot where Wickham Street by that name terminates, joins with Ann Street and the thoroughfare becomes Breakfast Creek Road.
As far back as 1870, aldermen had advocated the continuation of Wickham Street from the Valley corner but financial stringency had delayed the extension. The plea of heavy traffic by the only then existing thoroughfare viz Ann Street, was put forth while other opinions then held were that the money being spent on what was then considered an unnecessary street could be better spent on drainage of the area. Several owners gave land for the extension for free, while others accepted compensation below the value of the land.
Other opinions expressed regarding the construction of Wickham Street in that area were that some owners who, having purchased low lying land, as some parts were, had seen their opportunity to dispose of their properties.
Nowadays, to the present day passer-by, traveling on the modern concrete and bitumen surfaces of this street, the comparison with the original state of its foundations, culverts and bridges would show the pattern of many other thoroughfares of early day Brisbane.
Wickham Street from Boundary Street lay between two hilly ridges and from Brunswick Street to Bridge Street and from Brookes Street to Ann Street the area was low-lying. In 1865 Duncan's Hill in Ann Street (opposite All Hallows' Convent) was cut down 15 feet and the road metal and small stone was used chiefly for the formation and building of Lower Ann Street and the surplus material used in Wickham Street near Brunswick Street.
A further cutting down of Duncan's Hill in the year 1876 produced 15,600 cubic yards of road metal and filling material which was used in nearby Wickham Street. The excavation of the railway cuttings at Bowen Hills as well as the tunnel there also provided material to form the Wickham Street as known nowadays.
Much of the stone excavated from Duncan's Hill was used as building stone and helped to compensate for the cost of the work, but the work of reducing the grade of this Hill was considered a very expensive undertaking for the Brisbane of those days.
Several changes and improvements have, of necessity, been effected since the days of J. C. Burnett's plan. In the year 1877 an area of 17 perches was truncated from L. Cusack's allotment next to the premises of Drysdales Ltd, at the corner of Wickham and Boundary Streets to give easier access to Wickham Street. A further 19 perches was resumed at the same corner in 1927 when the newly constructed Barry Parade was nearing completion.
Warren Street from Wickham Street to Ann Street was permanently closed when Centenary Park was formed in 1925 and the truncation of K. M. Smith's corner at Gotha Street eliminated the previously existing, “S" bend at that spot.
The corner of Wickham Street and Brunswick Street opposite McWhirters was truncated 10 feet after Thornhill's Grocery Store was burnt down in 1876 while in 1924 another 18 feet was taken off the corner. It was appropriate and deserving that Capt. J. C. Wickham R.N. who, in his official capacity played such an important part from 1846 to 1859 in Brisbane Town, Moreton Bay Settlement and who saw much of its early history made, should be honoured by the naming, of Wickham Street.
It would have been the route that Capt. Wickham rode along from his residence Newstead on the Breakfast Creek to the Brisbane Court over which he presided.
This street, from the northern end of the city when joined by Queen Street, was for a long time a central commercial street of Brisbane which had grown more than a hundred fold in area, population and trade since the days when J. C. Wickham was its leading citizen.