The Birdwood Flag Conservation Project

Birdwood Flag After Restoration 2017

The Birdwood Flag After Conservation-2017

The Birdwood Flag Conservation Project
Amir Moghadam, UON

This blog, and the ones that will follow, look back over three and a half years to detail the preservation and conservation measures that returned the restored Birdwood flag to Newcastle’s Christ Church Cathedral in July 2017.

The posts will be presented as a narrative, relying on my own notes, images and memories and interspersing this narrative with comments from other members of the Birdwood Heritage Committee. The aim is to make an account that includes a variety of perspectives so that community members gain knowledge they can use in their own preservation projects.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step…”

The Birdwood Flag’s preservation story is well described by applying Lao Tzu’s quotation above. The first definite steps in restoring the flag were made in November 2013 following a number of comments on the flag in previous years. The reality we faced was thousands of fragments of mostly reddish looking textile stored in a plastic back within a large cardboard box in a damp vault of the Cathedral.

Birdwood Flag Before Conservation-02

The Birdwood Flag Before Conservation-2013

The other reality was the complete absence of any substantial funding and support that would be required for a major restoration. No group of people who might have the expertise to manage such a project could be identified and the one conservator at the University of Newcastle, myself, was so occupied with other projects, there was no time available, even for discussion or planning. Everything had to be established and negotiated from scratch. As a conservator, I knew this would involve the creation of a strategy for preservation of the flag to gauge the feasibility and practicality of the process. Only then could there be some negotiation between interested groups (including the University and the Cathedral) and then applications for resources, grants or other help through public and private benefactors.

As a principle of conservation, the level of material disintegration of an object is also considered. The Birdwood Flag’s utterly fragmented and delicate state would usually rule it out of consideration for restoration. The time for conservation would be judged as having expired so that any effort to restore it would be seen as pointless or worse still, as endangering the authenticity of the item. Indeed, such conservation would be perceived as blurring the lines between conservation and total re-construction of the item.

However a different principle of conservation argued against dismissing the idea of conservation and labelling the Birdwood Flag as a hopeless case. The significance of an item, be it art-work or monument, argues for or against the dedication of scarce resources to preserve it. Even so, the integrity of the item’s fabric is very important in deciding its significance. An item can only be considered as significant if enough of it remains to show what it is.

There was a Catch 22 involved with arguing the significance of the Birdwood Flag in its disintegrated state. To do this, some assurance was needed that it could be put together and made recognisable as a flag of a particular design, dimension and colour. A bag of confetti does not easily lend itself to such an assurance. Many people engaged in cultural heritage work experience such dilemmas. This is the moment when a project is often abandoned. However the Birdwood Flag was too important to be forgotten. It narrates the sacrifices of soldiers of a nation established only 15 years earlier during one of the most cruel and catastrophic wars in human history. Moreover the flag tells a story above and beyond a tale of WWI. Produced by a community yet official, flown on the battlefield yet returned to the community who built its own War Memorial and ‘laid up’ the flag there, this object provides important evidence for larger historical and social enquiries.

Birdwood Group

From left: Major Roland Millbank, Birdwood Committee; Dr.Rosemary Barnard, Birdwood Comittee; Dr. Amir Mogadam, Conservator, UON; Mr. Gionni Di Gravio, Archivist, UON; Dr. Patricia Gillard, Birdwood Committee; Mr.Julian Bickersteth, Managing Director, ICS.

The Birdwood Flag has been restored and this blog is being published 31 July 2017; the day after the Birdwood Flag was re-hallowed in a special service to mark its return to Christ Church Cathedral, Newcastle. The brochure, Two Lives, tells the story of the one hundred years between the first making of the flag and its successful restoration and return. Further blogs will show the steps during three and a half years that brought us to this day.


“Re-Hallowing of the Birdwood Flag Service” Newcastle Anglican (1 August 2017)

“WW1 Flag Returned to Newcastle After Painstaking Restoration” NBN News (20 July 2017)

“Australia’s first flag forgotten, found and restored all in 100 years” ABC News (30 June 2017)

“Precious WW1 Flag on the Mend” by Mike Scanlon. Newcastle Herald (2 June 2017)

‘THE PAST MATTERS’ Rock Art & Indigenous Heritage Workshop

The Hunter (Living) Histories Initiative organised a one-day workshop on Friday 20th May 2016 on heritage preservation approaches with a particular focus on Rock Art and Indigenous heritage. The following provides some background in planning the day, and overview of the workshop supported by Cultural Collections, University of Newcastle Library & the Hunter (Living) Histories Initiative.


Cultural Collections at the UON has been collecting, archiving and sharing knowledge about Aboriginal cultural heritage for many decades. For 20 years Gionni di Gravio (University archivist) has supported research of Aboriginal cultural heritage and rock art in the Hunter Valley. Indigenous cultural heritage has been the concern of academics and the alumni of the university and the wider community. Addressing these concerns the Coal River Working Party (now the “Hunter (Living) Histories Initiative”) was established in 2003, with the aims to discuss and share knowledge about Aboriginal cultural heritage. The interest in the Aboriginal cultural heritage in the region was elevated due to events that unfolded at the KFC site in Hunter Street, Newcastle, when Aboriginal artefacts were found, at the heart of Newcastle. See HERE for further information.

The case attracted wide public attention and interest in Aboriginal heritage. It also raised issues regarding the Aboriginal Heritage Act in general and protection of discovered artefacts in particular. The organising group’s understanding was that in general, there has been very little in the way of education around Aboriginal cultural heritage. However, Amir Mogadam’s interest and specialisation in conservation, and predominantly rock art prompted the workshop. We thought would be a great opportunity to join with others (with experience in Indigenous rock art) to have a workshop specific to this area, as well as have other speakers (on other aspects of Aboriginal heritage).

We didn’t call for papers! But saw a need for a workshop. We identified presenters known to us, many of them had already presented at CRWP/HHI meetings.

– Better understand existing knowledge of Indigenous cultures
– Share knowledge about Aboriginal cultural heritage/rock art
– Bring individuals and communities together who care about Indigenous cultural heritage
– Ideas for future projects to be shared
– Opportunity to network and form collaborations
– Support Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities to build new knowledge about Indigenous culture
– Promote care of Australia’s ancient culture

-Liaising with Aboriginal communities. Key person was Dr Greg Blyton from UON Wollotuka Institute. Invited Prof John Maynard to speak (unfortunately not available).
– Workshop promoted via email to Aboriginal groups and key representatives e.g. Guraki committee of Newcastle Council, YAPUG pathway program.
– UONCC WordPress was primarily used to promote speakers, other social media was UONCC Facebook, twitter and Lost Newcastle Facebook (over 20 000 followers).
– Handout available on the day with bio’s on each speaker and contact details.
– Morning/afternoon tea, and lunch (funded by UON Library)
– Workshop was free to attend, we wanted to attract students and others who may otherwise not have come along, due to the cost.

– 55-60 attendees, from government depts. e.g. Office of Environment & Heritage, Aboriginal people working in gov. depts., various Aboriginal groups and communities, UON staff/academics, students, general community members, professional architects and archaeologists.
– The MC was Dr Bernie Curran discussed the background of the workshop, and the aims
– Entire day was recorded, including question time and general discussion to be posted on UONCC WordPress.
– There was a lot of networking going on over morning/afternoon tea and lunch.

