In architecture, a finial is an ornamental piece on top of a gable, spire or other roof projection, typically carved in stone.
There are a number of carved stone finials on Quadrangle roofs and those with carved animals above (i.e. on the East range, Clock Tower rear and MacLaurin Hall) all reflect the Royal coat of arms in some way.
On this webpage:
- Royal coat of arms
- Great Hall finials
- The Clock Tower lion finial
- East range finials
- Nicholson Gateway lion finial
- MacLaurin Hall lion finials
Information is largely from "Stained Glass and Stone" by Bertha McKenzie, "University of Sydney Architecure" by Trevor Howells, the Heritage and Conservation Register maintained by the University and the University of Sydney Grounds Conservation Plan 2002.
Photos are courtesy of the University Secretariat unless otherwise indicated. Click on most images for enlargement.
The Royal coat of arms is pictured below:
at the very top is a lion wearing the imperial crown (one of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom))
under the lion is the imperial crown
under the crown and in the centre is a shield in quarters. The first and fourth quarters each depict three passant lions of England (a "lion passant" is walking, with the right forepaw raised and all others on the ground); the second depicts the rampant lion (in profile standing erect with forepaws raised) and double tressure fleury-counter-fleury (fleur-de-lis) of Scotland; and the third depicts a harp for Ireland.
on the viewer's left of the shield is an English lion wearing the imperial crown; on the right is a Scottish unicorn.
The Great Hall roof has stone finials at each gable end. The finial on the front gable originally supported a two metre statue known as the Angel of Knowledge (erected in 1859) but this was removed in 1874 for safety reasons.
View images of the Angel of Knowledge and find out more about it from the Archives online exhibition on the Great Hall.
The finial at the front of the Great Hall
The finial at the rear of the Great Hall
The central Clock Tower has one lion finial on the roof gable at its rear, holding an heraldic flag with an eight-pointed star in its centre which reflects the four eight-pointed stars on the University's coat of arms.
As part of a facelift for the Clock Tower between 1999 and 2002 (part of a major project under the University’s Heritage Fabric Maintenance and Conservation Program project), the Clock Tower’s original sandstone lion finial, created in the early 1860s, was replaced by a fresh lion carved “in the spirit of the original”, for the start of the 2001 academic year.
There was serious damage to the belly area as a result of the hole for the fixing rod being too close to the surface. The combination of the thin stone section and pressure from the rust broke the stone away and made practical repairs impossible.
The lion is now on view in the Quadrangle, next to the Information Centre.
Read about this conservation work.
The East range (front) of the Quadrangle has three finials on the three gable roofs - two lions and one horse.
A lion finial on the southern end of the East range
On the southern roof gable of the East range facing the city is a lion finial holding an heraldic flag depicting a quatrefoil.
Finials on either side of the Clock Tower
On the gable roofs on either side of the Clock Tower are a horse finial (the Great Hall side) and a lion finial (the other side of the Tower), each holding an heraldic flag. They reflect the Royal coat of arms on the front of the Clock Tower which has an English lion wearing the imperial crown on the left and a Scottish unicorn on the right of the the central shield.
Originally the lion and the horse finials each faced the Clock Tower. Today however, while the lion finial still does, the restored horse finial faces the city.
The three heraldic flags
The Nicholson Gateway has one lion finial - holding the shield from the Royal coat of arms - on top of the south gable.
There are two lion finials on MacLaurin Hall's gable roof (the former Fisher Library) - one at each end. Each finial wears a crown (reflecting the crowned lion on the Royal coat of arms), supports the crest from the Royal coat of arms and bears the date "1907" carved beneath.
On the west gable
On the east (city-facing) gable