WHILE Goulburn is gearing up for its 150th birthday celebrations in March, at least two ‘inspiring’ events will not be taking place as expected.
Planning hold-ups have delayed the construction and dedication of Ss Peter and Paul’s Old Cathedral spire by at least two months, while over the road, St Saviour’s has still to lodge a development application for its ‘crowning glory.’ St Saviour’s spire was especially significant as its dedication as a cathedral in 1863 was directly linked to Queen Victoria’s issue of the Letters Patent and the granting of city status to Goulburn. Both the cathedral and Goulburn celebrate their 150th anniversaries this year.
Dean of St Saviour’s Phillip Saunders said it would not be happening this year due to funding constraints and other priorities in a wider restoration plan.
“To complete the spire to (architect) Blacket’s original vision is always our aim and many in the community look forward to that,” he said.
“I look forward to it as well, as it would be something that could be seen from the expressway and add an imposing element to the cathedral.”
Set down for April 26, Mary Queen of Apostles parish priest Fr Dermid McDermott said dedication of the Ss Peter and Paul’s Old Cathedral’s spire could now not occur on that date.
“I’m disappointed because it was part of our contribution to the 150th birthday,” he said.
The parish won council approval for the 10- metre high copper-gold coloured spire on March 5 last year.
But since then issues not directly connected to building work have delayed issue of a construction certificate. One of these was safety certification of ladders used on the site.
Though circumspect in their public comments, Fr McDermott, architect Garry Dutaillis and the restoration steering committee, have been lobbying Council to hurry up the process.
Mayor Geoff Kettle intervened last week and assured the Post on Friday that a “construction certificate would be issued by the close of business today.”
Indeed it was and the process to re-engage the builder, Ron Lodewijks from Stone Restorations for the spire work, would re-commence, Mr Dutaillis said.
“It really depends on his availability now because he does a lot of work all over the state, but we’d hope to have it finished in a few months.”
The metal clad spire would stand 34-metres above the ground. Coinciding with this work is strengthening of the belltower and re-installation of the restored 1869 ‘Murphy bell,’ cast in Dublin in 1869 and weighing two tonnes.
Fr McDermott said people might question why the parish was spending money on the belltower but it was logical to do it in tandem with the spire.
“It will be our crowning glory,” he said.
The spire and belltower are part of a much wider restoration program, partly assisted by a federal government grant.
Some 24 tonnes of new sandstone has been channelled into the 1874 main structure, including reshaping features and replacing elements such as pinnacles.
Eroded sandstone between the unique bluestone has also been re-pointed.
The cathedral’s two Bourke St corners have been underpinned, underground dampness and drainage addressed, walls remediated and the roof stabilised.
There’s much more to do. Asked how long the program would last, Fr McDermott quipped, “forever.”
But the community can at least look forward to a spire, complete with lightning protection, this year. A crane will likely lift the structure into place.
Its dedication will follow soon after. Fr McDermott’s anticipating a liturgical celebration and possibly a function. And the Murphy bell, currently housed inside the cathedral, would be rung at noon each day for the angelus, drawing attention to the new additions.
On the planning delays for the spire, Mayor Geoff Kettle rejected suggestions council had been tardy.
“I think with changes in building standards, which are occurring all the time, sometimes it’s hard and it adds to the time taken with the DA,” he told the Post.
“Council has to make sure everything is right so we don’t end up in court.”
But he added that when commonsense was applied, most things could be addressed quickly.
• St Saviour’s work
Mr Dutaillis is also working on St Saviour’s spire.
Plans for the structure, which would stand about the same height as the current tower, have had several false starts over the years due to war and depression.
Mr Dutaillis has prepared drawings in accordance with one of four original concepts but the final form was up for discussion.
The spire will have a stone finish and will be lifted into place either by helicopter or crane. The belltower has already been strengthened in preparation.
The Very Reverend Saunders expected it to cost between $1 million and $3m.
Explaining the delay, he said Cathedral administration had been advised to formulate a 50- year development plan first. The Cathedral restoration and spire was just one part of this.
“The problem is that we have a number of pressing issues and the bicentennial project work is part of that,” he said.
Projects that must come first include restoration of the cathedral font and Reredos carvings behind the high altar, addressing rising damp and establishment of a heritage room to display artefacts in perpetuity.
The Very Reverend Saunders hoped these could be achieved in the next year but could not put a timeframe on the spire’s completion.
“I’m very aware of the enthusiasm for the spire among the community,” he said.
“I’d like to at least see an appeal move forward this year for the building work and restoration of the cathedral, of which the spire is a part.”