Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

New England's built landscape - Armidale's Brown Street a microcosm of architectural styles

Revival: Built in 1904 for George Baker by George F Nott, architect Ranclaud of Tamworth, Birida is a classic statement of the Queen Anne Revival style.. This is the eleventh in my series on New England's built landscape and architecture.

I said that each of the New England centres had their own style reflecting the period at which they were built.

In Armidale’s case, the old city is predominantly Victorian with a strong admixture of Federation styles. There are also Georgian overlays in things such as the symmetrical rooflines that persisted into the Federation period.

The first vernacular colonial slab and bark buildings clustered around Rusden, Beardy and Dumaresq streets. By the mid 1850s, these were being replaced by a more sophisticated vernacular form with dressed timbers and shingle roofs. Very few if any of these buildings survive.

While brick was available, timber would continue to be an important building material into the twentieth century especially (but not always) in the more modest dwellings. For that reason, a number of architectural styles can be found expressed in timber, including the California Bungalow. style that forms such an important part of the Armidale streetscape.

As wealth increased, the still small merchant and professional class began to build bigger houses on South Hill from Barney to Mann Street. These generally faced north to catch the sun with views over the town.

Workmen’s cottages were also required. By 1870 inns, stores, blacksmiths shops and small factories had developed on the western edge of town including Barnett A Moses substantial tannery. The coming of the railway accelerated this trend. Armidale west of Jessie Street became the working class area.

Armidale’s Brown Street provides a microcosm of all the different styles, one that you can walk or drive using Dr John Ferry’s 2007 book, Brown Street Armidale NSW 2350 as a guide.

The street is book ended by two of Armidale’s most iconic buildings, the railway station in the west, the Armidale School in the east. Opened in 1883, the railway station is an outstanding example of the high Victorian architecture that marked so many railway stations of the period.

The main Armidale School building opened ten years later. Designed by architect Sir John Sulman, it is a Federation Queen Anne style building with both arts and crafts and Victorian elements.

First house: Built in 1863 by builder John Barnes and then sold to Joseph Scholes, Newton Terrace now Marsh House was the first house in Armidale's Brown Street area, laying the basis for the fashionable mansions that would follow.  

The development of Brown Street began when early Armidale builder John Barnes built a house on spec in 1863 and then sold it to successful Armidale businessman Joseph Scholes who named it Newton Terrace. The house survives today as Marsh House.

From this point, development extended along the street. From the railway station to Jessie Street the houses generally began as workmen’s cottages. From Jessie Street you find the more substantial residences that with their counterparts in Mann and Barney Streets form one of Armidale’s most significant architectural precincts.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 15 November 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.  


Anonymous said...

When living in the old small stone cottage at 160 Kirkwood Street in the mid-1980s I discovered that it had a partial shingle roof hidden under the iron roof (I was up there laying insulation batts). Perhaps some shingle roofs live on in other residences too. (From memory, that cottage was visible in an 1860s-1880s woodcut of Armidale).



Jim Belshaw said...

That's a very interesting house, Gordon. I had forgotten it. It's style is early, but I don't have any history on it.

When the railway line came in, shingle roofs were covered over by iron. I have seen references, I can't remember them, to other shingle roofs surviving under the iron.