A Reconstructed Slaughter House

 

A small, rare part of Tasmania's bush heritage has been reconstructed thanks to an owner interested in history and heritage tourism.

When Ros and Jeff Wallace bought their property on the outskirts of St Mary's on the east coast of Tasmania, they had little understanding of the previous role of a small, timber structure on the edge of the property.

The structure was is a slab slaughter house built in the early 20th century for the slaughtering of animals. That the wooden structure remained upright until its recent collapse is testimony to the innovation, skill and craftsmanship of men working in the bush.

“When I first saw the ruined shed in danger of collapsing, I found it difficult to guess at its original function and I couldn't see the point of propping it up. However I slowly warmed to the idea of an authentic reconstruction," said Ms Wallace.

 

 

Ros sought advice from Heritage Tasmania and with the help of Parks and Wildlife Services, was introduced to Ian Hayes, founding member of Tasmania's Mountain Huts Preservation Society.

“As soon as I saw the photos of the structure I was in love with it. I do this work for the personal challenge and for owners who are similarly passionate. If the owners reflect the enjoyment of what is achieved, that is the icing on the cake," said Mr Hayes.

Constructed by saw and axe from local bush materials, slabs split from large tree trunks, the frame of the structure was fashioned from bush poles, the walls enclosed with split timber slabs and lined internally with sheets of flat tin. The roof was framed entirely with bush poles and split timber battens, then clad with approximately 1500 shingles. Perhaps the most interesting feature was a pole supported in the forked tops of king posts centrally located at each end of the building. This pole, complete with original tackle served as a windlass for raising carcases. A rudimentary concrete floor forms the basis of the processing area. On the southern side was a wide opening perhaps used for bringing a vehicle in to load dressed carcasses, and a narrower doorway on the north-western corner alongside the remnants of a post and rail fence that may have been a cattle race or corralling yard to bring beasts into the shed.

Work on the reconstruction was well underway when first reported in a Heritage-news bulletin in 2019. Last year the works were completed.

 

Ros is understandably proud of the work completed. “All the credit must go to Ian Hayes and Jeff, who learnt many new skills along the way. Working together they have created something quite amazing. I have also learnt a great deal about this structure and its function. Now when I tell visitor and tourists its history, there is so much more meaning to the story.”

Ian Hayes is justifiably proud of the finished structure. “Yes, I do feel proud of the finished article. I am a quiet achiever and a simple thank you is all it takes, the sense of achievement is mine to keep. The stand out good feeling for me is when I compare the circa 1985 photo taken of the structure by the late Frank Bolt, and my photo taken in September 2020. They both look remarkably similar. However when I was introduced to the scene the structure was  collapsed.

“I would like to thank Ros and Jeff for their hospitality and enthusiasm during this journey, it was a team effort that included a good friend of mine, Glen Bakes and supportive/encouraging emails from Ian Boersma (Heritage Tasmania) and Peter Rigozzi (Parks and Wildlife Service). I regularly updated Ian and Peter on my progress to ensure I remained on track and was satisfying particular aspects within heritage guidelines. Once the original forked king posts were safely hoisted into position I knew I was on the home run.

For images of the reconstruction, click here and here. And next time you are heading to St Mary's take a detour to see the completed structure.

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