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A7437-4/11 Roof tiles (16), terracotta, made by Wunderlich Limited, Rosehill, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, [1916-1950]. Click to enlarge.

Terracotta roof tiles

This terracotta roof tile was made by Wunderlich Limited.

Australia was first introduced to this style of roof tile, referred to as a Marseille tile, in 1888, when they were shown at the Centennial International Exhibition in Melbourne, winning a first order of merit and a silver medal. [1] The first major importer of Marseilles tiles into Australia was W. H. Rocke and Company [2], however they fell victim to the depression that engulfed Victoria in 1892 and became insolvent in Sydney later …


Object No.


Object Statement

Roof tiles (16), terracotta, made by Wunderlich Limited, Rosehill, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, [1916-1950]

Physical Description

Roof tiles (16), terracotta, made by Wunderlich Limited, Rosehill, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, [1916-1950]

Sixteen terracotta roof tiles made by Wunderlich Limited.



These terracotta roof tiles were manufactured by Wunderlich Limited.

Local manufacture of Wunderlich terracotta roofing tiles commenced at Rosehill in Sydney in 1916.

In 1892 the Wunderlich brothers had purchased a wayward shipment of roofing tiles from France. The shipment established a profitable relationship with the Tile Manufacturers of Marseilles. It was the first of 110 cargoes to arrive by 1914, totalling 75 million tiles. This type of interlocking tile was developed in Marseilles during the 1850s, and was produced by several tileries whose products were sold through the syndicate which dealt with Wunderlich. Only the export tiles were red; European French tiles retained a slate grey.

Sydney's love affair with red Marseilles tiles commenced here, more or less superceding slate or iron roofs. Tiled roofs were a perfect match for the Arts & Crafts 'Federation' domestic style architecture of the time. However they have remained popular right up to the present, regardless of prevailing architectural styles and philosophies.

Wunderlich was unable to satisfy the demand once the Great War stopped the shipment from France. The Wunderlich Company had foreseen the possibility of the European war and had installed experimental tilery plants in Sydney and Melbourne, at the same time purchasing clay lands in these areas. [1] By the time the war made importation of Marseilles tiles impossible, Wunderlich Limited was ready to start full scale production of their own branded tiles.

In the 'Forty Year' history of Wunderlich the processes for making terracotta roof tiles was described as the following:

"The clay used for tile making at Rosehill is won from a pit that has been sampled and tested to a depth of 50 feet, the hole being proved of excellent quality. A 'fall' of clay from the face is brought to the clay preparing department by an endless haulage system, and is ground while in a moist condition, thus acquiring an extremely dense nature. Passing through the mixer into the pugging machine, it emerges from the latter as a continuous, homogenous mass, which travels along rollers to a cutting device, where it is cut automatically into "bats" of uniform shape. These pass along a conveyor belt to the tile presses, where each bat, as it arrives, is shaped and consolidated under considerable pressure, between two dies, the surplus water being eliminated during this process. The formed tiles are then placed on trays and hoisted on an endless elevator to one of the several drying floors. Here the 'green' (unburnt) tiles are stored on racks, to remain under close observation and carefully controlled conditions for a period averaging about 14 days.

When sufficiently rigid for safe handling, the tiles are trucked to the kilns and stacked or "set" in tiers, after which the entrance to the kiln is sealed and the fires are set going. Day and night the wiles are subjected to a gradual burning process, scientifically controlled by pyrometers, and carried out in careful stages so that all the free moisture may be removed before the temperature is raised to the level which produces the steel-hard tile. Then, after slow cooling and annealing, the tiles are "dragged" and graded into stacks, any faulty product being rejected."[1]

Wunderlich may have painted Sydney red with the importation of Marseilles roofing tiles , however this soon changed when they began to produce their own tiles shades brindle, buff, chocolate, and blended colours combined with full and semi-glazed effects. The museum has representations of most of these types of roof tiles in its collection.[2][1][2]


[1]Forty Years of Wunderlich Industry 1887-1927, Wunderlich Ltd, 1927
[2]Trade Brochure, Colour in Wunderlich Products, Wunderlich Ltd, Museum Research Library



This roof tile came from the Wunderlich factory in Redfern, and was acquired by the Museum in 1980.

In 1969 the Wunderlich Company was taken over by Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited (CSR) and de-listed on the Australian Stock Exchange in 1970. In 1979 CSR sold Wunderlich's Redfern site, with all the original buildings to be demolished to make way for a shopping centre. In November, that same year, CSR gave the Museum $20,000 to rescue the collection of the Wunderlich Factory, before it was lost forever.[1]

The Museum employed the assistance of Industrial Archaeologists to help preserve and document the site before its demolition. The Curator in 1980, John Wade, thought it imperative to act quickly as demolition had already begun by the time Museum staff could get to the buildings, and numerous objects were being stolen from the demolition site on a nightly basis. The archaeologists were racing the bulldozers to preserve what was left of the site and worked quickly to preserve anything they could.[2]

Before museum staff began work on the site the main factory buildings and timber mill were roofed with Marseilles tiles, and a number of buildings were roofed with Wunderlich branded tiles [1]. By the time Museum staff began work on the site the demolition of the roofs was almost complete and most of the factory's buildings were littered with broken roof tiles. Staff scavenged the entire site salvaging both Marseilles tiles and Wunderlich tiles, attempting to gathering representatives of each tile on the site. Ten different examples of the French style tiles were recovered along with numerous different Wunderlich branded roof tiles.

This collection is again being worked on in 2008, as part of the Total Asset Management Collections Project, to increase accessibility of documentation relating to the Wunderlich objects. This collection project has not only preserved some of its products, but has given an insight into the development, operation and impact of a great Australian company, which became an institution.

[1]Susan Bures and Barry Groom, Wunderlich Project Report, Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, 1980-1981
[2]Memo from John Wade to acting director D. Walsh, Museum Archives

Cite this Object


Terracotta roof tiles 2021, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 24 January 2022, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Terracotta roof tiles |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=24 January 2022 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}