STEP BACK IN TIME
DISCOVER THE NSW CENTRAL WEST AND TAKE A WALK ALONG THE BATHURST HERITAGE TRADES TRAIL.
We take a trip down memory lane and discover the amazing traditional craftsmanship along the Bathurst Heritage Trades Trail.
ACROSS THE ROAD FROM from the Bathurst Railway Station (1876) is Tremain’s Mill (1857) and, in its cavernous interior, Elizabeth Forbes is weaving split rattan cane to repair the hexagonal-patterned seat of an antique chair. Peter Reid is here, too, diligently crafting a violin with hand tools that haven’t changed much in centuries. Don’t pull up a chair and wait to see the finished product. It may take hundreds of hours. And Doug Kinleyside, using an old pole lathe, is turning spindles for antique furniture restoration and rolling pins for the retro kitchenalia craze. You don’t have to look at your watch to see what time it is… it’s the mid 19th century at the Havannah Street end of Keppel Street, which — excuse the contradiction in terms — has become a heritage precinct. Along Bathurst’s Heritage Trades Trail, everything old is new again. Bathurst is, after all, the oldest European settlement west of the Blue Mountains. The trail is helping us reconnect with our heritage, and you’re more than welcome to come along for the ride. This year’s Heritage Trades Trail, dedicated to preserving traditional craftsmanship, takes place on the weekend of May 12th and 13th as part of Bathurst Heritage Week and the National Trust Australian Heritage Festival. “We are delighted to be able to present such a cavalcade of talented trades and craftspeople who are keeping rare skills alive,” says Sandy Bathgate, convenor of the Bathurst Heritage Action Network. “The Heritage Trail is a very special opportunity to rediscover traditional craftsmanship — to watch rare things of true value being handmade by real artisans.” Many of Bathurst’s iconic historic locations provide venues for the trade and craft activities. The event is a seamless fit for a city where grand old 19th-century buildings now house restaurants, bars and galleries. And where the inspired and inspiring preservation of Tremain’s Mill and its streetscape is creating a dedicated precinct that will become a totem to Bathurst’s rich heritage resources. The iconic mill complex itself is a valuable part of Australia’s industrial heritage. It features unique stacked Oregon and oak timber silos and milling machinery installed by the Tremain family in 1901 that still operates today. As part of the restoration of the complex, current owner Stephen Birrell is incorporating a working model replica of the old flour mill, exhibition spaces, retail and residential areas, and an outdoor piazza space as a drawcard for the public. On the Heritage Trail weekend, Tremain’s Mill will be the venue for restoration crafts, including Elizabeth Forbes’ fascinating furniture caning. As a youngster, Elizabeth visited a facility in Sussex where caning was an activity undertaken by blind workers operating purely by feel. “The fascination remained with me,” she says. “I took up the craft back in the ’80s, and five years ago did an advanced course in England.” Cane or ‘wicker’ weaving dates back to early Egyptian times, artefacts of the craft including a woven daybed that had belonged to King Tutankhamen around 1325BC. Techniques and materials have not changed throughout history and even many of the patterns are regarded as traditional. A special attraction at Tremain’s Mill — acknowledging national respect for the Heritage Trades event — is the involvement of staff and students from the Grimwade Centre at the University of Melbourne. The centre is the only academy in Australia teaching cultural materials conservation, and is providing a Heritage Conservation Roadshow incorporating demonstrations and free consultations about how to best care for important treasures from your family history. Lisa Mansfield, student conservator at the centre, says, “The conservation skills we’ll demonstrate enable individuals and communities to explore their past, create identity and community in the present, and access their heritage into the future.” The 1837 Uniting Church Hall in William Street will unite a number of the soft crafts, such as lacemaking, spinning and weaving, embroidery, felting and quilting. Lacemaker Elizabeth Stoneman is the NSW president of the Australian Lace Guild and can spin a yarn about the fascinating history of the craft as she spins an intricate web of linen thread, just as they did in Venice during the 16th century. Always a luxury item, lace was often worn in the coffin by the despicably rich… only to have their graves robbed and the lace reclaimed. “Lace has always sparked strong opinions,” says Elizabeth. “Queen Victoria supported lacemakers and promoted their product. Oliver Cromwell derided it as frivolous. But if you love it, it becomes an obsession. The ladies of the Lace Guild never miss an Annabel Crabb appearance on television to see if maybe the renowned retro fashionista is sporting a lace collar and cuffs.” The Agricultural Research Station, heritage-listed by Bathurst Council, provides the venue for farm trades, and features demonstrations by blacksmiths, a farrier, wheelwright, even a repairer and builder of vintage and veteran bicycles. John Kitchen has built and raced his own penny farthing and will show faithful replicas of the Coventry Rotary tricycle from 1867, the loop-frame tricycle from 1883, and the very first bicycle — the Baron von Drais wooden creation invented 200 years ago. Blacksmith Tom Miller will be the warmest person at the event, toiling over his charcoal-fired forge drawing out, bending, twisting and tapering red-hot iron to produce many of the necessary tools and utensils that village smithies turned out for centuries. “Unfortunately, nearly all new technologies find their first applications with the military,” says Tom. “So, originally, blacksmiths used their skills to produce spears and swords and axes and armour. At the Heritage Trades Trail weekend, I’ll be making small 20- to 30-minute items so people can watch the entire transformation, from a piece of iron to
“The Heritage Trail is an opportunity to rediscover traditional craftsmanship.”
maybe a corkscrew. The corkscrew has resolved many more disputes than armed conflict!” The Bathurst Memorial Entertainment Centre will host a display and workshops relating to the history of Australian wedding attire from back in the old days. Presented by the Bathurst District Historical Society, the Getting Hitched exhibition looks at 200 years of bridal gowns and wedding paraphernalia from the Bathurst region. Chifley Home, the modest residence of former Prime Minister Ben Chifley and his wife Elizabeth, has become one of the most popular attractions in Bathurst for the insight it provides into the domestic life of an ordinary man who rose from being an engine driver to the highest office in the land. The perfect venue therefore, for a journey through the food culture and culinary evolution of the Bathurst region. The exhibition spans the food and healing knowledge of Wiradjuri women, through to the influence of Chinese market gardeners, experimental farming and the canning industry, then the café society and supermarket shopping. Cultural heritage tourism is a key part of the framework of the recently released Bathurst Region Destination Brand Strategy. A natural link exists between cultural heritage tourism and regional development in the way that tourism helps a destination diversify its economy. Tourism is an ideal realm in which to explore heritage, and the Trail creates a new perspective of heritage traditions. For more information, visit nationaltrust.org.au
Blacksmith Tom Miller is used to working in the heat — and producing intricate designs. FACING PAGE An elaborate cast-iron drinking fountain, imported from Scotland in 1891, in Bathurst’s Machattie Park.
CLOCKWISE, FROM TOP LEFT Elizabeth Forbes traces her fascination with cane and wicker weaving back to a visit to England as a child; blacksmith Tom Miller at work; lacemaker Elizabeth Stoneman prepares for the Heritage Trades Trail. She is president of the Australian Lace Guild; a bridal gown from the Getting Hitched exhibition, spanning two centuries; rich architectural heritage is on display in Bathurst’s historic George Street.