Why homes of yesteryear might be the key to our future

Ipswich is fortunate to have many heritage homes that have survived through several generations and can still be found in abundance.
Queensland Heritage Restorations director Shane Earle tells Ipswich First why the homes of yesteryear might in fact be the key to our future.


“It’s not really a job it’s more of a passion and I really enjoy the challenge,” Mr Earle said.

“When you work with heritage buildings, you discover things that may have been hidden for decades, that are not on any of the original plans and you have to do some detective work to find out what it is. Then you have to work out a way to fix a problem while protecting the building.”

Mr Earle explains how even a seeming simple task, can lead to discoveries and complex building and engineer feats.

“I was working on the front ticket office at the Workshops Rail Museum. We were fixing the veranda of the two-storey building,” Mr Earle said.

“Upon replacing the posts, we found one that had rotted at ground level but we couldn’t pull it out of the ground.

“We had a closer look at the plans from 1911 and it showed it had a mortise and tenon joint, which means, it was set into another piece of timber in the ground. It turned out to be a 1.2 metre square stabilising plate.

“We notified the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection. It was declared an archaeological discovery and the worksite was closed down until the department investigated.

“The conclusion was that we would photograph the area, fill the site back in and they remain there untouched.”

The next problem they discovered was that the building, at ground level, was leaning over. A decision was made to try and correct the building as much as possible and Mr Earle was again charged with finding a way to make that happen.

“We used an old process called Racking (pictured). We used props in a crossover fashion and we manually wound them out, slowly over a few months,” Mr Earle said.

“It’s a long process and you have to read the building and see how it’s reacting.”

The buildings talk and it is Shane Earle’s job to listen.

“You can feel the pressure when you are winding and you listen to the squeaks and groans and cracks. Each building has its own personality,” Mr Earle said.

Mr Earle is passionate about Ipswich and enjoys converting homes back to their original form and also adapting them to suit our modern lifestyle.

One of his skills lies in blending the heritage aspects of an existing home with modern design and features.

He has found a clever ways to marry a need for space and a modern kitchen with the character of the house.

“When we bought our home at North Ipswich, the kitchen was very tiny and there were no outdoor spaces, so we wanted to open it up.

“Without raising the house, or moving it, we have been able to add five metres onto the back which has given us a home that has the heritage feel and personality but suits our lifestyle.”

The kitchen is nine metres in length, has marble bench tops, large fridge space, double oven and cupboard space galore. But it also has pressed metal ceilings, VJ walls and original heritage coloured, sliding windows.

Shane tells people who are interested in buying in Ipswich that the bigger blocks and homes is what makes Ipswich unique.

“If they tell me they want to split the block I tell them, ‘I’m not the builder for you’,” Mr Earle said.

“This happened a lot in Brisbane but it’s not what people here want to live in. If we can keep the streetscape as it is, that is what is going to make Ipswich really unique.

“When I was younger my father would do up old houses and sell them in Paddington and Bulimba. Back then they were not trendy areas and it was affordable.

“That’s what got me interested here in Ipswich. I can see Ipswich is the same as Paddington and Bulimba was. There is a whole demographic shift occurring and there is a good eclectic mix in Ipswich.”

All members of the public are welcome to hear Shane Earle talk at The National Trust of Australia (Queensland) Ipswich Branch morning tea on Sunday 17 June at 9.30am.

It will be held at the Barry Jones Auditorium at the Ipswich Library, 40 South Street, Ipswich. Reservations can be made here. Tickets are $10.

Mr Earle talk about little known building practices and share some of his stories about repairing and conserving some iconic Ipswich buildings.

Get Shane Earle’s top tips on what your first steps should be if you are thinking of renovating, in Tuesday’s edition of IPSWICH FIRST

Find out more about ipswich heritage


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button