Process of Restoration
Fitz Roy Iron Works, Mittagong NSW Australia
In July 2004 Woolworths Ltd lodged a development application with Wingecarribee Shire Council to build the Highlands Marketplace shopping centre at 197 Old Hume Highway Mittagong. During the initial site excavation period it became evident that part of the site was of significant historical significance to the community.
The site is part of the former Fitz Roy Iron Works; the first iron works in Australia, which operated between 1848 to the 1890’s and established the industry in this country. The enterprise struggled to be successful over the subsequent decades, but assisted in establishing the iron industry in Australia. In December 2004, the NSW Minister for Planning placed an Interim Heritage Order (IHO) on portions of the development site because of the site’s potential to contain remains of the former iron works.
An archaeological testing program was undertaken at the site in January 2005 to inform the Archaeological Assessment of the site. This testing was undertaken in accordance with an excavation permit issued by the Heritage Council of NSW. A subsequent phase of archaeological investigation was then carried out across the site from October 2005 to January 2006, including monitoring and more detailed excavation. The tests revealed the presence of substantial remains associated with the former iron works in parts of the development area.
Following the main phase of investigation, a program of archaeological monitoring was also undertaken in conjunction with construction works (building demolition and grading works) to ensure that any areas of archaeological potential were identified and recorded.
Despite the lack of precise documentary evidence, investigation of the site uncovered extensive evidence of the former iron works, including remains of the rolling mills, puddling furnaces, boiler houses, chimney bases, cupola furnaces and other ancillary structures. The complex series of remains demonstrates the various phases of rebuilding and upgrading that occurred throughout the site’s history.
Upon clarification of the extent of remains which had been discovered, Woolworths in conjunction with the NSW Heritage Office, various heritage consultants and local historians decided on an approach to save the restore these works. This involved redesigning the Highlands Marketplace to build around the site as well as a significant excavation and restoration process.
The Highlands Marketplace was opened in March 2007 with the Fitz Roy Iron Works restoration a key feature.
A substantial portion of the remains exposed during the site investigation have been retained within the new retail development for an investment of approximately $3 million. These remains have been conserved, maintained and displayed, with permanent public access provided as part of the interpretation, communication and celebration of the history of the significant place.
Acknowledgement: This report was extracted from Fitzroy Iron Works, Mittagong, NSW, Australia: Archaeological Investigation and Advice, 2005-2006 prepared by Godden Mackay Logan Heritage Consultants for Woolworths Ltd.