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Blacksmithing sparks community interest

“Frank Sartor is a destroyer of history. If this goes, who else do we blame?” asked Colin Fenn, one of the estimated 2,000 people who attended the Open Day of Wrought Artworks and the Eveleigh Locomotive Workshop on Sunday August 17, located in Bays 1 and 2 of the Australian Technology Park, Eveleigh. Guided tours were provided of the operational heritage blacksmiths’ shop, and a public meeting was held at midday to call for the immediate withdrawal of the Notice to Quit and Threat of Eviction that has been served to Wrought Artworks reports Wendy Collis in the South Sydney Herald of August 2008.

Clover Moore, Lord Mayor of Sydney, gave an overview of the history of the Eveleigh site, how at its peak it was one of the largest industrial complexes in the world, and that the work done here had helped both open up an entire continent and build the vast NSW rail network. She commented that Eveleigh has been designated by the Smithsonian Institute to be one of the world’s finest remaining industrial precincts.

Clover Moore stated that the eviction notice to working blacksmith Guido Gouverneur is another example of the continual erasing and diminishing of heritage and cashing in on valuable public land that is part of the State’s “brave new world of dictatorial development”. She expressed her concern that the Redfern-Waterloo Authority was going to get away with exploiting the site because only former workers or local residents were aware of its mighty legacy and urged all present to spread the word and start lobbying.

“The people who built this place and those who worked here thought for the long-term,” she said. “They were building a nation, they were not looking for fast profit. We need to bring back that kind of thinking so that the legacy we leave for future generations will be something more substantial and meaningful than row upon row of tacky apartment blocks.”

David Fleming, 24, is one of the new generation at the workshop who has benefited from Guido’s years of blacksmithing knowledge. He has spent three years studying the trade at TAFE and has been working fulltime at Wrought Artworks for the past year. When asked whether he wishes to remain working at Eveleigh he responded enthusiastically: “I would love to! You won’t get a shop like this anywhere in the world - there is no other place with the capability. The first time I used that power hammer I thought, ‘Wow!” – it is a privilege to work here.’”

A second-year machinist, Emmanual Hay, 18, shares the same view. He points to a 200-year-old drill press, and tells the attentive audience that though it may have a few bumps in it, it still works fine. He says that the opportunity to work with such heritage equipment, state-of-the-art in its time, is “unique” and says it is satisfying to use this machinery to make heritage items such as furniture and security gates. “With new machines, they are all computer-programmed – so you are not a tradesperson anymore, you don’t get your hands dirty.” 

Following speeches at midday, a motion was presented to resolve the issues affecting the site. This included calls for the RWA/ATP to withdraw the Notice to Quit on the ATP Blacksmiths, discussions with NSW Premier Morris Iemma regarding the protection of heritage on the site, the consideration of a National Heritage listing and an interim Green Ban on the site. The motion was declared “unanimously carried” by Geoff Turnbull, the spokesperson for REDWatch.

Guido Gouverneur, co-owner of Wrought Artworks said afterwards that the Open Day was so successful that it may become an annual event. He added that it was really refreshing to see a lot of younger people come along, a clear indication that blacksmithing and locomotives spark interest in all age groups. Some people told him that it had been a life-changing experience, with one man commenting that: “He felt he had never witnessed anything so real and tangible.”

The RWA has presented the owners of Wrought Ironworks with a 12-year lease agreement that requires Guido to pay rent (based on commercial rates) for the blacksmithing workshop. He says that, though they hadn’t really wanted to go down that road with the RWA, he feels they now have negotiated a satisfactory agreement.

This means he can “get on with his life” and focus his attention on campaigning for the preservation of the railway heritage locations, equipment and rolling stock that remain within the Eveleigh Railway Workshops.

Photo: Andrew Collis - Guido Gouverneur conducts an Open Day tour

Source: South Sydney Herald August 2008