Stories in Stone

Stone has been a critical part of the Orange district infrastructure and decoration since the earliest days from the foundations and walls of the first bridges, huts cottages and mansions to the base and surfaces of roads and the decorative elements of houses, buildings, monuments and gravestones.

Stonemasons and quarries will be the subject of Orange and District Historical Society's next monthly meeting on Wednesday, May 11 at the Senior Citizens Centre.

While our relatively wet climate and deep soils are a blessing for agriculture, horticulture and gardens, they represent a great challenge for the stability of roads and buildings. With the centre of town built on a swamp, the abundance of readily available building and road material was a great boon to development. In our varied local geology we have world-class marble for monuments, easily worked indestructible columnar basalt for foundations, walls, kerbs and gutters, and other rocks such as shales, granites and quartz for road bases and their gravel toppings. Basalt blocks were almost universal in the foundations of any respectable house until the 1940s when concrete took over.

There were many quarries with the best known being the marble quarries of Caleula, (north of Mullion Creek), Borenore (Rusconi's) and Spring Hill. There was the bluestone, (basalt) quarry beside the railway line on Racecourse Road (now closed), larger rock and shale quarries close to town on Ophir and Icely roads (Tucker's and Sharpe's) and innumerable pits along various other roads. Huge quantities of rock and gravel were also sourced from the massive mullock heaps left from mining activities in Lucknow.

The two speakers have worked at either end of the industry. Hillary Jenner is a bricklayer and stoneworker who maintains many of the old bluestone walls in Orange. He has recently worked on the restoration of Bloomfield House. Charlie Smith had 42 years with Canobolas and Cabonne shire councils working as a loader operator in most of their numerous quarries and pits.

There will be others in the audience with expertise in geology and other knowledge relating to the subjects to make contributions during question time. The meeting will start at 7 for 7.30pm. There is a small charge of $3 for members of Orange and District Historical Society and $5 for non-members, to cover costs. Light refreshments will be served.

If you have any inquiries or would like to attend the meeting, please RSVP to Phil Stevenson on 6362-3257, mobile 0402 412 188 or email

Posted in Industry, Orange History Group Comments Off on Stories in Stone

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