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.
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.
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.
From a landscaping point of view, bluestone pitchers (or blocks) provide a wonderful solution to many situations.
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).
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.
So the love affair with bluestone continues. Where could you find a more sturdy or naturally attractive material to work with?
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”