Building Research

Woodlands Homestead logoWoodlands Homestead is listed on the Government Buildings Register because it is one of the few prefabricated timber dwellings extant from the earliest days of settlement in Victoria.

Woodlands Homestead guide

Woodlands Homestead guide.
Please click to see larger version.

Detailed surveys of the building’s structure and its materials were conducted by Allom, Lovell and Associates Pty Ltd from 1979 to 1983. These structural surveys helped to unravel the sequence of construction and subsequent alterations. This chronology is illustrated by the model in the model room.

The timber is mostly Baltic pine. It was used in the roof trusses, beaded edged weatherboards for external wall cladding, tongued and grooved ceiling boards and shiplap boards laid under the roof tiles. The framing members were pre-cut to simplify construction. All the floors are pine, except in the sitting room, which was replaced later with jarrah.

The roof was originally covered with zinc ’tiles’ laid diamond fashion on lining boards fixed over the roof trusses. An example can be seen at the end of the north corridor.

Stages of Construction

Woodlands Homestead west wing 1860

West wing of Woodlands about 1860. Patrick Smith the butler is in the original verandah, altered about 1918 to give the house its present external appearance.
(Courtesy Dr. A. Roberts).

Woodlands grew and changed over the years to meet the needs and tastes of its new owners.

In the model room, the centre room of the west wing and originally a bedroom, you can view two models of Woodlands Homestead. The first model shows how Woodlands Homestead was developed from 1843 to 1918. The second model shows how the homestead was developed from 1918 until now.

  • West wing (five rooms and passage) built in 1843 from timbers precut by Peter Thompson of London, a “builder of portable houses for exportation.”
  • North and south wings, verandah and stables added by 1846, using mostly prefabricated materials, purchased in Melbourne. The north wing provided extra bedrooms for the Greenes’ children and visitors. The cast iron window frames of the north wing are typical of prefabricated buildings of the period. The north wing is now mostly administrative offices for Living Legends and is not open to the public.
  • East Wing added by 1850, using both prefabricated and local materials. This was the servants’ wing. Look for the servants’ call board, installed during the Chaffey’s ownership in the early 1900’s.
  • Extensive alterations about 1918 — granite verandah pillars built, roof extended, south wing altered, the blackwood panelling in the entry hall and dining room date from this time.
  • Some alterations in the 1960’s, mostly to the kitchen in the south wing.
  • Restoration of the house, outbuilding and gardens under Community Employment Programs, 1983 and 1984, plus Living Legends benefactors and the Victorian State Government through Victorian Racing Industry Fund 2012.

Patterns of the Past

Woodlands Homestead wall decorations

Woodlands Homestead wall decorations in the music room

In December 1849, Anne Greene wrote to her mother-in-law that ‘our house was painting — we were seeing no company’. It is this decorative scheme that has now been revealed in the rooms of the west wing.

When Woodlands Homestead was first erected, the freshly plastered walls were given a coat of brown distemper. Contemporary painting manuals recommend that walls were then left for up to two years before oil paint was applied.

Woodlands Homestead meeting room decorations

Meeting Room 2 has ionic columns and panels painted to look like marble. (Formerly a mens’ bedroom)

The painter of the 1849 scheme is unknown, but his paints and techniques have been carefully analysed over one hundred and thirty years later. He considered the distemper a suitable base, applying an undercoat of oil and white lead, and a finish coat on top. The decoration was then painted freehand. Pencil traces and rules can be seen if you look closely at the designs.

Research into the materials used in the paints has helped to date the decorative scheme. Over twelve paint pigments have been identified, including zinc yellow, which was only patented in 1847.