Fusion: Deakin Exhibits Online

'Painted the town red'

Tile : the roof of permanent beauty

The importation of Marseilles roofing tiles in the nineteenth century was to change the face of Australian cities and suburbs. Previously dull and colourless from the use of slate, galvanised iron and timber shingles, orange-red terracotta roofing tiles were practical and proved to be very popular. Marseilles tiles were machine-made, interlocking, durable and waterproof and allowed for ventilation.

The boom in population in the late nineteenth century, changes in building construction methods and the growth of suburban housing meant that Wunderlich Ltd were well placed to meet the demand for Marseilles tiles. The Wunderlich Company was the largest importers of these, then became the sole manufacturers when the onset of the First World War meant importation ceased. They set up manufacturing plants at Brunswick in Victoria and Rosehill in Sydney to produce Marseilles roofing tiles.

Marseilles tiles gave Australian suburbs their characteristic red-roofed look, and lent themselves to the fashion for Queen Anne-style architectural designs, with their high pitched roofs. Wunderlich Ltd also made and later imported other terracotta roofing accessories such as finials, ridges, crests and chimney pots.