City of Launceston council has walked back its previously reiterated position that no further investigation would take place at a former Kings Meadows convict site, as a briefing document reveals further details about the nine-day dig.
In order to assist the Tasmanian Heritage Council consider a heritage nomination for the site, City of Launceston general manager Michael Stretton told The Examiner further collaborative excavations – deemed neither “warranted or planned” in late November – may now be necessary.
“This process will also determine the need for any future management of the site,” Mr Stretton said, adding that the current subdivision works do not impact the convict station site “in any way”.
The three-page KMCS Excavation Brief, obtained under Right to Information, outlines some details about both the process of the excavation – which received $10,000 of council support – and what was discovered in the “short time-frame allocated”.
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In a separate letter sent to The Examiner shortly after the document’s release, Mr Stretton noted the council had agreed to fund and release in full the recommended final report – expected to be completed later in the year.
Negotiated between council, the land owner and Southern Archaeology to “locate and record the extent” of the convict station, the excavation went largely according to the initial archaeological plans provided to council, the document says.
One “major” change was the use of an excavator – supplied by the landowner – to uncover more area in the time available.
Initially, the trenches dug focused on known features within the area the convict station was believed to be located, then expanded “as more were uncovered”.
Along with findings previously made public, the document shows the excavation found a “brick lined reservoir” extending up to two metres below ground level, a table drain containing “Broad Arrow” marked bricks and a wooden barrel possibly predating the 1850s.
A chimney base located within the area of the commandants cottage gave “strong evidence” of a building in the area, as did a “concentration of artefacts” found while digging shallow test pits.
What is described as a “dump” was located in a nearby gully, which the document suggests could have been filled with material from the station once it fell out of use in the early 1840s.
Ultimately, the brief suggested the former site had been found – though “few features” remained from the original structure – and noted the excavation had revealed as much as was possible “within the time-frame allowed”.
A final report was to be completed and the approved subdivision could “progress as planned”, the document recommended.
Responding to questions about the scope and time allowed for the excavation, Mr Stretton said it was determined on advice from the archaeologist and in line with budget allocations.
“The Council and the developer continue to work collaboratively with the Tasmanian Heritage Council as they progress their nomination considerations,” he added.
“There are currently no restrictions on works at the site imposed by the Tasmanian Heritage Council.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment – within which Heritage Tasmania sits – said the department was not in a position to provide comment or information on the matter.
“The archaeological investigations being conducted at the Kings Meadows Convict Road Station are being coordinated by the Launceston City Council,” the spokesperson said.
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