Grants bring history back from the dead

October 28, 2021 BY

New life: Ballarat Cemetery Trust CEO Annie De Jong, builder Peter Broadhead, and Member for Wendouree Juliana Addison at a restored rotunda at the Ballarat New Cemetery. Photo: ALISTAIR FINLAY

HISTORIC rotundas at Ballarat’s old and new cemeteries are getting an overhaul following the announcement of a grant from the State Government.

Five of the semi-open buildings are located on Ballarat Cemetery Trust property, with four at the Invermay Park site and one at the entrance to the Ballarat Central burial ground.

One of the rotundas, located at the south gate of the New Cemetery, was recently renovated by the trust and now $128,000 will go towards fixing two more, one at each site.

“The rotundas are iconic for the cemetery, both the old and the new,” said trust CEO Annie De Jong.

“They were built at the turn of the century, in the early 1900s, and they are essentially for shelter. When people are visiting their loved ones, they can get out of the weather and as you know in Ballarat that’s very important.”

With the rotundas over 100 years old, and in some cases in such a state of disrepair that they have been fenced off, Ms De Jong said work to fix and reopen them was time critical.

“They are iconic, they have history and cultural value to the cemeteries and our community,” she said.

“Restoring them is really important to the trust, and we’re committed to doing them all. Without government money we wouldn’t be able to do them within this timeframe.

“We had some advice that they probably have another three years, and then the cost benefit would have been quite different.”

Local builder Peter Broadhead undertook the work repairing the first rotunda at the New Cemetery and has a background in historical restorations, both residential and commercial.

His company has worked on projects like the Ballarat Synagogue and Mechanics’ Institute basement and said a lot of work goes into fixing the historic pieces of public architecture like the rotundas.

“It’s based on stripping it right back,” he said. “The roof comes off, water blasting all the cast iron and steelwork, then replacing anything that’s rusted and that’s all done by 100 per cent local trades people in Ballarat.

“Once that’s all done everything is primed, rust proofed and then painted and then the roof goes back on that the very end.”

Member for Wendouree Juliana Addison said that kind of work was important as spaces like the old and new burial grounds were not just for the dead.

“Cemeteries are important places for ritual and reflection, but they are also places for the living,” she said.

“When people come here, we want them to feel welcome and have a place to reflect and remember.”

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