Conservation for Rare Fort Scratchley Plan 1879

Defences N.S.W. Newcastle Fort General Plan of the Works with Contours & Lines of Sections, 1879

This week the Fort Scratchley Historical Society sent us an important and rare plan of the Fort works dating from 1879 for emergency conservation work. Fort Scratchley Representative on the Coal River Working Party, Mr Bill Hanley delivered the plan to us after Monday’s meeting. We were asked to look at the plan, advise and carry out any conservation work as necessary, with the intention of having it digitised at some point in the future for public access.

The fragile plan was carefully unrolled. The title was noted as “Tracing of Plan No. 1 Defences N.S.W. Newcastle Fort General Plan of the Works with Contours & Lines of Sections. Scale 1/16 of an Inch to a Foot.”

Note in ink "Defence Works Office Sydney May 1879 - JJS"
Extent of damage to 1879 Fort Plan

At the bottom of the plan were the words inscribed in ink “Defence Works Office Sydney May 1879 – JJS”. The linen plan’s condition was poor, and very brittle especially on its right side, showing evidence throughout of mould attack and water damage sustained over the years. Luckily the badly torn and damaged portions were at the extremity of the plan with little of the drawing.

This is a very rare plan, as it predates the construction of the Fort, and appears to record the mines beneath as well as the Harbour Masters Residence and buildings that were replaced with the Fort works. Four shafts, presumably coal mine shafts are noted on the Plan as No.1, No 2, No. 3 and No. 4 respectively. It would be very important to ascertain their relation to the mine drifts located on the 1856 Adams Plan of Flag Staff Hill Newcastle. We know that an extensive survey of the convict era mines was conducted in the 1880s under Thomas Croudace to stabilise the mine workings to take the new Fort Works, but unfortunately a search of NSW State Archives could not locate the survey. So this plan provides new hope that such a detailed map of the drives could still exist among the Defence archives in Canberra.

Extent of water and mould damage to 1879 Fort Plan

Our conservator, Amir Mogadam, set about carefully ironing out the creases in the linen in preparation for emergency repair. The emergency conservation was conducted to stop the progress of the torn area extending across the rest of the plan. To preserve the historic picturesque nature and authenticity of the plan the conservation measures were limited to preserve the current condition and repairing the damaged areas as an emergency action. The repaired plan was then relocated to protective mylar sheets with inserted paper buffers and is being gently flattened on the plan cabinets. In the new year we will seek advice on the most appropriate method to digitise this plan.

Emergency conservation work in progress - ironing out the creases
Emergency conservation work in progress - ironing out the creases

We then trialled the repair of the tears using Japanese paper moistened with distilled water. It worked a treat and so all the tears were repaired.

Emergency conservation work in progress - repairing tears

Points of Interest – Harbour Masters Residence

Points of Interest - Harbour Masters Residence
Points of Interest - No 1 Shaft
Points of Interest - No 2 Shaft
Points of Interest - No 3 Shaft
Points of Interest - No 4 Shaft
Repaired plan in mylar sheeting with paper buffers on plan cabinet

2 thoughts on “Conservation for Rare Fort Scratchley Plan 1879

  1. The shafts shown on the 1879 plan are not coal shafts. The answer can be found at Queenscliff. Also the plan is not that rare as I had a copy made 10 or more years ago. It was very damp when I borrowed it to have it copied, but it was complete. Its a shame politics and egos get in the way of history. Not many people have been involved with Scratchley as long as I have. Went there in the seventies as a kid for an open day. Joined up as a member of the historical society 1983, left in 1988 to live at another battery site. Those were the years before OHS and bits and pieces of historey where still laying around the fort to be found. The old gunners were still alive with their stories. Nothing much now in the way of history as it has been lost with new members running the place who “never grew with the fort” and know little of its stories. I wonder how many generations will go by before the oldest structure at the fort is recognised? It pre-dates the fort and probably cannot be entered without proper certificates being presented before entry. If you believe I am pulling your leg about having a copy of the plan please look at the bottom left corner of the plan and you will find the following: “Eighty pdr crosses fire with No3 9in gun at 67 yds.” This statement is above a red line that runs from No4 gun “casemate” near the No2 shaft. Have fun, I have over the twenty something years.

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