Pair of urns atop the parapet of a terrace house in Bairnsdale, Victoria

Pair of urns with handles and finial lids atop the parapet of a terrace house in Bairnsdale, Victoria.  The finial has fallen from the top of the urn on the left.

Urns are decorative elements representing a vase, typically sitting on a pedestal base.

Urns are a common feature of Australian terrace houses of the Italianate style. They are typically a type of finial, a moulded ornament used to crown a pediment, gable or party wall. It is not unusual for them to appear in sets or pairs.

Urns are sometimes distinguished from other types of finials by the handles which appear on either side. They may be topped by tall elaborate lids.

In Australian terrace houses, urns can be one of the most difficult decorative elements to maintain and restore.  The rendered type are typically, although not always reinforced by a single vertical metal rod, which they are moulded on top of.  As such, they are often subject to deterioration including effects such as spalling and mould.  This process often occurs faster than other ornaments as exposure to weather corrodes the rod and starts reactions.  Their three dimensional detail makes them more difficult to paint than other decorative elements. Cast iron and metal urns are more rare in Australian terraces.

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Recent Discussion
  • Lesley Poker: Built in 1874. Originally built by a John Watson ( very wealthy) who built the one next door for his...
  • Anne: Thanks for your comment. We own one of these terraces and would be interested in any info you have.
  • Kate Van Dyck: Love this photo. One off my GG Grandfather’s lived in No 21 and died at that address. So...