– Recent perspectives in rock art management and advocacy
– Indigenous perspectives on the cultural heritage and its preservation
– The importance of the Australian rock art and its position in the global context
– Methods of rock art documentation
– Future perspective in the preservation of rock art.
– How to make Indigenous heritage meaningful and relevant (planning, all communities)
– Why it is important to care for Australia’s cultural heritage
– Global significance of Australia’s Aboriginal cultural heritage
– Can new technology (virtual & augmented reality) help raise awareness and be an educational tool in terms of Aboriginal heritage.

– One attendee was concerned with the lack of consultation with Aboriginal communities in terms of rock art documentation, interpretation and making publicly available.
– Attendees were very respectful of others viewpoints.
– There was plenty of time for discussion after each speaker (30 mins + 10 mins worked well)- there were no pressure to wind up sessions, and program ran to time.
– Overheard discussions during breaks about some of the difficulties and hurdles working on Aboriginal heritage projects, and the fragmentation within Aboriginal communities, the differing viewpoints in terms of Aboriginal history, ‘who owns’ – not always seen as heritage to be shared.

Feedback on the day was positive, attendees seemed to enjoy the workshop and encouraged in terms of new knowledge available.“Congratulations on planning and hosting the Rock Art symposium on Friday.  It was a great success.  We need more events like this.” – From UON academic.
“Enjoyed the two papers I was able to attend, and meeting other participants. Thanks for organising a great event.” – From UON academic. “It was a great workshop. I enjoyed the day and the company.” – Educator (via Facebook). “What a great day Bravo! We need more workshops like this saturated with significance!”- Heritage advocate (via Facebook)

Registration 8-00am for 8.30 start

CHAIR Dr Bernie Curran

Dr Amir Mogadam
Kulturpolitiks, the Question of Conservation
Dr. Amir Mogadam is a University of Newcastle’s conservator. Amir works on the topics of conservation, Middle Eastern Studies and history, and prior to 2008 worked on international projects in preservation of world heritage sites. His works have been presented and published in the prestigious international forums in Europe and New Zealand. Contact

Dr Greg Blyton
Conservation from an Indigenous perspective
Dr Greg Blyton is an Indigenous senior lecturer, historian and researcher at the Wollotuka Institute, University of Newcastle, where he specialises in Aboriginal history, health and social justice. He has worked extensively throughout many parts of Australia as a registered nurse and health worker, and is a strong advocate of reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. Contact

Gionni di Gravio & Dr Ann Hardy
Indigenising the City: Embodying Aboriginal knowledge and wisdom into planning frameworks to create sustainable cities of the future
Gionni Di Gravio is the archivist for the University of Newcastle’s Cultural Collections based in Auchmuty Library, 2016 marks 20 years as an archivist at the UON. He is the chair of Hunter (Living) Histories Initiative/Coal River Working Party and councillor of the Australian Society of Archivists. Contact
Dr Ann Hardy is Historian, Creative Industries & Digital Humanities Projects Co-ordinator at the UON’s Cultural Collections. She is a former social worker and has a strong commitment to historical and archival research of the Hunter region, with new digital media platforms, and the oral history tradition. Currently co-ordinates the Hunter (Living) Histories Initiative/Coal River Working Party.

Dr Jillian Huntley
Colouring colonisation – the emergence of rock art and modern human dispersal to Australia
Dr Jillian Huntley is an archaeologist who specialises in the scientific analysis of rock art and the shelter/cave environments that house it. Based in Newcastle, Jillian is engaged in ongoing multidisciplinary projects across northern Australia and Indonesia, and conducts rock art research and conservation projects along the east coast, particularly within the Sydney Basin. Her talk is based on recent research she has undertaken on the early human records of Sahul and Wallacea.

ABSTRACT: Australia is the earliest end point for modern human dispersal out of Africa more than 50 thousand years ago. Our Australasian region has been at the forefront of early finds of highly complex behaviors such as deep sea fishing and the production of figurative art 35-40 thousand years ago. Australia has a globally unique record, created exclusively by fully behaviorally modern people at the same time as the ‘symbolic revolution’ in the European Upper Paleaolithic. Australasia therefore provides a unique opportunity to test prevailing ideas about the timing and materials signature of fully modern humanity. In this presentation I will review evidence for the emergence and dispersal of rock art globally and explore the role recent discoveries in Indonesia and northern Australia as a current focus for human evolutionary research. Contact

Dr Bernadette Drabsch
Visualising and Contextualising the rock art sites of the Hunter: Conservation through Education
Dr Bernadette Drabsch has an academic background in Ancient History, Classical Languages and Natural History Illustration and has volunteered on archaeological digs in Jordan, which lead to her PhD of the ancient wall paintings from Teleilat Ghassul, Jordan’. She currently teaches the theoretical component of the Natural History Illustration and has developed course curriculum in this area. Contact

Emeritus Professor John Fryer
Recording Rock Art: Techniques and Experiences Locally and in UK
John Fryer is an Emeritus Professor of the University of Newcastle. He came to the UON 1974, was promoted to Professor in 1991 later became Head of School of Engineering. Since retiring 12 yrs ago, he has undertaken forensic investigations for the NSW Police Force and other law enforcement agencies using his academic speciality involving close-range photogrammetry. Contact

Materials Related to Emeritus Professor Fryer’s Presentation (These materials have also been incorporated into the video of the presentation):

Powerpoint: Recording and Modeling an Aboriginal Cave Painting: With and Without Laser Scanning by John Fryer, Jim Chandler & Sabry El-Hakim (19.3MB)

Powerpoint: Recording Petroglyphs by Dr Jim Chandler, Loughborough University, UK & Professor John Fryer, University of Newcastle, Australia. (4.5MB)

The Northumberland and Durham Rock Art Project by Paul Bryan, Metric Survey Team Leader & Head of the Photogrammetric Unit English Heritage, York. (13.1MB PDF)

AutoDesk 123D Catch: How accurate is it? by Jim Chandler and John Fryer (192KB PDF)

Emu Cave (Image Courtesy of John Fryer)

Emu Cave (Image Courtesy of John Fryer)

Emu Cave (Image Courtesy of John Fryer)

Emu Cave (Image Courtesy of John Fryer)


Zebedee-CSIRO Hand Held Laser Scanner

Zebedee-CSIRO Hand Held Laser Scanner

Phone Scanner app from ETH Zurich

Well, T., Hancock, G., Fryer, J. “Using laboratory simulations and gravestone measurements to estimate rates of sandstone weathering in the Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia.” Paper submitted to Environmental Geology, 2007.

Tim Davidson
Virtual Heritage: Experiencing the past through Virtual Reality
Timothy Davidson is Creative Director of Virtual Perspective, he has over 10 yrs experience within the 3D animation, visualisation and digital media fields and is currently exploring how virtual reality and augmented reality can be applied to the fields of archaeology, anthropology, history and cultural heritage. Contact

BONUS Presentation – Carol Carter (with Allan Chawner) – Photographic Reflections of Aboriginal Sites across three decades

Since the workshop we were contacted by Nicholas Hall (Indigenous Rock Art Workshop Co-ordinator) from the National Museum of Australia about ways to look ahead to new possibilities for collaborative efforts from various organisations and institutions nationally. Nicholas informed that a workshop will be held at the Museum on 29 June 2016, and of a book  Rock Art: A Cultural Treasure at Risk. How we can protect the valuable and vulnerable heritage of rock art by the Getty Conservation Institute. Nicholas is contactable at

Members of the Public are welcome to attend this free session

Contact Ann Hardy 49215824 or 0438509139 on .

