Terraced houses in Australia
Terraced houses in Australia refers almost exclusively to Victorian and Edwardian era terrace houses or replicas almost always found in the older, inner city areas of the major cities. Modern suburban versions of this style of housing are referred to as "town houses".
Terraced housing was introduced to Australia from the United Kingdom in the nineteenth century. Large numbers of terraced houses were built in the inner suburbs of large Australian cities, particularly Sydney and Melbourne, mainly between the 1850s and the 1890s. The beginning of this period coincided with a population boom caused by the Victorian and New South Wales Gold Rushes of the 1850s and finished with an economic depression in the early 1890s. Detached housing became the popular style of housing in Australia following Federation in 1901.
Terraced housing in Australia ranged from expensive middle-class houses of three, four and five-storeys down to single-storey cottages in working-class suburbs. The most common building material used was brick, often covered with stucco. Many terraces were built in the "Filigree" style, a style distinguished through heavy use of cast iron ornament, particularly on the balconies and sometimes depicting native Australian flora. As some terraces were built speculatively, there are examples of "freestanding" and "semi-detached" terraces which were either intended to have adjoin terraces or the neighbouring buildings were later demolished.
In the first half of the twentieth-century, terraced housing in Australia fell into disfavour and the inner-city areas where they were found were often considered slums. In the 1950s, many urban renewal programs were aimed at eradicating them entirely in favour of high-rise development. In recent decades these inner-city areas and their terraced houses have been gentrified. Terrace houses are now highly sought after in Australia, and due to their proximity to the CBD of the major cities, are often expensive.
With artificial urban boundaries, new townhouse type developments—often nostalgically evoking old style terraces in a modern style—returned to the favour of local planning offices in many suburban areas.
Melbourne's flat terrain has produced regular terraced house patterns, and the wealth of the gold rush fuelled speculative housing development and also ensured that many terraces were built with ornate and elaborate details in a plethora of different styles, often collectively referred to as "boom" style.
The generic Melbourne style of terrace is distinguishable from other regional variations. The majority of designers of Victorian terraces in Melbourne made an effort to deliberately hide roof elements with the use of a decorative parapet, often combined with the use balustrades above a subtle but clearly defined eave cornice and a frieze which was either plain or decorated with a row of brackets (and sometimes additional patterned bas-relief). Chimneys were often tall, visible above the parapet and elaborately Italianate in style. Individual terraces were designed to be appreciated standalone as much as part of a row. Symmetry was achieved through a central classical inspired pediment or similar architectural feature balanced by a pair of architectural finial or urns on either side (though these details were subsequently removed on many terraces). The party walls were almost always decorated with corbels (which sometimes depicted heads) and the large wooden entry doors were decorated with stained or etched glass surrounds. Many Melbourne terraces also featured a unique style of polychrome brickwork, influenced heavily by the early work of local architect Joseph Reed and often highly detailed (though in many terraces this distinctive feature has been later painted or rendered over, although some have since been sandblasted or stripped back). The Melbourne style incorporated decorative cast iron balconies (of the filigree style). The demand for imported cast iron eventually led to local foundries. As a result, today Melbourne has more decorative cast iron than any other city in the world. Melbourne style terraces were often set back from the street rathern than built to the property line, providing a small front yard. Decorative cast iron fencing regularly dispersed with rendered brick piers was typically used and the party wall of the end terraces would sometimes, but not always extend to the property line to join the fence.
History of Terrace Housing in Melbourne
The earliest surviving terrace house in Melbourne is Glass Terrace, 72-74 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy (1853–54). Royal Terrace at 50-68 Nicholson Street Fitzroy, completed three years later is only slightly younger and is the oldest surviving complete row.
Multi-storey terraced housing became prevalent in the Melbourne suburbs of Middle Park, Albert Park, East Melbourne, South Melbourne, Carlton, Collingwood, St Kilda, Balaclava, Richmond, South Yarra, Cremorne, North Melbourne, Fitzroy, Port Melbourne, West Melbourne, Footscray, Hawthorn, Abbortsford, Burnley, Brunswick, Parkville, Flemington, Kensington and Elsternwick. Freestanding terraces and single storey terraces can be found elsewhere within 10 kilometres of the Melbourne city centre.
Terrace housing fell out of favour with Melbourne councils and some actually sought between 1918 and 1920 to ban them completely. The increase of slums in areas of terrace housing saw the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects in 1910 identify the problem being small inner city allotment sizes. The Housing and Slum Reclamation Act of 1920 shifted the responsibility for slum reclamation to local councils. The consequence was a shift toward larger block sizes and inevitably - urban sprawl. During the 1920s, many terrace houses in Victoria were converted into flats.
Although Melbourne retains a large number of heritage registered terraces, many rows were substantially affected by widescale slum reclamation programs in favour of the Housing Commission of Victoria's high-rise public housing plans during the 1950s and 60s. Later private development of walk-up flats and in-fill development has further reduced the number of complete rows. However the 1960s saw a new trend of restoration as part of the gentrification of Melbourne's inner suburbs. As a result, streets and suburbs which contain large intact rows of terrace housing are now fairly rare. Suburbs such as Albert Park, Fitzroy, Carlton, Parkville and East Melbourne are now subject to strict heritage overlays to preserve what is left of these streetscapes.
