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How Victorians can help preserve the plans for Marvellous Melbourne

Media release

Friday 08 April 2022


State Library Victoria is calling on the Victorian public to help preserve Melbourne’s architectural history with an End of Financial Year Appeal raising funds to help conserve the original drawings of St Paul’s Cathedral – some of which are six metres long.

Dating from 1878 the collection of 154 plans by renowned English architect William Butterfield informed the Gothic revival design of the now-iconic landmark. The drawings range in size and scale from small, detailed designs of the Cathedral to enormous life-size renderings of key architectural features.

The Appeal is raising funds for the conservation treatment and preservation of this significant collection of plans, and to help make them publicly accessible, ensuring the story behind this major architectural landmark can be told for years to come.

State Library Victoria Director of Collections, Jo Ritale said the drawings tell a fascinating story of a faraway vision realised in Melbourne.

“These architectural plans helped shape one of Australia’s busiest intersections and changed Melbourne’s cityscape forever,” she said.

“As custodians of Victoria’s social history, it is our responsibility to ensure the plans are conserved so that current and future generations of architects and builders can be inspired by their detail, scale, and design.”

Butterfield designed Melbourne’s St Paul’s Cathedral from England without seeing the site it was to be built on, and the plans were passed onto local builders in 1880. The plans were gifted by the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's Cathedral in two lots: the first in 1993, the second in 2014.

Professor of Architectural History at University of Edinburgh, Alex Bremner said the drawings are of great architectural significance.

“State Library Victoria is fortunate in possessing this magnificent collection of William Butterfield drawings of St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral in Melbourne. It is rare to come across such a complete set of architectural drawings for a major project from this period, especially by such an acclaimed architect. The fact that so many of the original drawings from this collection remain intact is a minor miracle.”

Professor Dimity Reed AM said it’s very important the plans are conserved.

“Looking at architectural drawings is really like reading a novel very carefully: there’s a richness. The original thinking is there, and then the people who are implementing it have left their marks,” she said.

“Many of them are in tragic condition. They’re worn and torn where they’ve been folded or rolled or doubled over. They need conservation. It’s terribly important that they are looked after; it’s the preservation of who we are.”

The funds raised from the Appeal will enable the necessary conservation and preservation to ensure that these records remain in the State Collection, and to help make them publicly accessible.

Donations can be made at slv.vic.gov.au

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