University Of Tasmania

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Mining, place and propriety in Queenstown: architectural propriety and belonging in social and environmental context

posted on 2023-05-22, 15:15 authored by Stuart KingStuart King

Experiences of place associated with the urbanisation of remote and d~manding environments were shared across Australia's latenineteenth century mining centres, from the arid inland goldfields of Western Australia to the rain-drenched gold, silver and copperlaced mountains of Tasmania's isolated west coast. In these distant locations, wider ideas about propriety in architecture, or fitting responses for the siting, design and ornamentation of buildings, were influenced by particular environmental, political, economic and social factors, allied to the needs of mining companies and their workforces. This essay considers propriety in the mining town of Queenstown, in the vicinity of Mt Lyell on Tasmania's west coast, and how these attitudes persisted into the early twentieth century.

First surveyed in 1895, within five years growth associated with mining saw Queenstown become the third largest town on the island. With development fundamentally tied to mining activities, and deprived of an agricultural hinterland or road access to Hobart or Launceston, Queenstown was effectively a company town. Mining companies supported the establishment oflocal institutions, which in turn defined civic life. Company interests and the harmful effects of mining were also instrumental in the extensive transformation of the natural environment. Logging and the effects of sulphur pollution led to the deforestation of vast swathes of the surrounding landscape, which was hence left vulnerable to fire and erosion. The pollution likewise affected infrastructure and building as materials reacted to an altered climate: telegraph poles corroded, iron roofs rusted and timber structures collapsed. Such transformations challenged expectations of a stable environment and familiar architectural aesthetics associated with propriety and place-making.


Publication title

Out of Place (Gwalia): Occasional Essays on Australian Regional Communities and Built Environments in Transition


P Goldswain, N Sully, WM Taylor






School of Architecture and Design


UWA Publishing

Place of publication

Crawley, Australia



Rights statement

Copyright 2014 UWA Publishing

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Conserving the historic environment

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