Case for archaeological dig at hall

Headshot of Geoff Vivian
Geoff VivianGeraldton Guardian
Fishermen's Hall.
Camera IconFishermen's Hall. Credit: Geoff Vivian. Picture: John Fitzhardinge

As fishermen and history buffs reel from the shock of the demolition of Port Denison’s fishermen’s hall, the Batavia Coast Maritime Heritage Association is calling for an archaeological study of the site.

Association chairman Dr Howard Gray said there was still an opportunity to explore the site’s history even though Irwin Shire contractors demolished the building.

“There are wonderful stories about the Irwin port in the 1800s, the significant part it played in the development of the area, and its part in the fishing industry during the 1900s,” he said.

Dr Gray said his association was disappointed to see the hall’s removal and the end of the Irwin Districts Historical Society’s ambition to make it a “really significant” heritage site.

Irwin Districts Historical Society chairman Graham Grundy issued a statement after learning the Heritage Council of Western Australia had rejected its request for a protection order.

“By the end of Saturday (October 12) only the reasonably intact 1894 jarrah framework of the Bond Store still stood among the rubble,” he said.

Mr Grundy said the society had long argued the colonial-era framework should remain on-site.

“In June, the council’s own expert heritage report revealed evidence of its existence and recommended it be retained and conserved on its site,” he said.

University of WA archaeologist Professor Peter Veth said a study could prove a worthwhile project for a student.

“An historic archaeologist would look at the original plans and track modifications over time and do a physical survey of the site to see what remains of the site,” he said. “You would normally do a ground-penetrating radar or test excavation to see whether there would be original features left intact of the sub-surface, and you would look for rubbish dumps. “They can be informative because they reflect people’s diet and consumption and (their) personal and prestige goods.”

Professor Veth said the amount of original material found on site would then determine whether a larger excavation was warranted.

The Heritage Council has been contacted for comment.

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