Some of the more notable examples of terrace housing in Melbourne include the heritage registered Tasma Terrace, Canterbury, Clarendon Terrace, Burlington Terrace, Cypress Terrace, Dorset Terrace, Nepean Terrace and Annerly Terrace (East Melbourne), Blanche Terrace, Cobden Terrace, Holyrood Terrace (Fitzroy), Rochester Terrace and the St Vincent Gardens precinct (Albert Park), Royal Terrace, Holcombe Terrace, Denver Terrace, Dalmeny House & Cramond House, and Benvenuta (Carlton), Marion Terrace (St Kilda) and Finn Barr (South Melbourne).
Outside of Melbourne in Victoria, the larger cities of Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong have some scattered historic terrace houses in inner areas, ranging from modest examples to impressive though generally short rows. The smaller seaside resort town of Queenscliff has a number of examples from the late 19th century. The towns of Portland and Port Fairy, established early in Victoria's development, have a handful of plain, mainly single storey, verandahless early Victorian examples. Other early country towns occasionally have a single example of the same type.
New South Wales
Like Melbourne, Sydney also is home to a large amount of terraced housing. Suburbs where terrace housing is highly prevalent includes The Rocks, Paddington, Bondi Junction, Glebe, Surry Hills, Darlinghurst, Newtown, Balmain, Kirribilli, Camperdown, Annandale, Erskineville, Alexandria, Redfern, Enmore, Potts Point, Chippendale, Darlington, Stanmore, Pyrmont, Woollahra, Petersham, Leichhardt, St Peters, Marrickville, Woolloomooloo, Lilyfield, McMahons Point and Rozelle. Due to the city's higher density, it is not unusual to find terrace houses of up to four storeys.
The terraces of some Sydney suburbs exhibit a distinctly regional variation. The undulating topography of Sydney's inner suburbs means that many of the terraces are typically staggered up hills rather than level or uniform. Sydney terraces were more likely to make a feature of the roof than their Melbourne counterparts, often featuring high pitched windows with dormer windows, but contrasted with much shorter more plain chimneys. Sydney terraces were also more likely to be built right up to the property line. Sydney's narrow streets also make for more intimate streetscapes where terraced.
In contrast to the British practice of the day, where dozens or even hundreds of houses were constructed by a developer as a single housing estate, Sydney practice was normally to build a short run of houses, an interesting example being the "Castle Terrace" in Paddington. Consisting of five houses, the middle one has been given a distinctive treatment.
Most Sydney terraces are firmly anchored into solid sandstone, which provided an opportunity to follow the British practice of constructing a basement storey below street level, reached by a flight of stairs down from the street. Many examples of this are to be found in Paddington. In the suburb of Balmain, there are examples of houses actually constructed from local sandstone, rather than bricks covered with stucco.
Regional New South Wales
Outside of Sydney in New South Wales, Newcastle has a fine collection of 1890s terraces. Almost all of them be found in a conservation area just east of the Central Business District on The Terrace, Wolfe Street, Tyrell Street, Bull Street and Watts Street, including Buchanans Terrace (c1890). Surprisingly, the Western New South Wales city of Dubbo has examples of Victorian terraces and semi-detached houses close to the city centre, mostly in the Darling Street area.
In Brisbane, Queensland, stone and attached building was disfavoured outside of government buildings, and in fact legislated against by the Undue Subdivision of Land Prevention Act 1885. Enacted as a public health and anti-slum measure, this act set a minimum frontage of about 10 metres for each residential block, thus effectively ending the building of terraces, although a few terraces were built as a single rental project, were not subdivided, and managed to bypass the legislation. However only a handful of elaborate heritage listed examples remain, mostly clustered in the Central Business District (The Mansions and Harris Terrace on George Street and Petrie Terrace on Petrie Terrace), and a handful of singular rows in the inner suburbs (Cook's Terrace on Coronation Drive, Milton, Lochaber Mews on Lochaber Street, Dutton Park and Edmonstone Street in West End). Most of these examples notably differ in style to terraces in other Australian cities in that as a regional variation, most of them incorporated elements of the Queenslander. In particular the use of Corrugated galvanised iron high pitched or hip roof as a dominant and practical design element is notable.
Nostalgic replicas became popular in Brisbane in the 1980s and 1990s in mock Victorian style in attempt by developers to appeal to wealthy interstate migrants. As a result, there are some quite convincing replica Melbourne style terraces along Gregory Terrace in Brisbane.
The planned city of Adelaide, South Australia has perhaps the most terrace houses of any other capital city, some of the oldest are located on Adelaide's North Terrace. Marine Apartments, in the suburb of Grange, is particularly notable, as it is a large three storey filigree terrace.
Tasmania, being one of the oldest European settlements has a number of good examples despite the relative size of its major cities in comparison to mainland cities. Inner Hobart has some good examples of terrace housing. Launceston has some great examples as well (mostly in the Central Business District and East Launceston), including Alpha Terrace, which has striking similarities to many of the terraces in Sydney's hilly suburbs.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Terraced houses in Australia.|
- William, Logan (1985). The Gentrification of inner Melbourne - a political geography of inner city housing. Brisbane, Queensland: University of Queensland Press. pp. 9–10. ISBN 0-7022-1729-8.
- Cast Iron - a City Dressed in Lace
- Carrol, Brian (1974). Historic Melbourne Sketchbook "Marvellous Melbourne". Rigby Limited. pp. 108–109. ISBN 0-7270-0289-9.
- Lewis, Miles (1995). Melbourne - The City's History and Development. Melbourne: City of Melbourne. p. 93. ISBN 0-949624-88-8.
- THE GENTRIFICATION OF INNER MELBOURNE. A Political Geography of Inner City Housing by LOGAN, William Stewart. University of Queensland Press. 1985