Kurth Kiln
Heritage Action Plan

 

February 2002

Gary Vines

&

David Wixted
heritage
ALLIANCE

 

 

­

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Acknowledgments

Biosis Research acknowledges the contribution of the following people and organisations in preparing this report:

·      David Wixted                               Conservation architect, Heritage Alliance

·      Ray Supple                                   Parks Victoria

·      Greg Young                                  Parks Victoria Gembrook

·      Alfred and Ursula Klink                Friends of Kurth Kiln

·      Peter Evans                                  Alexandra Timber Tramway and Museum,

·      Esther Anderson                           Friends of Kurth Kiln

·      Leah McKenzie                            Heritage Victoria

·      Jeremy Smith                                Heritage Victoria

 

 

Abbreviations

AHC                     Australian Heritage Commission

AMG                    Australian Map Grid

CFL                      Department of Conservation, Forests and Land (now DNRE)

DCE                      Department of Conservation and Environment (now DNRE)

DCNR                  Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (now DNRE)

DNRE                   Department of Natural Resources and Environment (formerly DCNR)

DPE                      Department of Planning and Environment (now DOI)

DOI                      Department of Infrastructure

ECC                      Environment Conservation Council

FCV                      Forest Commission Victoria

HV                        Heritage Victoria (DOI)

ICOMOS              International Council on Monuments and Sites

LCC                      Land Conservation Council

MV                       Museum Victoria

PV                        Parks Victoria

RNE                      Register of the National Estate

VAS                      Victoria Archaeological Survey (now part of AAV and Heritage Victoria)

 

Plate 1: Cover: Kurth Kiln from the west, 2001.


Contents

1.        SUMMARY..................................................................................................... 1

2.        INTRODUCTION........................................................................................... 2

2.1. Project Background...................................................................................... 2

2.2. Aims............................................................................................................... 2

2.3. Consultation.................................................................................................. 3

3.        Conservation requirements............................................................. 7

3.1. Site Description............................................................................................. 7

3.1.1.   General.............................................................................................................................................. 7

3.1.2.   Kiln (05).............................................................................................................................................. 7

3.1.4.   Connecting structure / Forge (04)................................................................................................ 15

3.1.5.   Huts (06, 07, 08, 09)........................................................................................................................ 17

3.2. History........................................................................................................... 25

3.2.1.   Background....................................................................................................................................... 25

3.2.2.   Previous uses.................................................................................................................................... 27

3.2.3.   Charcoal production......................................................................................................................... 27

3.2.4.   Dr. Kurth............................................................................................................................................ 28

3.2.5.   Choice of Gembrook........................................................................................................................ 28

3.2.6.   FCV Camp......................................................................................................................................... 31

3.2.7.   Creation of a park.............................................................................................................................. 32

3.3. Significance review....................................................................................... 34

3.3.1.   Heritage Listings............................................................................................................................... 34

3.3.2.   National Trust.................................................................................................................................... 34

3.3.3.   Australian Heritage Commission.................................................................................................... 34

3.3.4.   Heritage Victoria............................................................................................................................... 35

3.3.5.   Shire of Cardinia................................................................................................................................ 35

3.3.6.   Conservation Plan (Daniel Catrice)................................................................................................. 36

3.3.7.   Comparative Analysis....................................................................................................................... 37

3.3.9.   Contributory elements 3.3.8. Critical elements........................................................................... 41

3.3.10.        Elements of little of no Significance........................................................................................ 42

3.3.11.        Statement of Significance for the site.................................................................................... 43

3.3.12.        Adaptation / use....................................................................................................................... 44

3.4. Conservation and curation of artefacts...................................................... 47

3.5. Scope of conservation preservation, restoration, adaptation works........ 50

3.5.1.   Works to Date................................................................................................................................... 50

3.5.2.   Future Priorities................................................................................................................................. 52

4.        USER REQUIREMENTS................................................................................. 53

4.1. Parks Victoria................................................................................................ 53

4.2. Visitor requirements..................................................................................... 54

4.3. Friends of Kurth Kiln.................................................................................... 55

4.3.1.   Storage and display.......................................................................................................................... 56

5.        Risk Assessment....................................................................................... 57

5.1. Future uses – opportunities and risks......................................................... 57

5.2. Assessment of risk......................................................................................... 57

5.3. Restoration (and operation) of equipment................................................. 58

5.4. Visitor numbers and management.............................................................. 59

5.5. Risk assessment tables................................................................................... 60

6.        HEritage Action Plan........................................................................... 63

6.1. Introduction.................................................................................................. 63

6.2. General Policy............................................................................................... 63

6.2.1.   Setting................................................................................................................................................ 64

6.2.2.   Fabric.................................................................................................................................................. 65

6.2.3.   Research............................................................................................................................................ 65

6.2.4.   Interpretation.................................................................................................................................... 66

6.3. Works Program............................................................................................. 67

6.4.1.   Prioritised Schedule of Works......................................................................................................... 68

6.4.2.   Car Parking and road access........................................................................................................... 73

6.4.3.   Walking paths................................................................................................................................... 73

6.4.4.   Interpretation.................................................................................................................................... 73

6.4.5.   Visitor facilities.................................................................................................................................... 74

6.5. Maintenance program.................................................................................. 74

6.6. Visitor management..................................................................................... 74

6.8. Use................................................................................................................. 75

6.8.1.   Site Management............................................................................................................................ 76

6.9. Heritage Permit Exemptions (Heritage Act 1995)....................................... 76

6.10.   Permit exemptions.................................................................................... 76

6.10.1.        Proposed Permit Exemptions................................................................................................. 77

6.10.2.        Policy of Exemptions................................................................................................................. 77

6.10.3.        Exemptions and the Shire of Cardinia Planning Scheme.................................................... 78

6.10.4.        Statutory Protection................................................................................................................. 79

Appendix 1............................................................................................................. 81

A 1 Project Brief................................................................................................... 81

Appendix 2............................................................................................................... 83

A 2. Assessment of Heritage Significance........................................................... 83

Appendix 3............................................................................................................... 85

A 3. Statutory Regulations................................................................................... 85

References................................................................................................................ 87

 


 

Tables

 

Table 1:  Summary of historical development of Kurth Kiln.................................................................................... 33

Table 2: Summary of significant buildings and features.......................................................................................... 42

Table 3: Quantities of movable artefacts stored in various buildings.................................................................. 48

Table 4:  Summary of visitor capacity of key spaces................................................................................................... 59

Table 5:  Risk Assessment - Kiln......................................................................................................................................... 60

Table 6:  Risk Assessment – Storage Shed..................................................................................................................... 61

Table 7:  Risk Assessment – Trees and landscape....................................................................................................... 61

Table 8:  Risk Assessment – Huts...................................................................................................................................... 62

Table 9:  Works for Whole of site.................................................................................................................................... 68

Table 10:  Works for Kiln & adjacent cooling shed.................................................................................................... 68

Table 11:  Works for Packing Shed:................................................................................................................................ 69

Table 12:   Summary Table: Significance & Works Categories................................................................................ 70

 

 

FIGURES

 

Figure 1: Location of Kurth Kiln (also showing line of water race)...................................................................... 5

Figure 2: Historic features located near Kurth Kiln................................................................................................... 9

Figure 3: Plan of site showing location codes for buildings and features.......................................................... 11

Figure 4: Cross section of Gembrook Kurth Kiln........................................................................................................ 29

Figure 5: Plan of areas of critical and contributory significance............................................................................ 39

Figure 6: Site plan, adaptable areas............................................................................................................................... 45

Figure 7: Repair works to buildings (prepared by David Wixted)......................................................................... 71

 

 

PlateS

 

Plate 1: Cover: Kurth Kiln from the west, 2001............................................................................................................ II

Plate 2: Kurth Kiln from the  east..................................................................................................................................... 13

Plate 3: Storage Shed from the west.............................................................................................................................. 15

Plate 4: Junction of storage shed and open-sided “forge” (on left)...................................................................... 16

Plate 5: General View of Huts from the east................................................................................................................ 16

Plate 6: Hut 06 caretakers Residence.............................................................................................................................. 18

Plate 7: Hut 07....................................................................................................................................................................... 18

Plate 8: Hut 08 from the east............................................................................................................................................ 19

Plate 9: Hut 09 from the south......................................................................................................................................... 20

Plate 10:  Reconstructed water wheel and flume....................................................................................................... 21

Plate 11: Magazine viewed from the top of the blast mound................................................................................ 22

Plate 12: General view to site from the south showing mature pine trees......................................................... 24

Plate 13: View towards kiln site across lake on Tonimbuck Creek Weir.............................................................. 24

Plate 14: Loading Staging around the top of the kiln during construction 1942............................................. 26


1.       SUMMARY

Kurth Kiln is a significant historic industrial site located in central Victoria near Gembrook. It is a remarkable place, which retains unique buildings, equipment and artefacts relating to the history of forestry and WW II charcoal burning in Victoria.

Parks Victoria is the responsible managing authority and has undertaken conservations works on several of the most urgent building repairs. It has also commissioned a Conservation Analysis and engineering assessments and specifications for some of the structures.

The purpose of the present report is to provide the next stage in this conservation process, namely the Heritage Action Plan or “Conservation Policy” which will guide the conservation and development of the site. This is being undertaken in the context of        

Kurth Kiln offers considerable opportunity for providing a stimulating visitor experience based on the preserved evidence of the charcoal manufacture and the forest camp. However, at the same time the site presents conservation challenges due to natural decay and potential risks. There is also a challenge in finding innovative ways to create a viable use through a mix of activities.

This report identifies buildings and areas appropriate for preservation and restoration or adaptation for new uses on the basis of the individual significance and ability of the structure to withstand use. It also addresses the conservation issues with a risk assessment and works program designed to provide a staged approach to improving the condition of the site and opening it up to public access and enjoyment.


