Solid, reliable, beautiful | A tribute to the bluestone pitcher

What material could be more iconicly Melbourne than the bluestone pitcher?

Think of the solid walls of historical Melbourne landmarks such as the Old Melbourne Gaol, Melbourne Town Hall or the St Kilda Road Barracks.  Wander the laneways our city is famous for, and beneath your feet are kerbs of this beautiful stone.

The use of Bluestone in Melbourne goes back to the mid-nineteenth century.  As the city grew, public buildings and facilities were being built and roads and laneways were being sealed to accommodate heavier traffic (more carts) and improve drainage.

The bluestone foundations of Melbourne’s Princes Bridge (Via http://www.bcl.com.au)

Due to the location of ancient basaltic lava flows to the west of Melbourne there was a readily available, strong, relatively smooth and hard wearing material that was perfect for the task.  The name ‘Bluestone’ is actually specific to basalt that was quarried around Melbourne, as it was seen to have more of a blue colour than the usual basaltic grey.

There is some fascinating local history featuring this iconic block.  Residents and visitors to the beaches of Beaumaris and Black Rock would be familiar with the bluestone seawall.  This was constructed during the depression using blocks from the partial demolition of the Old Melbourne Gaol. Many rumours and stories surround these blocks and there are known locations of burial markers of executed prisoners.

“Bluestone burial marker of Alfred Archer (located in sea wall on Beaumaris foreshore), executed 21.11.1898, Melbourne. Heritage Victoria collection.”

Looking around a suburb such as Beaumaris you can see so many examples of bluestone being used alongside midcentury architecture.  It is a perfect match.  A solid, attractive stone that complements the timbers and masonry of a midcentury home.

One of the many bluestone walls accompanying a midcentury home in Beaumaris

From a landscaping point of view, bluestone pitchers (or blocks) provide a wonderful solution to many situations.

'If the joints between bluestone pitchers are left raked out on the rise to a carport, cars cannot slip.'

A Bluestone pitcher driveway feature in ‘Australian Garden Design’ by Ellis Stones

A quick browse through some of the posts on this blog feature bluestone as a solution for driveway pavement, terraces, garden walls (or structural walls for that matter) and garden edging.

Bluestone as a solid and practical garden bed edging

Bluestone as a solid and practical garden bed edging

So when it came time to get stuck into our new midcentury Beaumaris garden project, our first thought was to once again turn to this magnificent material.

It just so happens that our ‘new’ home has quite a large amount of bluestone blocks already in place!  Outside our back door is a paved area of large bluestone pitchers.  There is quite a step down from the door and over the years the pavement has moved and settled in the sandy soil, so we need to come up with an alternative terrace pavement (or maybe even decking).

The pile of bluestone begins to build, ready to be rearranged as our new garden edging.

The pile of bluestone begins to build, ready to be rearranged as our new garden edging.

So this provides us with some amazing bluestone pitchers to use in our new garden.

They are a great size and shape (roughly 300 x 300 x 300mm) and are far more uniform than the bluestone we have worked with previously.

Part of a low bluestone wall in our veggie garden (this is the back)

Part of a low bluestone wall in our veggie garden (this is the back)

So the love affair with bluestone continues.  Where could you find a more sturdy or naturally attractive material to work with?

Sources

Melocco Stone – http://www.melocco.com.au/html/bluestone_history.html

City of Port Phillip “Heritage kerbs, channels & laneways

Jeremy Pike, University of Melbourne “Stone, Aggregate, Sand and Clay Products in Construction in Melbourne”

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