Thomas Hancock senior came to Australia from Cornwall with his family in 1856 and moved to the West Moreton District in 1864. He and his sons worked as Sawyers in the Pine Mountain area and established a sawmill in the Rosewood scrub area around 1867. Cut logs were floated downstream to the mill at ‘Kircheim’, now known as Haigslea.
The family moved to Ipswich and set up a timber yard in Upper Brisbane Street, Ipswich, adding to their timber business. In 1878 they took over the lease of the North Ipswich timber mill from a James Reilly. The mill was able to turn out 50,000 feet of sawn timber per week. They subsequently purchased this mill and set up a smaller mill in Canning Street, North Ipswich. In 1880 Thomas purchased land at Lamington Parade in North Ipswich along the Bremer River and set up a large mill with three storeys which would become their main office; the business now known as Thomas Hancock & Sons. This would become their head office. In 1885 the railway branch line which carried railway rolling stock from the Bremer River wharf to the Railway Workshops was extended at cost to the firm to link up with their sawmill in Lamington Parade. This coincided with a major fire destroying almost all of the original buildings at the North Ipswich, Lamington Parade mill. With easy access now to the railway line the business soon rebuilt and expanded. Timber in the log could be brought right to the mill by rail from Harrisville and Lowood and timber cuts from the mill could be delivered by rail instead of steamers and punts. The business once again held a mill, joinery and moulding plant. A Lathe department produced doors, window sashes and panelling. By this time Hancock & Sons were well known as having one of the most valuable properties of its kind in Queensland. Thomas senior retired from the business in 1884 and passed away in 1891 leaving his two sons, Thomas junior and Josias to run the business. Josias Hancock supervised the iron founding, smithing and machinery branches while Thomas Hancock junior looked after the timber mill. In the same year Hancock Brothers began making furniture by machinery and fancy palisading for verandahs. Employee numbers grew to around 274 by 1886.
After a fallout between Brothers Thomas jnr and Josias, Josias moved away from the Hancock Mill leaving Thomas Jnr running the business. In 1898, Josias Hancock along with Joseph Gore established Hancock and Gore. The business was converted to a limited liability company in 1904 with Thomas senior’s grandson (Josias’s son), Josias Henry Hancock overseeing. Under Josias’s management the company expanded rapidly. Mills were built at five locations in Brisbane and 13 rural locations in Queensland. By 1945 the company became Australia’s largest producer of plywood.
By 1990, the fourth generation of the Hancock family were still running the Hancock mill at North Ipswich and new products such as plywood decking were being made. In 1995 Boral bought the company. In 2011 Boral Hancock Plywood closed its doors.
To read more about Hancocks timber mill or the history of Ipswich, please visit the Viva Cribb Local History Room located at the Ipswich Central Library or go to our Picture Ipswich database at www.library.ipswich.qld.gov.au
This post was edited on 18-09-2017. Please see comment from April 16, 2015.
Information taken from Boiler House – Hancock’s Sawmill, Ipswich; Ipswich in the 20th Century by Robyn Buchanan; ‘Ipswich City Council ‘Heritage Study, 1992′; Jimna Single Men’s Barracks (former) http://eheritage.metadata.net/record/QLD-602685 ; Brisbane Valley Heritage Trails: Separation to Federation (1900) http://www.brisbanevalleyheritage.org.au/separation-to-federation-1900/ ; HGL our story http://www.hgl.com.au/about/our-story