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Distinctive features of major building styles can help you identify
and appreciate the period of your house.
These features can include the
style of fencing, windows, painting and rendering.
Fencing is one of the most important elements in the presentation of
your house and the character of the street. The design of your fence
should complement the style of your house. This can be achieved by
building your fence of materials and colours that relate to the
materials and design changes with different architectural periods and
If you are lucky enough to have early photographs of your house,
these might provide valuable clues for the original design of the fence
that was built for your house. A general guideline of the most common
types of fencing found in the area for different house styles is given
Palisade fences have panels of cast iron pickets with spiked or
shaped tops, connected by a horizontal rail and set into a sandstone or
rendered masonry base. Dressed sandstone posts are located at corners
and gateways and where necessary, intermediate posts are used.
Palisade fences are usually between 1200 and 1500mm high. On some larger sites, a palisade fence could be up to 1800mm high.
Retaining walls are used on steep sites, sometimes topped with a
metal palisade or picket fence. They are usually incorporated in to the
garden design. Typical materials are either sandstone or face brick.
Solid masonry fences are designed with panels of solid masonry up to
1,200mm (although usually lower) between slightly taller piers. The
materials are usually face brick or sandstone, depending on the
materials used in the design of the house. Solid masonry fences are
usually much lower for Inter-War and Post WWII housing with panels up to
Timber picket fences are built with timber pickets fixed to
horizontal rails spanning between posts. The spacing of the pickets for
Victorian period fences are usually the same as the width of the picket.
Some Federation picket fences have closer spaces between the pickets.
The pickets for fences to Victorian houses usually have a shaped top.
Common shapes for pickets in Victorian fences include pointed, half
round, and acorn. Picket fences for Federation houses are more likely to
have square tops and chamfered edges. Posts for picket fences are often
shaped in a design that relates to the shape of the pickets. Federation
period houses might also have pickets combined with brick piers and low
brick panels. Gates for picket fences are made of either matching
pickets or might be framed with boarded timber panels. The height of
picket fences varies with most being between 900 and 1200mm high,
usually depending on the length of the street boundary.
Variations of woven wire fencing were used in most periods. Wire mesh
was fixed to a simple frame of post and rails to provide a simple
fence. Earlier examples are rare and often have the wire finished in
decorative loops at the top. Later examples use chain wire with timber
framing. Privacy was usually achieved by planting a hedge behind the
wire mesh. Woven wire fences are rarely more than 900mm high.
Characterised by timber or metal tubing generally consisting of top,
intermediate and/or bottom rails between regularly spaced posts. Common
in houses from the beginning of the 20th Century up to the end of WWII.
The Inner West local government area is fortunate to contain a large
number of older buildings which play a role in defining the area’s
character and identity. Many of these buildings retain much of their
original architectural finishes and detailing. It is important that the
original features of these buildings are retained wherever possible, as
they represent elements of their historic and aesthetic significance.
These details help to tell a story about the evolution of building
technologies and design ideals over time and contribute to our shared
history. For example, exposed brick facades are a key characteristic of
many Federation (c.1890-1915) buildings made possible through
technological change. During the Federation period an innovation in the
brick making process allowed for the production of hard burnt dry
pressed bricks of an even colour range. Previously, bricks had often
been rendered to hide their uneven colour and irregular sizing. As a
result, external brick were kept exposed and began to play an integral
role in the design and aesthetic qualities of these buildings.
Exposed face brick and sandstone facades and fences continue to
contribute to the character and heritage significance of many buildings
within the local government area. Painting or rendering these surfaces
may seem like a simple change, but it can seriously undermine the
heritage value of a property. It may also lead to additional maintenance
issues as covering these materials inhibits their ability to
respond to environmental factors. Once bricks and sandstone are painted
or rendered, it is almost impossible to return them to their natural
state without some irreversible and permanent damage.
Decorative face brickwork on facade of inter-war residential flat building.
Render being removed off a building’s original sandstone facade.
Attempts made to remove paint from an original face brick facade
through sandblasting. Note that traces of the paint are still visible.
Ashfield was first established in the Victorian period, when the gold rushes were stimulating new prosperity and great population growth in Australia. The building of the railway from Sydney to Parramatta, which included Ashfield station, was the stimulus for the first important wave of settlement. Most of the early houses in Ashfield displayed what has become known as the Victorian Georgian style — they were built in much the same manner as the simple houses of Georgian Britain. Only a handful of such houses remain. Some dwellings
were made a little more decorative, with details such as those seen during Britain’s Regency period. As the suburb grew, the cast-iron “lace” filigree satisfied the desire for more ornamentations. Many variations of this widespread style could be seen.
