• Melbourne
  • RBG

Subtle Charm: The Terracotta Spoon-Drains of Melbourne Gardens

Some of the heritage gems dotted across Melbourne Gardens aren’t always obvious to passers-by. Entering the Fern Gully, it takes a keen eye to spot the newly restored and glazed terracotta spoon-drains, now a rarity in Victorian Gardens. These drains are found throughout Melbourne Gardens, but those outside of Fern Gully are cracked, broken and in desperate need of attention. 

Hand laid in the 1800s, these beautifully crafted heritage drains are as effective at managing heavy rainfall as they are charming - a true remnant of the Melbourne Garden’s early days and a lovely subtle accent to the green lushness of Fern Gully. Designed by William Guilfoyle in the late 19th century, the Fern Gully was transformed from a creek that flowed through the centre of the gardens into a place of beauty and horticultural richness. 

Guilfoyle planted both native and exotic palms, ferns and shrubs which are still thriving today. He also enhanced the alignment of the creek with rocks and spillways to produce water movement and sound. The Fern Gully is an iconic part of the Melbourne Gardens.

Compromised by tree roots effectively destroying the drainage channels resulting in flooding and erosion in certain areas, Gardens’ staff have worked painstakingly in Fern Gully to clean and restore the original glazed terracotta spoon-drains, and are hoping to do the same for the other spoon-drains lining Melbourne Garden's meandering paths to ensure they remain a part of the Gardens for years to come. 

The restoration process involves carefully removing the existing drains and surrounding infrastructure, cleaning them thoroughly and repairing broken tiles, and then laying the tiles smoothly back in place so the drains can continue to function effectively (and beautifully) for years to come. 

We need your support to ensure we can continue to restore these special features to their former glory.

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