Australian Brickwork and Horbury Hunt
Polychromatic brickwork and Arts and Crafts styles were practiced in Australia. The high style of the 1880s produced fine examples in woolstores, churches, museums, schools of art and commercial buildings.
The well-documented Federation style in domestic architecture and the burgeoning edifices of Edwardian city fathers in characteristic "blood and bandage" continued and advanced polychromatic brickwork throughout the city and country. William Kemp's 1891 Sydney Technical College is an Arts and Crafts influenced building of brick trimmed with stone and standard square terra-cotta tiles.
However, the most accomplished Australian nineteenth century exponent of brickwork was John Horbury Hunt (1838 - 1904). His skill was exercised in small unpretentious churches like the Anglican Church of the Good Shepherd at Kangaroo Valley (his first building in 1872) to large cathedrals like St. Peter's at Armidale (1871 - 1897).
As the illustrations show, the Church of Good Shepherd is based on Romanesque forms, but very much transformed and contains in its form and in particular in its details, concepts, techniques and attitudes that were purely Hunt and which would reappear in all his work.
The head of the window shows his characteristic cleverness with brickwork with the simple corbelling out of two bricks in stretcher bond surmounted by radius arches formed of two rows of header bricks cut so that the joints line up. There is no apparent reason for the varied bonds seen in part of the wall which suggests a very uncharacteristic lack of control by Hunt. The western window arranges eight windows around a slightly larger central window and is elegant and masterful demonstration of the rich and complex results that can be obtained from the careful manipulation of simple units.
At the same time as he was designing the Church of the Good Shepherd, Hunt was commissioned to design a much grander building, the Cathedral of St. Peter Apostle and Martyr at Armidale.
This remarkable building shows Hunt's love and virtuosic mastery of brickwork. To quote Freeland's (1970) high praise:
"The Armidale Cathedral is an excellent example of Hunt's skill with bricks. Using dozens, even hundreds, of different specially moulded bricks he created a blue-brown pile which probably has never been surpassed in Australia. Advancing series of piers and buttresses, arched wall panels receding in three or four planes, course upon course of boldly dentilled arches, indented gables, bands of projecting diagonally laid bricks, and plain horizontal weather moulds are thrown into heightened relief by the bright New England sunlight. Complex jointing, like nineteenth century tatting, is consciously and successfully used to heighten and emphasize the grouping of wall openings and to suggest groupings of oversized separated openings. The warm subdued interior of the building is superb in design, workmanship and atmosphere. It is an orchestration in a full range of moulded brickwork. Intricate and bold piers, arches, openings and jointing, a pyrotechnic display of brickwork, are designed with the utmost facility and executed with the highest skill."
Unlike other architects of the period, Hunt's drawings and specifications were detailed and exact and the standard of work that he expected was exacting. Much of his work was in the country with bricks and bricklayers of uncertain quality and he required samples of work to be built for his approval, anticipating a current practice seen in the case studies. Again, unlike many other architects of the period, he personally supervised the work by regular visits to the site. The consistently high quality of Hunt's designs in brickwork stemmed from his intimate understanding of the material, his insistence on good building practice and thorough knowledge of building, qualities which are still needed to achieve good design in brickwork.