Conservation in action: Vaucluse House turrets - update

Vaucluse House west turrets stabilisation and conservation works

 

Following comprehensive works undertaken by the Historic House Trust of NSW in 1985, the stonework of the Vaucluse House west turrets has suffered a further 35 years of extensive erosion due to exposure to weather and salt present in the coastal air.

Recently, we completed a complex scaffold to allow our project team to get up close to the turrets. We have now made a detailed analysis of the condition of the 1830s stonework and the damage produced by the root system of two young Ficuses (fig trees) found there.

The merlons - the top sections of both turrets - were found to be in precarious condition, with severe weathering and large areas of stone and mortar loss, rendering them quite unstable. In addition, the root systems of the Ficuses were found to have travelled a long way through the structure, suggesting a long, slow growth period.

We carefully dismantled the top courses of the southwest turret and removed one of the Ficuses. This will help us better understand the construction of the turrets, which will then inform future decisions about ongoing stabilisation and conservation works.

These works are expected to be completed in late 2020.

  • man with large camera photographing stone turret.

    1. Southwest turret being photographed prior to dismantling.

    Photo Maria Elena Ruggeri © Sydney Living Museums

  • Hand holding stone work.

    2. Stonemason showing extent of merlon horizontal cracking.

    Photo Maria Elena Ruggeri © Sydney Living Museums

  • Person looking at stonework.

    3. Structural Engineer analysing the construction detail of the southwest turret.

    Photo Maria Elena Ruggeri © Sydney Living Museums

  • Person visible behind closeup view of stonework.

    4. Stone conservator performing a visual analysis of the stone condition.

    Photo Maria Elena Ruggeri © Sydney Living Museums

  • Man using secateurs to cut away roots from stonework.

    5. Craig Field, SLM horticulturist, removing Ficus from southwest turret.

    Photo Maria Elena Ruggeri © Sydney Living Museums

  • Man holding up plant with roots.

    6. Craig Field, SLM Horticulturist, showing extent of Ficus growth in southwest turret.

    Photo Maria Elena Ruggeri © Sydney Living Museums

  • Pieces of stonework arranged in circular pattern.

    7. Merlon caps re-assembled on scaffold for documentation.

    Photo Maria Elena Ruggeri © Sydney Living Museums

  • Stonework stacked in original form.

    8. Section of southwest turret dismantled and re-assembled on scaffold.

    Photo Maria Elena Ruggeri © Sydney Living Museums

About the Author

Woman in yellow vest.
Maria Elena Ruggeri
Heritage Project Officer Capital Works
Maria Elena is the Heritage Project Officer, Capital Works at Sydney Living Museums.