Up Close: the story behind the stones

Posted on February 8, 2016 | 2 comments


Welcome to Up Close, a new column by Claire Norman where she takes a closer look at the beauty and the story behind objects we may pass by every day and not even notice….

up close fence

What is it?

The eastern section of a bluestone fence bordering the St Joseph’s Church grounds, Warrnambool.

Find it: Kepler Street, Warrnambool, between Raglan Parade and Lava Street.

Facts and figures:

–       completed in 1892.

–       designed by architects Ross and Jackman to complement the massive church building and be ‘an expression of permanency and security to the visitor.’

–      large bluestone blocks were cut from the Malmsbury quarry using a series of tools such as wedges and feathers with heavy mallets to break the stone apart. The blocks were delivered (probably by horse and cart) to Wooles and Carpenter stonemasons on Lava/Kepler Street corner (now an optometrist).

up close fence2

–       every rectangular block in the fence would have been hand tooled to ‘square’, accurate dimensions using a pick then a series of chisels struck by a mallet.

–       the front face of each block has been chipped with a chisel to give a uniform texture  across the fence.

–       every block is tooled and laid in the same orientation as it was formed in the ground, known as maintaining the grain or natural bed of the stone.

–      the blocks are laid with mortar.  A second ornamental layer of light coloured mortar has been shaped over the top and profiled to stand out from the brick seam – tuck pointing.

up close fence main

Best feature? The castellated coping stones.

The castellated coping stones forming the top of this fence are its most spectacular feature.

Castellated means castle-like and the stones are offset to give this effect. Each of these coping stones is hand tooled then smoothed with an abrasive tool or cloth and you will notice you cannot see a tool mark on them despite the tricky curves, angles and vertical ridge details.

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A template would have been used to mark the stones and to ensure uniformity in size and style. Even so, each block has some individuality – a reflection of the stonemason’s hand tooling.

This fence has been standing for 124 years and still stands true and strong.

Stop and take a closer look next time you are passing!

– Claire
Enjoy our other Bluestone columnists …


Great architectureClinton Krause on mid-century architecture in the south-west

Great insights: Jo Canham on life in Port Fairy

Great books: Claire Norman’s Bool Belle book reviews

Great food and gardening tips: Kylie Treble and Food for Thought



  1. This is a fascinating story. I’m rather envious that my great grandparents and perhaps even my grandparents would have been witnesses to this construction work. I wonder whether they marvelled at it or took it in their stride as they observed so much development going on around them?

  2. There is a story passed down over the years in our family that an ancestor of ours who was a sea Captain Hallowell and a protestant, remarried a Catholic after losing his first wife. He was apparently quite wealthy and after his passing his new wife supposedly donated the money to build the wall at St Joseph’s church much to the dismay of his Protestant family!

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