A wonderful Federation gazebo with floral and ribbon motifs at Yaralla in Haberfield 1915.
In the inner western suburbs of Sydney there are thousands of wonderful examples of the art and craft exemplified in leadlight windows. Many years ago I did a course in making leadlight windows. It was not a trade, just a hobby. But, it sparked an interest.
Not too long ago I started walking around Ashbury, Ashfield, Burwood, Haberfield, Croydon and Croydon Park to get some exercise and lose a bit of weight. I became increasingly fascinated by the leadlight windows in the houses in these inner western Sydney suburbs. I also realised that for all those leadlight windows that were visible there were probably a greater number that no longer were. In some of my wanderings I could see houses with windows falling into disrepair, buildings being demolished and in some instances, the leadlight windows being replaced by modern windows. I could see many houses that surely must have originally had leadlight windows but over time these have been replaced in their original frames with float glass. Still, others had been replaced in entirety with aluminium windows. It is understandable that some leadlight windows have been damaged over the intervening years and been replaced but it is disheartening to think of how many have been removed and sent to a big hole in the ground.
The issue for me then became: How can these wonderful leadlight features of the Inner West be conserved when no record or descriptions the leadlight exists?
One of the most alarming things I have read recently was in the Marrickville Development Control Plan 2011 and it appears that this is an all too common position for many Inner Cest Councils (now amalgamated) to adopt.
Decorative leadlights are found but are not common elements in the HCAs.
Are they blind!
With this in mind I began to take a camera with me in an attempt to document what I was seeing. I don’t know how far I will get but I am motivated to record as many of the leadlight features in the houses of at least the six suburbs above. I will only take photographs from the street and not invade people’s properties and I will only use photographs I have taken myself. What I have found incredibly rewarding as I wander the streets is the amazing diversity of the housing in the inner western suburbs, and, accordingly, the amazing diversity there is in the leadlight. Some of the oldest homes were built in the early Victorian years. There was a rush of development in the late 1880's and a massive building period after Federation and between the wars. There are mansions for the rich and small weatherboard cottages for those of modest means. You only really get to appreciate this diversity on foot.
The designs/patterns in the individual leadlight windows in these suburbs is unique in its style and represents the taste of the original owners, the builder or the artisan/craftsman who made them. These leadlight windows are beautiful artefacts that record, in lead and glass, some of the significant social and political influences in Australia from the 1890’s to 1940 and, the rise of the middle class. They all add beauty and individuality to the homes in which people live now and they certainly added beauty and individuality to the dwellings when they were originally built and to the beauty of the streets.
I realised as I started to put this site together that I really knew very little about the leadlight designs other than what I had observed in my wanderings. I am looking forward to exploring other suburbs. Ashbury was the starting point because that is where I live.
So this will be a rather unique record of leadlight windows and doors because I have not, so far, come across any site/book that has attempted to record every leadlight window in a suburb let alone several. The photographs are the best I can manage with a Panasonic Lumix bridge camera. Hedges, security screens and doors quite frequently conceal beautiful leadlight. Almost all the photographs are taken from the street, some have been taken from inside at the invitation of the owner, and, a small number have been sent to me from inside by the owner.
I apologise in advance for any errors and omissions made and will appreciate any assistance from anyone who might read and view this site. At this stage I have documented Ashbury, Ashfield, Haberfield and Hurlstone Park and have just completed Dulwich Hill and and now Summer Hill.
I must, without equivocation, express my gratitude to the Ashfield & District Historical Society without whose support I would not have even contemplated this project. Subdivision maps have been obtained from the State Library of New South Wales and the assistance provided by the staff there has really been appreciated. So too Vincent Crow's three books 'Tours of Haberfield Past and Present' have been more than helpful in determining the dates of construction of many houses in Haberfield.
I have undoubtedly missed a few leadlight windows and some of the photographs are not that great but it is the best that could be done from the street. Almost certainly I have many dates incorrect. What I really hope is that people can help me identify the exact date of construction of their homes and if there is any way I could obtain some photos from the inside of houses I would love it because that is what these wonderful windows were for; to illuminate the interiors of homes. Having said that I also have come to believe that these leadlight panels in windows, doors, sidelights, bull's eyes and in small windows were also making a statement to the street; creating an impression, indulging in fantasy and increasingly bringing such beautiful things into the lives of people of modest incomes.
This site is an experiment and will change as I learn more and new images and information become available. I am also really keen to get photographs of leadlight from the inside so if you have some leadlight and can photograph it I will be more than pleased to add it to this site.
Too often houses are totally demolished and all all their history goes with them.