History preserved – Bairnsdale Cenotaph Restoration Project complete

Major conservation works on the Bairnsdale Cenotaph are now complete with the Cenotaph reopened today (Friday, March 5).

The reopening began with a prayer from Archdeacon Brenda Burney followed by a ribbon cutting by Mayor Cr Mendy Urie and the Hon Darren Chester, Federal Member for Gippsland and Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Minister for Defence Personnel with ribbon holding support provided by the Bairnsdale RSL Sub-branch members.

The event concluded with Allan Pappin, President Bairnsdale RSL Sub-branch reciting the Ode, a silent tribute and the Last Post sounded.

In 2015, East Gippsland Shire Council engaged heritage and conservation consultant, David Young, to provide a condition assessment of the cenotaph. The assessment showed that the First World War memorial was in poor condition largely due to the inferior quality of the sandstone used when it was erected in 1922 and unsympathetic repairs in the past which contributed further to the deterioration. Council initiated the much-needed repair works inline with the recommendations.

Council awarded the contract to Cathedral Stone, a specialist in conservation projects. The works commenced on the 24 July 2020 following the de-consecration ceremony performed by Rt. Revd. Dr Richard Treloar, Bishop of Gippsland.

Cathedral Stone worked rebuilding the shaft stone, cleaning stone, restoring bronzes and polishing the marble amongst many other works needed for the restoration. Scaffold was erected and the cenotaph was wrapped up to protect the sensitive works from the elements and create a controlled environment.

Mayor Cr Mendy Urie said the cenotaph has sympathetically restored the monument and preserved the long and important history it holds.

“This project was not about replacing the monument; it was about conserving the history it holds and preserving what original features it has. One of the biggest achievements of this project is that some of the original stone remains, this is a credit to Cathedral Stone who have shown excellent craftmanship and commitment,” Cr Urie said.

Cathedral Stone’s CEO James Charleswood said the aim of the project was about conserving the monument and its integrity.

“These works aimed to conserve as much of the original stone as possible, while replacing anything damaged beyond repair. Our aim was always to honour the history and integrity of the monument, and therefore to honour those people who are commemorated by the cenotaph,” Mr Charleswood said.

New history was added to the monument during the restoration works with the addition of a second time capsule which was added during an attempt to remove a time capsule which was placed during the original construction almost 100 years ago.

“While the original time capsule was unable to be removed, it presented an opportunity for Council and the RSL to mark a moment in time – 2020 – with a new time capsule. The time capsule gave the opportunity to commemorate and acknowledge the community’s resilience through bushfires, pandemics and drought, as well as paying tribute to our servicemen and women,” Cr Urie said.

“These restoration works have ensured that the legacy of past and future servicemen and women continues and allows our community to pay their respects. May we continue to remember the resilience and courage of our servicemen and women, and the resilience of our own community.”

The project was jointly funded by Council and the Federal Government, the latter contributing $137,000 in funding under the Saluting Their Service Commemorative Grants Program. The Bairnsdale RSL Sub-branch was an important and valued partner working in consultation on the project.

The official ribbon cutting.

From left to right, Allan Pappin – President Bairnsdale RSL Sub-branch, the Hon Darren Chester – Federal Member for Gippsland, Cr Mayor Mendy Urie, Cr John White (former Mayor when the conservation work started) and Ray Rock – Bairnsdale RSL sub-branch.

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