MN Builders – Heritage Church Deconstruction
- Client MN Builders
- Location Parramatta
- Duration 3 weeks
By Daniel Green
With a historical timeline of more than 60 000 years, this great continent of ours can lay claim as one of the oldest inhabited lands there is. And whilst other countries aren’t so fortunate, we’re lucky we have institutions whose sole mission is the preservation of our national history. So when the inevitable development of the City of Parramatta required the footprint of church on the corner Phillip and Marsden, the Office of Environment and Heritage saw to it that the century old house of worship wouldn’t just be put out to pasture. Like Captain Cook’s Cottage she would be relocated, brick by brick. A delicate operation sure, but one that would likely give the most rewarding outcome.
To prove successful of such a feat primary contractor MN Builders needed the expertise of not just a demolition provider, but a business with a vested interest in the preservation of history. Somebody with a solid track record. Somebody with scores of heritage and high profile works behind them. Perfect was that somebody. Fresh off complex projects like Pyrmont’s The Revy and heritage residence in Bondi, the Perfect team marshalled man and machine for what would be an intense three week operation of deft precision.
Because of her age and it’s significance in the history books of the City of Parramatta, the church deserved to be reassembled as it was originally built – meaning before a single machine was fired up or work boots strapped on, each brick, key stone, door and window had to be individually coded and meticulously logged. As a kind of an insurance policy extensive photography, copious notes and detailed schematics were heavily utilised – because once she came apart, if there was any confusion about the relocation of even a single stone there would be needling doubts as to the church’s originality. The whole exercise would have been for nought.
With data collection complete and archaeological sign off firmly in hand, the boot laces were pulled tight and the four man Perfect team got to work. Her structural members were disassembled by hand, match-marked and dry-stored to prevent weather damage. Her external walls were safely deconstructed to ensure exact reassembly. Thousands of bricks were carefully removed, cleaned and palletised for their eventual return to service. Doors were labelled and kept. Latches were tagged and bagged. Artefacts boxed. We worked on the ground, in the mud, off EWP’s and on forklifts. In the blazing Aussie sun and in the pouring Parra rain. From sunup to sundown. Day in, day out for twenty-one solid days – all while ensuring a valuable chapter in our nation’s history was protected forever.
Three weeks later when the dust had settled there wasn’t much left but the original foundations, a site office and the hulking figure of a piling machine ready to wage war on Parramattan soil. And whilst we truly need more living space in our bustling and bursting city, you can’t help but wonder if the old dear really wanted to be moved or if she preferred to settle in amongst all that concrete and glass for the long haul. As a keen historian I reckon the former. A busy city isn’t quite the right place for a hundred year-old. One thing is for certain: if I make it to the ton and need to be relocated then the care and attention shown to me by Perfect, MN Builders and the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage would certainly make me feel pretty darn special. Like that letter you get from Her Majesty when you break a century not out.
Farewell heritage church. Here’s to another hundred years.