The small Tasmanian community of Ross has paid the ultimate tribute to “unsung heroes” behind the town’s architectural beauty by restoring a neglected colonial-era sandstone quarry.
The site, which was officially opened in October, has become the town’s latest tourist attraction and events venue, and follows a two-year rehabilitation project involving 15 volunteers.
The 19th century site was one of a series of small quarries that stretched along a ridge in the south-eastern corner of the village, providing sandstone that is still seen in buildings within Ross today, including its famous bridge.
It is also thought the stone, which is high in quartz content, was exported for use in grindstones, flag and paving stones, kerbs and tombstones.
The site straddles land owned by the Northern Midlands Council and a local resident. For many years it sat neglected, overgrown with scrub and filled with spoil, despite community wishes to turn it into an attraction.
The Tasmanian Wool Centre’s Board supported their manager, Debra Cadogan-Cowper, to put a restoration plan into action by securing leases for the land in 2016, followed by funding from the Tasmanian State Growth Community Infrastructure Fund in 2017.
Since then, the rehabilitation effort has seen the construction of a post-and-rail fence, site excavations, gorse and weed removal, boulder relocation, volunteer clean-up days, design and installation of information panels and endemic species planting.
Sound archaeology advice
“As part of the project we had an archaeologist provide a conservation report,” Cadogan-Cowper said. “During his visit to the site he was sure there was more hidden under some spoil heaps. This proved correct when some excavation work was completed, making the quarry twice its size.
“This was such a thrill to find more wonderful carved out areas complete with pick marking where the blocks had been cut out. It has turned the area into an amphitheatre which would be perfect for performances.”
Although there was little history known about this specific site, Cadogan-Cowper said there was a strong likelihood the original quarry workers were convicts transported to Van Diemen’s Land, now known as Tasmania.
A major motivating factor behind the project has been the acknowledgment of those who were influential in the formation of Ross.
Quarrying continued to be a valuable business in Ross, with many active quarrymen employed until about the middle of the last century.
“People visit Ross to admire its beautiful heritage stone buildings,” Cadogan-Cowper said. “When they walk through the village, they often remark on what a beautiful place this is.
“But how often do they stop and think about the men that actually carved that stone in the first place? We hope that making the quarry accessible to the public will form that connection now.
“People can visit the quarry and see an example of where the work was done to create the village of Ross that is now so admired.”
Cadogan-Cowper said this was only phase one of the project, with more work to be done on the upper plateau of the site.