Plaque un­cov­ers church ori­gins

Pilbara News - - Front Page - Tom Zaun­mayr

Back­ers of a his­tor­i­cal Roe­bourne restora­tion project gath­ered to watch the sun rise over the church on the hill as they read­ied them­selves to un­cover a small yet re­mark­able piece of his­tory.

The name of the Holy Trin­ity church has al­ways puzzled his­to­ri­ans.

Early doc­u­ments have it penned down as St John’s, de­spite early pho­to­graphs show­ing the church clearly la­belled Holy Trin­ity.

There was a myth cir­cu­lat­ing that on the re­verse of the foun­da­tion plate, there was in fact the foun­da­tion plate for the orig­i­nal build­ing, which was blown down in the late 19th cen­tury.

Last week, that was con­firmed af­ter the restora­tion team re­moved the plaque to have a look.

Joy Brann has been piv­otal in rais­ing aware­ness for the restora­tion project and was there on the morn­ing to wit­ness his­tory.

“We didn’t have a lot to go on but Archdea­con Ted Don­caster was in­volved in doc­u­ment­ing the his­tory of the Angli­can church in the North West,” she said.

“When this church was built, a lot of the rem­nants of the orig­i­nal church were used in the build­ing and he said ‘I am sure on the re­verse of that plaque we are going to find the orig­i­nal foun­da­tion of the first Holy Trin­ity’.”

“We thought if we can un­cover the orig­i­nal foun­da­tion stone, that will be proof pos­i­tive so today’s find is ter­ri­bly ex­cit­ing.”

Ms Brann said it was par­tic­u­larly ex­cit­ing to find a link to Roe­bourne’s in­dige­nous pop­u­la­tion in the Hicks fam­ily on the orig­i­nal foun­da­tion plate.

“That, I think, will be another link for the lo­cal in­dige­nous peo­ple to feel some sense of be­long­ing and own­er­ship of the church,” she said. “I dis­cov­ered this church in about 2010, hav­ing seen it first in the 70s when it was still in very good con­di­tion and I was heart­bro­ken — it looked to­tally des­e­crated and in dan­ger of just dis­ap­pear­ing.

“You think about the pi­o­neers and you re­alise peo­ple were mar­ried here, chil­dren were chris­tened, peo­ple were buried from the church, it is full of the life and the sto­ries of the past.

“WA has a very bad record of valu­ing its past and re­ally valu­ing the ev­ery­day ci­ti­zens that made this State what it is, par­tic­u­larly in the North West.”

Roe­bourne-based Baessler Con­struc­tion owner David Baessler was tasked with tak­ing on the her­itage re­fur­bish­ment and was the man to chip the stone away from the plaque to re­veal his­tory.

The re­furb has been a labour of love for Mr Baessler, and with reg­u­lar do­na­tions rolling in since the Na­tional Trust came on board last year, he said he could now tackle some of the big­ger projects.

“That in­cludes the restora­tion of the roof,” he said. “The wooden beams are split in half so we re­ally do need to at­tempt that prob­lem be­fore the next cy­clone sea­son.

“Hope­fully, it all goes well and we should be done by 2020.”

Wick­ham Com­mu­nity chap­lain Richard Goscombe has been a ma­jor driv­ing force be­hind the project.

Mr Goscombe said the restora­tion could not have come sooner.

“We knew this build­ing was re­ally on its last legs and as the most his­tor­i­cal build­ing in the North West, it is re­ally im­por­tant that it be pre­served be­cause so many peo­ple’s lives and sto­ries are caught up in this build­ing,” he said.

“We have had a lot of sup­port to do the smaller jobs . . . but it has been es­tab­lish­ing the ap­peal with the Na­tional Trust of WA that has en­abled us to re­ally get se­ri­ous about the restora­tion, to go be­yond just re­pairs and do the work that needs to be done. “The aim is to not just keep it going for another 10 years, it is to see in in another 120 years be­ing in bet­ter con­di­tion than what it is today.”

To date, the ren­der has been re­moved, win­dow frames have been fixed and odd jobs such as elec­tri­cal have been tack­led, but the fix­ing the roof and fill­ing cracks are ex­pected to take some time.

Mr Goscombe said the mam­moth un­der­tak­ing was worth­while given the sig­nif­i­cance of the church on the hill for Roe­bourne’s past and present res­i­dents.

“They may be peo­ple who no longer live in the area, but this helps them tell their story, this build­ing car­ries mem­o­ries for them,” he said.

“Th­ese are peo­ple’s sto­ries and if th­ese build­ings are lost, it be­comes harder to tell their sto­ries.

“Hope­fully with the great work that Baessler are do­ing, it is going to not just be a his­tor­i­cal relic.

“It will be a build­ing that is part of the fu­ture of this town and con­tin­ues to be part of the sto­ries of our pre­cious peo­ple and their lives in the North West.”

Mr Goscombe said other his­toric build­ings such as the Old Gaol and Mount Wel­come homestead needed sim­i­lar treat­ment.

We knew this build­ing was re­ally on its last legs and as the most his­tor­i­cal build­ing in the North West, it is re­ally im­por­tant that it be pre­served be­cause so many peo­ple’s lives and sto­ries are caught up in this build­ing. Chap­lain Richard Goscombe

Joy Brann, far right, with David Baessler, chap­lain Richard Goscombe and Mau­reen Lis­si­man.

Pic­tures: Tom Zaun­mayr

Roe­bourne's Holy Trin­ity Church.

The orig­i­nal foun­da­tion plaque just af­ter be­ing re­moved.

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