For location see MAP for location of Auchmuty Library.

Kindly supported by Cultural Collections, University of Newcastle Library & the Hunter (Living) History Initiative

Other Sources

UON Indigenous Online Resource –  The Wollotuka Institute has endeavoured to provide staff, students and community with a comprehensive list of online resources to provide the user with a greater knowledge base, understanding and awareness of Indigenous cultures, lifestyles and issues.

Yengo Country:A place of cultural and spiritual awakening.  Garry Jones, 2009.

African Rock Art: research, digital outputs and heritage management conference, 4th-5th November 2016, British Museum. For further information visit website:

Local Treasures: The Birdwood Flag

The Birdwood Flag in its original condition. [Courtesy of The University of Newcastle's Anglican Diocese Archives in Cultural Collections A6137(iv)]

The Birdwood Flag in its original condition. [Courtesy of The University of Newcastle’s Anglican Diocese Archives in Cultural Collections A6137(iv)]

Day Shift – 20/05/2014 – 02:10 PM
Presenter: Carol Duncan
Interviewees: Bronwyn Orrock and Gionni Di Gravio, Archivist, University of Newcastle (Australia)

Gionni Di Gravio, Archivist of the University of Newcastle introduces Bronwyn Orrock, University scholar in Fine Arts who, from 2009-2011, undertook an important research project into the archives documenting the provenance of every object, relic and example of art and artisanship held in Christ Church Cathedral Newcastle.

Until 2014, one item eluded her, The Birdwood Flag, Australia’s first National Flag, and arguably the most important national cultural relic of the First World War, whose remains lay in a cardboard box in a safe. This is the story of the flag, its creators, and its rediscovery.

Broadcast Notes:

Introduction: Re-discovering the Birdwood Flag

During 2010 I completed an Honours Thesis for my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Newcastle, researching the history of the objects in Christ Church Cathedral, Newcastle. Many of the archives originally in an office in the damp south east corner of the Cathedral had been given by Dean Robert Beale (later Bishop) to the University for their embryo Local History collection in about 1976. I was given permission by the Cathedral Council to research those archives.

A chance finding of a little booklet referring to the Birdwood Flag started the process. After the goosebumps had settled down, realising that I was seeing important military history, I photographed the pages and put it in my folder of research material. Weeks later I came across some black and white images of an Australian flag but my non-military brain simply did not “connect the dots” (after all I was researching Fine Arts). Again I took some photo images for my research folder just in case there was any significance.

At first I believed that the booklet referred to The Gallipoli Flag in the Cathedral which had been painstakingly restored by public subscription and is kept in a glass case on the southern side of the Crossing. Several months later I was in the Cathedral photographing objects for my work and took a close look at the flag on display. I wondered what had become of the silver badges that were referred to in the booklet. Sometime later I mentioned to the former Dean Emeritus Graeme Lawrence, the material I had found about the flag and asked about the whereabouts of the badges. My confusion gave way to elation when he told me the Birdwood Flag was the one that hung over the Fallen Soldier in the St Michael Chapel until the early 1980’s and was the flag of the Commonwealth of Australia – not the Gallipoli flag which was a Union Jack.

He went on to explain that it was his task as Dean, when the flag fell (as is military custom) to “quietly and reverently” dispose of the flag (destroy). Although he did not know the history of the flag in any detail, he felt sure that the flag would one day be of great importance, simply because he knew it was an Australian flag from WWI, so he had made a decision to disobey tradition and secrete the pieces of the flag and the badges in a cardboard box in the bottom of the strongroom. That flag was replaced by a new smaller version in the 1980’s presented by the Returned Services League.

I went home and re-examined those old photographs for hours – enlarging them on Photoshop to see if I could read the badges or see the name of the flag-maker. I could suddenly see that it was hand-made and was a beautiful silk-like material, but the quality of my images and my Photoshop skills were not good enough to read it clearly.

I approached then Dean James Rigney, in great anticipation of the discovery and he told me that the strongroom contained items which I could not access. Disappointed, I kept the knowledge in my heart, hoping against hope the box had not been destroyed or thrown out in a clean-up undertaken after the retirement of Dean Lawrence. He later told me he did not believe the box was there any longer. I later told Gionni Di Gravio Head of the University Archives – I was bitterly disappointed that the flag seemed destined to be included in a section in my work cataloguing “Lost stolen or destroyed Cathedral treasures”. His advice was to hold-fast and wait, that one day there would be an opportunity to find out if the flag was really there. Three years later Dean Stephen Williams was appointed and I had a discussion with him and told him about the flag. He looked for the flag and the rest as they say, is history.

When I received the call to say the flag had been found, I cried with happiness and a wave of chills and shudders of emotion swept over me. Several years ago my husband and I visited the Somme, France for Anzac Day, as my husband’s Grandfather had died there only weeks after being relocated from Gallipoli. I shook with emotion when I realised that this Australian flag was probably the one saluted by our family member and the many other Aussie Diggers who went into those terrible killing fields and who never returned home to their wives, children and parents.

Just as in Australia, there was no grave to mourn in France, just a simple name chiseled on a limestone wall among thousands of others – all that remained to signify the existence of an” ordinary bloke” a courageous volunteer Aussie soldier at Villers Bretonneux. You see, there was no body to find and bury, no keepsakes or identity tags found to provide closure for the family, just fragments swallowed up by the mud in ‘no-mans’ land in the fields between the Windmill and Mouquet Farm in 1916.

And now…the possibilities of a National Treasure – that Australian Flag! I believe from my brief readings on World War I that this flag was possibly the only Australian flag used outside headquarters during WWI. General Birdwood had a deep respect for the Aussies under his control led by Australian hero of the Somme, Sir John Monash who pioneered new battle techniques, which led to the freeing of Villers Bretonneux and eventually turned the tide of war on the Western front.

Bronwyn Orrock
22 January 2014

Gionni’s note

It was at a meeting to discuss the care and preservation of some unrelated historic Cathedral drawings on the 12 November 2013, that both Amir Mogadam (University Conservator) and I got a chance to view the remains of the Birdwood Flag that lay in a shoebox. After a general question about the Birdwood Flag, and whether it had survived, the Cathedral’s Verger Robert Gummow took us to the safe and took out a shoebox marked “BIRDWOOD FLAG EXTREMELY FRAGILE”

The shoebox in which the remains of the Birdwood Flag had laid since the 1980s. (Photo by Gionni Di Gravio)

The shoebox in which the remains of the Birdwood Flag had laid since the 1980s. (Photo by Gionni Di Gravio)

When we opened the box our hearts sank.

The contents of the box, the crumbled remains of the Birdwood Flag (Photo: Gionni Di Gravio)

The contents of the box, the crumbled remains of the Birdwood Flag (Photo: Gionni Di Gravio)

My first impressions were very much like that of Rod Taylor’s character in the 1960 sci-fi classic The Time Machine, where the Eloi representative leads him into the archive and shows him the crumbled remains of ‘books’. What we saw appeared like the remains of the Dead Sea Scrolls, reduced to ash. How could we have allowed this to happen?

