What is believed to be a rare Australian example of the use (or surviving example) of Marseilles terracotta tiles manufactured by the French company of Martin Frères (Martin Brothers) have been discovered whilst carrying out conservation works at Footscray Railway Station (as part of the upgrade for the Regional Rail Link).

The tiles, which are to the roof of the brick signal box constructed in 1901, feature a butterfly motif on their underside. The tiles have been gently steam cleaned, avoiding damage to the fire skin, and several of the ridge tiles have been replaced with a close match.

The Martin Brothers are credited with the development of the canonical Marseilles pattern, based on the earlier Gilardoni tile:

The ultimate Marseilles form was reportedly developed by the Martin brothers of Marseille…it became important when it was adopted as the standard by a number of Marseille manufacturers…(Miles Lewis, Australian Building a Cultural Investigation)

Martin Frères tiles seem to have appeared in Australia as early as 1860, when a sample shipment of 3,000 patent roof tiles were advertised for sale in Melbourne. The next known reference to them in Australia was in 1888.

Above: Underside of one of the tiles
Above: Signal box roof
Above: Signal box


20 August 2014

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