As Australia moved towards federation, more varied styles appeared, some of them illustrating the wish for more dramatic, less formal designs. These Federation styles, showing the influence of America as well as Britain, also employed the better materials, like excellent
brick and terra cotta tiles. And machine production that could lathe- tum and fret-saw timber in elaborate patterns. The Queen Anne and Arts-and-Crafts styles typify this phase of residential architecture.
The Inter-War period was probably Ashfield’s most prolific for home building. One great influence was the bungalow form that originated in California and spread throughout Australia. With its wide roofs and ample verandahs it suited the local climate better than many other forms. New materials such as concrete now supplemented older materials like corrugated iron.
Below are descriptive illustrations of house facades showing just a few of the main styles of architecture that can be seen in the houses of Ashfield. They form a part of the urban tapestry of the suburb — its heritage.
This style appeared in single houses in semi- detached pairs and terrace rows, either single- storeyed or two-storeyed. Its name comes
from the use of cast-iron ‘lace’ or filigree decoration.
This style employed vaguely Italian Classical details such as quoining (embellished wall corners ) and the colonnaded ‘loggia’ (what we call the verandah). It is always asymmetrical in form and generally free-standing. The style began with large houses suchs
‘Glentworth’ (the Convent of the Good Shepherd) in Victoria Street, and was adapted to much humbler dwellings. Some variants include a single-fronted and two storeyed types.
So-called because of the carry-over of Regency detailing into the Victorian period. Houses of this style always have symmetrical facades and simple decoration.
1. Symmetrical facade
2. Brick walling with painted stucco finish.Many early houses of this style had stone walls
3. Hipped roof of medium pitch, covered in slates or corrugated metal. Many were originally shingled.
4. Verandah typically with three bays, with timber posts and simple curvilinear valences
5. Verandah roof usually corrugated metal, often curved profile
6. Double-hung sash or casement windows or sometimes French doors. Openings sometimes had moulded architraves
The asymmetrical form continued into the Federation period and beyond. Houses were almost always single-storeyed and featured face brick and wither slate or terracotta roofs.The cast iron embellishment of earlier times gave way to machine-cut timber decoration.
Houses of this style were built in the federation and Inter-War periods and, as the name implies, usually employed finely crated finishes and details in timber or roughcast rendering and in features such as leadlights. Massing is asymmetrical or picturesque.
As the name implies, this style originated in America. In the Inter-War period it became one of the most common Australian housing styles. The asymmetrical form emphasised the increasing informality of domestic life at this time.
This house form became widespread, particularly in Sydney, in the late Inter-War years and continued to be built after World War II. It was uncomplicated in massing and often incorporated Art Deco motifs typical of the time. Straw-coloured or cream brickwork was popular.
Browse through photographs of the former Ashfield Council area in our online local history picture library.
Browse through photographs of the former Leichhardt Council area in our online local history picture library.
The distinctive features of the major building styles in Marrickville
are shown below to help you identify and appreciate the period of your
house.Not all buildings are exact examples of these styles. Many are
based on pattern book designs with changes being made by individual
When proposing to make alterations to your house it is important to
understand how your building relates to your allotment, the landscape,
to your neighbours and the street. Understanding dominant building types
and styles in the area and how these buildings relate to their
subdivision patterns to form distinctive streetscapes, is important to
understanding the heritage significance of the area.
The former Marrickville Council prepared guidelines or Development
Control Plans (DCPs) to guide you in making decisions about what
additions are appropriate to your style of house.
Marrickville's older buildings are important because they show a
variety of styles from a wide range of periods which reveal the area’s
cultural history. The most important of these buildings are protected as
heritage items and are listed in the Marrickville Local Environmental
Plan (LEP) 2001. Important groups of buildings which can reveal the
many different aspects of Marrickville’s cultural history have been
mapped as draft Heritage Conservation Areas and are also identified in
the Marrickville LEP 2001.
Understanding the stylistic features of the major building types is
important when making decisions about maintaining your home, restoring
your home, reinstating lost details or making additions.
There are a number of architectural styles used by architects and builders in each historic period.
The content below was originally written by Kate Napier and Charlotte Norris in 2012.
The word dormer derives from the Latin dormire which means to sleep.