2.       INTRODUCTION

2.1.     Project Background

The Heritage Action Plan for Kurth Kiln has been commissioned by Parks Victoria in order to establish management priorities and direction for the site. Kurth Kiln is a unique industrial relic, which was established by the Forests commission Victoria during World War II for the manufacture of charcoal for gas producers, then became a forestry works camp from the 1940s to 1960s. From the 1980s it has been used as a picnic and camping site and in more recent years has been managed for its historical values.

Kurth Kiln is located within the (proposed) Kurth Kiln Park. The current status of the park is State Forest (Yarra State Forest. The park covers 3,500 ha of a variety of forest types, much of it regrowth following logging in the post war period. The historic site is open for public visits with picnic areas, informal camp ground and horse riding areas adjacent.

A Conservation Plan was prepared for the site by Parks Victoria (Catrice 1996), and considerable conservation works have been undertaken by Parks Victoria and the Friends of Kurth Kiln.

The site has been recommended for the Register of the National Estate, The Victorian Heritage Register, is included in the Heritage Overlay of the Cardinia Planning Scheme, and is on the Heritage Inventory.

This report documents options for the next stage in the site's conservation development. It reviews the conservation plan, identifies user requirements and potential risks for the site and outlines a program of works to meet the conservation requirements.

2.2.     Aims

The aims of this study are detailed in the project brief in Appendix 1 of this report. The major objectives are:

·      Review the existing conservation plan and ensure that the site is adequately recorded.

·      Confirm the level and nature of significance of the site, its features and associated portable artefacts, if necessary undertaking additional research to determine the significance/origin of all the features at the site (including oral history and locating historical photographs)

·      Identify and assess the risks to the heritage values of the site and their features

·      Determine in consultation with Parks Victoria staff, and local stakeholders, the user requirements for the site

·      Develop and cost a program of works required to manage the site features including portable artefacts. Works documented in this program should include those which could be the responsibility of the Friends Group.

·      Develop a Maintenance Plan for the site.

 

2.3.     Consultation

Consultation has included discussions with Parks Victoria staff including Ray Supple, Heritage Planner, and Greg Young, Parks Victoria Ranger in Charge, Gembrook. The purpose of these discussions was to determine the management requirements on a day to day basis and for future developments.

Discussions with Peter Evans of the Alexandra Timber Tramway and Museum were focussed on

Alfred Klink, President, [AWK1] Friends of Kurth Kiln was interviewed extensively about the Friends involvement and expectations of the site.

A number of people associated with forestry in Victoria were approached to provide advice on the significance and restoration potential     

Discussions were instigated with Heritage Victoria during the study to help determine the possible requirements and permit exemptions. Staff consulted include Jeremy Smith, Leah McKenzie and John Hawker,

Others who provided assistance include Peter Evans, Don Saunders, Daniel Catrice, and Esther Anderson,

 

 


Figure 1: Location of Kurth Kiln (also showing line of water race).

 


3.       Conservation requirements

 

3.1.     Site Description

3.1.1.       General

Kurth Kiln is located off West Beenak Road, 6km north of Gembrook, near Tomahawk Creek. It is located within Kurth Kiln Park, which is made up of 3500 hectares of bushland and forest.

The site comprises the brick kiln and open sided store building, a small weir and reconstructed waterwheel east of the store, four timber huts on the high ground above the kiln, exotic mature trees (including radiata pines, cypress and Portuguese laurel) a larger weir on Tomahawk Creek and an explosives magazine to the north east. The former gold era water race, which fed the water wheel, survives to the east of the site.

The site is located at grid reference 747n042n (Gilwell 1:25,000 map sheet 8022-3-3).

The following descriptions of individual structures follows the Building Code adopted by the Friends Group as part of its program of cataloguing and interpretation of portable artefacts and was developed in consultation with Nina Siers of Parks Victoria. The codes are shown in Figure 3.

3.1.2.       Kiln (05)

The kiln is located on a terraced area between the storage shed and a high earth bank. The fall is approximately 6 metres from the top of the bank to the base of the kiln. The kiln is constructed of red brick, on a steel-reinforced, concrete foundation. The foundations are raised to give clearance below the discharge chutes and incorporate arched voids beneath the brickwork. Projecting concrete buttresses support the bases of the discharge chutes. The concrete surface retains the impressions of the rough boards used to make the form-work. An apron of concrete extends around the kiln for about 2 metres while some brickworks paving is also evident in places. A brick drain is located about 4 metres to the north east of the kiln against the bottom of the embankment.

The kiln is approximately eight metres high from ground to top of chimney and 3.1 metres by 4 metres in plan. The wider elevation has the discharge chutes while the narrower side incorporates the ends of galvanised water pipes used for cooling. The brickwork is reinforced with iron bracing employing light rails set vertically on the sides at approximately 500 metre [AWK2] intervals. Angle iron is used to brace the corners. Horizontal rods employing eyes and threaded ends are used to tension up the braces. Six rolled steel joists form the base of the combustion chamber inside the kiln. The ends of the joists project about 20cm beyond the brickwork.

Two charcoal discharge chutes on either side are of cast iron with cast iron doors bearing the original makers name:

Johnston and Wells Pty Ltd.
Engineers
Hobart

Three of the doors have the lettering cast upside down, including one of the doors (on the south west chute) which was cast from a pattern made from the adjacent door, to replace one that was missing. Counter-balances were provided by wire cables attached to pulleys on the projecting beams to allow doors to be opened and closed with reduced effort.

Smaller inspection openings [AWK3] above the projecting joists are fitted with cast iron frames (missing their doors). A small circular air vent is located below these openings.

The cooling pipes are in two rows, seven in the upper row and eight in the lower, running north south. They are coupled between rows on the south side and on the north are coupled in pairs on the bottom row, with fittings for the water inlet and control valves. The top row of pipes is turned up to discharge hot water to a section of spouting and then return it to the storage tank or drain it away. This spouting survives, but is in poor condition.

The chimney is constructed of riveted iron with a boxed tapered section over the main chamber, surmounted by a cylindrical stack approximately 2.7 m. high and 75 cm diam. An off-take near the top of the stack was provided for condensing distillates from the vapours (although it is not known if this was ever used). A counter-balanced damper on top of the stack was operated by a cable attached to a projecting arm, which ran over a pulley on the top of the south wall. The cable has been removed but the operating arm and pulley are still in place.

The charging doors were on each side of the chimney in three sections. However, these have been covered by new flashing as part of recent conservation works.

 

 

Figure 2: Historic features located near Kurth Kiln


 


Figure 3: Plan of site showing location codes for buildings and features


 

 

 

Plate 2: Kurth Kiln from the

 east


3.1.3.      Storage Shed (00-03)

Alongside the kiln there is a timber storage shed, erected in 1942. It has a corrugated galvanised iron roof supported by 'tree trunk' columns, set into concrete foundations. The shed is approximately 25 metres long (including annexes) by 8.5 metres wide. 

The main part of the shed is formed from three bays each five metres long supported on round timber posts of an average 30cm diameter. The two northern[AWK4]  bays are open, while the southern[AWK5]  bay is enclosed with a light timber frame of 2”x 4” (50 x 100mm) sawn hardwood and clad in sawn vertical hardwood palings lapped in fence fashion. Variations in paling widths from one wall to another suggest different phases of cladding or replacement of cladding. Some walls have 6” palings with 3” cover straps over narrow gaps, while others have wider (4-6”) cover straps with wider gaps in the bottom palings more akin to modern fencing techniques. It is likely that the former style represents original (or at least older) building form. Three window openings are high up in the west[AWK6]  wall. Hand rails have been fitted between the posts on the east[AWK7]  side of the open part of the building. (These are apparently also used for tying up horses).

The 1963 plan indicates the building was fully enclosed by “wood vertical sheeting”. Evidence of framework attachment for these walls can still be seen in the form of nail holes in the upright timbers.

The gable ends of the shed are clad horizontally in similar timbers lapped in weatherboard fashion. The roof is constructed of light sawn hardwood using a simple king post truss and diagonal bracing to the posts. The roof is clad in (probably original) corrugated galvanised iron in overlapping 8” lengths[AWK8] . (Makers marks are visible on the underside, but are too obscure to read from the ground). There is no guttering on the west[AWK9]  side, while the guttering on the east[AWK10]  is relatively modern. It is possible that no guttering was originally provided.

The south of end [AWK11] of the building has an attached skillion with open sides on the south and part of the east[AWK12] . This space is divided by internal walls forming a separate lockup storeroom with shelving and cupboard space. A separate corrugated iron roof is over this room, under the skillion. A low wall about 1 metre high runs down the centre of the skillion roofed section forming a partitioned space where the charcoal grader is currently located. This has recently been closed off with steel mesh to prevent public access.

The skillion was extended post 1963 by the addition of an extra bay, bringing the eastern end of the building roughly in line with the east side of the open sided connecting structure and kiln.


Recent modifications include the replacement of the spouting on the east side, laying a new gravel surface and edge board along the west side, and drainage works.

Plate 3: Storage Shed from the west.

3.1.4.       Connecting structure / Forge (04)

A small gable roof structure on round posts is located between the skillion and the Kiln, this incorporates low concrete walls on either side, which taper out and align with the kiln. The support posts for the roof are on the outside of the concrete walls. Its orientation and form suggests some function in connection with the kiln, such as storage of charcoal removed from the discharge chutes on either side. The soot on the underside of the roofing iron and timbers suggest such a use, or it may have been used for the blacksmith forge which is also believed to have operated in this area during the FCV forestry camp operations.  However, there has as yet been no confirmation of this use from historical or oral sources. The structure was identified as a modern (post 1963) intrusive structure and of little or no significance in Catrice’s Conservation Plan (1996:35). However, it is not clear what the basis of this assessment was. A skillion-roofed shed is identified in this location in a 1963 plan. The character of the concrete side walls, blackened timbers, roofing iron and posts, suggests, if not of an earlier date, the building incorporates parts of an older structure. These are also consisted with the expected conditions arising from a use as a blacksmith forge, or could be explained as the result of use of the structure for cooling charcoal which had been removed from the kiln. The splayed ends of the concrete walls would facilitate moving the charcoal from the chutes, and the concrete walls themselves would contain the piles of charcoal.

