Monday, December 8, 2014

Grave Project, Bulletin No 14 - All Systems 'Go'

On November 19, Committee members Louise Wilson & Patsy Templeton, stonemasons Sach Killam, Grant Skinner & Matthew Johnson and Craig Johnson of the Hawkesbury City Council met at the Wilberforce Cemetery. Representatives of Heritage NSW were meant to be there also, but made their apologies.
From left: Matthew Johnson, Craig Johnson, Grant Skinner, Sach Killam
The purpose was to discuss the implications of Sach Killam's report, dated 11 November, quite a positive read. Arising from it, the main talking point concerned the lower altar monument, which does not have an underground vault and appears to be the burial site for only one person, 12 year old Ann Brown. We speculated about this and decided that between her death in 1819 and the next death (her father David in 1826), Paul Bushell had joined the family and it must have been decided that a family vault was appropriate and could be afforded.

Many important structural pieces are missing from Ann’s monument, but what remains does not fit within any known style of altar monument. This was an exciting conclusion from Sach Killam's scoping study of 2 October. Since Ann's grave seems to be unique in NSW, there are no guidelines from which we can copy. This makes Ann's grave (and the cemetery) all the more interesting from a Heritage perspective but means that her grave is not a viable candidate for proper restoration according to Heritage guidelines, until such time as we have a clear idea of its original design. (We may never know.)

Accordingly, Sach Killam suggested that we focus on fully restoring the upper altar monument, and that we simply restack the remaining pieces for the lower monument in a better configuration, and replace the top slab back in position on top of the pile. In effect, it will look like a low-rise altar monument (without sides or supporting pillars). This will place the focus of attention on the upper altar monument, where most of the family is buried.

Inspection of the Council depot later on 19 November proved that none of the missing stonework from the graves has been stored there following Council cleanups.

The meeting also pondered where the rounded segment of a child’s headstone would have fitted, and Craig Johnson afterwards located an old map of the cemetery showing an infant’s grave above and alongside the upper altar monument.

All these deliberations enabled a final quote to be prepared on 3 December, containing several options, one priced at $15,200 and the other at $17,750 (the latter relevant to both monuments).

Although our fund-raising campaign mentioned restoration of both altar monuments, the eight-member Committee today agreed unanimously that full restoration cannot be done to the lower altar monument if there is no information about its original design. Accordingly, we have agreed to spend $15,200 for the following work:
Reinstallation of Upper Altar tomb on new plinth slab & re stack lower tomb
 Supply new Wondabyne Sandstone to suit dimensions for missing pieces of upper Altar tomb
 Install existing and new sandstone as per proposal supplied for the upper Altar tomb
 Carefully stack remaining pieces of lower vault over gravesite as per proposal
The Committee having now accepted the quotation, the ball rests in the court of the stonemasons, who will confirm the proposed works with the Heritage authorities and Hawkesbury City Council. Although the holiday season is upon us, we are hoping for action to commence soon.

Needless to say, the Committee is both relieved and excited that restoration of this historic site is within our grasp, at last.

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