The historic headmaster’s residence of old Bathurst Public School in Howick Street has been evacuated by TAFE personnel after a large crack developed in the structure, most likely caused by the drought.
Acting Bathurst TAFE campus manager Patrick Healy said there is no indication at this stage how serious the problem is and staff using the building have been moved out as a precautionary measure. Small pieces of internal plaster have been dislodged.
The building is classified by the National Trust. It’s also an item of heritage on Bathurst City Council’s Local Environment Plan and is on the National Estate Register of the Australian Heritage Commission as part of the Technical College annex group.
Department of Public Works engineers are preparing a report to determine the extent of the damage and what remedial action is appropriate.
Despite being cordoned off, Mr Healy said the historic building is not in imminent danger of collapse.
Bathurst City Council is to acquire the headmaster’s residence and the adjacent school building to house the Somerville Collection of fossils and minerals and establish a world class museum.
Bathurst City Council director of corporate services David Sherley said council does not yet own either building – the site transfer has not taken place and TAFE up until the crack appeared, still used the headmaster’s cottage.
Mr Sherley said council has undertaken extensive work in the former school building, but has not yet started work renovating the headmaster’s cottage.
“The issue of the cracking was raised with them [TAFE]. What they’re doing with respect to that, I don’t know,” Mr Sherley said.
He would not be drawn on the prospect of council taking responsibility for the building knowing it has developed this large structural crack.
“We would be very interested in seeing any reports about the cracking,” he said.
Margaret Glen of the National Trust said the building was of great historical significance to Bathurst and efforts must be made to restore the building.
She said discussions she had with senior council officers indicated the building could be saved.
Ms Glen said the area bounded by Howick, William, Russell and George streets was particularly significant to Bathurst and the old schoolmaster’s residence was one of the important buildings remaining in that precinct.
The building is adjacent to the old school (built in 1876) on one side and the former site of the Bathurst School of Arts Hall (later the City Theatre) where the 1896 People’s Convention was held.
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