Plate 4: Junction of storage shed and open-sided “forge” (on left)


The concrete walls have at some stage been modified with the west[AWK13]  ends having been trimmed back, and a new splayed section made on the north[AWK14]  wall to join it to the wall of the storage shed skillion.


The 1963 plan of the Kurth Kiln Camp (FCV file 73/2846) shows a structure in about this location marked as “forge skillion roof area 180 sq ft.” Apart from the current structure having gabled rather than skillion roof, it fits with this description and location.

Plate 5: General View of Huts from the east[AWK15] 

 

3.1.5.       Huts (06, 07, 08, 09)

East[AWK16]  of the kiln and shed are four timber workers huts, associated with the forestry camp located on the site from 1946-63. These are simple gabled-roof structures with horizontal or vertical split paling walls and corrugated iron roofs. Chimneys are made of brick stone or iron. The hut features are enclosed by a timber picket fence. The Huts are numbered for the purposes of this study according to a system employed by the Friends of Kurth Kiln, modified to identify individual rooms and then followed by the numbering used by Catrice in the Conservation Plan. The huts are all described as having “vertical wood sheeting” in the 1963 site plan (FCV file 73/2846)

This[AWK17]  hut is the largest of the group and constructed with horizontal timbers overlapped in weatherboard fashion, although they do not appear to be tapered as weatherboards generally are. A skillion section on the south encloses a separate room for the kitchen, while changes in the wall and roof cladding suggest the main building may have been extended to the west to create the current bedroom at some stage. A number “8” is marked on the door. Two chimneys are on the east, one with a stone lower section and brick above, while the kitchen chimney is brick with a metal flue and a small window above the range. A timber carved fireplace surround is fitted to the main chimney. The rooms are lined in Masonite or similar panel board and painted.

The rooms are furnished with two c1930s chests of drawers, wardrobe of similar period, bed, a c1950s Laminex table and chromed steel-framed chairs.

Ron Thornton lived in this house for 16 years up to 1999. He carried out some alterations to the huts and established a vegetable garden which can still be recognised as an area of uneven ground to the north of the compound, with some plants including a rose and hydrangeas surviving.

The kitchen is believed to have been built in the 1960s (Catrice 1996:18) and has been modified in more recent years with new bench tops and shelving. Andrew Peacock who lived in the hut for six months a year or two ago, built the kitchen bench, shower, and installed a solar panel and interior lights.

 


Plate 6: Hut 06 caretakers Residence

Hut 2 (07)


A single room hut with gabled corrugated iron clad roof, vertical palings on the walls and horizontal on the gables. A door and galvanised sheet iron chimney are on the east[AWK18]  wall and a small four-pane window on the west[AWK19]  wall. A number “1” is marked on the door, but it is likely that this door has been taken from another hut. The interior is lined with Masonite. Two beds, a bed-side table and a small cupboard appear to be of c1930s-50s origin and so are very likely to be associated with the history of the hut’s use.

Plate 7: Hut 07

Hut 3 (08)

Similar in form to Hut 2, apart from the entrance door being in the long, south [AWK20] wall. Currently used for storage, including timber, some more modern furniture, a wheel barrow. Some items from Ron’s time remain in the huts, including his armchair, a “Feuerland” hurricane lantern, and probably most of the furniture still in place.


A treated pine pole framed carport has been constructed to the south of the hut (roughly on the site of a former hut).

Plate 8: Hut 08 from the east.

Hut 4 (09)

This hut is believed to have been rebuilt around 1982-85 form materials salvaged from two huts located to the east. It is smaller than the two more intact huts (07 and 08) with a steeper pitched roof and concrete floor. Otherwise it is similar to the other huts, with the exception of having been clad with fibrous cement sheet and later these were covered over with timber palings to match the other huts. It contains a concrete laundry trough, cast iron copper built into the south east corner, shower recess, 44 gallon drum, wooden step ladder, a (relatively modern) trundle bed and mattress, timber framed flyscreens and a tool board. Other items may also be stored here, but could not be identified due to poor access.


Plate 9: Hut 09 from the south[AWK21] 

Water wheel, flume, dam and water race (10 & 18)

The Water wheel was constructed from scratch by the Friends of Kurth Kiln on the presumed sites of the original water wheel to the south west [AWK22] of the storage shed. However, prior to its installation, timber beams were present in the creek bed, and at least one of these remains as the base for the present wheel. Another log was removed and replaced as it had become unsound. [AWK23] Photos in the Conservation Plan (Catrice 1996:25) show that other logs with iron mounting bolts were also in existence at that stage. The timber flume was also replaced when the wheel was installed. [AWK24] The former flume was formed from three planks, supported by a pair of stakes. This was probably not part of the original water wheel flume as it appeared to be too low to be effective.

A water race can be traced to the south[AWK25]  east of the kiln site. It appears to follow the north east [AWK26] slope of an un-named creek, possibly connecting to a small dam near the Launching Place Road. It is constructed as an open earth channel about .4m wide and .3m deep. Some sections have evidence of stone lining. Water Channel Track, off Soldiers Road to the east of the kiln, follows the channel for some of its length, and a dam on a small tributary of Tomahawk Creek which is probably the source for the channel.

 

 


Plate 10:  Reconstructed water wheel and flume[AWK27] 

Magazine and works area (11 & 14)

The explosives magazine comprises a red steel box about 1m square surrounded by a three metre high mound. An opening on the north west of the mound allows access. To the east of the magazine is a large corrugated iron shed and dump site used by Parks Victoria for maintenance and storage. A detonator box was also in this area up to the 1960s at least, probably within a similar mound. The detonator box is now in the storage building.

A square, welded steel water tank is located beside the track about 50 m east of the kiln. This is form[AWK28]  the FCV camp and would have been mounted on a truck for firefighting use. The remnants of a hose reel was also nearby at the time of the inspection.


 


Plate 11: Magazine viewed from the top of the blast mound

Landscape and trees

The area surrounding the kiln and huts has been employed for picnic and camp grounds and horse riding areas. Regrowth eucalypt forest surrounds the site.  Some remnants of the earlier landscape, probably associated with the FCV camp period rather than the kiln’s operation period, can also be recognised.

Mature Pine trees (pinus radiata) are located near the huts and kiln, with the remnants of an avenue of pines along Beenak and Soldiers Roads. These trees are at least 40 years old, with the specimens near the huts probably older. Two of the trees have been identified as posing a threat to the historic structures as they have poor form, with dividing branches liable to split or fall.

The tree near the huts (immediately south[AWK29]  of hut 07) is potentially dangerous, with poor form, narrow branch junctions that will eventually split, and a very poor branch removal that has occurred in he past, leaving a stub. 

The pine at the rear of the Kiln is also a potential problem because of its forking trunk low down, which could lead to splitting as it ages. 

According to John Hawker, there would be a reasonable argument to remove the tree near the huts, and the double forked pine behind the kiln. Both trees are a threat to the Kiln and huts. If they were not removed, careful monitoring and periodic inspection and pruning by an experienced tree surgeon may be required.

The other pines along the road and in the picnic ground do not appear to have become weedy. (J. Hawker Horticulturist Heritage Victoria pers com.)

Other exotic trees including a Portuguese Laurel (Prunus lusitanica) to the east[AWK30]  of the caretakers hut, and cypress species near the camp ground, reflect the plantings of the Forest Commission. The Laurel can become weedy, but at present there is no evidence of its spread.

The arrangement of tracks in the vicinity may also be associated with the operation of the kiln as a series of tracks radiate from the site. These may have been cut to provide access to suitable stands of timber for conversion to charcoal. Some of the tracks may also have been formed for timber tramways, as their widths and grades correspond to those used for such tramways elsewhere in the district.

An iron boiler was noted in the conservation plan (Catrice 1994) to the west of the kiln. This appears to have been subsequently removed. The 1963 plan shows an “iron charcoal retort” to the north of the huts. The may well have been the boiler that was on site in the 1990s. If so, it could have been used as an alternative to the Kurth kiln for making charcoal as a means of direct comparison of production capacities  between the two types of kilns. FCV records indicate that charcoal was produced on site from a metal kiln in the 1943-4 period (Schmitt 1992). There is also the possibility that the boiler was salvaged from elsewhere in the forest, eg. from a former steam sawmill or another kiln site.

A number of buildings and structures have been demolished or removed from the site during its history, but evidence of some can still be found on the ground. The concrete base of a timber pole, possibly from the telephone system, is located about 50 m north of the kiln. This has the date “10.12.1948” marked in the concrete, indicating it is form the period after the kiln ceased operating.

A terraced area can be discerned between this pole base and the kiln. This may relate to the landing stage that was originally built around the kiln for loading, or the short elevated tramway structure which was used to transport timber billets from the wood piles to the kiln.

Other depressions and levelled areas can also be seen around the existing huts, which suggest the locations of former huts. These level terraces roughly form two rows running east west, between huts (06) and (09).

 



Plate 12: General view to site from the south showing mature pine trees

 

Plate 13: View towards kiln site across lake on Tonimbuck[AWK31]  Creek Weir.


3.2.     History

The following history has been drawn primarily from the Conservation Plan (Catrice 1996), amended and extended where additional material has been sourced from discussions with Alfred and Ursula Klink of the Friends group, and Esther Anderson, who is conducting research on the site.

3.2.1.       Background

Charcoal

Blacksmiths of the nineteenth century were avid users of charcoal to heat metal. Victorian forests provided a living for numerous small scale charcoal burners. Charcoal kilns were usually simple constructions; shallow earthen pits covered with turf and clay or cylindrical metal kilns made from old drums or boilers. As horses became less popular and mechanisation made blacksmiths redundant, charcoal production also declined.

