Brickendon reaps rewards of Port Arthur and Norfolk Island expertise

April 29, 2009

Expertise from Norfolk Island has been enlisted to assist restoration projects at Brickendon Estate and the Port Arthur Historic Site.

Michael Williams is a pilot exchange worker whose skills in roof shingling and other building conservation work is proving a boon to restoration projects at two of Tasmania’s convict sites.

This week Michael took a break from his intensive work schedule at Port Arthur to lend a hand on the roof of one of Brickendon’s most charming buildings, the convict chapel.

Relishing the opportunity to see more of Tasmania’s convict sites nominated for World Heritage Listing, he spent a day with PAHS colleague Peter Williams replacing the 40-year-old shingles on the steep-pitched chapel roof.

Safely down on terra firma were Port Arthur shingle splitters Ted and Gareath Plummer providing Brickendon visitors with a complete picture of the traditional practice of this rapidly diminishing practice.

Brickendon owner Richard Archer and son Will were impressed with the operation and were grateful to be able to tap into the expertise.

They had done some preparation by organising the scaffolding around the building and stripping the old shingles.

“I have done a bit of shingling on small farm buildings here but it’s great to have the Port Arthur crew here showing us how it’s done,” Richard said.

“These new shingles are replacing those that my father installed in the 1960s. He did it all by himself using ladders and he also rebuilt the spire.

“I have wanted to do this job for some time. The sun has really damaged the shingles on the north side of the chapel.”

It is hoped the new shingles, sourced from the Derwent Valley, will last at least 40 years.

The longevity of the wooden roofing shingles is a concern for Michael and his team on Norfolk Island.

He said the native Norfolk pines, which have yielded excellent tiles, are dwindling and it is hard to source good trees on the island.

“We are now importing casuarina shingles from the mid north coast of New South Wales and we hope they will last between 60 and 70 years,” Michael said.

“It is a different climate to Tasmania. It is sub-tropical and the air is extremely salty.”

Michael is taking part in a knowledge exchange on common as well as distinctly geographical conservation issues experienced at sites such as Kingston and Arthur’s Vale Historic Area (KAVHA) on Norfolk Island and Port Arthur Historic Site.

Port Arthur is hosting Michael for six weeks to work alongside like-skilled tradesmen and experience the planning processes engaged in to initiate works at our historic sites.

The KAVHA sites on Michael’s adopted home of Norfolk Island are included in the Australian Government’s nomination of 11 convict sites across the country for World Heritage listing.

The Tasmanian sites are Port Arthur Historic Site, Brickendon and Woolmers estates at Longford, the Darlington probation station on Maria Island, the Cascades Female Factory and the Coalmines Historic Site on Tasman Peninsula.

Conservation Project manager for the World Heritage nominated sites, Jo Lyngcoln, recorded a video explaining some of the work.

Brickendon's Richard Archer (right) learns the rudiments of shingle splitting from experts Gareath (left) and Ted Plummer

Brickendon’s Richard Archer (right) learns the rudiments of shingle splitting from experts Gareath (left) and Ted Plummer

Michael Williams assesses the state of shingles on the Brickendon chapel roof

Michael Williams assesses the state of shingles on the Brickendon chapel roof

Michael at work replacing some shingles

Michael at work replacing some shingles

A bird's eye view of the chapel roof

A bird’s eye view of the chapel roof

The roof is prepared for the new shingles

The roof is prepared for the new shingles

Ted and Gareath Plummer's "Big Bertha" shingle splitter

Ted and Gareath Plummer’s “Big Bertha” shingle splitter