As soon as I had returned to the University I emailed Bronwyn Orrock at her last known email address, hoping to be able to tell her the news. She made contact two days later and I rang and told her the news. Her reaction was to burst into tears of joy. I again felt like I was in a Hollywood movie, this time, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, where Indiana was describing to his father the Tomb of Sir Richard. She also eased my mind by telling me of the tradition of the flag fall. So, now what to do? Since the original future conservation trajectory of this important Australian flag had now changed course? Our conservator set about contacting institutions who could possibly be our companions in its restoration, while the Newcastle’s Museum, Julie Baird, found a more suitable container for the Birdwood Flag’s remains.

Birdwood Flag rehoused in a proper container (Photo: Bronwyn Orrock)

Birdwood Flag rehoused in a proper container (Photo: Bronwyn Orrock)

We hope to be able to conduct a full conservation audit of the Birdwood Flag at the University of Newcastle, and hopefully identify the signature located in one of the two photographs of the original flag. This could possibly be the embroidered name of the sewer or maker of the flag.

Detail from one of the two photographs of the original Birdwood Flag showing a blurry signature of its creator (Photo: UoNCC)

Detail from one of the two photographs of the original Birdwood Flag showing a blurry signature of its creator (Photo: UoNCC)

A History of

“The Birdwood Flag”

The Australian National Flag in the Cathedral Church of Christ the King, Newcastle.

by Bronwyn Orrock

This flag is a narrative of our young nation’s history, it represents the growth of national pride, the gallantry, honour, stoicism, ingenuity and heroism of our volunteer Australian Infantry Force; the fears, hopes and aspirations of the families who loved and supported them and it also vocalises the unmentionable suffering, cruelty, horror, despair and death of the World War I.

The start of World War I in 1914 caused immediate effects on this small community so far from the front line with a decline in trade through the port of Newcastle of 50% in the first year. As well as widespread unemployment and economic ruin, the names of 20% of the 1000 strong congregation of Christ Church Cathedral were already listed on the Honour rolls.

The news from Europe continued to be grim, by end of 1916 on the Western front alone there were some 40,000 Australian casualties.

Miss Sparke, the catalyst and presenter of the Birdwood Flag was motivated by the enlistment and proudly patriot service of her two brothers, both of who were later to die as a result of injuries from the war. Somehow her herculean efforts at establishing the Field Forces Fund (NSW) raising money, making clothing, gathering gifts and soldiers comforts was not enough for her. Hearing of the horrors of war that her brothers and friends faced, she wanted to lift the spirits of the Australians so far from home. After reading about the donation of a Union Jack to the AIF she determined to send an Australian flag to be flown for the Australians and for it to be held in trust.

On the 31st August 1916 The Newcastle and Morning Herald & Miners’ Advocate reports the Australian Flag is almost ready to send overseas and the subscription list will soon be closed .

“Miss Dora Sparke writes, ‘The committee of the Field Force Fund, has received permission to present an Australian Flag to General Birdwood, for the Australian Imperial Force, in appreciation of the gallantry of our troops. All workers and sympathisers are invited to contribute, and in sending donations to the honorary secretary, to endorse them “Flag”. To attain the object in view, it is felt that it would be superfluous to make any more than a simple and direct appeal. It is proposed to have the names of the donors inscribed in a scroll to be sent with the flag. It is hoped that arrangements can be made for the presentation to be made upon Christmas Day. The time and place of the unfurling to be left to the proper authority.’ “

In the Northern Times (4.11.1916) it was additionally reported:

Any contribution however small, will be accepted in order to make the gift as representative as possible. The women and children of Great Britain recently presented a Union Jack to the AIF and it is through the Field Force Fund, that the Australian flag will float beside the flag of the Empire.”

In the Northern Times 7.12.1916 it is reported that

“Miss Ruth Seale, Hon Treasurer of the “Flag Fund” acknowledges receipt of the following amounts towards the Australian flag to be presented from the NSW Field Force Fund…

and the article goes on to list donors names and amounts (16) plus it mentions the silver plaque of presentation donated by Dora’s mother, Mrs Clara Sparke.

The Sydney Morning Herald (5.10.1917) reports:

“Attached to the standard was a silver plate of presentation donated by her mother”

Newcastle Morning Herald & Miners’ Advocate (5.12.1917) provides coverage of the AGM of the Field Force Fund and quotes Miss Dora Sparke at the end of giving her Annual Report:

“… read a letter stating that the flag had been presented to General Birdwood on September 12 on the field in France, and that the general had suggested that a silver shield should be attached to the flagpole upon which could be inscribed the famous battles of Australian troops. The committee, said the society’s organiser, had decided to adopt General Birdwood’s suggestion, and subscriptions would be specially invited for the purpose.”

Sydney Morning Herald (5.10.1917) said:

Miss Dora Sparke has received the following cable message from Mr Woodburn, Commissioner for the A.C.F abroad. “Have pleasure advising presentation flag General Birdwood in the field on 12th September. Many members present. General greatly appreciated gift, suggests silver plate engravings, showing names famous Australian battles be placed on pole. Shall we arrange have this done your behalf? Forwarding reports first mail”

The flag, which was subscribed to and presented from the women workers and honorary members of the NSW Field Force Fund, was accompanied by the following address to General Birdwood:

We ask you to kindly hold in trust for the Australian Imperial Expeditionary Force the flag which will be handed to you by the Commissioner for the Australian Comforts fund, [who] is forwarding the flag on behalf of the NSW Field Forces Fund. We know that it will be zealously guarded by you until such time as the victory of the Allies gives you the opportunity to hand it over to the force which you have commanded with so much distinction.”

The flag was presented to General Birdwood at his headquarters in the field by the Australian Comforts Fund Commissioner. General Birdwood suggested that additional silver shields be added to the flagpole under the one (donated by Mrs William Sharpe) to commemorate all the famous battles in which Australian troops had participated. The letter of the Commissioner who presented the flag, referred to the:

“great operations in progress, and we could not ask for more time for a leisurely and elaborate ceremony. No guard was available; and we were extremely unfortunate in missing the official photographer, but it was a happy little event and unique in so far as Australians are concerned in France. A grass plot in front of the General’s hut, a few square yards in extent held us, whilst the light misty rain drove across the fields before us. The General with his trusted staff around him – signs of war on every side- the never ceasing roll of guns and traffic- and there you have the scene! To us it was a particularly happy thought that you should send this flag. We who have worked in the field know that no-one takes a greater interest in the welfare of the Australian troops than General Birdwood; and we regard the flag as an emblem of affinity between him and you dear folk at home, whose devotion has meant so much to the boys who are fighting the good fight, for those who may not serve:”

This letter was signed by Chief Commissioner of the War Chest Fund, Mr T. S. Woodburn on behalf of the Australian Comforts Fund.

The Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (7.1.1918) & (26.7.1918)

The brief history of flag is given, followed by:

“ a letter dated London May 15, to Miss Sparke, from Colonel Woodburn concerning the making and presentation of the silver shields to General Birdwood in France. A letter from General Birdwood to Woodburn advised, “they have now been fixed to the pole bearing this flag, which you handed over to us some few months ago, and they do indeed look nice and add to the value of the gift.” Woodburn goes on to comment “These shields were engraved in three separate pieces recording the years 1915,1916 and 1917 and presented quite a handsome appearance. There will still be another year or part at least of actions of the A.I.F to be recorded, and we take this opportunity of asking that we may be allowed to complete the record on the flag of another year, by the addition of another shield at year end on your behalf.” The letter goes on to applaud the work of the NSW War Chest Fund and Woodburn talks at length of the heroism and homesickness of the troops, but their determination to compete their task….

It was in this atmosphere of staunch support for those who served, but gloom and malaise in the wider economy of the city, then Dean of Newcastle, Dr Horace Crotty determined early in the war to have a memorial erected in Christ Church Cathedral – perhaps an altar reredos. As the war years dragged interminably on, the widespread suffering and grief in the Newcastle region was a burden shared by the Dean and his colleagues who ministered to those left behind. Many families felt quite unable to say their farewells because they had no body to bury, no ritual, no ceremony that gave them the dignity of saying goodbye in a manner befitting the courage of these volunteers….and to assist in the healing of those left.

Some felt guilt that they were still alive while brothers and mates perished. It is a fact that no remains of any Australian servicemen killed in action in World War I were never repatriated, save the bones of a single soldier, which were placed in the Australian War Memorial in Canberra – in the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The signing of the Armistice on 11.11.1918 saw widespread rejoicing, but the enormous human impact and emotional malaise hung over the city like a cloud. Those who could, resumed their lives, and slowly talk turned to providing a place where families could come to grieve their lost sons, brothers and husbands. For former servicemen, a place to go to quietly to remember their mates that they left behind in the killing fields of Gallipoli and the Western Front. Many of these ‘walking wounded’ men were amputees, suffered bullet or shrapnel wounds or had post-operative infections, burns or mustard gas poisoning (even worse – this was before there were antibiotics and other life preserving drugs). Most suffered the continuing nightmares of post-traumatic stress disorder.

In this era of Victorian/Edwardian sensibilities and very civilised, polite society, the primitive indignity and gravitas of the war, which included chemical warfare and many new technologies was difficult for people to grasp, as news about the war to those at home had been ‘sanitised.’

Even if there had been money to undertake the long arduous journey by boat to Europe, (in those days a luxury for only the very wealthy) so many Australian service personnel had been buried hastily in unmarked graves on the battlefield, or disappeared without trace in the merciless bombardments, there was no identifiable final resting place of the loved one for families or friends to visit.

It has taken many years for us to understand the full horror of what those troops stoically suffered and how the families lived with anguish often for decades afterward. Mrs Clara Sparke is an example – she died less than two years after her youngest son at a relatively young age, and there is no doubt the boys’ fate impacted on her health substantially and affected the family severely.

Eventually the BHP Steelworks re-opened in 1922 and new industries sprang up to provide services; once more employment grew and hope emerged. During those years we also had a World Wide flue pandemic which killed scores of people in the region.

There was no official War Memorial in Newcastle when Dr Crotty launched an appeal calling on the community to build a special War Memorial Chapel to commemorate those who served their country. Immediately his call was answered by Hudson Berkeley, then owner of the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners Advocate and a long time Cathedral parishioner and benefactor who said ‘he would find the money’ – and he did 9,000 pounds, but unfortunately he died before construction was completed. Other prominent families, such as Commander Gardiner, the Wood family and the Parnell family also gave generous donations. Dr Crotty said:

“We now appeal to the city to respond to the splendid lead already given [by several parishioners] by providing furnishings in keeping with the beautiful fabric provided. The interior can be as beautiful as we make it.”

Fundraising events were held, flowers sold, fairs arranged and the seamstresses and farm labourers, domestic workers and shop assistants, coal miners, steelworkers, teachers, nurses and housewives dug deep and gave their pennies and farthings to see this chapel constructed. The biblical parallel to the parable of the Widow’s two coins, cannot be more clearly demonstrated than in this fine building. So some 17 years before the War Memorial was established in Canberra, this Chapel was built in the Hunter by public subscription to hold relics of significance and to provide a place to mourn and hopefully find some peace. It was in this spirit that Miss Sparke determined that the Cathedral would be the flag’s final home.

The Newcastle Morning Herald & Miners Advocate on 8.4.1920 reports:

………..”The cable was received by Miss Sparke advising that General Birdwood would shortly be leaving London for Australia and he wished to have Miss Sparke express her wish for the disposal of the flag. Miss Sparke sent a cable expressing that the flag should be returned to this city. The wish was respected and a cable was returned saying the flag had been sent to the War Records Office Melbourne (by then absorbed into the War Museum Commission). The flag was forwarded to Newcastle this week and Mr W Sparke has taken possession of it pending the return of Miss Dora Sparke from Tasmania.

[note: Dora was in Tasmania following the announcement of her engagement to Mr Dudley Ransome a former RAF pilot from a wealthy grazing family – but the marriage never occurs ]

When General Birdwood visited Newcastle on 28.4.1920 in his six month tour of Australia after World War I, he did a ceremonial ‘handing back’ of the flag at a Civic Reception in the City. Miss Sparke said:

“ we received the flag reverently as a memento of a glorious cause, and we would do all in our power to see that it was placed where no other enemy but Time could destroy it”

Newcastle Morning Herald 26.5.1922 reports on the previous Evensong Anzac Service at Christ Church Cathedral Newcastle giving account of the presentation of the Birdwood Flag” by Miss Dora Sparke to Dean Horace Crotty. In receiving the flag on behalf of the Chapter the Dean said:

“he would place it during the service on the Altar and it would afterwards find a permanent resting place on the walls of the cathedral, where it would speak for all time to the citizens of Newcastle of the glorious deeds of the men of the Australian Imperial Force. ”

[The words of the service were deeply moving and inspirational I recommend the full report is read]

It hung for many years over the magnificent bronze sculpture of Alfred Forster, representing all servicemen, When it ‘fell’ in the early 1980’s the pieces were recovered and quietly placed in a box in storage by Dean Graeme Lawrence and it is those tiny fragments of our collective national memory we hold so dear today.

In the aftermath of the 1989 Newcastle Earthquake, and the immense damage to the Cathedral, (which entailed an eight year rebuilding process) the flag’s very existence was forgotten until 2010. A chance discovery of the photographs of the flag were noticed in the University archives while other research was being undertaken, and the process tentatively began, to try and locate all the remains of the flag and re-discover all the history.

This is an unfinished story which will be added to as more information comes to hand.

Bronwyn Orrock 25.4.2014.

The silver plate engravings upon which were inscribed all the major Australian battles. (Image Courtesy of The University of Newcastle's Cultural Collections)

The silver plate engravings upon which were inscribed all the major Australian battles. Note the blurry signature on the left hand side. (Image Courtesy of The University of Newcastle’s Cultural Collections)


Who was Miss Dora Sparke?

