Sunday, February 6, 2011

Love the ever-so-'umble Miners Cottage

Late last year there was a great article in the Bendigo Addy about how people have suddenly woken up to the fact that the traditional Miners Cottages are getting few and far between in Bendigo.
I did keep the article and the supplement but the Spouse has managed to tuck it away for safe keeping somewhere...and you know Murphy's Law on those kind of things - they're never found when you look for them.

So, I tried to see if it was isn't but the photo gallery of the fabulous Miners Cottages is!
Look for the one featuring the traditional outside dunny!
From memory the article said that there were now less than 100 Miners Cottages in Bendigo CBD and they have been, or it was proposed, that they be heritage listed.

The dear old Miners Cottage has been demolished with gay abandon by renovators and developers alike in the past umpteen years; judged too small to be a 'fashionable' home to a growing family home or plonked on sizeable plots of land that can accomodate eleventy hundred townhouses/units or in such sad states of disrepair no one thought twice about complete demolition they've been disappearing quickly and without anyone really making much noise about it.

But even 3 years ago there was a one day seminar on how to preserve and re-invent the humble Miners Cottage to ensure their ongoing existence in the 21st century.

For my overseas readers I've found a pretty decent site which explains the evolution of the Miners Cottage, how it was tent shaped (they often recycled their tents into lining the inside walls) and could grow to accomodate a growing family or to reflect the growing bank account and supposed respectability of the miner himself.
Although small and built on a shoestring the high ceilings kept the house cool in the sweltering heat, as did the usual front (and sometimes rear) verandahs, windows and doors were often aligned to effect a cross-flow of any breeze.

From several points of view the humble Miners Cottage is important; our mass immigration and town development from humble beginnings on the goldfields, the hard but simple work used to create these abodes were no speciality trade but were once found throughout the colonies and known to most men, the design inspired from the goldfields tents but remade to allow for harsh Australian conditions, many of these cottages were transported elsewhere when goldfields dried up and new rushes began somewhere else, the influence of the Miners Cottage in architectural history in the decades since its birth and, also, the fact it is still a popular design today.


  1. You know, mostly us Kiwis like to despise the Aussies, in the friendliest of all possible ways. But more than a few of us Kiwis are inextricably linked to Bendigo. I have a pair of Great Great Grandparents who were married at Sandhurst, and my great-grandmother Johanna was born there. The young family escaped across the Tasman to the West Coast goldrushes instead. But this is somehow the way I am linked to Andrew :-)

  2. Those cottages look very much like a couple of homes I lived in while growing up. Except "mine" were made of corrugated iron.

  3. LOL Kiwi Nomad - my grandfather was born on the ship coming from Scotland to Port Chalmers, his birth was registered there as well as back on the Old Dart.
    His 3 older brothers were left there and brought up with an uncle (as far as we can make out) while the rest of the tribe travelled on to Melbourne several years later ;)

    There's a couple made of corrugated iron in South Melbourne, River, which were an early form of portable home, these last 2 are heritage listed.

  4. I saw a whole heap of them when I was up at Kurri Kurri many years back. They were run down to heck but I thought they were worth preserving. My lot comes from Newcastle and were all miners so it's sort of a family thing there.LOL

  5. Not too many are very original, but great that they are used. I am just reminded of tin chimneys. I haven't seen any for many years.

  6. Thanks for the link Jayne, it's nice to see an iron cottage well preserved.

  7. Gerrorfit .. tinsy sustainable crofts are DED! Read Ayn Rand! Big plasterboard fakes make MONEY!!

  8. You should offer to take one or two of them off some pesky developers hands for your patch of dirt at Dunolly!

  9. Jayne -- wrote a comment earlier today and when my fingers accidentally hit some key -- I lost my comment to you. So tonight I will try again.

    I went to all the links that you included in your post -- very good. I do have one question of these marvelous little gems. It is; did they first build the canvas tents and then affix a house exterior to the tent when they had the money? What exactly came first, the canvas or the wooden structure or was it constructed altogether. Anyway the houses are lovely and glad to know that there is an effort to save some. Saving our material heritage is tough with the demand of land. Thanks for the goood post -- barbara

  10. Very interesting!

  11. Isn't it amazing how houses were designed for the conditions, Jayne.

    Those poor old-timers - back in the day when they couldn't design for the air-con... (tongue firmly planted in cheek)

  12. I own one of these cottages in Pitt Street Bendigo and am currently renovating it so was very interested in your article. I'd love to see Miners cottages heritage listed .I think they're very cute!