Bluestone in Melbourne, Victoria
There are two distinct building materials called “bluestone” in Australia. In Victoria, what is known as bluestone is a basalt or olivine basalt. It was one of the favoured building materials during the Victorian Gold Rush period of the 1850s.
In Melbourne it was extracted from quarries throughout the inner northern suburbs, such as Clifton Hill, Brunswick and Coburg, where the quarry used to source the stone for Pentridge Prison is now Coburg Lake.
Bluestone was also sourced in many other regions of the Victorian volcanic plains, and used in towns and cities of central and western regions, including Ballarat, Geelong, Kyneton, Port Fairy and Portland. It is still quarried at a number of places around the state.
What Is Bluestone
Bluestone is very hard and therefore difficult to work, so it was predominantly used for warehouses, miscellaneous walls, and the foundations of buildings. However, a number of significant bluestone buildings exist, including the Old Melbourne Gaol, Pentridge Prison, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Victoria Barracks, Melbourne Grammar School, Deaf Children Australia and Victorian College for the Deaf, Vision Australia, the Goldsbrough Mort warehouses (Bourke Street) and the Timeball Tower, as well as St Mary’s Basilica in Geelong.
Some examples of other major structures that use bluestone include Princes Bridge, the adjacent Federation Wharf, and Hawthorn Bridge. Because of its distinctive qualities, post-modern Melbourne buildings have also made use of bluestone for nostalgic reasons. These include the Southgate complex and promenade in Southbank, Victoria, and apartment buildings such as the Melburnian.
Bluestone was also used extensively as cobblestone, and for kerbs and gutters, many examples which still exist in some of Melbourne’s smaller city lanes and 19th Century inner suburban lanes. Crushed bluestone aggregate, known as bluemetal, is still used extensively in Victoria as railway ballast, road base, and, combined with bitumen, as road surfacing material, as well as in concrete making.
Bluestone pavers remains one of the most enduring stone choices for people in Melbourne and Victoria due to its durability, great looks and cost effectiveness.
In summary Bluestone should meet the following principles:
- Suitable for Australian conditions and fixing methods.
- Aesthetic beauty and colour.
- compact grained stone with minimum variation.