Dora comes from a pioneer family of the Hunter. Her great great Grandfather was Edward Sparke Sr., who came as free settler from Devon in 1824 with wife Mary, five sons and servants, to take up a land grant along the Hunter River. The family had a long tradition of civic service and one of Edward Sr.’s nephews was the first Mayor of Sydney. Edward Sr.,  and each of his five sons received primary land grants in the Hunter Valley. These included “Woodlands”, “Webland Park” and “Woodbury”, the last two those of the family’s fourth son, William and his wife Mary Ann. William and Mary Ann were Dora’s great Grandparents.

Dora’s grandfather was William Andrew Sparke, born at “Webland Park” in 1832, second son of William and Mary Ann, and one time Mayor of Newcastle. W.A. Sparke and his wife Elizabeth Tighe (daughter of early Newcastle figure, Robert Tighe) were married on 23 June 1857. Their eldest son was William Sparke, born in 1858. He married Clara Harrison Smith in 1884, and had four children, the second of which was Dora, who was born in 1890.

William Sparke (1858-1948) was educated at Newcastle Grammar School, he was articled to George Wallace (at the time the Mayor of Newcastle). He was admitted to the Bar on the nomination of Sir Edmund Barton KC on 2.9.1882. He returned to Newcastle and founded his firm which over time became Sparke Millard and later Sparke Helmore Solicitors. He worked until 2 days before his death at age 90.

Miss Dora L. Sparke. President, Victoria League Newcastle. 1931-1948

Miss Dora L. Sparke. President, Victoria League Newcastle. 1931-1948

Miss Dora L. Sparke. President, Victoria League Newcastle. 1931-1948

28.7.1884, William married Clara Harrison Smith of Hobart, third daughter of (former) Captain Smith of the 99th Regiment – mother’s name not indicated.

Dora has one older sister Leila Muriel (1885-1968) and two brothers, both who joined the military and died as a result of War Service in World War I. There are no direct descendants of the four Sparke children.

Lt. Edward Rasleigh Sparke (1895-1919) younger brother of Leila and Dora was a volunteer in the first AIF and landed at Gallipoli in 1914. He fought in the battle of Lone Pine and continued on the Gallipoli Peninsula, eventually suffering a bullet wound to the foot. He returned to active service and he spent his 20th birthday in a dugout on the Gallipoli Peninsula. He was given a commission to Lieutenant and in April 1916 transferred to France where he had his 21st birthday. He was seriously gassed at the Battle of the Somme and never returned home to Newcastle. He was repatriated as an invalid to the Randwick Military Hospital, Sydney. He died of the complications of his gassing six months after the Armistice and was given a full military funeral on 24.6.1919 at Waverley Cemetery, Sydney.

Lt Alan Everard Sparke (1900-1927) wanted to “do his bit” for the war effort and being too young to enlist where his family was well known, he ran away from home aged 15 at the commencement of World War I. He traveled by ship to the UK dressed in Khaki, and arrived penniless. As a 6ft tall young man and an excellent horse rider, he was able to convince the authorities that he was in fact older than he was, and, enlisted in the City of London Yeomanry. After six months he transferred to the Royal Field Artillery serving in Palestine and Egypt. He gained a commission to second Lieutenant by 16, and later, a first Lieutenant. While on service in Salonika he contracted malarial fever and was evacuated to London where he recovered. He then joined the regular army where he was given a position as a military trainer at Aldershot. He was transferred to France to the Royal Horse Artillery and served with distinction until the Armistice was signed, (promoted to the rank of Captain at 18 in France) . After the war he went on a British Expeditionary Force (fighting the northern Russian Bolsheviks) traveling through Ukraine and 200 miles up River Dnieper. He served at Murmansk near St Petersburg and Arkhangelsk (Archangel) until the force was ordered back to the UK.

It was here in 1919 that he was informed of his brother’s grave illness and death in Sydney, so he took leave and returned home to family. Interviewed about the war in Russia on his return to Australia in 1920 he described scenes we would understand all too clearly today. In that interview he stated his ‘taking leave’ from his career and his intention to return to his life in the military in the UK after spending time with his family. Unfortunately Alan died at age 27 in the family home at Waratah. The initial media reports and the burial ceremony with no church service or military honours suggest suicide. A later Coronial inquest gives a finding of accidental death by gassing. A devastating tragic loss of an unsung true Hunter hero.

(Note: In those times suicide was considered a “sin” and not seen as the result of mental illness. Soldiers quietly bore the horror of their years of war and often told no-one not even close family members of their terrible experiences. Today we may understand this condition as probable post-traumatic stress disorder and the difficulty of re-adjusting to civilian life. He did not receive the hero’s burial one would expect of a gallant volunteer and later career soldier and adventurer.)

On this point we received this comment from Louise Gale, Sparke Family historian and (distant) cousin of Dora Sparke, by Email 13 July 2017:
“The suggestion that Alan committed suicide draws heavily on there being no church service at his funeral or military recognition. The burial took place long before the inquest findings, and indeed it may have been thought at the time that he had committed suicide, hence the low-key funeral arrangements, but the finding of the inquest (weeks later) was unequivocal that his death was accidental. Here is a link to the inquest report as reported in The Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate:
To say that both of Dora’s brothers died as a result of WWI service is perhaps an unwarranted statement to make about Alan’s death as late as 1927. It suggests he committed suicide as a result of war-related post-traumatic stress, and places more emphasis on what people may have thought initially (suicide), without taking into account the evidence presented at the inquest and the very definite outcome.
Regards, Louise”


Dora Lempriere Sparke was born on 1.12.1888. A bright child, she is named as Dux of Dominican Convent School. (Presumed her primary school). Dora is Dux of the Graduating year of Newcastle Girls’ Grammar School Waratah. Principal Ms Brownlie MA read the Annual Report to the School Prize Giving function, where it was reported Dora Sparke had successfully matriculated (gained University Entrance) the previous March at specific examinations held at East Maitland (although we have not found a record of her attending University in Australia). In 1920 Dora became engaged to Lt Dudley Ransome formerly of the Royal Flying Corps and from a Tasmanian grazing family but the marriage did not eventuate.

In a 1915 SMH article, largely about the Red Cross activities it describes the beginning of the Field Force Fund and Ms Dora Spark and committee – The Red Cross acted as a shield group which took donations from many sources for distribution O/S. The article applauds the work of the Field Force Fund as a group of young ladies who met initially to make items as Christmas presents for despatch to troops in the battlefields. It grew quickly over weeks, to a large sewing circle, then to a second group at Mayfield. It started social activities and street stalls, flower sales and card parties as fundraising events and oversaw collection depots at major retail stores in the Hunter. Schools played a large part in providing goods made by students and fundraising in smaller communities. Dora travelled to many parts of Newcastle, Lake Macquarie & the Hunter (10 branches in the area around Scone/Muswellbrook alone) and to northern and mid-western NSW, starting new branches. The Field Forces Fund, which started in such a small way inspired many others. It was later invited to merge into the NSW War Chest Fund, and was renamed the Newcastle and Hunter War Chest Fund, stretching from Murrundi to Morisset with Dora Sparke appointed the Honorary District Organiser and Superintendent.

