Egg and dart moulding, plaster, made by T Grounds and Sons, Australia, 1900-1940
The Grounds studio produced architectural elements and decoration in plaster and cement. Founded in 1898, Thomas Grounds and Sons continued the craft tradition of architectural modelling in plaster through much of the twentieth century.
During the first half of the twentieth century, fibrous plaster was the main medium of interior cladding and decoration for Australian homes. In contrast to the 'lath and plaster' interiors of the 1800s, fibrous plaster sheets and decorative mouldings were produced entirely off-site, binding plaster of paris with sisal fibre. The sisal was imported from Indonesia, the relative proximity of which may help to explain why Australia and New Zealand were first countries where fibrous plaster was made on a large scale. However this Australian innovation was copied in England and elsewhere from the 1920s.
Repeated patterns were often cast into sheets. More complex elements, such as brackets and capitals, were moulded separately. This collection of decorative and functional building elements was created for specific buildings as well as generic interiors.
By the 1950s the advent of plasterboard (plaster reinforced with paper) and Modernist rejection of applied decoration coincided to reduce the demand for fibrous plaster.
This architectural mould was made by T Grounds and Sons in Australia between 1900-1940.
Thomas Grounds and Company commenced business as 'Architectural Modellers' in 1898. Initially located at 443 King Street, Newtown, the workshop moved to 20 Munni Street, Newtown in 1915. The business remained at that address for several decades.
This collection of decorative and functional building elements is typical of Grounds' fibrous plaster products. The Grounds pattern book reveals that many were produced to the design of contemporary architects, including Norman Grounds, Bruce Dellit, Stafford & Moor and Hennessy & Hennessy, although this seldom distinguished them from the established architectural languages of Classic, Gothic, Romanesque etc. The Grounds motto, 'Beauty in Design. Correct Architecture' captures the revivalist approach of much early-twentieth century architecture.
When these exemplars and their decorative expressions became unfashionable, modelling studios such as Grounds and Sons quickly fell on hard times. Thousands of moulds and decorative pieces were discarded.The Grounds studio was one of the few to survive long enough to enjoy the 1970s' renewed appreciation of historical homes and the resulting renovation boom.