This is a model of a free-standing suburban domestic Australian home of the 1950s. Called the 'St Ives', it was made by George Hudson Homes of the Sydney suburb of Cabramatta and used by Berger Paints & British Paints of Rhodes for display and promotions of their exterior paint colour schemes.
The George Hudson company was a pioneer of prefabricated building elements and buildings in Australia. Despite its association with modernism prefabrication has a long history in Australia. It was timber, the most traditional building material which proved amenable to prefabrication and powered technology. From the 1850s the gang-saw, comprising several blades, could cut a log or flitch into several boards in a single pass. Later, the development of moulding machines led to boards with inter-locking weather-proof profiles.
Many of the tasks previously performed by carpenters either on-site or in their small workshops were taken over by joinery mills. Timber fittings such as tongue-and-groove floorboards, window frames, skirting boards and doors were increasingly fashioned and assembled as much as practicable at large joinery mills along factory lines of production.
Standardisation of size and design was an integral part of this process. The simultaneous development of timber-framed construction opened the way to partly prefabricated houses. The Australian stud frame, somewhat lighter and simpler than the North American balloon frame was also amenable to mill fabrication and on-site assembly. By 1900 timber companies such as George Hudson and Goodlet & Smith in Sydney and James Moore in Melbourne were offering 'Ready-Cut' timber homes.
Carpenter William Henry Hudson emigrated to Sydney from England in 1846. He established a joinery firm in Redfern around 1855 and during the 1870s this venture expanded into an engineering enterprise which moved to Clyde near Parramatta. William Henry's son George took control of the joinery business, which became known as George Hudson & Son Ltd in 1905.
George Hudson & Son produced doors, windows and other timber building elements. By 1870 Hudsons's joinery in Redfern was able to produce 500 pairs of sash windows and 200 doors per week. The resulting economy of scale made these building components considerably cheaper than skill intensive on-site methods. Around 1900 the firm began to produce partiallly prefabricated timber houses. For most of the twentieth century Hudson Ready-Cuts were a popular and affordable form of suburban housing, substantially reducing the amount of on-site work involved in construction. In addition, Hudson's supplied the prefabricated hut used by Douglas Mawson's Antarctic expedition of 1911; this hut is still standing.
From 1917 Hudson's presented display homes at the Sydney Easter Show, while the company's voluminous catalogues are a remarkable record of suburban architecture, as well as convincing evidence of the company's importance in adopting and promoting contemporary design trends. The 1950s was perhaps the peak of Hudson's success, as the many owner-builders then active were attracted by the simplified construction of Ready-Cuts and their contemporary design. At this time Hudson's houses were displayed in Grace Bros department stores.
George Hudson Homes (as the company was named by 1959) continued to produce kit-homes into the 1970s.
Charles Pickett, curator Design and built environment.