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.”
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.
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.
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.
Points of Interest – Harbour Masters Residence