Eltham Mudbrick Tour

The Eltham Mudbrick Tour, which ran for many years by Panton Hill Preschool and then Eltham High School, in 2023 ceased running due to the COVID-19 lockdowns. This is my involvement with the tour, and hoping that it someday returns.

Eltham Mudbrick Tour History

The last physical tour ran in October 2019. I was fortunate to drive one of the minibuses ferrying tourists around St Andrews. It was a satisfying experience helping people enjoy seeing the beautiful mud brick homes in my home area.

My involvement started in 2016 when my sons began their learning the cello and violin with Eltham High School's music program. The Friends of Music group was highly active back then and keenly took on the tour from the Panton Hill Pre-School who ran it with the local CFA. The tour's roots date back much further.

Panton Hill Mudbrick Tour

In 1976 a second tour began to exhibit the mud brick architecture in the northern part of the district. The Panton Hill Mud brick Tour ran for 33 years in an unbroken series, as an annual fundraiser for the Panton Hill Preschool until 2009. Following the tragedy of the 2009 Black Saturday fires, the local community was engaged in the bushfire recovery effort and for the first time there was no tour. In 2010 the Nillumbik Mudbrick Association approached Eltham High School to restart the Mudbrick House Tour. With the support of Nillumbik Shire Council, and now Montsalvat, Eltham High School has been the community organisation behind this cultural event since then.

Every year, a new selection of five exemplary mud brick homes in Eltham are open for a day in October. The tour began at Montsalvat where students of the Eltham High School music program performed in The Barn for tour patrons.

Eltham High and Friends of Music

Eltham High School, with much help from the internal group Friends of Music, ran the tour successfully from 2010 to 2019. My first participation with the tour was in 2016 as one of the team to look after one of the houses whilst patrons visited. In the following years, I drove the buses and took over the website.

Driving the minibuses, a popular job for volunteers.

COVID-19 Lockdowns

In 2019 COVID-19 hit and in 2020 Victoria suffered the most lockdowns in Australia due to mismanagement by the Andrews government of the virus. The lockdowns were controversial, long and many restrictions were overzealous and were of no practical use in controlling the virus spread; and for a disease that for over 95% of the population is no worse than the common cold. As a direct result of the lockdowns, the 2020 could not run; and as most mud brick homes have elderly owners, getting homes for strangers to go through would be almost impossible, making the tours after COVID most unlikely.

At Eltham High, the entire music program was shut down and the Friends of Music have struggled to rebuild their numbers. Without the eighty or more volunteers needed to run the tour, and with chronic teacher shortages affecting the state, Eltham High had no choice but to hand back the tour to the Nillumbik Mudbrick Association.

In 2023, after news of Eltham High School dropping the tour, the Nillumbik Mudbrick Association attempted to restart it using virtual reality. After spending over $8k producing the videos, around 150 people viewed the virtual tour, which is significantly down from the almost 400 that attended the physical tours each year and these were capped to avoid overcrowding.

Late in 2023 Nillumbik Council ceased funding for the tour, and the website looks unlikely to be online again after Site Ground increased their hosting fees. A limited version of the website can be viewed on the Internet Archive (Wayback Machine).

The Tours

A short selection of the beautiful houses that were on the Eltham Mudbrick Tour.

Eltham Mudbrick Tour 2017

2017 featured mud brick houses on Harcourt Hill in Eltham, otherwise known as ‘the Hill’. This undulating and densely vegetated terrain situated north of Bridge St and west of Diamond Creek first experienced intense development after World War II.

However, 2017’s Eltham Mudbrick Tour showcased unique homes constructed more recently between 1987 and 2001: two built by Michael Young, one designed by Trevor Weichmann, and another built by Bill Barrington with an extension designed by Lynnsay Prunotto. The latter’s garden features the work of native landscaper Sam Cox.

Photos: Ian Clark and Eltham High Photography students and Lisbeth Grosmann.

Eltham Mudbrick Tour 2018

The 2018 Eltham Mudbrick Tour was held on 21 October and featured mudbrick homes built, extended, or renovated between 1973 and 2018 by both mudbrick house professionals including Alistair Knox, John Pizzi and Mark Sinclair, and owner builders including artists, a doctor, and a local postal worker. We had perfect weather and over 250 keen and passionate mudbrick enthusiasts were in attendance.

Thank you to our sponsors, volunteers, and most of all the homeowners for making the Eltham Mudbrick Tour possible.

Quotes from some of our 2018 Tour patrons:

The beautiful settings and gardens of some of the houses were just Wonderful. The people at the houses were extremely friendly and welcoming.

House #1 was amazing, loved all the pottery and ceramics. Interesting to see other people’s mud brick homes

Enjoyed the beauty of each home and great flow of buses – thanks to all the volunteers and homeowners!!

Loved seeing inside the houses and collections. Inspirational!

Enjoyed the friendliness of owners. Beautiful time of year when gardens were at their best.

I love mud brick houses.

Photos: Ian Clark and Jane Hinwood.

Eltham Mudbrick Tour 2019

2019 was our 10th Year of hosting the Eltham Mudbrick Tour, and we celebrated by moving the locality to the St Andrews area, well known for its weekly artistic community market at the foot of the Kinglake range and tranquil bush scenery.
The tour kicked off at the St Andrews Community Market Hall, where Earth Architects provided fun demonstrations and lessons in the art of mud brick making to many of our Tour patrons, old and young.

