Drystone Walls

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By Wendy Lowry abridged from an article by Robert Wuchatsch

The City of Whittlesea adopted in 1991 a Heritage study that saw some of the drystone walls protected under the City’s planning scheme. However much greater effort is required to identify and record our heritage walls, especially in an area where increasing residential development is seeing many of them disappear.

Historically the area around Whittlesea was blessed or should I say cursed, whichever way you look at it, with having an abundance of stone in the landscape. The Germans when they first arrived in Thomastown quickly mastered the rocky terrain, utilising the stone for buildings and fences. The English, Scottish and Irish immigrants who settled nearby at Epping, Wollert, Woodstock and Yan Yean also proved as adept. Many of their nineteenth century buildings, structures and walls still remain today.

The type of fencing adopted reflected the nature of the countryside and the materials most readily at hand. At Craigieburn for example, Dr. Thomas Wilson who purchased land there in 1853, had by 1870 more than 32 kilometres of drystone walls around his Summer Hill property.

Stonewalls maybe considered model fences for a country that is subject to bush fires and where stone is easily obtainable. Breaches are repaired without effort and for permanence and durability stone has no peer; moreover it takes nothing from soil.

As most of Epping, Wollert and Woodstock walls were built of irregular shaped field stones and taper considerably, some required the subsequent addition of top wires to ensure their effectiveness. Interestingly, in 1891 the cost of erecting a wall four feet in height was about 25 shillings per chain in length.