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Manning Index of South Australian History
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    Adelaide - Housing, Architecture and Ancillary Matters

    The Building Act

    Also see:
    Adelaide - Buildings
    Hotels, Adelaide - Streets and Destitution.

    Housing in Early South Australia

    Taken from Geoffrey H Manning's A Colonial Experience

    The first buildings in South Australia were said to be on Kangaroo Island and consisted of three cottages side by side and named 'Faith', 'Hope' and 'Charity'. The South Australian Company and several private persons commenced to build houses at Kingscote in 1836, but when this settlement was abandoned in favour of one on the mainland, these premises were left to the occupation of the original islanders.

    In respect of early colonial housing in Adelaide, an early critic in South Australia stated quite vehemently that the English race, wherever it may emigrate, would persist, in spite of all reason to the contrary, in building in a style which had persisted for many decades; viz., 'a right-angled stiff, rigid square front, with a regular row of grim windows; a grim door exactly in the centre, a roof which is neither high enough or low enough.' Further, the walls were invariably too thin for the extreme heat of summer while windows were left exposed to the sun's rays.

    According to another resident on North Terrace, the architect Daniel Garlick, who arrived in the Katherine Stewart Forbes in 1837, 'there were as many architects as houses as every settler planned and built his own residence.' The Garlick family's first home was built of gum logs - square blocks of turf were employed for walling-up between the uprights. The rafters were secured from the pine forests where Enfield now stands and the Reedbeds supplied the roofing material; doors and windows were constructed from some ship fittings. Eventually the home was purchased by the Government as a residence for the first governor of the gaol.

    In a short time reed and mud walls were abandoned and what were known as 'pizey' walls were introduced by a man named 'Pizey' Nicholls. A wooden frame was used for their construction and when the subsoil was mixed with water to a certain consistency, the mixture was thrown in between the boards and left until it set thoroughly, when the framework was raised higher and the operation repeated.

    By 1839 brick makers were operating at Thebarton and Hindmarsh and with plenty of limestone available for burning and an abundant supply of sand in the bed of the Torrens, better classes of habitations began to spring up.

    One builder was critical of the colonial brick and condemned it as being a pale half-burnt description. They were, he opined, as a chemist would say, 'soluble in water'. Early stone houses were built of 'round, rubbly limestone, with untempered mortar and badly founded.' Later, the use of squared stone and better bricks and mortar became general, the most economic material for walls being a compact stone found near Brownhill Creek.

    Few of the wooden houses sent out from England answered the expectations of the importers or fulfilled the promise of the builders, and most became infested with white ants. As is the case today there were always self-proclaimed experts on hand to advise the supposed unwary in respect of real estate and appendages. A local artisan proffered some advice to expectant house-builders:

    It was further advised that, where practicable, the building of brick homes be done in the cooler months of the year when rain or dew would moisten the bricks and other absorbent materials such as lime and mortar.

    In the early days of the colony wooden shingles were used all but universally for roofing purposes but, by 1846, the supply had diminished when timber splitters, taking umbrage at increased timber cutting licences, left for 'the distant mines'; by 1858 the shingle had all but disappeared due to excessive fire insurance premiums demanded by rapacious companies. Slate and galvanised iron then became the fashion; the latter was also used extensively to furnish kitchens and bathrooms and 'to its graceful curve our verandahs owe their principal beauty.'

    Few of the early stone houses would pass the scrutiny of a surveyor without prompt condemnation, built as they were of round, rubbly limestone and with untempered mortar, and badly founded. While the original Trinity Church, built of stone and lime, did credit to the piety of the settlers, it was, for an extensive and costly building, one of the worst that was ever erected as to appearance, durability or commodiousness.

    As I look back over some six decades it appears to me that the evolution of building processes in South Australia has been magical, for the wand of progress has been used with great effect. Few, indeed, of the young folk today realise the conditions that existed here when the pioneers arrived. Things were quite different when compared to the life of comfort, even luxury, which prevails today.

