Kennards Self Storage Petersham

The restoration of the Paul Beadle sculptures

Paul Beadle, Mural Sculpture – Farmer, Brewer, Drayman, Publican

August 05, 2022 by Kennards Self Storage

When overseas tourists think of the harbour city, their thoughts no doubt turn to the usual suspects: the Opera House and the Bridge.

But savvy locals know Sydney has more unique landmarks than these two; sites that evoke childhood memories, make us feel secure in their familiarity, and remind us why we love this crazy city, despite the appalling public transport, permanent traffic jams and developer-led planning decisions.

Author Vanessa Berry appreciates the overlooked sights of the city. Since 2012, she has been writing a popular blog called Mirror Sydney, and has published a book by the same name, in which she inspires us to see with fresh eyes things that have been in front of us all along.

“All the places I write about are places that are sort of hidden in plain sight,” says Berry. “You notice them but might not know what they are or why they are there.”

She says Sydney’s landmarks often become more visible when they are threatened in some way.

When asked to name her top five Sydney landmarks, she nominated:

The Warwick Farm harbour bridge at the entrance to the Peter Warren car dealership in Warwick Farm; Balls Head rock engravings; the Petersham water tower; the Readers Digest building in Surry Hills; and the Hornsby Water Clock.

“The clock was a controversial feature of the 1990s redevelopment of Hornsby’s shopping precinct, … and continues to divide opinion: artwork or eyesore?”

Another landmark is located at 606 Parramatta Road Petersham.

Kennards Self Storage Building, Petersham

You can see the damn thing from everywhere: land, sea and air.

There is even a rumour that the crew on the International Space Station chart their orbit by using it as a landmark.

The big orange monolith on Taverners Hill, at 606 Parramatta Road, started out life as a brewery. It has been used as a self-storage facility since 1984.

It features a 1954 frieze by sculptor Paul Beadle: ‘Farmer, Brewer, Drayman, Publican’, celebrating the process of beer production.

The four concrete pre-cast sculptures were fabricated by the renowned New Zealand modernist sculptor and medallist Paul Beadle.

Paul Beadle (1917-1992), sculptor, was born in England and studied at the Cambridge Art School and the Central School of Arts and Crafts during the 1930s. He arrived in Australia in 1944 and became known for his ‘bronzetti’ satirising history, literature and politics. He taught at the NAS for four years before becoming head of the Newcastle Art School in 1952; later he was principal of the South Australian School of Art for two years. Beadle made the 11-metre high eagle and sphere surmounting the Australian-American Memorial at Canberra’s Russell Offices, which was completed at a cost of 100 000 pounds (much of it raised by public subscription) in early 1954. In 1961 he moved to Auckland to take up the position of Chair of Fine Arts at the University’s Elam school. In 1969 he exhibited at the Bonython Galleries in Sydney as well as in Adelaide and Auckland; up to the mid-seventies he showed at Australian Galleries in Melbourne.

The sculptures themselves were constructed in 1953 at the Newcastle Technical College and were installed on the building which was, at the time, occupied by British Breweries Limited. This is why the subject matter of the sculptures reflects the four trades central to the brewing and distribution of beer,  the Farmer, the Brewer, the Drayman and the Publican. The sculptures are particularly fine works with a high level of detail which is not often achieved in cast concrete. It was also an innovative use of the early high-strength cement Celerite which had only previously been used in industry. This innovation in materials and artistic and aesthetic quality earned Beadle finalist status in the Sulman prize for mural projects in 1953.

The bas relief sculptures were pre-cast into plaster of Paris moulds using a 3:1 mixture of sand and Celerite sulfide cement. Upon close inspection at height, ICS conservators detected at least five cast layers of the material. Each sculpture contains a series of metal armatures which are tied into the building for structural support. Despite their proximity to the busy traffic of Parramatta Road below, the sculptures were found to be in good condition for their age and material composition as sulfide cement is known to readily oxidise and deteriorate.

The bas relief sculptures
The bas relief sculptures
Artist Paul Beadle preparing the model of the farmer
Artist Paul Beadle

The sculptures have endured the building changing ownership many times since their installation and have been under the custodianship of Kennards Self Storage since 1984. Weather and time have not treated the four sculptures kindly and they had deteriorated to the point that they may have been lost to us.

Restoration Work

Kennards Self Storage took on the project of saving this piece of history. Kennards contacted International Conservation Services (ICS) and along with a building contractor, Andersal, took on the careful restoration work.

The four sculptural figures measure approximately 4000x1100mm each. They were modelled in bas relief by the artist and pre-cast in a 3:1 mixture of sand and the proprietary Celerite sulfide cement. Each piece is cast in three separate sections with a brick corbel supporting the bases.

Investigation at height confirmed that the castings were approximately 125mm thick at the perimeter edges of each cast section. Evidence at the larger losses suggests that the sculptures were cast in at least 5 layers. The individual sculptures were built into shallow recesses within the brick wall with each section stabilised and secured with a fixing rod at the rear. The render which originally surrounded each sculpture was the same texture and colour as the sculpture and unpainted.

Commencing in December 2021, ICS worked in conjunction with the remedial building contractor Andersal who were tasked with removing and replacing the failing render wall around the artworks.

The surfaces were dusty with atmospheric pollutants settling particularly on the horizontal surfaces and throughout the surfaces were granulated and powdery due to the degradation of the binder materials in the cementitious blend. Other breakages and losses were minimal as can be expected by their high and therefore protected position on the Kennards building façade.

The first step to conserve the artworks was to gently clean by brushing and vacuuming away the accumulated dirt. Any staining of the cement was carefully removed with chemical solvents and mechanical methods. Specialist Stone Masons from Brookvale Stone were engaged to undertake some mortar repairs to joins and cracks. This was completed by packing areas with a compatible mortar mixture, colour matched to the original Celerite.

Kennards historic concrete statues before restoration Kennards historic concrete statues after restoration

Statues before and after restoration Statues before and after restoration Statues before and after restoration Statues before and after restoration

ICS and Andersal then worked closely to integrate the fresh render of the wall with the aesthetic appearance of the sculptures and to ensure that the total system of the building façade and sculptural works presented in a harmonious and integrated way as the sculptures begin their next chapter as a wonderful public artwork.

The sculptures are in a stable condition and the strength provided to the cement surfaces by the consolidation treatment will improve the retention of fine surface detail and promote good preservation outcomes in the future. The condition of the sculptures has been improved by the removal of surface soiling and the repointing of cracks and joins that were allowing increased water ingress.

The areas at highest risk of failure are the newly instated polyurethane mastic seams between the sculptures and the wall, which will serve as points where moisture gathers. Given the internal wall surface is not sealed, it is hoped that excess moisture from the environment will evaporate through the back of the wall and cause minimal harm to the sculptures. Regular annual inspections by specialist conservators are recommended to assess the condition of the sculptures and wall system moving forward.

A close-range condition assessment of the Paul Beadle sculpture was undertaken on 6th December 2021 by Nicola Ashurst (Head of Conservation, Objects and Outdoor Heritage). Conservation works commenced in December 2021 and were completed in March 2022 by Alis Jitarescu (Objects Conservator), Kristina Taylor (Graduate Conservator & Technician), Claire Rowson (Conservation Manager) and Nicola Ashurst.

Kennards Self Storage, along with ICS and Anderal are very proud to have been part of a project where a part of Sydney’s past was saved and preserved for the future. Kennards Self Storage has many examples of giving buildings from the past a second life and prevented them from being torn down.

Read more about Andersal’s projectKennards Self Storage Petersham.

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