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ATP Blacksmith Shop - Sartor breaks Department of Planning promise

Wrought Artworks the self-funding operators of the historical Eveleigh Blacksmithing Bays of 17 years are under threat of closure from the Redfern-Waterloo Authority reports this media release from Wrought Artworks of 3rd July 2008.

What is transpiring at the Eveleigh Locomotive Workshops must rank as one of the saddest episodes in Australian heritage machinery conservation. This collection that is considered by the Smithsonian Institute- Washington DC as “the largest most integral collection of steam powered blacksmithing equipment left in the world” is gradually having its value and viability eroded by a money hungry authority with short-term expectations.

The Heritage and Conservation bodies and community were promised early on that the correct approach would be taken. This was backed up with a large number of reports and studies, which have subsequently been largely ignored, making a mockery of Planning Policy.

Early discussions at the Planning Stage of the ATP made much of keeping the blacksmithing bays in tact and operational. The Consent Conditions of the Development Application imposed by the then Minister of Planning -  Craig Knowles specifically mention the Blacksmiths as having a lease and that two half bays were to be kept operational. This was the ‘trade off’. The site could be developed into the ATP providing the blacksmithing company of Wrought Artworks remained, that the heritage blacksmithing equipment was operational and they were to accommodate them by design. A $600,000 acoustic wall was built to isolate the noise of the working museum, and vibration dampening was incorporated into the floors of the adjacent bay. This is now being disputed by Robert Domm – CEO of the RWA, who are saying “all prior agreements are history”, implying that they have no bearing in the future. In point of fact the prior agreements are binding and the RWA must honor the heritage obligations they have inherited.

These representations and promises made to Guido Gouverneur and Wendie McCaffley of Wrought Artworks gave them the confidence  to  build up a business based on the Victorian blacksmithing equipment in their care. They are now considered top of their field by heritage architects and work primarily on conservation and Victorian style reproduction ironwork for greater Sydney. In 2002 they won a commendation from the National Trust for their work reproducing a Gate and railings for Centenial Park Reservoir and in 2001 Guido was awarded a Citizen of The Year award for conservation work on the Eveleigh machinery collection.

In the early years sweat, toil and a collective of enthusiasts with a passionate spirit for the place kept the collection intact. Guido and Wendie have been instrumental for the only Trade Course in Blacksmithing in Australia at Ultimo Tafe to remain viable. They presently have 3 young people apprenticed in this rare trade skill and many more have been trained in the workshop.

In 1997, on a recommendation from the Heritage Council and as the result of extensive lobbying, a $300,000 State Heritage grant was given by the Planning Minister, (supposedly to be matched dollar-for-dollar by the ATP), for the restoration of the machinery collection to become operational. It proposed to train young people on the project. The grant did not get spent on its intended purpose. The only restoration to make machinery operational has been done by the self –funding Wrought Artworks.

The past SHFA Manager of the ATP was extremely pro-active and supportive of the heritage operation and its integration into the Park. However for the entire three years the RWA have been the managing body all requests for discussion on the operating heritage blacksmithing workshop, or any property maintenance issues have been largely ignored. The request for approval for Wrought Artworks to fix a floor problem themselves was met with a letter of eviction and a notice to quit.

Wrought Artworks are the only people to have cared for the machinery constantly, and to come up with a philosophy for the long term. No doubt Robert Domm thinks if he gets rid of the blacksmiths he also gets rid of any heritage machinery obligations or ‘watch-dogs’. Wrought Artworks are now being considered as unnecessary. Possibly bolstered by the completion of the building for The Ministry of Defense, by the commencement of a new building for Channel Seven, and the hosting of some celebrity events (such as the MTV Awards, and Top Model). the RWA have sent the eviction unconscionably.

It wouldn’t take long for the idle machinery to lose its interest, to lie languishing and forlorn as they do in the northern bays of 1 & 2.  The Henry Berry Cranes from the Wheel Press Shop are rusting away in the out door elements, unprotected and in pieces. It has become apparent by Robert Domms actions that he has no interest in anything but commercial return and development.  Why RWA want control of the blacksmithing shop is undisclosed ,but according to Robert Domms exact words “You’ve had long enough.

Without the human factor, the value of the collection, the trade skilling fostered here, along with the usefulness of the facility for Sydney’s metal heritage maintenance, will be lost forever.

You can find out more about Wrought Artworks and their campaign to continue to operate the ATP Blacksmith Shop from this 10 minute video posted on Youtube at .

Wrought Artworks is having an open day with tours and trade demonstrations on Sunday 17 August. 10 am to 3 pm

Bays 1 & 2 South , Eveleigh Locomotive Workshop

Australian Technology Park

Cnr Garden and Boundary Streets Redfern.