    In general it may be said that the dwellings of early colonists took the following rotation - A tent; a sod-house (walls built with blocks of earth dug out and placed on top of one another) with a thatch roof; a clay and rubble building with a thatch roof; a slab wattle and daub cottage, with shingles for roofing; a lime-concrete domicile with slate roof; a brick house with a covering of galvanised iron and, finally, a stone house with galvanised roof.

    In the 1850s, without an Act to control builders, building material and standards of construction, many complaints were forthcoming from disgruntled home buyers in Adelaide and its embryonic suburbs:

    By the mid-1850s buildings of a hazardous character were still being erected and it became apparent to civic authorities that some form of control would have to be enacted containing regulations:

    Appropriate legislation was passed and, by 1857, wooden roofs were prohibited; all rain and water pipes and gutters were to be made of metal and all cesspools and privies enclosed with brick walls.

    It was one thing to have rules and regulations and another to enforce them for, in 1877, labourers' houses were still cramped in area, with low ceilings and inconvenient windows, small fireplaces and ill-enclosed cesspits so close to doors and windows as to make the air an unhealthy pollutant. Further, bedrooms could seldom be ventilated without opening the front doors and the windows.

    Living rooms served as kitchens, wash-house and general workroom; on washing days the generally unwholesome habitations were increased by steam from washing tubs and the evaporation of dirty suds thrown out into the streets.

    An extract from an 1877 newspaper suggests that the Building Act was a farce:

    A decade later it is apparent that the situation had not improved:

    General Notes

    "Colonial Building - Need for a Building Act" is in the Register,
    6 November 1847, page 3a.

    The paucity of building standards is taken to task in the Adelaide Times on 7 May 1849, page 3b:

    "Wanted, A Building Act" is in the Register on
    21 July 1855, page 2f,
    "A Proposed Building Act" in the Observer,
    3 November 1855, page 4b; also see
    1 November 1855, page 2h,
    3 December 1855, page 3h.

    "The City Building Act" is in the Register,
    2 February 1856, page 2b.

    "The New Building Act" is in the Register,
    4 and 5 September 1856, pages 2d and 2d,
    4 and 9 December 1856, pages 2d and 2d,
    2 May 1857, page 2d, 29 July 1857, page 3g,
    6 and 13 September 1856, pages 6g and 1d (supp.),
    2 May 1857, page 3b,
    "The Adelaide Building Act" on
    21 November 1857, page 6f:

    Also see Register,
    2 May 1857, page 2d,
    18 November 1857, page 2b,
    15 December 1857, page 3d,
    20 January 1858, page 2b,
    13 April 1858, page 2c,
    4 June 1858, page 2h,
    5 June 1858, page 5g,
    29 March 1864, page 2e.

    "Building Regulations" is in the Register,
    6 July 1878, page 4c,
    22 August 1878, page 4g; also see
    14 August 1880, page 5a,
    2 October 1880, page 4f.

    "The Building Bill" is in the Register,
    9 August 1881, page 4c,
    17 January 1882, page 4e; also see
    11 October 1882, page 4g,
    31 July 1906, page 4h,
    19 October 1910, page 5i.

    An editorial on the Building Act is in the Advertiser,
    3 May 1880, page 4e; also see
    8 November 1911, page 15g,
    6 November 1913, page 8d,
    2 May 1921, page 6g,
    5 and 6 November 1913, pages 12c and 6f,
    3 November 1914, page 4c,
    26 September 1921, page 6c,
    5 and 28 November 1923, pages 8d and 10b,
    26 and 28 February 1925, pages 8c and 9e,
    26 March 1925, page 4a,
    30 May 1925, page 10f, The News,
    27 September 1923, page 7a,
    24 October 1923, page 2e,
    27 June 1924, page 13d,
    30 May 1925, page 16e,
    5 November 1926, page 8d.

    The imprisonment of a "spec" builder is reported in the Register,
    26 March 1927, page 17a.

    "The Building Act" is in the Register,
    11 October 1927, page 8c,
    31 January 1929, page 8c.

    Amendments to the Building Act are discussed in the Observer,
    5 October 1929, page 19c.