The charcoal industry revived during the Second World War. Wartime petrol rationing encouraged the use of charcoal as a source of ‘producer gas’, a substitute fuel for cars and trucks. By 1941, the Forests Commission operated charcoal kilns in many forest locations including Heywood, Dunolly, Ballarat, Yarram, Benalla and Cohuna. At Mt. Cole, the Commission worked six kilns, with the workers camping in the forest nearby. By mid 1942 the Commission had 221 kilns producing 1000 tons of charcoal a month. When petrol rationing ceased at the end of the war the charcoal industry collapsed.

Forest camps

During the 1930s and 1940s, camps were established in the forest to productively employ prisoners of war, unemployed men and war internees. These men worked in an environment which was thought to be healthy and improving, performing forestry tasks such as cutting firewood, building roads, bridges and dugouts and clearing firebreaks. Prisoner of war forest camps were often established in secret locations to avoid public anxiety about security.

The best known unemployed workers camp was the Noojee Boys Camp, operating between 1933 and 1939. The Forests Commission trained unemployed boys aged between sixteen and twenty in forest management work. Many of these boys were later employed in the Commission’s forest gangs.

(NRE Virtual Exhibition - a collection of historical photographs on-line. http://www.parks.vic.gov.au)


Plate 14: Loading Staging around the top of the kiln during construction 1942.

 


3.2.2.       Previous uses

Prior to 1942 the Kurth Kiln site was an area with little settlement or regular occupation. Goldmining was undertaken in the Gembrook area from the 1860s to at least the 1890s. Much of this centred on Crichton’s Gully. However, fossicking, alluvial workings and sporadic reef mining occurred over a wide area. Evidence of such mining activities can occasionally be found in the forest (McArthy1987:1-3). One of the arguments for the use of the Tomahawk Creek site for the kiln, was the presence of water races left from mining activity that could be adapted to the new use (pers. com. E. Anderson)

Sawmilling and logging had been conducted in this area from the late nineteenth century and timber tramways had be[AWK32]  constructed in the vicinity. The Beenak Tramway was constructed north east of Gembrook from 1918, with a branch extending progressively along Shepherd Creek between about 1920 and 1924. John Casey constructed a number of mills along Shepherd Creek, with Robert Holding buying him out and shifting the mill downstream to just below the junction of Shepherd and Tomahawk Creeks. This mill was the closest to the Kurth Kiln site, and was probably the first to cut timber from the area that is now the western part of Kurth Kiln Park. (McArthy 1987:15-30).

3.2.3.       Charcoal production

The immediate site of Kurth Kiln does not appear to have been extensively used before Kurth Kiln was established by the Forests Commission of Victoria in 1942 to produce charcoal for use as a substitute fuel source. During World War Two, demand for charcoal soared due to petrol shortages.

The Forest Commission established a number of charcoal kilns using its own resources, but also administered private operators. Kilns operated in the Broadford, Niagaroon, Dandenong and Toolangi Districts. Private kilns included W.A. Elder at Kinglake West, J. Nichols at Kinglake West, A.L. Stein at Gembrook, A.V., Stanly at Ginter’s Mill and the A1 Mine near Jamieson. (FCV file 40/2343).


 3.2.4.      Dr. Kurth

Dr Ernest Kurth, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Tasmania, developed a kiln for the cheap and continuous production of charcoal suitable for gas producer units, which supplied an alternative source of fuel for cars and trucks. Conventional kilns worked on a fixed cycle and could not produce charcoal continuously. Kurth had been investigating the pyrolysis of timber and kiln design since 1940, and in Tasmania in 1941 constructed the prototype of a commercial-sized continuously-burning kiln. This was followed by the construction of this kiln near Gembrook in early 1942, to Dr Kurth's design. This kiln was the only one of its type erected in Victoria.

3.2.5.       Choice of Gembrook

The Gembrook site for the Kurth Kiln was chosen for its ready access to wood and water, and because the topography (sloping land) was suited to working the top-loaded kiln. Considerable dried timber was available in the area as a result of the 1939 fires.

A report on the Tomahawk Creek site by W. Grigg indicated “…the possibilities of the old water race, which could be used as a means of water supply by gravitation… [and that] this race was in good order, needing only repairs in one or two places, pipes or fluming to cross one narrow creek and cleaning out” (Grigg 1942-3). The race followed a course commencing on a branch of Tomahawk Creek  upstream of the Gembrook - Launching Place Road and ran approximately along the 230 m contour, north of Soldiers Road. Water Channel Track follows part of the route of the race. It crossed two small creeks and fed into a holding dam on another small creek upstream of the kiln site, with the last 1000 feet (300 m.) connected by iron pipe.

Construction commenced in late August with the foot of the slope excavated to provide the base and suitable fall. The construction contract was signed on 17 October with Stanley and Nance of Middle Park and building commenced at the beginning on November. By 18 December construction was mostly completed, and finally on 11 February 1942 a memorandum from the Architect S.J.B. Hart to the secretary for the Forest Commission indicated that the Kurth Kiln was in operation and that a fair sample of charcoal had been produced (Hart 1941). Total cost was £1,799-17-2 including cost of establishing the site, constructing the kiln, erecting buildings, connecting telephone and supply of water  (Schmitt 1992: 11-14).

 

Figure 4: Cross section of Gembrook Kurth Kiln.

 


After some initial problems, the kiln went into full production and a stockpile of charcoal was created by July 1942. Production was temporarily suspended at this time because of a lack of transport, and problems associated with transporting the charcoal from the site. The kiln also suffered from structural problems, and was worked only intermittently during 1943. Additional factors, such as production of charcoal by private operators, and a general relaxation of demand, led to the closure of the kiln. It had produced a total of 471 tons of charcoal.

Initial problems in March were caused by the loading doors buckling from heat. A charcoal grader was installed and was noted by Grigg as “…operating most satisfactorily with power supplied from a water wheel” Grigg 1942). Production of commercial quantities of charcoal (20 tons per week on three shifts) was achieved in August 1942, but soon after, repairs were needed to the damper, which suspended production, then brickwork around the inspection doors had loosened and mortar joints had to be redone in asbestos fibre. From July to December 1842[AWK33]  it only produced 29 tons of charcoal, some of this probably coming from a steel kiln on site. By February 1943 the kiln was out of operations and then was used only sporadically over the next two years.

3.2.6.       FCV Camp

Between 1946 and 1963, the site was used as a forestry camp. The Kurth Kiln camp became the main base camp for the Kallista Forest District housing 80-100 men in eighteen 15 ft. x 12 ft. “masonite” huts purchased from the Army.  It is likely that the sawn timber palings on the exteriors of both the huts and storage shed date from later in this period when the buildings were reclad by the Forest Commission.

In 1963 the site was used as a base camp for fire fighting operations. After 1963, when forest operations were scaled down at the site, the walls were removed from the north end of the storage shed, creating the present open-sided area. At the same time the skillion at the rear was extended. Plans of the period also indicate that a skillion-roofed shed was located on the site of the present open sided, gabled shed next to the kiln (04). The character of the concrete side walls, the soot-blackened timbers and roofing iron and the apparent age of the support posts, suggests strongly that the current shed incorporates parts of an older structure. The concrete walls have been altered at some stage, possibly for the forge which was here in 1963. The forge would have been used by a blacksmith for metalwork repairs during the FCV period, possibly including shoeing horses.

In the early 1980s, the Forests Commission developed the site into a picnic area in conjunction with a CEP (Community Employment Program) scheme. During this period three huts were removed from the site. Huts 5 and 6 were dismantled and the materials used to rebuild Hut 4, which was originally a cement sheet clad, skillion roofed, ablutions block. It would appear that the roof frame and iron, and the timber cladding were the recycled components from the old huts. Hut 7, evidently an open sided structure in the 1980s, was also demolished, and the site used later for the present car port. The picket fence around the huts was also constructed at this stage.

3.2.7.       Creation of a park

Kurth Kiln is located within the (proposed) Kurth Kiln Park. The current status of the park is State Forest (Yarra State Forest). The Land Conservation Council's (LCC) 1994 District 2 Final Recommendations recommend that the area become Kurth Kiln Regional Park (A36) and be used in accordance with the recommendation for regional parks. The park covers 3,500 ha of a variety of forest types, much of it regrowth following logging in the post war period. The Park administration are working towards the appropriate gazettal of Kurth Kiln Park for a number of years to better manage visitor use and protect important park values (ie the Kiln).  There is a good chance that it will be gazetted under the National Parks Act. Once it is gazetted, Parks Victoria will soon develop a management plan for the Park.

In recent years the site has become a popular picnic venue and is used by horse riding clubs. Corals and hitching posts have been erected by Parks Victoria to the north of the kiln.

Ron Thornton - caretaker

The larger of the huts was adapted in the 1980s for use by an on-site caretaker Ron Thornton, who lived here for sixteen years between 1984 and 2000. Some modifications were made to the huts to provide greater creature comforts, but Mr. Thornton still led a relatively Spartan lifestyle. He planted some of the ornamental plants such as the grape vine and hydrangeas, and cultivated a vegetable garden. These garden beds can still be recognised, although they are now mowed.  It is likely that much of the furniture in the huts today is a combination of items retained from the FCV period and re-used by the caretaker, plus items that Ron brought here himself. Ron’s armchair has been retained for its sentimental associations with the unusual character who provided visitors with information and stories about the site.

Ron Thornton became ill and left the hut in 200[AWK34] . He subsequently has passed away. Andrew Peacock occupied the huts as caretaker for a short time, in which he carried out further improvements such as the installation of a solar lighting system, a shower and new kitchen bench. A large water tank and improved plumbing has also been installed in recent years.


 

The following table summarised the key events in the history of Kurth Kiln.