Dormer windows were traditionally a means to provide light and
ventilation for bedrooms, or dormitories, in the roof space. Dormer
windows were typically added to a building to meet the needs of an
increasing number of occupants, or they were part of the original design
being both economical and picturesque. These same qualities are
motivating contemporary households to add dormer windows and maximise
the use of existing space in the roof.
In Australia dormer windows most commonly feature in 19th and early
20th century buildings. Dormer windows with classical revival and rustic
qualities also less commonly appear throughout the 20th century in
buildings where nostalgia is a stylistic feature eg: ‘Inter-War Old
English’, ‘Post War American Colonial’, and ‘Post Modernism’. However
after the Federation era (post 1915), most 20th century building styles
did not feature dormer windows.
In the former Marrickville Local Government Area, original 19th and
early 20th century dormer windows are not common, and many of those have
undergone later modifications. The few early dormers which remain
reasonably intact are depicted in this guide as a design reference.
By broadening knowledge and appreciation of the proportion, details and
appropriate placement of traditional dormer windows, it is anticipated
that improvements in contemporary and historic dormer design and
construction will ensue.
Original Victorian (1840-1890) dormer windows are most common in
Petersham, Camperdown, Stanmore and Newtown. Often they are Mid to Late
Victorian in style with Federation (1890-1915) detail edging in. The
Early Victorian dormer window most readily demonstrates the intrinsic
features and therefore it is a useful base model to study.
The proportions and details of a typical Victorian dormer are
inspired by the Classical temple front (this is also true of the typical
Victorian mantelpiece). The Early Victorian dormer is based on the
Greek temples. Towards the middle and end of the Victorian era dormers
became more ornate and elaborate, and stylistically closer to a Roman
temple. Federation detailing in the Queen Anne, Anglo Dutch, Filligree
and Free Classical styles retained elements of the vertically
proportioned Victorian form whilst Arts and Crafts and Bungalow became
The Hellenic Temple of Hephaestus (415 BC) Athens, with its Doric
columns is an example of the type of temple proportion and detail that
inspired these two Early Victorian style dormer windows.
The Roman Temple of Artemis (150 AD) Jordan, exhibits the more ornate
carving and geometric composition typical of Roman architecture,
evident in these two Mid - Late Victorian style dormer windows.
This Victorian style dormer window in Balmain (above) is an excellent
example of the Early Victorian Classical aesthetic. The curved roof
example in Annandale (below left) retains the typical proportions,
whilst the finials (spire crowning the gable) in the Glebe examples
(below centre and right) show a progression toward Federation detailing
within the Classical Victorian form.
As a rule Victorian dormer windows are usually symmetrically placed in the roof.
A single, centrally located dormer window is appropriate on a single
storey building front, where the facade contains one door and one
On a double fronted, single storey building with a central door, and a
window on each side, two dormer windows would be appropriate,
symmetrically positioned, or directly above the windows on the floor
A multi storey Victorian house would accommodate the same number of
dormers as there were doors, or windows, on the façade directly below or
less if the roof shape does not permit.
Dormer Windows in the former Marrickville Local Government Area
Federation (1890-1915) dormer windows are less common in the former
Marrickville Council area than Victorian. This is perhaps because the
Federation style building is typically manifest in a single storey,
detached but modest house, on a larger suburban site. Therefore perhaps
there was less pressure and/or financial capacity to utilise the roof as
Where Federation dormer windows do occur in the area, they are typically
horizontal in proportion, and often asymmetrically positioned in the
roof. The appropriate detail for proposed Federation dormer windows will
generally need to be based on models outside the former Marrickville
Council area and/or stylistic details contained within the subject base
In the 1930s red lettered names were inlaid within footpaths and
gutters as part of a Depression relief program. They are currently
protected by their location within a Heritage Item or a Heritage
Conservation Area under Marrickville Local Environmental Plan (LEP)
Marrickville Development Control Plan (DCP) 2011 specifically identifies
the names as having heritage significance and requires that they be
conserved: Part 220.127.116.11 Public Domain Elements: C5 – Concrete panels
with inlaid street names must be retained in-situ for a distance of at
least 500mm from the lettering.
State Environmental Planning Policy (Infrastructure) 2007, Part 2,
Division 1, 14: requires that Council be notified in writing of works
proposed to Heritage Items and Heritage Conservation Areas; that an
assessment of the heritage impact be provided, and that Council’s
response is taken into consideration.
Inlaid names are typically located on footpaths and gutters at road intersections or park entrances.
Browse through photographs of the former Marrickville Council area in the online local history picture library.
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Page last updated: 12 Sep 2023