St Michael's Catholic Church, Wandong including a small rectangular, gable roofed church constructed of terra cotta lumber and a row of cypress trees along the northern boundary.
St Michael's Catholic Church, Wandong was constructed in 1891 on land donated by local entrepreneur, Robert A Robertson who was instrumental in the development of the town. The establishment of extensive forestry and milling operations in the area and innovative industries in Wandong, such as timber seasoning and terra cotta lumber, were largely a result of Robertson's initiative. The church was built of this new technology terra cotta lumber, a lightweight and fireproof building material manufactured from a composition of clay and sawdust. This product was patented in the United States in 1881, and in 1885 a patent for its manufacture was granted to the Victoria Terra Cotta Lumber Company Ltd in Brunswick. Robert Robertson was a director of this company and he established a second plant in Wandong where production of bricks and other shaped terra cotta products commenced in 1889. This plant appears to have become the main producer of the material at this time. The terra cotta lumber industry in Victoria played a role in transforming Melbourne into a centre for high-rise construction in the 1880s and 1890s. The material was commonly used in the interior of buildings for fireproofing walls, ceilings, floors, arches, roofs and partitions and its lightweight and insulating properties facilitated high rise construction. Terra cotta lumber was unusually employed for the external structure at St Michael's Catholic Church and for a small number of houses in Wandong. Economic conditions in Victoria in the early 1890s, with a significant reduction in building activity and product manufacturing, impacted greatly on the production of terra cotta lumber which appears to have ceased in Wandong in c1892.
St Michael's Catholic Church, Wandong is a simple Gothic Revival building which is constructed of a double skin of terra cotta lumber brickwork. Situated on a large site with boundary plantings of cypress trees, the building has a gabled corrugated iron roof, lancet windows, rows of decorative terra cotta consoles under the eaves and a rendered plinth, sills and string courses. Measuring 300 mm x 110mm x 155 mm (length x height x depth), each brick contains two lengthwise cavities and many show hand prints on their surface. The building includes a number of specially formed terra cotta elements, including bricks for the window and vent apexes and bricks that form edges such as the window reveals. An original vestry, with later ramp, is located at the south-east corner of the building and a timber porch at the north-west corner has replaced the original entrance porch. A bluestone foundation stone, recording the date May 1891, is located at the north-east corner of the church. The setting of the church building includes a mix of tree species that contribute to the setting, in particular a row of cypress trees that line the north boundary of the site.
This site is part of the traditional land of the Taungurung people.
How is it significant?
St Michael's Catholic Church, Wandong is of historical and scientific significance to the State of Victoria. It satisfies the following criterion for inclusion in the Victorian Heritage Register:
Possession of uncommon, rare or endangered aspects of Victoria's cultural history.
Importance in demonstrating a high degree of creative or technical achievement at a particular period.
Why is it significant?
St Michael's Catholic Church, Wandong is significant at the state level for the following reasons:
St Michael's Catholic Church, Wandong (1891) is significant in Victoria as a rare, experimental and highly intact example of the use of a new and innovative construction product, terra cotta lumber, in the late nineteenth century economic boom period. The building clearly demonstrates the unusual external use of this product. The terra cotta lumber industry in Victoria played a role in transforming Melbourne into a centre for high-rise construction in the 1880s and 1890s and St Michael's Catholic Church, Wandong has a clear association with the development of the manufacturing and building industry in Victoria at this time. [Criterion B & F]
St Michael's Catholic Church, Wandong is also significant for the following reasons, but not at the State level:
Wandong was the major place of production of terra cotta lumber from 1889 to c1892 and St Michael's Catholic Church is a clear illustration of this innovative industry. St Michael's Catholic Church, Wandong illustrates the contribution made by Robert Robertson to industry in Victoria, including the establishment of a terra cotta lumber works at Wandong.
The setting of the church building includes a mix of tree species that contribute to the setting, in particular a row of cypress trees that line the north boundary of the site.