Date

Event

1860s

Small gold mining area north west of Gembrook

1870s

Agricultural settlement in Gembrook area

1885

Logging, timber tramways and forest sawmills in Gembrook forest

18/12/1900

Ferntree Gully-Gembrook narrow gauge railway opens and advances timber industry

 

[AWK35] 

1940

Kurth experimenting with pyrolysis

1941

Prototype kiln constructed in ... Tasmania

1942

Construction of Kurth Kiln Gembrook

18/3/1942

First firing of the kiln

1945

Kiln ceases operation

1946

Establishment of FCV forest camp 18 huts in use

8/1/1963

3 huts burnt down,

1963

Scaling down of FCV operations, 8 huts remain

1982-5

Huts modified for caretakers use, 3 huts demolished

1984-2000

Ron Thornton is live in caretaker

1996

Conservation Plan prepared

2000

Replica water wheel built by Friends

2002[AWK36] 

 

Table 1:  Summary of historical development of Kurth Kiln.

          


3.3.     Significance review

3.3.1.       Heritage Listings

The significance of Kurth Kiln has been assessed in previous studies including Historic Sites in the Melbourne East Study Area (Griffiths et al. 1989), the Kurth Kiln Conservation Plan prepared by Daniel Catrice (1996) and the Shire of Cardinia Heritage Study (Butler 1996). It is evident from the various assessments and descriptions of the site, that there is a reasonable consensus about the level of significance of the site.

Kurth Kiln is included as an indicative place on the Register of the National Estate database (Database Number 004495). It is included on the Heritage Inventory (of historical archaeological sites) maintained by Heritage Victoria (H8022-0013). It is also listed on the Historic Places Database maintained by Parks Victoria (HPS No.1136).

The Shire of Cardinia has included Kurth Kiln in the Heritage Overlay of its planning scheme (HO21). The Kiln has not been added to the Victorian Heritage Register but it is believed that it has been nominated and will be assessed as part of Heritage Victoria’s review process.

A discussion of the role of statutory authorities and heritage legislation is included in Appendix 3.

3.3.2.       National Trust

The National Trust of Australia (Victoria) does not appear to have assessed Kurth Kiln. It is not classified on the Trust register and inquiries have not yet produced a file on the place.

A National Trust classification does not have any weight in legislation and so would not place statutory obligations on Parks Victoria or the State.

3.3.3.       Australian Heritage Commission

Kurth Kiln has been nominated to the Register of the National Estate and has been included as an indicative place.  The nomination statement of significance states:

Kurth Kiln is a significant timber industry site associated with the Forests Commission of Victoria during a critical period of World War Two. The Kiln was erected to produce charcoal for gas producer units, which supplied an alternative source of fuel for cars and  trucks. The Kiln is also significant for its association with Dr Ernest Kurth of the University of Tasmania. Kurth had been investigating the pyrolysis of timber and Kiln design since 1940. His work resulted in the construction of a commercial sized continuously burning Kiln in 1941. The design was used for the construction of the Kiln at Gembrook in 1942. Kurth Kiln was the only Kiln of its type erected in Victoria, possibly mainland Australia. Later phases of occupation, notably the forestry camp (1946-63), contribute to the significance of the site. The camp was the centre of the Forest Commission's activities in the Kallista Forest District.

Inclusion of a site on the Register of the National Estate provides some statutory protection where a place is a commonwealth property, but not in the case property on state Crown Land.

3.3.4.       Heritage Victoria

Kurth Kiln is listed on the Victoria Heritage Inventory (the listing of historical archaeological sites) as H8022-0013

The statement of significance reads:

Heritage Inventory History of Site: The kiln was built during the WW II to provide charcoal by a continuous process which was developed and patented by Professor E.E. Kurth from the University of Tasmania. Much of the charcoal was used in gas producer units fitted to motor cars to provide combustible gas as a substitute for petrol.

The inclusion of Kurth Kiln on the Heritage Inventory places statutory obligation on Parks Victoria under the Heritage Act 1995. Under this Act Parks Victoria is required to obtain a consent for any action that may disturb the site. Likewise a permit is required for any works which may involve disturbance or excavation of archaeological remains.

This statutory obligation must be recognised and passed on to any new lessee or manager who may be involved in the property.

The site has been nominated to the Victorian Heritage Register, and is in the process of assessment through Heritage Victoria’s review program of timber industry sites to be undertaken by Peter Davies in 2002.

3.3.5.       Shire of Cardinia

Currently, Kurth Kiln is included in the schedule to the heritage overlay of the new format the Shire of Cardinia planning scheme (HO21), but does not appear on the current planning scheme overlay map. The council conducted a heritage study in 1998, which assessed the site and proposed a state level of significance and therefore that it should be nominated to the Victorian Heritage Register (Butler 1996).

The statement of significance is as follows:

Kurth Charcoal Kiln is important to Cardinia Shire and Victoria (State significance) because it provides evidence of the development of a particular type of extractive industry in the Gembrook forest as well as the unusual practice of the Forests Commission producing charcoal for the domestic market. The kiln and its surrounding infrastructure are also valuable for the potential to interpret the site historically because of its physical integrity and the good documentary evidence surrounding its construction. The Kurth kiln is of importance to Victoria as the only kiln built to the design of the noted Professor Kurth in the State. Hence it is also an expression of the life of this important person as well as an indication of the effects of the Second War on fuel shortages across the country. The kiln is also a demonstration of technical accomplishment although the reason for its development was short-lived (the war).

Under the Planning Scheme, once a permit has been obtained under the Heritage Act 1995 it will not be necessary to obtain a separate development permit from the City. The Council may, have other requirements relating to acceptable uses under the rural zoning of the local planning scheme and changes in use may still require a separate use permit under the Planning Scheme.

3.3.6.       Conservation Plan (Daniel Catrice)

Kurth Kiln is of state significance:

·       for its association with Ernest Kurth, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Tasmania, whose research into the pyrolysis of timber has made a significant contribution to the history of Australian chemistry;

·       for its association with a critical period during the Second World War, when a range of items, including petrol, were rationed by the Commonwealth government;

·       for its ability to demonstrate Kurth’s design, which was unique in Australia. Designed for top-loading and bottom recovery, with a water cooling system which ensured maximum particle size, Kurth’s ‘continuous’ kiln was more efficient and effective than the standard steel kilns used throughout Australia;

·       as a rare and essentially intact example of a charcoal-burning kiln;

·       for its ability to demonstrate an important industrial process.

·       Kurth Kiln is of local significance:

·       for its association with the Forests Commission of Victoria, who were responsible for the manufacture of charcoal as an alternative fuel during the Second World War;

·       for its association with the history of timber extraction in the forests around Gembrook;

·       for its cultural and social values, relating to the picnic and camping ground that has attracted visitors to the site for many years.

The forest workers’ huts are of local significance:

·       for their association with the Forests Commission of Victoria, which operated a forestry camp here between 1946 and 1963;

·       for their association with an important period in the Commission’s history, relating to forest maintenance activities which were initiated during the 1940s and 1950s as a result of war-time neglect of the forest estate;

·       for their ability to demonstrate a way of life for forestry workers, who were frequently accommodated in small huts at isolated bush camps;

·       for its cultural and social values, relating to the picnic and camping ground that has attracted visitors to the site for many years.

3.3.7.       Comparative Analysis

There are few known places which can be directly compared with Kurth Kiln as such structures associated with charcoal manufacture at this scale are rare and have been poorly recorded. Kurth Kiln has also probably always been a unique structure.

Other forms of charcoal kilns are far less sophisticated and generally take the form of single-use structures such as mounds of timber covered with earth or crude brick or iron vessels with openings for loading and control of combustion.

The Forest Commission operated a number of charcoal kilns around Victoria during World War II. According to a memo to the Minister for Forests regarding charcoal production in July 1942, 228 kilns were operating in that year (FCV file 40/2343), while a newspaper report identified 221 kilns and 12 pits operating in June of the same year (Herald 23/12/42; du Cros and Assocs 1993:3).

Forest Commission files identify a range of types including “Beehive, Metal,, Earth, Drums, Brick, Pits” (circular 858, FCV file 40/2396). A group of 13 kilns was described as a standard configuration in one FCV file note (FCV file 40/2343)

Examples of the various types are known from several areas. Not far from Kurth Kiln, a charcoal kiln was operated by the Forest Commission on the Tonimbuk Road near Gembrook (H8022-0030) (du Cros and Assocs. 1993:14). This site comprises a rectangular structure of riveted sheet iron with two large and two small openings, which may have served as loading and unloading doors and air vents.

Another different group of metal kilns is located at the Adventure Camp Kinglake West (H7923-0012) (du Cros and Assocs. 1993:15). This was originally a cylindrical structure of three sections about 1.5 metres diameter and 4.5 metres high, with openings in the upper two sections. The top section was removable to allow charging with timber.

Six kilns of a similar cylindrical form were operating  at Mt. Cole near Beaufort (Sun newspaper clipping DCNR Library; du Cros and Assocs. 1993).

Another kiln is recorded near Poolaijelo Lane in the Wimmera which appears to have used a steam boiler (H7123-00023). Only fragmentary evidence of this remains (Story & Davies 1995).

Two charcoal kiln sites were recorded in the Black Forest near Macedon in 1994 (Rhodes 1994:15). One was erected by Tom Willey possibly around the 1920s and employed iron retorts (H7822-0020). Nearby are the remains of two other kilns believed to have employed a brick structure built into a cutting excavated into rock on the side of a hill (H7822-0019).

A series of privately operated charcoal kiln pits were operated by Wedderburn orchardist Pop Delaney during the second world war. These were constructed by digging a large pit and lining it with sheet iron or bricks. After being loaded with wood the timber pile was covered over with sheets of iron and sods of earth. The charcoal pits were relocated in 1977, but it is not clear what condition the site is today (Holmes n.d.).

In the Bendigo region, George A. Carless and his son Mervyn of Moliagul, produced charcoal in a pit between 1942 and 1946. The 20 x 6 foot pit was stacked with wood billets and covered with corrugated iron and earth with air regulated via a stove-pipe vent at one end of the pit. (Webb and Quinlan 1985:249-50).

