The Old Quadrangle, situated in the centre of the Parkville Campus, was designed in the Tudor Gothic style. It took six major construction efforts to create the building the University community sees today.
Building began in 1854 but the Quad was still incomplete in 1857 when construction ceased, leaving a U-shape – not a quadrangle at all – until the missing South Wing was added over a century later in 1970.
The South Wing, though built a long time after the completion of the main part of the building, nonetheless adhered to the architect F.W White’s original gothic vision.
Tasmanian sandstone was used to build the Old Quadrangle, not local sandstone.
Repairs made to the crumbling decorative stonework of the Old Quad were necessary in the mid 1990s, but the original Tasmanian sandstone used was no longer available. This necessitated 70 tonnes of suitable sandstone being imported from Germany’s Udelfanger quarries.
Stonemasons working the building were some of the original agitators for the eight-hour day. They downed tools while they were building the Old Quad, an act which resulted in the birth of the Eight-Hour Movement.
A plaque within the Cloisters celebrates the workers’ actions.
The Old Quad is bigger than it looks – there’s a third level of cellars and basements dating from the mid-19th century below ground.
The Victorians of the 19th century made a solid statement with grand building. Set in the middle of the University site – in those days it was on a hill (now covered by the underground carpark) – so it could be seen from a long way off.
The Old Quad originally housed the all the University, the lecture rooms and the small library as well as two three-level Professor’s apartments in the North and East wings to house some of the first Professors who came out from England.
The Council Chamber is one of the second floor of the Old Quad, and hosts the monthly meetings of the University Council, the governing body of the University.
If you look carefully as you’re walking through the Old Quad, there are little faces carved into some of the sandstone. The faces are meant to be individuals that were at the University at the time. Not all are finished.
From The University of Melbourne – A Visitor’s Guide by Thornton McCamish, The Miegunyah Press, Melbourne University Publishing Limited, 2008. Available from the Melbourne University Bookshop, $ 19.95