Vaucluse House arch works begin

 

Essential maintenance work has begun to ensure the longevity of this significant architectural feature of Vaucluse House.

This week a team of heritage stonemasons began the challenging job of dismantling the segmental arch at Vaucluse House. The arch forms the entryway into the internal courtyard of Vaucluse House, a space which sits between the kitchen wing, the bedroom wing, and the formal part of the sprawling 19th century house.

One of the most unusual features of Vaucluse House is its lack of formal entry point – there is no front door, and it is our understanding that guests of the Wentworth’s were shown in through the courtyard gate, under the arch and into the courtyard before making their way into the entrance hall and drawing room.

Recently, our heritage team noticed structural issues in the sandstone. For over 100 years the arch has been covered by a sprawling ficus vine, which gave the arch a picturesque quality but was in fact doing significant structural damage. Roots had worked their way into the mortar and joints between stones, forcing them apart and threatening the integrity of the archway.

After the ficus was carefully removed by our horticultural team, the stonemasons began by constructing a scaffold with a structure to support the arch while they began dismantling from the top.  The gate was lifted off, then the cap stones were removed from the top of the arch, revealing a very sandy mortar beneath – more likely to hold moisture and therefore more attractive to the ficus roots than a lime-heavy mortar.

The keystone was then removed, followed by consecutive voussoir (the wedge-shaped stones which form the curve of an arch), down to the springer stones. Each stone was carefully labelled, photographed and then stored in consecutive order.  This will enable the stonemasons to reconstruct the arch exactly as it was, ensuring this historic entry way to Vaucluse House is preserved.

  • Scaffolding around part of building.

    Archway repair works, Vaucluse House.

    Photo Mel Flyte © Sydney Living Museums

  • Scaffolding around part of building.

    Archway repair works, Vaucluse House.

    Photo Mel Flyte © Sydney Living Museums

  • Scaffolding around part of building.

    Archway repair works, Vaucluse House.

    Photo Mel Flyte © Sydney Living Museums

  • Scaffolding around part of building.

    Archway repair works, Vaucluse House.

    Photo Mel Flyte © Sydney Living Museums

  • Scaffolding around part of building.

    Archway repair works, Vaucluse House.

    Photo Mel Flyte © Sydney Living Museums

  • Scaffolding around part of building.

    Archway repair works, Vaucluse House.

    Photo Mel Flyte © Sydney Living Museums

About the Author

Woman standing in front of colourful mural.
Mel Flyte
Assistant curator
House Museums Portfolio
In her role as Assistant Curator in the House Museums Portfolio, Mel relishes the opportunity to get hands-on with the treasures in our collection.

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