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Blundells Cottage upgrade appalls and saddens Canberrans

John Thistleton 9 January 2019 22

Heritage lovers have been saddened and angered by the impact of changes to Blundells Cottage. Photos: George Tsotsos.

Landscaping upgrades to the much-treasured and historic Blundells Cottage in the Parliamentary Triangle have appalled many Canberrans.

New paving and steps with fawn edging and protruding steel handrails clash with the rustic iron and stone cottage, the last remaining pre-Federal Capital residence in the Parliamentary Triangle.

A surprised, ‘saddened’ urban planner and architect David Flannery posted the changes on Facebook, commenting that  “.. the new paving works are so out of context with the character of this early and significant pastoral era cottage”.

Social media followers did not hold back in response: “Appalling,” says one post. “Are you kidding?” says another. A Facebook post from abroad asks where the historical consultants were when “this abomination was taking shape?”

Handrails and steps are building requirements but critics say the choices are out of step with the heritage site.

“It saddens me seeing building after building either modernised like this or hit by the wrecking ball here in Toronto, Canada. Our government has no appreciation for the preservation of historical architecture and it seems Australia may be a bit the same.”

While not based on a historic element, the new handrail was required to ensure the landscape works were designed and constructed to required building standards, the NCA said in a statement.

Consultation was carried out in 2012 when GML Heritage prepared a heritage master plan. A plan was also prepared for the landscaping component, according to the NCA. The latest work is worth about $800,000.

“Extensive consultation was undertaken as part of this project including stakeholders like the then Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water Population and Communities, ACT Heritage Council, ACT Historic Places, National Trust of Australia (ACT) and the Canberra District Historical Society”, the NCA says.

“Extensive conservation works were also undertaken on the timber slab shed. Late 20th elements that were not part of the domestic history of the Cottage, like the picket fence, were removed”.

Blundells Cottage is the last remaining pre-Federal building in the Parliamentary Triangle.

The National Capital Authority, which has been responsible for renovations, says on its website that the stone dwelling was built in 1860 to house Duntroon’s head ploughman, William Ginn, and his family (1860-1874). It was then occupied by George Blundell, a Duntroon bullock driver and his family (1874-1933) and finally by shepherd Harry Oldfield and his wife Alice (1933-1958). 

It has long been regarded as a valuable relic of Canberra’s early days. The NCA says Blundells Cottage is an important historical place that illustrates life in pre-Federal Canberra. As a farm cottage, it tells the story of the workers who settled and built Canberra during the 19 and early 20th century.


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22 Responses to Blundells Cottage upgrade appalls and saddens Canberrans
Peter Jan Peter Jan 7:05 pm 14 Jan 19

probably the result of of incompetence ? NCA should explain ….

Wendy Turner Wendy Turner 9:31 am 13 Jan 19

The landscaping is nothing like the grounds of the cottage when I lived there with my family as a child in the 1950's and 60's. This was built as a workman's cottage - I cant understand why tne NCA has gone so far off-course.

Bianca Prichard Bianca Prichard 8:55 am 13 Jan 19

And they've removed the old copper from out the back. A pretty critical element to maintain the authenticity of the era. This was where the families bathed and washed, my Mum's family included

Shelley Brill Shelley Brill 8:51 am 11 Jan 19

The garden was a beautiful preservation of original plants from that era I hope they were moved

Lynne Staunton Lynne Staunton 8:12 am 11 Jan 19

The brief was probably, hardwearing and cheap to maintain.

Gardens need expensive upkeep, that just needs a quick mow and blow.

Keith Perrett Keith Perrett 9:44 pm 10 Jan 19

I think the new toilet looks great. Erina Perrett

Karen Abbott Karen Abbott 8:36 pm 10 Jan 19

Oh, so not in keeping with the historic character. What a shame Canberra. Take a look at how they do it in Europe. Looks to be on the cheap.

Dan Myles Dan Myles 8:33 pm 10 Jan 19

Well that probably took, consultants, focus groups, a long drawn out tender process, more focus groups and then a committee formed to review the consultants reports and evaluate the environmental impact, engineers reports on the stability of the original buildings, a launch party, a ribbon cutting, security for the dignitaries.

    Ray Richards Ray Richards 8:37 pm 10 Jan 19

    a measly 6 mill spent .? china,s bought the bricks

    Dan Myles Dan Myles 8:41 pm 10 Jan 19

    457 visa workers brought in

    Karen Baldwin Karen Baldwin 9:51 pm 10 Jan 19

    You forgot the feasability studies, risk assessments and WHS reports

Tom Barker Tom Barker 5:50 pm 10 Jan 19

No gardens, no wheelchair accessibility, no semblance of 'bush capital' left. Ticking all the boxes of what passes for Canberra developments today.

Bridgid Edwards Bridgid Edwards 1:10 pm 10 Jan 19

Krystal Eppelstun-Lee - so sad, the beautiful cottage garden has been replaced with this!

    Krystal Eppelstun-Lee Krystal Eppelstun-Lee 1:11 pm 10 Jan 19

    Bridgid Edwards where we took those lovely pics before I had Vespa!

Helen McIntosh Carpenter Helen McIntosh Carpenter 12:37 pm 10 Jan 19

I haven’t been to see it since the restoration, and can’t make a judgement from a photograph....

KB Baker KB Baker 12:06 pm 10 Jan 19

The NCA is a disgrace on so many fronts.

Steve Mcleish Steve Mcleish 11:40 am 10 Jan 19

I think it looks great.

John Cottis John Cottis 10:14 am 10 Jan 19

Anyone who has watched just one historical renovation or grand designs show knows that if you want buildings to survive into the second and third 100 years, you need some pretty modern building techniques. This has converted a historical private residence into a modern museum. You can’t get around the need for safety railings, surface treatments which can withstand the through traffic etc.

    Angela Hunter Angela Hunter 2:11 pm 10 Jan 19

    John Cottis you can't get around needing modern building standards but that shouldn't stop them building them sympathetically to blend in with the historic elements. Why not use darker stone paving or iron railings more in the style?

Amanda Hoppitt Amanda Hoppitt 10:10 am 10 Jan 19

Looks terrible! Whom ever approved this should lose their job! and as mentioned before, its not fully accessible!

Kim Vella Kim Vella 10:03 am 10 Jan 19

Great way to destroy one of Canberras historical sites, what were you thinking?

Peter McDonald Peter McDonald 9:52 am 10 Jan 19

Unbelievable. The consultants should close their business and refund the money needed to fix the changes.

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