Update: Vaucluse House arch works


After several weeks of work, the arch into the courtyard at Vaucluse House is in the process of being carefully and methodically reconstructed.

The accompanying images show the voussoir (the wedge-shaped stones which form the curve of an arch) just after being replaced, with the keystone at the centre. These were all marked and carefully documented to make sure that each stone was replaced exactly where it came from. Only around 5mm of lime mortar is required to hold each stone in place. A curved timber frame is held by scaffolding and acts as a support whilst the arch is constructed. This will remain in place until the capping stones are positioned and the mortar has set.

The project revealed a number of previously unidentified issues, which will require further work to the surrounding walls in the coming months, but overall has been a success in terms of preserving the arch. Initially we feared several of the original stones were compromised by cracks and might need to be replaced. Our stonemasons have managed to salvage all but one stone, using clever pinning to hold any fractured sections together. The replacement stone (one of the capping stones from the top of the wall) has been sourced from a quarry which produces sandstone of a very similar colour and texture to the Vaucluse stone, and will be almost undetectable.

The arch is now safe, and in no danger of collapse. Over time, we’ll allow the ficus to return, but with careful management from the horticultural team to ensure the roots don’t cause any further issues.

  • Curved stone arch supported by wooden piece.

    Reconstructed archway

    Reconstructed arch sitting on the wooden support.

    Photo Mel Flyte © Sydney Living Museums

  • Set of shaped stones for archway.

    Voussoir stones

    Voussoir stones which form the curve of the arch.

    Photo Mel Flyte © Sydney Living Museums

  • Archway stonework and tools.


    The keystone – the wedge shaped stone which locks the arch together and is positioned last.

    Photo Mel Flyte © Sydney Living Museums

  • Archway with piece of wood supporting.

    Springer stone

    The springer stone, essential to weight bearing in an arch, is the slightly larger stone which forms the base of the arch.

    Photo Mel Flyte © Sydney Living Museums

  • Shot from interior looking at stonework and scaffolding.

    Supporting wall

    Reconstructed supporting wall.

    Photo Mel Flyte © Sydney Living Museums

  • Pulley holdng stone above archway.


    Lowering a stone into place with pulley.

    Photo Mel Flyte © Sydney Living Museums

About the Author

Woman standing in front of colourful mural.
Mel Flyte
Assistant Curator
City Museums Portfolio
Mel relishes the opportunity to get hands-on with the treasures in our collection.

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