Author: Ken McQueen, National Rock Garden Steering Committee

Extract from National Rock Garden Newsletter No. 22, December 2021

Rocks used for building stone or in monumental applications are frequently recycled. The Mount Gibraltor Microsyenite, one of the iconic rocks featured in the National Rock Garden (NRG), was used extensively in the Queen Victoria building, constructed in George Street, Sydney from 1893–1898.

Polished columns of Mount Gibraltar Microsyenite at the York Street entrance to the Queen Victoria Building, Sydney. Image courtesy Mike Smith.

During subsequent renovations of the building in 1916 some internal granite columns were removed and sold. One of the hand-sculptured columns was purchased by Beckinsale’s monumental masons in Lismore where it was retained for some time. Eventually the column was donated to the Ballina Ex- Servicemen’s Home in Ballina as a memorial and erected at the northern end of Owen Street, Ballina in 1961 (Anon. 2008). Interestingly, over the long period of storage the identity of the rock making up the column became confused and when it was erected it was labelled as ‘Moruya Granite’ (Tonalite) another iconic rock featured in the NRG and also widely used for monumental purposes.

The recycled column of Mt Gibraltar Microsyenite at the end of Owen Street, Ballina. Now a memorial to all ex-servicemen. Image courtesy Ken McQueen.
Descriptive plaque with the mistaken identity of Moruya Granite. Image courtesy Ken McQueen.

The identity of the rock as Mount Gibraltar Microsyenite was revealed during a close inspection of the column by the author in October 2021.

Close up of the column rock revealing its true identity. Image courtesy Ken McQueen.

The Mount Gibraltar Microsyenite (known commercially as the Bowral Trachyte) was mined at Mount Gibraltar (the Gib) near Bowral (Lemann et al., 2007). It was prized by stone masons for its qualities of dense strength and durability. As well as being used in the Queen Victoria Building it was also used in Challis House in Martin Place, the ANZAC Memorial in Hyde Park and the 1901 Commonwealth Stone in Centennial Park. It was used for the Canberra foundation stone, for many war memorials and in Australia House in London. It was also quarried for ballast in construction of the Great Southern Railway line from Mittagong to Goulburn.

The Canberra foundation stone. Image courtesy Brad Pillans.


Anon., 2008. The Hills Look Down to the Sea: A Thematic History of the Ballina Shire’. Draft Shire Wide Community Based Heritage Study: Thematic History, Ballina Shire Council.

Lemann, J., Simons, J., Smith, E., Wright, C., Moffatt, J.-R.and Elphick, M. (Eds.) 2007. The Gib. Mount Gibraltar, Southern Highlands. Mt Gibraltar Landcare & Bushcare and Wingecarribee Shire Council, Bowral, 263 pp.