Miss Sparke was a published writer and correspondent with articles still available on the digitised newspaper service on “Trove” (National Library of Australia). She was an inaugural member of the Fellowship of Australian Writers. A foundation member of the League of Nations Society and the Victoria League (A Commonwealth of Nations Friendship Society), she was for 17 years its President covered a period spanning World War II. This again saw her again undertake a huge volunteer public duty, fundraising and setting up industry to provide spun wool for knitting clothing, meals and services to allied military personnel (many of whom came to Newcastle at various stages of the war), arranged homestay and billets, raised cigarette funds for the troops, raised money to build mobile canteens to service air raid victims in the UK, sent clothing to victims of the London blitzes, supported the volunteer firefighters in the UK cities and after the war, worked with overseas born wives of Australian servicemen coming from around the world to live in the Hunter.


Planning War Work
PLANNING WAR WORK. (1939, September 14). Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954) , p. 3. Retrieved May 9, 2014, from

Spark family Home 1902 (Ralph Snowball Image Courtesy of Norm Barney Photographic Collection, University of Newcastle)

Sparke family Home 1901 (Ralph Snowball Image Courtesy of Norm Barney Photographic Collection, University of Newcastle)

The above 1901 image by Ralph Snowball (University of Newcastle Cultural Collections) also captures the only image we can locate of Dora Sparke. The family members are believed to be (from right to left) Edward Rasleigh Sparke (1895-1919) on the rocking horse, Dora Lempriere Sparke (1888-1957) holding the hand of her mother, Mrs Clara Sparke (died 1929). Leila Muriel Sparke (1885-1968) is on the verandah and holds baby Alan Everard Sparke 1900-1927. The last person, also shown in several other Snowball images with Clara and the baby, is believed to be the children’s paternal grandmother Mrs William Sparke (Elizabeth Tighe, daughter of Robert Tighe) This image shows the relatively newly completed Knoyle, later images show landscaping and fencing completed. See the larger detailed image here: 


Dora Lempriere Sparke (1888-1957) resigned per position from the Victoria League due to ill health in 1949 and is honoured as a life member of the Victoria League for her tireless work.

On her death she bequeathed the family home ‘Knoyle’ at Waratah to St Phillip’s Anglican Church. It became a Men’s Home and later became the first campus of St Phillip’s Christian School. It is still their administrative headquarters.

She is interred in the family grave at Sandgate with her mother father and two of her three siblings (Alan& Leila) while her brother Edward is interred in the Waverley Cemetery.

Mayoress Entertains

Mayoress Entertains

MAYORESS ENTERTAINS. (1944, July 20). Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954) , p. 4. Retrieved May 9, 2014, from 

Opening of Victoria League Club

Opening of Victoria League Club

OPENING OF VICTORIA LEAGUE CLUB. (1947, March 6). Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954) , p. 8. Retrieved May 9, 2014, from

The Warriors’ Chapel

Cover of The Warriors' Chapel Booklet

Cover of The Warriors’ Chapel Booklet

This official War Memorial Chapel, the St Michael Chapel predates the National War Memorial in Canberra by 17 years and while the tiny 46 x 18 ft space with a ceiling of 40ft is not the largest official war memorial, it can certainly lay claim to be the most exquisitely beautiful and impressive War Memorial in Australia. It is the Australian “Mother Church’ of the Toc H movement. The Chapel:

  • Is a celebration of Australian materials – it employed the best craftspeople and artisans from Melbourne and Sydney.
  • The whole of the chapel is lined with Sydney Sandstone and clad on the outside with the same pressed and double baked bricks as the rest of the Cathedral. The external roof was originally Muntz Metal which is a copper/zinc/iron alloy – a salt resistant material but this too was eventually affected by the salt air and had to be replaced in the 1970’s.
  • The only timber in the Chapel is the ceiling of Australian red cedar timber with carved timber angels and corbels. These originally supported Italian translucent marble lights, which unfortunately were replaced in the 1950’s due to their blackening caused by the heat of the incandescent globes.
  • There are arcaded recesses around the walls and the eastern end of the chapel is ‘apsed’ with pink marble reredos encasing the magnificent bas-relief George Tinworth panels. We are one of only four places in Australia who have examples of his bas-relief art – the other is Old Parliament House Canberra, the Sydney Powerhouse Museum, National Gallery of Victoria and Queensland Art Gallery. We understand we may be the only place in the world outside York Minster who can boast a complete Tinworth altar reredos still intact.
  • Anthony Horden and sons supplied the Altar and the marble steps
  • The floors are Australian marble and the steps leading to the pink marble altar represent the significance of Christian life expressed in Dante’s Divine Comedy. The first step is white- Inferno – the mirror of penitence, the second Purgatorio – the Black step is the gloom of contrition, the red step Paradisio in Canto IX, represents the favour of the new moral world we pass into under the guiding hand of God.
  • Around the walls of the chapel below the highly placed 13 stained glass leadlight windows by Kempe and Co of London, is a stringer course of stone exquisitely carved with foliage and the inscription with the verse of Laurence Binyan, we have all learn’t as children:They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old, age shall not weary them nor the years condemn , at the going down of the sun and in the morning we shall remember them. These last four words appear above the altar.
  • A perpetual red light of remembrance hangs from the top of the Sanctuary above this shrine. Above this is a bronze of the crucifixion – the Christus being crowned with an Imperial Crown as the King of Sacrifice.
  • Carved in the solid stone is the following inscription:

    “Hallowed in the name of Christ, be the memory of the Brave Men and Women who died in the great war for the Freedom of the World. They shall yet stand before the Throne an exceeding great army, and in that last muster, There shall be found, These our own well beloved”.

  • The western wall of the chapel has three gothic recessed archways and the centre one has the Australian “Rising Sun” insignia worn by our Army. The left archway has the Navy insignia and the right hand archway has the Air Force insignia. This is where the Birdwood flag hung from 1924 until the 1980’s when it fell to the ground.
  • On this wall is also a glazed case containing an original timber cross marking the grave of an unknown soldier in France and presented by the (then) Prince of Wales – later King Edward VIII. This is held in safekeeping for Toc H, a worldwide peace movement of former troops emanating from WWI (if you haven’t heard of them there is an interesting website available.)
  • In front of this wall lies a bronze sculpture by Sir Cecil Thomas of Kensington London, of the Fallen Warrior – his friend Alfred Forster the younger son of Lord & Lady Forster, Governor General of Australia. Alfred was injured in 1918 serving in the Scots Greys, Cecil Thomas was wounded at the same time and lay beside his friend in hospital; Alfred died of his injuries the next year. Cecil recovered and went on to study art after the War ended. He set about casting his friend’s image in bronze and in 1924 his sculpture was installed at St Hallows in London (it was highly commended by the Royal Academy). Lord and Lady Forster presented a second casting to Toc H (a World War I peace movement) to be laid at its Australian mother Church. Interesting to note that although he was Governor General of Australia, sadly both of Lord Forster’s sons served and were killed in WWI – reflecting the Australian experience where many families grieved multiple family deaths.
  • It was Lord Forster’s specific wish that the effigy be no longer a sole personal memorial to Alfred and so it bears no name or badge – it is to represent all who died. The only inscription is from the famous words of Laurence Binvon’s poem:

    “They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old, Age shall not weary them or the years condemn.”

  • In this wall is a piece of stone carved in the shape of a Canterbury cross sent by the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury Cathedral UK.
  • Later, a rushlight used by prisoners of war of the Imperial Japanese Forces at Changi in World War II, was presented to Toc H and also resides on the wall.

