Building Bathurst – an outstanding PhD and contribution to the city’s heritage

29 JUNE 2021

Building Bathurst – an outstanding PhD and contribution to the city’s heritage

Bathurst-born and bred architect and artist Dr Graham Lupp has earned a PhD from Charles Sturt University for his two volume 844-page architectural history of Bathurst and the region.

Dr Lupp (pictured, inset) received his PhD at a recent Charles Sturt graduation ceremony on Thursday 3 June for his monumental work, Building Bathurst (2018).

This richly illustrated written history recognises and documents the careers and contribution of more than seventy nineteenth-century architects and builders who physically created the historic city of Bathurst, NSW ─ Australia’s oldest European inland settlement.

Dr Lupp said that although the origins of Building Bathurst can be traced back to 1969, his last undergraduate year in architecture at the University of NSW, the book itself was written between January 2013 and November 2017.

“It was refreshing to spend the best part of six years immersing myself entirely in the lives of others,” Dr Lupp said.

“I have to admit that behind the writing lay a deep-seated personal ambition, and with my background in architecture, a passion for history, and being a native of the town, it seemed the task had fallen to me.”

His intention in writing the book was born of a long-held interest in nineteenth-century architects and builders, particularly those of his hometown, Bathurst, where their work is so familiar.

As a long-time member of the Bathurst District Historical Society, he had read most of the many histories of Bathurst written by others, and as a result, it became apparent to him that a detailed recognition of our early regional architects and builders was an obvious gap in the historical record.

Dr Lupp said in paying overdue homage to a group of early architects and builders working in central NSW and recording their legacy, his book satisfied a long-held personal urge to explore a neglected part of our regional history.

“It seemed to me that a proper recognition of those who physically created the city was overdue,” he said. “After all, buildings are the most obvious remnants of the past, and ones we see and use daily, so knowing something of their creation is fundamentally important.

Building Bathurst is, therefore, the result of something I was, sooner or later, destined to attempt of my own volition, even without formal academic supervision.”

He explained that during the five decades of researching Building Bathurst, and five years writing it, a central research question arose which encompassed the numerous developments outlined in the Introduction to the two volumes.

“Because the study centred on Bathurst and central NSW, the research focussed on the question: how were the unique problems facing architectural development in regional areas of colonial Australia solved?” he said.

Dr Lupp elaborated this question:

  • What exactly drew qualified architects and builders to settle in what was then a remote and challenging region?
  • Where did these professionals come from, and how did their respective backgrounds and training determine the physical manifestation of the city?
  • What special attributes did these professionals contribute to the civic, social and creative development of Bathurst?
  • How did they approach the challenge of building while hampered by unskilled labour and inferior building materials, and how did the use of available materials, such as local brick and stone, shape the appearance of Bathurst?
  • How did regional institutions, such as Technical Colleges, influence professional training?

“It is thought that a study addressing these issues has not previously been undertaken about any similar city in Australia,” Dr Lupp said.

Dr Lupp had a particular interest in Edward Gell (b.1818 - d.1899), the dominant Bathurst architect from 1858 to 1879, who ‘ … produced more than 150 buildings of great variety in his brief 22-year career in Bathurst’.

He also discovered that nearly all the Bathurst architects portrayed in the book designed buildings much further afield, as far away as Queanbeyan, Wentworth, Armidale, Maitland, Newcastle, Goulburn, Bourke, Temora, Dubbo, Narromine, and most towns and villages in between.

“The huge region covered was surprising considering the constraints of transport and communications, and illustrates how far some architects, or their agents, were prepared to travel, even in the time before the vast reach of coach companies such as Cobb and Co in the 1860s, or the rapid growth from 1858 to 1890 of the rail network in NSW,” he said.

His research also encompassed, for example, the advent of Mechanics Institutes, (Hobart 1827, Sydney 1833), which saw formal training offered as accredited courses in most trades, including the building trades of bricklaying, masonry, carpentry, joinery, plumbing, plastering and painting.

The first institute in Bathurst was called The School of Arts and Mechanics Institute, which opened in 1841, closed briefly, but reopened in 1855 as the Bathurst Mechanics’ School of Arts.

“This meant vocational qualifications became more available to the general populace,” Dr Lupp said.

“By about 1860 these Schools of Arts’ curricula expanded to include more general education with lectures offered in the arts, theatre, literature, and history.”

Dr Lupp acknowledges the many sources, and individual and corporate supporters and sponsors, who assisted his endeavours over many years, and in particular Bathurst Regional Council and Charles Sturt University which both assisted with the publication of Building Bathurst.

Media Note:

To arrange interviews with Dr Graham Lupp contact Bruce Andrews at Charles Sturt Media on mobile 0418 669 362 or

Main image: Abercrombie House, Bathurst, and Dr Graham Lupp (inset)

In text image: Both Bathurst Courthouses with the new courthouse still under construction c.1879

Share this article

Share on Facebook Share
Share on Twitter Tweet
Share by Email Email
Share on LinkedIn Share
Print this page Print

Arts and Culture Society and Community