Both pit and iron kiln burning was employed at Rheola during the war. The 6 x 12 foot pit is lined and edged with stones to maintain the side walls, and would have been covered with corrugated iron. Eight former riveted iron steam boilers were up-ended, with stoking holes and vents cut into them to control the charcoal burning and provided a substantial capacity during the Second World War (Webb & Quinlan 1985: 172). A similar charcoal burning operation using old iron boilers set on end on a hillside, also survives near Landsborough. At least four kilns remain (personal observation).

While there are clearly a relatively large number of surviving charcoal burning sites from the Second World War period, none of these are  directly comparable with the Kurth kiln. They each demonstrate a phase of technology and together assist in showing the range of techniques employed for charcoal burning.

In a wider context, the sites can be compared to other continuous kilns for various products. Its principle of operation is not fundamentally different from single chamber lime kilns apart from the adaptation of the water cooling system. It also has a close parallel in bone charcoal kilns, the only known surviving examples in Australia being that at CSR Yarraville. These iron structures involved a similar vertical system for re-burning bone charcoal for use in liquid sugar filtration.

The explosives magazine near the Kurth site, appears to be a standard form employed by the Forest Commission in the 1960s and later. A very similar site is known from the Broadford No 1 Camp/ Strath Creek Camp, Flowerdale Road, Mt. Disappointment (du Cros and associates 1993:15).


Figure 5: Plan of areas of critical and contributory significance

 

 


3.3.9.       Contributory / Critical elements[AWK37] 

All the surviving elements of the Kurth Kiln complex should be regarded as critical to the significance of the place including the kiln, the storage shed, the huts and the immediate landscape of the place extending to Soldiers Road and the Tomahawk Creek Weir on the north, the small creek to the south, the Camping and picnic ground to the west and the horse riding area and explosives magazine to the east.

The series of tracks extending into the forest including Firewood Track, Kurth Kiln Track, Cap Track, Tom’s Track, Magazine Fire Line and other tracks within about two kilometres of the kiln, are also of contributory importance as evidence of the way that timber was brought into the site from the surrounding forest.

The elements of the site or Critical, Contributory and No Significance are shown in Figure 5 and Table 2.

Building Feature

Building Code

Significance

Notes

Storage Shed (open area)

00

Critical

 

Storage Shed enclosed area

01

Critical

Includes internal fittings, and associated equipment

Storage Shed enclosed annexe

02

Critical

Includes internal fittings, and associated equipment

Storage Shed open annexe

03

Critical

Charcoal Grader currently stored here

Open Shed near kiln (forge)

04

Critical

Includes low concrete walls

Kiln

05

Critical

 

Caretaker’s Hut,  Hut 1

Rooms A, B, C

06

Critical

 

Hut 2

07

Critical

 

Hut 3

08

Critical

 

Carport

08A

No Significance

attached to Hut 3 (08)

Bathroom Hut 4

09

Critical

 

Water Wheel

10

Contributory

Value as demonstration of process (not significant fabric)

Explosives Magazine

11

Contributory

includes earth blast mound and steel box magazine.

Fire fighting water tank

12

Contributory

 

Pit Toilet

13

No significance

 

PV Works depot and shed

14

No Significance

 

Corrugated iron rain-water tank

15

No Significance

adjacent to (04)

Tomahawk Creek Weir

16

Contributory

 

Picket Fence

17

Contributory

 

Landscape – Pine trees, roads etc

18

Critical

Some trees present threat to buildings and require surgery or removal.

Horse Corals

19

No Significance

 

Portable Artefacts

 

See individual assessment (Table 3)

 

Water Race

20

critical

outside of main historic area

Table 2: Summary of significant buildings and features.

 

The elements which are of contributory significance to the site are the  explosives magazine and blast protection mound, the fire fighting water tank, the reconstructed water wheel and small dam, and the nearby Tomahawk Creek weir.

The magazine and water tank are of contributory significance for their historical association with the Forest Commission camp. The water wheel, although a modern reconstruction contributes to the understanding of the site and incorporates some elements of original fabric in the form of the log bearers. It also represents the former use of this site. The picket fence is a relatively modern structure related to the use of the site to accommodate a caretakers residence when I[AWK38]  ceased to be an active FCV camp and took on a role as a picnic an camping area. The Tomahawk Creek Weir has associations with the later period of the site’s use as well as providing an important landscape and aesthetic context for the kiln and huts.

3.3.10.     Elements of little of no Significance

Some elements are on no significance. These include the pit toilet to the south of the huts, the horse coral to the east, the carport extension to hut 3 (08), the Parks Victoria works area near the magazine, and the new corrugated iron water tank, the picket fence [AWK39] and stand near the storage shed.

The picket fence provides a suitable setting for the huts but is a modern structure, not related to any historical period of activity on the site.

[AWK40] Some of these items may still have practical values, and while they do not detract from the appreciation of the historical site, they may be retained.

 


3.3.11.     Statement of Significance for the site

What is significant? 

Kurth Kiln, Beenak and Soldiers Road Gembrook, including the brick kiln, adjacent storage shed and annexes, four Forest Commission Victoria huts, water wheel, race, and weir, and surrounding landscape including pine trees, remnant garden plants, tracks, Tomahawk Creek Weir.

How is it significant?

Kurth Kiln is of historical and technological significance to the State of Victoria and is unique for the substantially complete collection of artefacts related to the history of charcoal production during WWII and subsequent Forest Commission Victoria activities.

Why is it significant?

Kurth Kiln is historically significant as the sole remaining example of the continuous charcoal kiln designed by Dr. Kurth and employed by the Forest commission as part of its program to supply charcoal for gas producers.

Kurth Kiln is of technological significance due to the survival of the only kiln in Victoria to the design of Tasmanian Engineer Alfred Kurth[AWK41] . The kiln is a unique response to the war-time shortages of petrol and the result of scientific investigation by Kurth into alternative methods of manufacturing charcoal for producer gas as a substitute to petrol. The development of the site by the Forest Commission, in conjunction with other government departments, demonstrates the over arching concerns during the war years in which the efforts of the home front were directed to solving domestic consequences as well as preparing for war itself.

The kiln is of technical significance for its innovative design which provides for continuous production of charcoal with higher yields and reduced operating costs. Its viability was demonstrated in operation, but the nature of charcoal production and the end of the war limited its usefulness.

The site generally provides a good representation of post war Forestry Commission camps through the surviving structures and remnant landscape. The huts, although modified, give a glimpse into the conditions of such camps and demonstrate the vernacular architectural approach of the FCV.


 

3.3.12.     Adaptation / use

While the distinction between primary and contributory structures should be used as a guide in the conservation and management of the site, it should not be seen as a final determination of the use of a particular building or space. Some areas are either more fragile or susceptible to damage than others, or more appropriately used for heritage interpretation, while some spaces are clearly more adaptable for new uses.

A detailed assessment of opportunities and risks for adaptive use of various buildings and spaces on the site follows in Section 5 of this report.

 


Figure 6: Site plan, adaptable areas.

 

 


3.4.     Conservation and curation of artefacts

The large number of small to large portable artefacts on the site comprises a critical part of the place’s significance. The Friends of Kurth Kiln have been in the process of cataloguing these.[AWK42]  The following table provides a brief summary of moveable artefacts stored in various parts of the site. In this table the Item Number refers back to the partial inventory [AWK43] prepared by the Friends of Kurth Kiln, and the Location code, eg (02) refers to the building numbering system adopted by the friends as part of its cataloguing[AWK44]  program. A diagram showing the building codes is included in Figure 3.

Item

Location

Description

Comments

 

Storage Shed (02)

 

 

 

 

Fruit Box with ceramic insulators

 

 

 

Gelignite box filled with insulators

Patent AN Gelignite Tropic “60” 1” x 8

 

 

Plywood box

 

 

 

Shelf with iron bars, locks, eyes, hooks, bolts, etc.

On east side of room (partition wall)

 

 

Detour signs x 3

On south wall

 

 

Shelf with small iron items

 

15

 

Three 12” pulleys 4” wide

 

7

 

Rakes

Long handled charcoal rakes x 2

36

 

Cant hook? “Pillar”

Steel bar, 1m. long with ratchet

37

 

Spike

 

25

 

Hand Pump

 

 

 

Bench Press

Drill with clamp to attach to bench

27

 

Bench vice

 

14

 

Forge and bellows

Portable unit

 

 

12” pulley 1” wide

 

 

 

Rope drum with ratchet gears on side

 

38

 

Swage/puller on bar

“ball & cradle”

 

 

Geared wire rope winch

on wheels with crank

 

 

Wire rope winch

Bolt down unit

 

 

Pulley assembly

Bolt down

16

 

24” pulley 1”wide

 

21

 

Log Jack (Trewhella)

 

39

 

Chain strainer (log jack?)

 

 

 

Timber stack

About 20 lengths on shelf

 

 

Iron components

On shelf

31

 

Lever tool??

 

24

 

Lathe

30cm reach hand operated

 

 

Small rope drum

 

 

 

Blacksmith tongs

 

 

 

Blacksmith chisel on wire handle

 

40

 

Wooden boxes

Small iron components, wire, bar, etc.

 

 

Pick head

 

 

 

Tin of bolts

 

 

 

Cardboard box of bolts

 

 

 

Water valve 1”

 

35

 

Cant hook

Socket for wooden handle

 

 

44 gal drum

 

13

 

Hand rake

Metal teeth

 

Main store (01)

 

 

8

 

Grind stone

Hand cranked on frame

1

 

drag saw blade

On east wall

2

 

drag saw blade

On east wall

3

 

Cross cut saw blade

On east wall

4

 

Cross cut saw blade

On east wall

5

 

drag saw blade

On east wall

26

 

grindstone

40cm. diam. stone only

6

 

drag saw blade

On east wall

 

 

Box of pipe fittings

 

11

 

Portable circular saw with Ronaldson Tippett  petrol engine

 

 

 

Slotted wooden implement 12”

 

12

 

Wheel Chains set of two

On back wall

29

 

Chain

8mm links, 2 m long

28

 

Wheelbarrow

 

22

 

Anvil on block

 

34

 

Detonator box

Red painted steel

 

 

Oil drum and pump

 

33

 

Tram wheel set, curved spokes

 

20

 

Mattock

Head only, broken

 

 

Drag saw blade

 

17

 

Grease gun

 

 

 

Dugout sign

 

 

 

Steel ammunition box

with insulators and bar

9

 

Portable grinding stone and engine

Marked F.C VIC in circle

30

 

Drag saw on wheels

No engine or blade fitted

33

 

Tram wheel sets

2’ diam 3’ gauge curved spokes

32

 

2” wire rope

 

 

 

5” pulley on post

 

 

 

2 Sedan chairs?

4 handles painted red 2’ x 5’

 

 

Section of wood flume clad in cgi.

