Plaque helps to solve Roebourne church puzzle

Tom ZaunmayrPilbara News
VideoTurns out the original foundation plaque was on the back of the new one all this time

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.

Roebourne's Holy Trinity Church.
Camera IconRoebourne's Holy Trinity Church. Credit: Pilbara News, Tom Zaunmayr

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.”

The original foundation plaque just after being removed.
Camera IconThe original foundation plaque just after being removed. Credit: s

Ms Brann said it was parti-cularly 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 heart-broken — 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.”

David Baessler with the plate and its location on the Holy Trinity Church.
Camera IconDavid Baessler with the plate and its location on the Holy Trinity Church. Credit: Tom Zaunmayr.

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.

Joy Brann, right, with David Baessler, chaplain Richard Goscombe and Maureen Lissiman.
Camera IconJoy Brann, right, with David Baessler, chaplain Richard Goscombe and Maureen Lissiman. Credit: Pilbara News

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.

Joy Brann and Richard Goscombe were delighted with the result.
Camera IconJoy Brann and Richard Goscombe were delighted with the result. Credit: Tom Zaunmayr.

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.

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