Mid Victorian finery: Mallam House was built in 1870 for Henry Guy Mallam, one of Armidale's pioneer chemists and druggists. This post marks the start of a a new series on New England's built landscape and architecture
The past lies all around us in the form of the built landscape. We see it, but then we don’t because it is so familiar to us.
Each period since European occupation of the land has been marked by different architectural styles, by different building forms that vary depending on the time built, on purpose and on available materials, on economics and available technology, on fashion and sometimes fad.
There are similarities in the built landscape across the broader
New England. The
old bank buildings or post offices, for example, are instantly recognisable,
sometimes surviving as symbols of a more optimistic time. However, there are
also differences that reflect differences in physical, human and economic
geography. The architecture of the North
Coast is not the same as the
Tablelands, that of
is different again. Newcastle
The built landscape is constantly reinvented through a process of destruction and reconstruction, of expansion and sometimes contraction. Sometimes elements survive as memorials to past hopes and expectations.
In 1970-71 when Robert Bryant designed stage 3 of the Old Boiler House at the
he did so as part of a broader plan for a northern residential complex. That
complex was never built, swept away in the changes taking place in the
university sector. University of New England
gained autonomy in 1954 there were nine Australian universities. In 1970 that
number had increased to 14. Then an explosion occurred: there were 19
universities in 1980, 25 in 1990, 39 in 2000. UNE’s focus shifted from
expansion to survival in the face of fierce competition, leaving the Old Boiler
House behind as a sign of things past.
There are different ways of classifying the architecture surrounding us.
We can classify it by period and style. Mallam House, for example, is Armidale’s best surviving example a mid Victorian fashionable house.
It was built in 1870 for Henry Guy Mallam, one of Armidale’s pioneer chemists and druggists, to service the high end rental market. Its first tenant was Bishop Timothy O’Mahony, Armidale’s first Catholic Bishop of Armidale.
We can, as with the old Boiler House, look at architecture in terms of the combination of style and purpose.
A very different example of Armidale’s Victorian architecture can be found on the western side of
Beardy Street. Designed by architect John
Sulman for the Australian Joint Stock Bank and completed in 1889, the building was
intended to be functional while acting as a physical assertion of authority and
With this as introduction, over the next few weeks I will take you on a tour of
architecture from the very ancient to the most modern.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 6 September 2017. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016, here 2017.