 

 

Storage Shed (03)

 

 

41

 

Charcoal grader

Timber framed grading  machine

 

Hut 1 (06)

 

 

 

 

Range

Possibly early Kooka

 

 

Chest of drawers

C1930 Art Deco style

 

 

Chest of drawers

C1930 Art Deco style

 

 

Wardrobe

C1930 Art Deco style

 

 

Laminex table

1950s

 

 

Steel framed chairs

1960s

 

Hut 2 (07)

 

 

 

 

Wardrobe

C1920

 

 

Cupboard

 

 

 

2 single beds

 

 

Hut 3 (08)

 

 

 

 

Armchair

Belonged to Ron Thornton

 

 

Feuerland Hurricane lamp

 

 

 

Cupboard

C1930

 

 

Table

 

 

 

Wheel barrow

 

 

Hut 4 (09)

 

 

 

 

Two bay concrete water trough

Original from building reconstruction

 

 

Cast iron copper

                                            

 

 

Wooden step ladder

 

 

 

Trundle bed and mattress

Modern

 

 

Timber fly screen

 

 

 

44 gallon drum

 

 

 

Tool Board

possibly from storage shed

Table 3: Quantities of movable artefacts stored in various buildings

The charcoal grader is a commercially manufactured piece of equipment which may have been made by a mining or agricultural implement maker. The details of construction and decoration suggest a manufacture date prior to WWII. The grader takes the form of a large mesh screen supported on a timber framework with four timber legs. The legs have rotted at the bases. The screen is in two sizes with  5mm and 30 mm meshes. This would allow three grades of charcoal to be collected, smaller than 5mm and dust at the top end of the screen would come out of the first chute, 5mm to 30mm pieces from the middle of the screens from the second chute, and the larger pieces which would fall through a chute at the end of the grader. The paint scheme is original with an overall green colour and Fleur-de-lis used in the painted decoration along with the other yellow lining.

The estimated amount of storage required for all the artefacts on the site is about 15 cubic metres of shelf space, not including large machinery items such as the drag saw, charcoal grader, circular saw and motorised grind stone.

Apart from the kiln and storage shed, the only item related to the use of the site for charcoal production appears to be the charcoal grader.

Most of the artefacts appear to relate to the period of use in the 1950s to 70s, and reflect the function of the Forest Commission camp in maintaining tracks, clearing vegetation and constructing facilities. These artefacts would be best employed in helping interpret the history of the site as a FCV camp.

In addition a number of items have been brought to the site after being recovered in the forest. Such items would include the log tram wheel sets,

Possibly half of the artefacts identified above would be preferably kept in their current or re-instated original locations as part of interpretation. This is because many of the artefacts have direct associations with particular buildings or areas of the site and therefore contribute to the cultural significance of those particular places.

However, more appropriate locations for some of the artefacts may need to be determined to provide for their improved conservation and free up spaces to allow viable use of the buildings. Options might be as follows:

·        Consolidate artefacts in one space, either the large stable or chaff house[AWK45] . Provide racks and shelving to make more efficient use of space. This may require consideration of the loadings on the floors.

·        Erect a new purpose-built storage in an un-obtrusive location outside of the area of primary significance. A specially fitted out shipping container may be a cost effective means for providing storage for smaller artefacts.

·        Relocate items to dispersed storage throughout the site, based on the use of items for interpretive and display purposes. This may require a larger part of the site set aside for interpretation.

In addition to the rationalisation of storage facilities, provision could be made for more appropriate display storage. This could involve using glass cabinets for displaying key items in public areas of the buildings, or providing museum display furniture such as plinths and barriers for controlling public access to artefacts on public display.

Conservation, storage and management of artefacts, should be carried out in accordance with Parks Victoria’s Movable Cultural Heritage Management Policy which is currently under development (Parks Victoria 2001).

3.5.     Scope of conservation preservation, restoration, adaptation works

3.5.1.       Works to Date

A considerable amount of repair and conservation work has been undertaken on the buildings and grounds at Kurth Kiln. This work has been spread over more than a decade, and has generally been focused on arresting the worst of the environmental impacts on the site such as repairing roofs, drainage underpinning foundations, reconstructing failed timber components, and securing the buildings from weather and vandals.

Services

There are no connected services on site such as power, phone [AWK46] or reticulated water. Corrugated iron tanks provide a fresh water[AWK47]  supply, and a solar powered battery lighting system has been installed in the caretakers hut. A phone service was connected to Hut 1, (06) Caretakers Residence by Telstra in 1996. This was to address OH&S concerns with the caretaker.

Grounds

The surrounding grounds are maintained in a relatively undeveloped state, earth drains, timber direction sighs[AWK48]  and bollards to prevent cars leaving tracks are used. Rough timber corals for horses have been erected north of the kiln.

Kiln

Considerable work has been carried out on the kiln. This is documented in a report by Cris[AWK49]  Smith (1997) and includes the following

·        Removal, cleaning, repair and repaint of steel flue

·        Repair top courses of brickwork

·        Repair, replace and repaint metal roof cladding to top of kiln

·        Wire brush and rust treat water pipes

·        Clean up inside of kiln

·        Clean and repair cast iron kiln doors (one missing door was recast from a pattern taken off an existing door)

Shed

The shed has also been repaired according to the Scope of Works prepared by Chris Smith (1997). This has entailed the following:

·        Refixing of roofing iron

·        Installation of new gutters and down pipes

·        New stormwater drains

·        Repair and treatment of timber joinery (including replacement of some members and new concrete pads for some posts)

·        Refix and replace missing wall cladding

Water wheel

The current water wheel was constructed by the Friends of Kurth Kiln to a conjectural design based on physical evidence (the position on the small creek near the weir and flume), consultation with past workers from the area and comparison with outer[AWK50]  water wheels used in the forests. As well as fabricating and installing the weir, this work involved reconstructing the rock and earth weir (it had failed previously) installing a concrete inlet and new timber flume, and landscaping works such as the hand rail across the weir. One large bearer log was removed from the creek bed and replaced, while other bearer logs were left in situ.

Huts

Repairs to the huts have been carried out during the tenancy of Ron Thornton, and have been described in the history and description sections above. On-going repair of like with like has been undertaken as a response to vandalism and natural damage. For example, the door on hut (09) has been replaced.

Interpretation

Interpretive works have been carried out by Parks Victoria and the Friends group including the following:

·        Recording / cataloguing / photographing artefacts (Friends of Kurth Kiln)

·        Measured drawings (part of scope of works)

·        Site interpretation brochure

·        Conservation Plan report

·        Display cabinets on wall of store shed.

As can be seen from this list, the conservation works at Kurth Kiln addressed the most pressing needs for building security and arresting decay. In some cases works have been directed by public interest (such as the friends group.

However, in most cases the work priorities have been based on priorities to arrest continuing deterioration from the effects of the elements. An assessment of the potential impacts and risks associated with the proposed business case opportunities are identified and discussed in the following Section 7 of this report.

In addition to the scope of works document, advice has also been provided by the heritage officer with Parks Victoria, John Grinkupel, on the on-going maintenance and repairs of the site.

3.5.2.       Future Priorities

The works identified in the previous reports listed above are all appropriate to the conservation of Kurth Kiln

Further works will probably be required to accommodate certain adaptive uses (for example provision of food and catering services of facilities for tourist accommodation) if these were to eventuate. Tasks to secure the building from damage by weather and further natural decay is still required and this should be a major priority. These are discussed in the following sections.


 

4.       USER REQUIREMENTS

Users of Kurth Kiln are presently confined to the established stakeholders of Parks Victoria, Friends of Kurth Kiln, local people who have a history of involvement with the site, and casual visitors. The site has a high level of awareness among heritage organisations and heritage professional and regular use from bush walking groups, school excursions, horse riding clubs, and other specialist interest groups.

4.1.     Parks Victoria

Parks Victoria has the role of the on-going protection and day to day management of Kurth Kiln and the surrounding park. The Park is reserved and managed by Parks Victoria under the provisions of the National Parks Act. This Act requires management of the Park to protect its natural, historic and other values, and subject to this to provide for the use of the Park by the public for enjoyment, recreation and education.

Park management aims for Kurth Kiln include:

The LCC’s Final Recommendations for the Melbourne Area District 2 Review identified a number of regional parks and historic and cultural features reserves. These reserves are set aside primarily for recreation or historic purposes but other uses, such as timber harvesting, are permitted. They include the Rubicon Valley, Comet Sawmill, Mississippi No. 1 Mill settlement, Ada River sawmills, Kirchubel’s Tramway and Mill and Coopers Creek Copper Mine Historic and Cultural Features Reserves, and Kurth Kiln and Tyers Regional Parks.

·        Establish regular and ongoing visitor use opportunities

·        Protect heritage values and make them accessible to the public

·        Involve the community in the management of the area.

The current P{arks [AWK51] Victoria policy regarding overnight stays in the huts is that they should not be developed for commercial or general recreational use at this stage, but should only be used as part of the management and maintenance operations of parks staff and the members of the Friends of Kurth Kiln.

Therefore Parks Victoria has determined that accommodation at Kurth Kiln huts will be allowable subject to:

·        Use by volunteers only

·        The use is short term (1 – 5 days).