Note also the magnificent gold pieces by William Marks of Gardenvale Victoria who worked in the UK during the time of the Arts and Crafts movement and was a world renowned art enameller & goldsmith.

The women of the Diocese who had lost a husband, fiancé or son in the War donated their jewellery and this was melted down and used by William Marks to make the 18 carat “Book of Gold” (once left in the Chapel but now stored behind protective glass). The case is of chased gold and is encrusted with gemstones from the jewellery. In hand-wrought calligraphy and rich mediaeval styled illumination by local artist Mrs. EJ Dann, the names of all those lost in World War I from the Newcastle Diocese are listed on a parish by parish basis. A second book contains the names of all the 20,000 local Australians who died in active service with their rank mustering and place of death in this “war to end all wars.”

William Marks was also commissioned to make an alms dish, chalice, paten, wall cross and altar cross and candlesticks with matching vases. These irreplaceable and exquisite pieces of the goldsmith’s art are as beautiful and perfect underneath as they are on the visible surfaces.

Bronwyn Orrock


The Birdwood Flag represents one of the important cultural treasures of Australia. With the help of one of our cherished volunteers, Miss Octavia Anderson, we have digitised the entire Anglican Diocese of Newcastle file relating to the Warriors Chapel and Birdwood Flag 1924-1979.

A6137(iv)- Christ Church Cathedral – Warriors Chapel-File (30 MB PDF)


Gionni Di Gravio
University Archivist
May 2014


Welcome To Our Valley [1969]

Title: Welcome To Our Valley [1969]

Script: Glen Burrows

Director: Peter Scott

Production: John Bushelle Production Pty Ltd Sydney Australia.

Produced for The Hunter Valley Co-operative Dairy Company Ltd.

Description: 1 film reel (29 min.) : sd., col. ; 16 mm.

Summary: Opening scene depicts arrival of Endeavour to the shores of Australia followed by scenes (possibly) inside Glenbawn Dam’s Museum of Rural History (?) and a survey of the Hunter Valley’s natural features including Glenbawn dam, and water’s importance to primary producers including agriculture (Maitland district), horse studs, wine and vineyards, beef cattle, historic homesteads, wool and sheep, dairy cattle, milk and butter production, Oak vehicles and factory, showtime, rodeo, woodchopping, Sydney’s Royal Easter Show, Newcastle, Port, Coal, Power Stations, B.H.P. Steelworks, Milk and butter production and distribution, homes, civic pride, Oak milk bars, beaches, Lake Macquarie, Sailing Clubs, Aerial fly over to Port Stephens, conclusion.

Subject: Hunter Valley (N.S.W.)

This is a 16mm film colour film reel that forms part of the collection of Archives of the Hunter Valley Co-Operative Diary Company Limited.

It was digitised in April 2014 for the University of Newcastle’s Cultural Collections (Auchmuty Library) Australia.

Valley of the Hunter River (1960)

This is a 16mm film reel that forms part of the Archives of the Hunter Valley Co-Operative Diary Company Ltd.

It was digitised in April 2014 for the University of Newcastle’s Cultural Collections (Auchmuty Library) Australia.

The original black and white 16mm film is not in the best condition, but our digitisers did the best they could, the quality does get more stable as the film proceeds.

Title: Valley of the Hunter River

Script and Production by Fred Whatham

Commentary by Roger Climpson

Australia : Cine-Austral, 1960.

Description:   1 film reel (38 min.) : sd., bw. ; 16 mm.

Notes:  Distributor: F. W. P. Whatham.

Summary: The geography and geology of the Hunter River Valley showing the river system, the dams and the activities of the area such as coal mining, race horse breeding, dairying, fat lamb raising, lumbering, wine making and vegetable growing.

Subject:  Hunter Valley (N.S.W.)

Other Author:  Whatham, Fred.

The Freeman Project – A UoN/Powerhouse Museum Conservation Research Project

The Freeman Project
University of Newcastle – Powerhouse Museum Conservation Research Project

UoN Conservator Amir Rezapourmogadammiyandabi with large scale glass negative

UoN Conservator Amir Rezapourmogadammiyandabi with large scale glass negative

In early 2011 our Conservator Amir Mogadam began a regional internship program with the Powerhouse Museum, volunteering his time (one day a week) to work on the Freeman Collection Conservation Project.

The aim of the Freeman Project was to trial preservation methods with damaged photographic collections and to document and preserve a collection of 28 oversized photographic negatives (glass plate) taken in late 19th century (possibly as early as the 1870s).

The Collection was donated by the Freemans studios (Sydney) in 1969 and housed in a wooden box for over 40 years.

The collection includes 28 photographic glass plate negatives sized 20” x 16”. The negatives were identified as collodion (fine grained) processed and silver gelatine processed glass plates. The collection also includes 3 wooden chests measuring 25.5” x 17.5”.

The project in brief included:
• Research into the history of the Collection
• Research into the type of negative process used
• Documentation
• Securing
• Cleaning
• Digitization
• Rehousing
• Experimenting the restoration methods

At the commencement of the project the condition of the negatives was unknown. Other issues to overcome were space restrictions, fragility of the emulsion layer and glass substrate, and inappropriate housing.

In this project the preservation measures were conducted in two phases. In the first phase, as an emergency action, all negatives and other objects in the collection were photographed and documented in order to obtain a better understanding of the scope of the collection and also record their current condition at the beginning of the project, prior to securing them to avoid further damage.

The second phase included further preservation measures such as researching the history of collection, identifying the type of negative process, cleaning, thorough digital and written documentation, and proper rehousing provided for the collection.

Complementary measures included an investigation into restorative solutions as to how to repair negatives that had lost their emulsion layer. To achieve this, Amir was able to conduct experiments using samples provided by NSW State Records.

Amir examining large deteriorated glass negative

Amir examining large deteriorated glass negative

The Freeman Project took over 500 hours spread across 77 weeks to complete. During this time all 28 over size silver gelatine and collodion glass plate negatives were documented, cleaned and rehoused. The Project has enriched our knowledge for the preservation of endangered glass plate negatives; the practical experiments provided us with the knowledge of preserving damaged glass plate collections.

H8504-6 emulsion pieces assembled during repair (image turned positive digitally)

H8504-6 emulsion pieces assembled during repair (image turned positive digitally)

The Freeman Project is recognised by the Power House Museum as a good example of regional internship work. It is proposed that the University host an exhibition of the preserved images to be accompanied by a Conservation seminar by the UoN Conservator on the project.

This will provide our local regional audiences with access to examples of conservation techniques, and insights into the conservation work the UoN is capable of doing outside Sydney. It also showcases our ability and willingness for further cooperative work with other conservation institutions providing enhanced reputation and recognition for the University of Newcastle and its collaborative partners.

The Powerhouse Museum’s article on the project entitled “Doing jigsaws at work, recapturing an 1880s image” is available here:

The Powerhouse Museum’s photo of the day for Thursday Jan 24th 2013.”Miss Munro, Freeman Brothers Studio, 1871-1880″ is one of the photographs Amir worked on as part of the Project:

Further images can be viewed here:

Amir’s Project poster abstract for the joint meeting (conference) of American Institute of Conservation and the ICOM-CC Photographic Materials Group was also accepted at the Te Papa Museum of New Zealand that was held from 11-15 February, 2013.