School of Arts

Susan Walter

CRCAH doctoral candidate

Malmsbury bluestone and quarries: finding holes in history and heritage


Thesis research includes both a historical and geological study of former bluestone quarries and the structures created from the stone extracted. With a key research question being why was Malmsbury bluestone often described as being "famous" or the "standard of excellence", the current work is designed to determine if there are any specific characteristics which can distinguish the Malmsbury stone from other forms of bluestone. From the field work undertaken, core samples will be subjected to thin-slice analysis, chemical composition, and compressive strength tests. With a view to finding a non-destructive or low-impact means of accurately identifying a "fingerprint" for Malmsbury bluestone, the Magnetic Susceptibility of Malmsbury bluestone in quarries and buildings will also be measured. Given that Malmsbury bluestone was in use well before the development of standard geological testing of rocks and building stones, the thesis is also examining the history of the people who worked to identify, extract and work the stone to create the total pool of structures created with it, the skills and technology used and developed in the industry, and the economic impact of the industry on the town, in order to ask why these aspects of historic buildings stones and labour history are missing from the majority of history and heritage studies.


Susan Walter originally qualified as an Agricultural Scientist, and worked in the fields of Quality Assurance and Technical Management in horticulture and organic waste-management. After researching and writing up family history as a hobby, this expanded into an interest in local history through a desire to know more about her home landscape. This involved joining Malmsbury Historical Society, 86 km north-west of Melbourne, in 2002 and later taking on the challenge of managing their research services in 2006. After researching and writing local Malmsbury history on a voluntary basis, she is currently combining her passions for natural landscapes, science and researching land use history in a PhD thesis entitled Malmsbury Bluestone and Quarries: Finding Holes in History and Heritage.

This has subsequently led to an interest the history and heritage of buildings stones in Australia and overseas, the social and labour history of stonemasons and quarrymen and researching historic quarry sites.



The elongated dog kennel: 150th anniversary of Malmsbury Mechanics' Institute. Malmsbury Historical Society Inc., 2012 (Recipient of Commendation Award, 2012 Victorian Community History Awards).

Hence hope beams on us: 150th anniversary of Malmsbury Borough Council. Malmsbury Historical Society Inc., 2011.

Gold'n Greens: a history of the Chinese of Malmsbury and district. Malmsbury Historical Society Inc., 2010.

A little of Limerick: an account of the Hickey, Scanlan and Baggott families of Cobden and Camperdown. John and Susan Walter, Tomorrows Graphics, 1999.

Journal articles

"Quarry and stone research methods: looking for holes in history", Provenance: The Journal of Public Record Office Victoria, issue no. 15, 2016-2017. ISSN 1832-2522.

Book chapters

“Victorian Bluestone: A proposed ‘Global Heritage Stone Province’ from Australia.” in: Geological Heritage Stone: Worldwide Examples of Heritage Stone Designation. Geological Society of London (In production 2018).

"How did Drummond and Burke get their names?" and "Lest we Forget Him" in By Kangaroo Hill: Drummond and beyond – collected stories, Patricia Mudford, Drover's Dog Publishing, 2015.

Conference papers

Bluestone Sawing in Victoria – cutting a niche in the stone industry. Paper presented at Australian Historical Association conference, Ballarat VIC, July 2016.

Victorian Bluestone: Proposal for Nomination for a “Global Heritage Stone Province”. Paper presented at Geological Society of American Annual Meeting, November 2015.

Malmsbury Bluestone – foundations in Australian history and heritage. Paper presented at Australian Historical Association conference, Sydney NSW, July 2015.

Research presentations

Railway Deficiencies and Deviations – the making of Malmsbury bluestone. Presentation at CRCAH Research Presentation Day, 2017.

Hospital Archives and Quarries: Discovering Unusually Rich Resources. Federation University Research Conference 2017 - presentation.

Victorian Bluestone: Proposal for Nomination for a “Global Heritage Stone Province”. Presentation at CRCAH Research Presentation Day, 2015.

Malmsbury Bluestone and Quarries: Finding Holes in History and Heritage. Federation University Research Conference 2014 – presentation.

From Culverts to Cathedrals - What is the Importance of Malmsbury Bluestone? Federation University Research Conference 2013 – poster.