·        The use is limited to a minimum of two and a maximum of four volunteers at any time.

·        The volunteers are undertaking unpaid work or tasks in support of Parks Victoria

It is expected that use by volunteers will be on an occasional basis only. 

With this level of use, Parks Victoria believe there will not be a requirement for improved services at the huts such as reticulated water, a septic system or mains power and upgrading for higher levels of use (pers. com. Greg Young, March 2002).

Parks Victoria will also be under an obligation to maintain and protect the reserve from fire, noxious weeds, vermin and pests. Under separate fire protection measures it is required to control vegetation. This will also apply to preventing impacts on adjoining land from these risks.

Parks Victoria, as the responsible land manager is required to ensure public safety and security for visitors and staff under Occupational Health and Safety regulations. Dangerous drops are evident on the top of the bank above the kiln. Some trees may pose a public threat from possible falling branches.

Appropriate warnings and information to be made available to park users, as well as a strategy to minimise risks.

4.2.     Visitor requirements

Kurth Kiln appears to be reasonably well known and has a moderate level of visitation.. The major requirements for visitors are for safe and comfortable access, a worthwhile visitor experience, and basic facilities to enjoy their visit. The main requirements would therefore be:

·        Safe access

·        Information and interpretation

·        Promotion of the site to encourage greater knowledge and use.

At present visitation to the site is confined to escorted small groups and individuals, who are shown around by Parks Victoria staff, and casual visitors who make their own way to the site.

Horse riding groups use the area east of the kiln. Outdoor adventure, scouting, school groups and other organised groups also use the site. These group uses could be facilitated without direct effect on the historic site, by improvising the standard and extent of facilities.

The option of using the huts for over night stays, or in conjunction with group camping has been suggested. Limitations exist in the capacity of the huts. Such use would also need to be carefully managed to avoid causing additional impacts on the historic fabric. The maximum number that could be accommodated  in the huts would be about 12 - two double bunks in each of huts 06, 07 and 08. Hut 09 would be retained as an ablutions block. Additional facilities would still have to be provided such as cooking, toilets and dry daytime accommodations for groups. The feasibility of this option has not been addressed, but the risk tables below identify the risks to the historic fabric that may occur with such a use.

The major risks for visitor safety and impediments to access are as follows:

·        Access and orientation – includes safe access around and into the buildings and historic features, road access and direction signs to control both vehicle and foot traffic.

·        Interpretation – site appropriate interpretation is needed to give visitors a meaningful experience and appreciation of the values of the site. This should be unobtrusive so as not to detract from the unspoilt and untouched nature of the site.

·        Car parking – parking is provided at the gamp ground to the west, the picnic area near Tomahawk Weir, the horse riding area to the east and in limited areas along Soldiers and Beenak roads.

4.3.     Friends of Kurth Kiln

The friends of Kurth Kiln have been actively involved in conservation and interpretation activities for many years. They have a stake in the property beyond their personal interest in having obtained funding and contributed voluntary effort to the repair, maintenance and interpretation of the site.

From discussions with Alfred and Ursula Klink, it is apparent that maintenance of an active and viable friends of Kurth Kiln will depend on the individuals continuing to have a stake in the property and see the results of the works. To this end providing on-site space for their activities is important. This may take the form of suitable meeting areas, storage and administration space, display space and a role in contributing to the display and interpretation of the site. The Friends have indicated that their requirement for continuing participation on the site include the following elements:

User requirements include the following:

·        Storage area for Friends equipment, chairs and tables, interpretive material, small tools for maintenance, amenities (tea urn etc)

·        Space for display of artefacts and interpretive material

·        Safe access to buildings and around site

·        Public amenities, toilets, water

·        Development of an educational and interpretive program for the site

·        Restoration of buildings and machinery, possibly including some aspects restored to working order.

The friends group may also wish to have access to the site from time to time, possibly outside of other public open times or business hours for things such as meetings, events and their conservation activities.

4.3.1.       Storage and display

In general the site provides for the Friends group’s uses with little or no alteration. However, some potential alterations or adaptations have been flagged. Construction of display and storage facilities is required to enable better presentation of the site to the public. This could be achieved by constructing of free-standing shelving in part of the enclosed sections of the Storage Shed. Timber framed shelving would be most appropriate in this context, in materials and finish compatible with the building. Simple hooks could be provided to hang some items on the inner walls, such as the cross cut saw blades, harness, chains, etc. Hooks could be fashioned from galvanised steel wire and hung over the wall studs.  The floor in some parts is uneven and has areas of concrete and earth. Patching repairs in concrete would be suitable, following recording of original conditions to take note of former areas of concrete, post holes, etc.

Better display facilities can be achieved through use of all weather out-door display panels, rationalising display of artefacts within the buildings, including some dedicated storage space, and provision on new interpretive display panels within the storage shed as part of improvements to that building.


 

5.       Risk Assessment

5.1.     Future uses – opportunities and risks 

In general the distinction between the Critical and contributory components of the site can be used as a guide for future uses. On the basis of significance, the cont elements  of the site would be more appropriate for new uses. However, aspects such as the fragile nature of some structures, the useability of spaces, access and public risk need to also be considered.

5.2.     Assessment of risk

The identification, analysis and assessment of present and future risks is an important step in the development of a management program to protect and enhance the cultural heritage values of Kurth Kiln. A risk assessment for each building is detailed in the following tables

The major current risks to the site are fire, and natural deterioration of the built fabric due to weather, damp, rot, pest infestation and mechanical decay. The low level of use and isolation of the site provide some protection against damage from visitor use and vandalism. However, the presence of numbers of portable artefacts on the site in less than optimal storage conditions also presents a risk from loss.

The most significant risks identified at present are:

·        Lack of effective fire protection measures could result in the complete catastrophic loss of the timber buildings. This is to some extent reduced by provision of a reliable water supply and maintenance of cleared areas around the site, but lack of an on-site presence may make any fire protection method ineffective.

·        Lack of an adequately funded maintenance plan could cause the steady loss of value over time, and in several specific instances, the substantial loss of value of collapsing and deteriorating structures.

·        Adaptation and re-use for public and commercial activities offers potential for improving the amenity of the site and contributing to its maintenance, but inappropriate development could be a risk to the historic values of the site.

·        With any increased use of the site and larger numbers of visitors the protection of the historic fabric and artefacts will have to be a priority task.

 

 

5.3.     Restoration (and operation) of equipment

Restoration and operation of the charcoal grading equipment at Kurth Kiln is a task which could be carried out given sufficient resources including money, materials and expertise. However, in terms of conservation outcomes, it would be preferable, and possibly more economic, to conserve the original in its present form., and to construct a replica of the grader as an operational exhibit.

There are several issues that would need to be addressed, however, to ensure that any operation of the machinery does not cause unacceptable risk of wear or damage. These are:

·        Accessing suitable skills for assessing, refurbishing and maintaining the machinery.

·        Obtaining appropriate materials – eg. bearings, gears, replacing worn components.

·        Public risk from moving machinery – how can this be guarded but still provide an authentic viewing.

·        Risk to machinery from wear and breakage. This could be managed by operating in an un-loaded condition and limiting time and frequency of operation. Regular checking and maintenance would also ensure damage is controlled.

·        Provision of an adequate water supply

Operation of equipment brings with it new risks to visitors, operators, staff and the equipment itself. Works required to bring the machinery into an operational state should not be so great as to affect the significance and should be limited to refurbishing existing fabric and restoring wearing surfaces such as bearing and gears. Operation shall only be conducted where it can be shown to pose no substantial risk to significant fabric such as causing excessive wear or resulting in broken components.

A more viable option would be to conserve the original charcoal grader as a static display and to construct a replica, based on the original, for operation and interactive display.

However, there are further impediments to presenting an operational replica charcoal grader. The present water wheel is unlikely to provide sufficient power to operate the grader and would require replacement. Any replacement should be in accordance with conservation practice and based on accurate knowledge of the original form. This is as yet not known. Also, operation of such equipment may pose unacceptable public safety risks.

Alternatives to building a replica charcoal grader could be to present other aspects of the charcoal production on site. For example, a display could be made by reconstructing a steel charcoal kiln or charcoal pit. These could include demonstrations of their use by the friends during special public events.

The refurbishment of the blacksmith forge could also be considered as a way to demonstrate the use of charcoal, either as a static display or a operational display. Again there would be public safety issues which would need to be resolved.

Another option would be to find, restore, or replicate a gas producer unit (or even a complete vehicle fitted with a gas producer unit and operated on producer gas) as a means of demonstrating the end product of the kiln.

The options for restoration/reconstruction of operational equipment as part of an interpretive display are therefore:

·      conserve and restore the original charcoal grader for static display

·      construct replica charcoal grader for static display

·      construct replica charcoal grader in conjunction with new power source for operational display

·      conserve and restore blacksmith forge as static or operational display

·      obtain original or construct replica of gas producer unit

·      construct replicas of charcoal pit and/or steel retort charcoal kiln as static or operational display.

Costings of these various options have not been calculated as they would vary widely depending on the specific proposal, the availability of equipment and the role of the friends group or other volunteers.

5.4.     Visitor numbers and management

Experience on site during the special events has shown that large numbers of people at a time can be accommodated on the site without putting either the visitors or the place under risk. In general though, groups of up to fifty are the norm and 30 to 100 is probably the optimum number of visitors at any one time. Larger groups could be accommodated  with simple measures to protect fragile parts of the site by roping off, closing or creating other forms of barriers to prevent access to some parts or isolate dangerous spaces and objects.

An assessment of numbers of visitors for various parts of the site and specific areas is given in the following table.

Location/area

Visitor capacity

Comments

Huts

4-5 per hut at any one time

For interpretive viewing

 

2-4 Huts 1, 2 & 3

potential for accommodation

Storage Shed (open section)

up to 50 in open area

Sit down functions could be accommodated, but lack of weather protection or amenities is a limiting factor

Storage shed (enclosed sections)

up to 10

for interpretive viewing

Table