FORMER BRUNSWICK GAS & COKE COMPANY RETORT HOUSE SOHE 2008
Statement of Significance
Last updated on - April 29, 2003
What is significant?
The Former Brunswick Gas & Coke Company Retort House was among a full complement of gaswork structures erected on this site by engineer Stephen Hutchison for the Brunswick Gas & Coke Company in 1891. The complex made and distributed gas to the Brunswick Council for street lighting as well as to the local community for domestic consumption. At the time several gasworks operated competitively around Melbourne and plants also existed in some country towns, all with retort houses. These large buildings were central to the gas making process, containing the retorts in which coal was stoked by hand and burned to give off gas which was then purified and stored in a nearby gasometer. Little changed in their technology during the nineteenth century, and Brunswick's huge arch roofed, polychrome brick building was the last built in the metropolis before the era of gas expansion came to an end. The company survived through the 1890s and briefly became the Brunswick Gas Works before closing in 1904. The Lux Foundry purchased the site in 1906 and the retort house served as the company's workshop for making their popular Lux brand stoves and ranges until the late 1950s when the firm was taken over by the Ferrier Company. In the early 1960s the company operated as Craig & Seeley Proprietary Limited and modern offices projecting the company's new image were opened on the site by Premier Bolte in 1963. The retort house was retained in the manufactory complex and the company's Chef brand stoves became an enduring household name. The firm was still employing more than 500 workers when it closed in 2001.
How is it significant?
The Former Brunswick Gas & Coke Company Retort House is of architectural and historical significance to the State of Victoria.
Why is it significant?
The Former Brunswick Gas & Coke Company Retort House is architecturally important as a rare building type. It is the last retort house to remain from several gas-making works built in the nineteenth century around Melbourne. While some remnant buildings survive from Melbourne's once large gas infrastructure, this is the sole retort house known to remain standing. A twentieth century example stands in Bendigo.
The Former Brunswick Gas and Coke Company Retort House is historically important for its association with the gas industry. The site has a long history of association with the industry, first as a gasworks where gas was manufactured, then as a foundry where cast iron stoves were made and more recently as a modern plant for manufacturing gas appliances. The building is representative of the boom period of Melbourne?s once expansive gas industry and the competition that developed between the Metropolitan Gas Company and several suburban companies.
The retort house stands in juxtaposition with the modern Craig & Seeley offices of 1963, the two buildings providing a narrative of our changing use of gas and its associated technologies.