Victorian Stucco

The publication Victorian Stucco derives from a seminar on Victorian Stucco held at the South Melbourne Town Hall in 2007, initiated by Dr Donald Ellsmore of the then APT Australia Chapter and managed by the International Specialised Skills Institute. The sponsoring bodies were the Association for Preservation Technology Australia Chapter, the Design Institute of Australia, the Heritage Council of Victoria, Heritage Victoria, the International Specialised Skills Institute, and the National Trust of Australia (Victoria).

However, the publication has been compiled 2-3 years afterwards, and does not purport to be a literal record of the event. Some speakers produced no written papers, and are not included here, or produced papers subsequently. All have been given the opportunity to revise their material, and some have done this extensively, and some completely new material has been introduced in an attempt to make the document a more comprehensive and useful reference. The resulting papers provide important insights into Victorian stucco: this publication should provide a highly useful and practical reference for anyone interested in the topic.

An attempt has also been made to rationalise terminology, and a glossary is included. But the most contentious word has been ‘stucco’ itself. It is used to mean so many things that no complete agreement can be reached, and this can be a source of great confusion. The word is sometimes used, as in the title of this seminar, as a generic term to cover the whole range of plaster, lime and cement finishing. In reality, however, it has not generally been used in the last two centuries for internal plasterwork, although that was its primary meaning in Renaissance Italy. It has been used loosely in the twentieth century for various ornamental or textured finishes, but this is unhelpful, and is not recommended. In 19th century Australia, it was in general use for plaster, lime and hydraulic cement exterior finishes, but not usually for artificial or Portland cement, and not for castings. In the 20th century most writers have referred to ‘cement’, ‘cementing’, ‘cement render’, ‘composition’, ‘compo’; a few refer to ‘Portland cement stucco’ or ‘cement stucco’; but very few describe a Portland cement finish simply as ‘stucco’. We therefore recommend that any external finish be described by its material if possible, as in ‘hydraulic lime stucco’, ‘Hamelin’s mastic stucco’, ‘Roman cement stucco’. But as this information is commonly unknown for earlier work, where the word ‘stucco’ alone is used, it should be taken to mean external plastering in a material other than Portland cement. Portland cement finishes are better not called ‘stucco’ at all, but rather, ‘cement’or ‘composition’, or possibly (where they are applied by trowel), ‘cement render’. As the matter is so controversial, we include at the end of this publication a series of brief extracts from British and Australian texts, which illustrate the use of the various terms.

This publication was funded and produced by the Heritage Council of Victoria.

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