    Housing, Architecture and Ancillary Matters - Choose again

    Architects and Allied Matters

    Information on the architect, Henry Stuckey, is in the Observer,
    7 June 1851, page 4c.
    "Architectural Display" is in the Register,
    16 January 1855, page 3f,
    "Colonial Architecture" on
    24 January 1855, page 2d.

    A meeting of architects is reported in the Register,
    6 April 1859, page 3f,
    4 March 1860, page 3d,
    3 May 1860, page 3f,
    9 April 1859, page 3d,
    1 June 1859, page 2f,
    9 July 1859, page 3d,
    10 September 1859, page 3h,
    16 October 1900, page 5f.
    Biographical details of early architects and engineers are in the Observer,
    22 November 1924, page 18a.

    "The Architectural Controversy" is in the Advertiser,
    9 July 1859, page 2h.

    "Architecture" is in the Register,
    5 February 1864, page 2g.

    Architectural progress is discussed in the Chronicle,
    6 February 1864, page 2a,
    19 January 1864, pages 2e-3c and
    a proposed architects' association on
    20 and 21 April 1887, pages 6d and 4g,
    "Protection of Architecture" on
    16 June 1887, page 6g.
    A lecture on local architecture is reproduced on
    28 July 1892, page 6a.

    "Architectural Improvements" is reported in the Observer,
    31 December 1864, page 2g (supp.),
    7 January 1865, page 2f (supp.).

    "City Architecture" is in the Register on
    20 January 1866, page 2d; also see
    15 January 1866, page 2g,
    15 November 1866, page 2d,
    16 January 1867, page 2d.

    "The Philosophy of Architecture" is in the Register,
    6 January 1866, page 3c.

    "Health and Architecture" is in the Register,
    3 May 1873, page 4f,
    24 May 1873, page 4f.

    "Payment to Architects" is in the Register,
    24 March 1881, page 3a.

    "City Architecture" is in the Register,
    17 March 1882, page 4d.

    A meeting of an Architectural Students' Association is reported in the Register,
    29 August 1884, page 4h.

    Biographical details of John Haslam, architect, is in the Register,
    6 April 1886, page 5c.

    A presentation to J.G. Reed, architect, is reported in the Register,
    9 July 1886, page 5c.

    A proposed architects' institute is discussed in the Register,
    21 September 1886, page 5c,
    21 September 1886, page 3b; also see
    15 December 1886, page 4f.

    "Architects by Law Established" is in the Register,
    18, 21, 22 and 25 October 1889, pages 4h, 7f, 7d and 7g.

    "The Architects and Designs for Public Buildings" is in the Register,
    22 August 1891, pages 4h-5b-6e,
    21 September 1891, page 7h,
    22 August 1891, page 32e.

    An obituary of William Beattie, architect, is in the Register,
    2 October 1886, page 4h,
    of Thomas Jones, architect and builder, in the Observer,
    19 November 1892, page 29e,
    of Thomas Evans, architect, on
    3 September 1898, page 16e,
    of W.J. Maxwell, architect and sculptor, on
    25 July 1903, page 34d,
    of R.G. Holwell, architect, on
    7 July 1906, page 40c,
    of E.H. Bayer, architect, on
    24 October 1908, page 40d,
    of E.J. Woods, architect, on
    15 January 1916, page 49c,
    of James Macgeorge, architect, on
    4 January 1919, page 33a,
    of W.H. Jervois, architect, on
    14 May 1921, page 34b,
    of Edward Davies, architect, on
    9 April 1927, page 10b.

    "Architecture in South Australia" is in the Register,
    30 July 1892, page 2b (supp.),
    6 August 1892, page 6b.

    Information on the Institute of Architects is in the Register,
    25 October 1894, page 7c,
    23 October 1896, page 5c.

    Biographical details of Harry Jefferis, architect, are in the Register,
    9 March 1895, page 5a.

    "The Revival in the Building Trade" is in the Register,
    8 January 1898, page 7a.

    "Australian Architects" is in the Register,
    29 May 1901, page 4d-g.

    An obituary of the architect, J.H. Reed, is in the Chronicle,
    17 August 1901, page 35c.

    Informative articles on architecture, buildings, etc, are in the Advertiser,
    11 November 1897, page 4e under the heading "Building of North Terrace".

