A Paper Mache Village for Australia

(Room in a paper-mache villa)

Building houses with cards has been a favourite pastime of many a past generation ; but it was reserved for the ingenuity of the present day to construct habitations of paper. Yet of this frail material is manufactured the “village” shown in the accompanying Illustration.

Papier-maché has long been extensively employed for the interior decorations of houses ; but to Messrs. Bielefield is due the merit of applying the elegant material in external constructions ; and, having been commissioned by Mr. Symour–a gentleman about to take up his residence in Australia–to manufacture for him a certain number of portable houses; the paper village was executed, and temporally set up at the works of Messrs. Bielefield, near the Staines statton of the South-Western Railway. The village is composed of ten houses, including a villa, with nine rooms, 12 feet high ; a store-house, 80 feet long, with four dwelling-rooms, (sitting room, two bed-rooms, and kitchen.) The interior decorations are so complete as to render it next to impossible to fancy yourself in any other than a brick dwelling. The mantel-pieces in the drawing and dining rooms are of papier-maché, have a caryatidal figure on each side, and are of bold design.

The material of the several houses is a patent waterproof, papier maché, and the construction is also patented. It consists of paper and rags, beautifully ground and reduced to pulp, which, when dry and pressed, become as hard as a board. There is no lath-and plaster, yet the walls are solid, indeed, more so than in half the partitions of houses built in the present day. They are also double walled, so as to allow of free ventilation all round, and in the roof. The roofs are nearly flat, being just sufficiently curved to throw off I the rain. The flooring can be taken up in large square pieces, joists and all. The walls and ceilings are in like compartments, and afford every facility for either taking down or raising with despatch. One of the smaller houses has been taken down and re-erected in the space of four hours. -Illustrated London News, 6th August.

Paper Mache 1

The Illustrated Sydney News, 5 November 1853, copied this verbatim form the Illustrated London News (except for some typos) but didn’t include the illustrations. They’re from the London title.

Whether this village was ever constructed, I don’t know, but Mr Bielefield was busy experimenting with paper mache. He has a book, “On the use of the improved papier-mache in furniture, in the interior decoration of buildings, and in works of art“.