Category : Conservation/Restoration
Client : City of Sydney
Location : Burton Street Tabernacle, Darlinghurst, Sydney
Description : The Burton Street Tabernacle opened as a Baptist Church in 1887 and as well as being a favourite place of worship for many Sydneysiders for decades, was also the source of inspiration for pavement scribe Arthur Stace's famous message, 'Eternity', which he etched on Sydney footpaths for more than 30 years. The church closed it's doors in 1996 due to low attendance and lay vacant for over a decade before City of Sydney announced it was to receive a $6.1 million facelift. Initially, planned works included essential repair and remediation of the perimeter, external brick walls and stained-glass windows, new lighting and a new slate roof and copper gutters. Then, when sections of internal ceiling plaster were removed to expose the woodwork ceiling underneath, there was an unexpected discovery - beautifully detailed intricate patterns which were part of the original ceiling design. 

Key challenges : The extent of damage to the original ceiling was unknown until we carefully removed the plaster that had covered it for over sixty years. What we uncovered beneath was evidence, through paint and dust lines, of ornate wood carvings that had been affixed to the ceiling in an elaborate design and had been painted and polished in beautiful colours. This was an unexpected and very exciting discovery. Measurements were taken of each of the separate designs and it was discovered that each had been individually produced, not made from a fixed set of templates. They were all of slightly different dimensions and it was necessary for us to measure each one individually and then to cut a new motif to that specification. 

Structurally, there had been major movement in the gable end and internal roof structure. To avoid any disturbance to the original ceiling members the decision was made to install a completely independent galvanized structural steel bracing system in order to lock the roof in position and to protect against seismic movement. Once roof repairs were complete we sourced and affixed 20”x10” Welsh slate roof tiles. 

Originally we had been contracted to re-point badly weathered sections of mortar to the brick facades. Then, through investigation works it was discovered that both the North and East facades had been tuck-pointed in the past and the specialist group of builders and architects recommended to the client that this finish be reproduced. This specialised technique was common in the early 1900s and was applied to enhance the appearance of brickwork. 

Completed : 2008