    "Art in Architecture" is in the Advertiser,
    8 May 1901, page 4c,
    "Australian Architecture" is in the Register,
    29 May 1901, page 4d,
    "Advances in Urban Architecture" on
    20 August 1910, page 6c (includes photographs).

    An obituary of F.J. Naish, architect, is in the Register,
    11 May 1904, page 5a,
    of Robert G. Holwell, architect, on
    30 June 1906, page 7b.

    "Architects and Architecture" is in the Advertiser,
    20 June 1907, page 4e,
    21 July 1907, page 6e,
    "Modern Architecture" on
    16 April 1908, page 9g,
    "City Architecture" on
    28 October 1909, page 6d,
    2 November 1912, page 18g,
    "Architecture in Adelaide" on
    28 February 1914, page 6f.

    A meeting of the SA Institute of Architects is reported in the Register,
    21 June 1907, page 9g.

    "People at Work - The Architect" is in the Register,
    10 September 1907, page 7d.

    "Architects and the Building Trade" is in the Advertiser,
    11 June 1909, page 9e.

    "City Architecture" is in the Register,
    2 December 1909, page 6f.

    "Liability of an Architect" is in the Register,
    21 and 26 April 1910, pages 11f and 5e.

    "Artistic Homes - Advances in Urban Architecture" is in the Register,
    1 October 1910, page 8c (includes photographs),
    "Architects in Council" is in the Advertiser,
    2 May 1916, page 6e.

    "An Architect's Diary", interesting reminiscences of Daniel Garlick, is in the Register,
    26 September 1910, page 6c:

    "Cracks in Housing - Views of Architects" is in the Register,
    16 May 1913, page 6f.

    An interview with E.J. Woods, "A Famous Adelaide Architect" is in The Mail,
    28 June 1913, page 8b;
    an obituary is in the Register,
    7 January 1916, page 6f.

    "The Achievements of Mr Edward Davies - Artist, Architect and Man of Letters" is in The Mail,
    15 November 1913, page 8d.

    "South Australian Girl Architect [Miss Mabel Dunstan]" is in the Register,
    6 October 1913, page 9c.

    "Adelaide Architecture - The City of the Future" is in the Register,
    23 March 1915, page 9a; also see
    20 April 1915, page 8g.

    An obituary of A.J. Murray is in the Register,
    25 March 1916, page 8h,
    of H.E. Sibley on
    25 January 1917, page 4g.

    "Architecture in Adelaide" is in the Register,
    24 May 1922, page 9a.

    "Adelaide Architecture - A City of the Future" is in the Register,
    23 March 1915, page 9a.

    "The Needs of the Profession" is in the Register,
    5 and 6 May 1916, pages 7c and 8g.

    An obituary of James Macgeorge is in the Register,
    27 December 1918, page 4f.

    "Architecture in Adelaide" is in the Register,
    4 February 1921, page 4e.

    Biographical details of F.H. Counsell, architect, are in The Critic,
    23 November 1921, page 5,
    of Frank K. Milne on
    19 July 1922, page 5,
    of Eric P. Dancker on
    20 December 1922, page 6.

    "An Architect's Duties" is in the Register,
    1 December 1921, page 5g.

    "Distinctive Architecture in Adelaide" is in the Advertiser,
    2 August 1922, page 8g.

    "The New Adelaide - Distinctive Tendencies in Architecture" is in the Register,
    31 August 1922, page 5d.

    A photograph of local architects is in the Register,
    21 November 1923, page 9.

    "Women Architects - Is There Scope in Adelaide?" is in the Register,
    10 December 1925, page 4c.

    Information on an architects' institute is in the Register,
    31 August 1927, page 16a.

    Photographs of an architects' and a builders' cricket teams are in the Register,
    13 March 1928, page 12.

    Photographs of "Modern Domestic Architecture" are in the Chronicle,
    27 October 1928, page 40.

    "Structural Designers", a comprehensive weekly series of articles on local architects and their work, commences in The News, 20 February 1929, page 10d.

    "Architects Busy" is in the Advertiser,
    6 January 1937, page 20a.

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