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Sir Manuel Richard Hornibrook OBE

The master builder and industrialist was born in 1893 at Enoggera. He was the second of seven children to John and Catherine Hornibrook. Manuel was educated at Nambour, Obi Obi, Bowen Bridge and South Brisbane state schools.

Being big for his age, was apprenticed aged 13 to a Brisbane builder, to learn the buildings and joinery trade.

At the age of 19, he and his brother Reg established their own business in building drainage channels and sewerage systems. Subsequently they successfully excavated open cut coal mines and created water supply systems for several Queensland towns. Over the next 40 years they built wool stores, wheat silos, wharves, factories and electrical power stations, however bridge building became Hornibrook's speciality.

In 1914 Hornibrook joined the Queensland Master Builders' Association and was its president in 1922 and 1923.

The business quickly moved into civil engineering contracting, excavating the State's first open-cut coal mine at Blair Athol in 1923. The William Jolly Bridge built from 1930 to 1932 became his all-time favourite project because of the aesthetic appeal of the bridge and the pioneering use of the sand island method of pier construction.

His first across the Burrum River was followed by the Hornibrook Highway to Redcliffe in 1935, providing work for hundreds of men through the depression years.

At the time of completion, the bridge had a length of 2.684 kilometres (1.668 mi) and it was the longest bridge in the Southern Hemisphere, and the second longest in the world after the Maestri Bridge in the United States.

The group built more than 100 bridges including the William Jolly and the Victoria Bridge in Brisbane.

One of Hornibrook's most challenging projects was building the immensely complex roof shells of the Sydney Opera House, turning architect Jorn Utzon's dream into reality.

He was president (1926) and a life member (1959) of the Master Builders Federation of Australia; he was also a foundation fellow (1951), councillor and National President (1952–56) of the Australian Institute of Builders (now Building), and a driving force in the construction of its headquarters at Milson's Point, Sydney. For his contribution to the science and the practice of building, he was awarded the A.I.B.'s first medal of merit (the AIB Medal, 1955). President (1953–59) of the Queensland Civil Engineering Contractors' Association, he was an honorary member (1968) of the Australian Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors and an honorary fellow (1969) of the Chartered Institute of Building (Britain)—the first Australian to be so honoured. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1957 and knighted (as a Knight Bachelor) in 1960.

He was the first Australian given an honorary member of the British Chartered Institute of Building and received his OBE in 1957.

Sir Manuel passed away on the 30th May, 1970 aged 76 years, and was posthumously inducted into the Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame in 2016.


Sir Manuel Hornibrook is listed on the wall of the Redcliffe Wall of Fame:

A collection of portrait and information honouring the achievements of individuals who have influenced and shaped Redcliffe. The collection is in the Jetty Arcade at 139-141 Redcliffe Parade.

For a complete list of people who appear on the wall click on the following blog post:

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