Special bricks are being manufactured close to the size of the old convict style bricks and will be used for conservation works at the Separate Prison.
The bricks are a different dimension to their standard modern counterparts.
They will be used in the works to reconstruct the perimeter yard walls of the prison.
Port Arthur Conservation Project Manager Jo Lyngcoln says the dominance of the Separate Prison over the Port Arthur landscape can only be translated in this way.
“It’s one thing to tell people how this incredibly rare building would have looked – and quite another for visitors to experience it for themselves,” she says.
The decision to reconstruct was based on an extensive process of research and consultation with the heritage conservation industry by PAHSMA staff.
After an extensive tender process, K’n’D Bricks and Pavers in New Town was selected to manufacture the odd-sized brick, using a special mix of local clay high in shale to reduce shrinkage.
K’n’D Bricks and Pavers Marketing Manager Steven Watson says the total order of 200,000 bricks occupied their entire production for more than a week and the manufactoring process took more than a fortnight.
Before being used to reconstruct the walls next February, the bricks will be stored on site to allow them to stabilise, in a process known as ‘grassing’.
This would allow the bricks to grow, which they do after firing , before construction begins.
Normally bricks have a slow rate of expansion, about point four of a millimetre, which is accomodated by the expansion joints in modern constructions.
“Because these bricks are being used on an existing building, we need to give time for the bricks to grow before construction,” Steven says.
The special sized bricks are 70 millimetres, while normal house bricks are 76 millimetres.
Two thirds of the order of the special sized bricks has been manufactured and dried in the drying room and fired in the kiln at the New Town brick plant.
Production of the special bricks is just one component of the compelx works being undertaken at the Separate Prison between now and June 2008.
Stonemasons have commenced works stabilising internal corridor walls and taking down a chimney, which will be rebuilt following the reinstatement of the original roof structure.
Some part of the building are currently off-limits to visitors. Signs explaining the project have been installed, and some tours and activities will be re-routed until this phase of the project is completed in June next year.