Tour patrons then watched the Eltham High School senior ensemble musicians perform their exquisite pieces in the St Andrews Hall, before joining one of our shuttle buses that whisked them between the houses on this year’s tour.

These included homes that had featured on long-past Mudbrick Tours, a two-storey heritage listed mud brick home, a John Pizzey designed off-the-grid mud brick home, a Tuscany themed home that started life as a log cabin kit home, a two-storey Alistair Knox mud brick house that survived the 2009 bushfires, a recently built mud brick home designed to new bushfire regulations, and a modern attic apartment in central St Andrews, part of the new mud brick building commercial hub.

Tour patrons then enjoyed a fitting end to the day with wine and cheese tastings, entertained all the while by Eltham High School alumni Jazz musicians the Scot van Gemert Jazz Quartet and the FiveFour Jazz Quartet.

A heartfelt huge thank you to this year's tour patrons, to our sponsors, volunteers and most of all, to the homeowners past and present who make the Eltham Mudbrick Tour possible.

Quotes from some of our 2019 Tour patrons:

“Lovely day out and very well-organised. Loved the shuttle bus and friendly drivers. Gorgeous houses and tea and cake was a highlight. Also enjoyed the wine tasting and cheese tasting after the tour.”
“Relaxed, friendly experience being inspired by the work people have done to create their homes with a sustainable, creative approach.”
“I thought the volunteers did such a fantastic job. It was a nice day out in my local area.”
“Loved being driven and not having to follow a map.”
“Enjoyed speaking with the owners, learning about the history of the homes.”
“The John Pizzey designed house was a stunning home that shows how great mudbrick homes can actually be!”
“This is always a well-organized event with lovely people, a worthy cause to raise funds for and an interesting part of our community.”

Photos: Alison J Raven.

Website Information

The Eltham Mudbrick Tour, run by Eltham High School, in 2016, needed a new website that featured their sponsors more prominently. As I had children at the school I was happy to offer my services pro bono to build the new website. I had already volunteered once with house monitoring (watching visitors behave themselves whilst visiting houses) and twice driving the bus around, which I enjoyed the most.


Ultimatum was the theme used and this helps make the site easy to update. For example, as tours come and go, the header alternates between one which has a link for the tickets and one which does not.

Sponsor Display

The previous Mud Brick Tour website, done by a large promotional firm, did not feature the sponsors. The new one would show them on the front page straight after the main tour informaiton.

Sponsors were added using a custom post type so that they could easily be added and archived in case they came back sponsoring the tour. Gold, Silver and Bronze sponsors were displayed with the most expensive ones at the top and with a larger logo than the others.

Bronze sponsors only have their names listed which link to their website. If they didn't have a website the link was pointed to a post on the Mud Brick Tour website featuring the busness's details.

Silver sponsors for 2018. Eltham Mudbrick Tour, November 2018.
Silver sponsors for 2018. Eltham Mud brick Tour.

Sponsors are set up using a custom post type. New ones are created using a form, and this helps keep the information consistent and improving the display on the front page.

If a sponsor goes, the category of Gold, Bronze or Silver Sponsor is removed, and they won’t appear on the front page. If they sponsor the tour again, the appropriate category is simply re-applied, and they will then appear under the correct heading.

Tours were held every October. The tour was a must-see for anyone interested in mud brick houses and domestic architecture.

Website Screenshots

The website is now offline but can be viewed at https://web.archive.org/web/20230205142617/https://elthammudbricktour.org/mudbrick-tour-history/ using the Wayback Machine, aka The Internet Archive.

Alistair Knox

Mud brick houses in Eltham can't be discussed without reference to Alistair Knox, who was a leading designer and proponent of the construction method in the area.

Alistair Knox, c.1985, photo by Lynne Cooke.

A self-taught architect, Alistair Knox has designed over one thousand houses. His philosophy of doing it yourself using available resources works well with mud brick construction.

He was an Eltham Shire Councillor from 1972 to 1975. He died in 1985.

Further Reading

From the archived website www.alistairknox.org, fetched 23-September-2023, which is based on an unfinished and unpublished autobiography.

Alistair Knox was a designer, builder, and advocate for an alternate lifestyle. Between 1946 and 1986 he designed over 1,000 houses, several churches (including the Eltham Presbyterian Church in Batman Road, Eltham), schools and other buildings. The job numbers reached 1266 of these he built about 350. He is best known for his mud brick output of about three hundred buildings. These were built in two periods: before 1955 and after 1964, but mostly post 1970.

The thing which stamps Alistair out from his contemporaries, apart from his amazing output, is that he was a builder. This first-hand knowledge informed his designs. His mature work could be built inexpensively by people with limited skills using reclaimed materials. A democratisation of the building and design process.

Alistair Knox Website

There is an excellent website www.alistairknox.org, which details much of his life. It was offline, and now it's back up as of December 2023 with the addition of a copyright notice at the page bottom, "©Mietta's 2023". In case it goes offline again there is a copy at https://web.archive.org/web/20230205142617/http://www.alistairknox.org/ and a redo of the books shown below.

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