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Cemetery stonemasons and old staging post studied as part of council program

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Cemetery stonemasons will be the focus of a special research project, as part of Sunshine Coast Council’s historian-in-residence program.

They were among the most skilled artists of their day but could not have been any further from the spotlight, surrounded by the dead, and they toiled in the quietest and most solemn of locations, where they decorated and embellished final resting places.

The early rock stars even signed their work like an artist, partly out of pride and partly self-promotion.

It was form that once flourished across the region, but there are many gaps in the history and stories to be uncovered, which is why the stonemasons and cemeteries will be the focus of a fact-finding mission as part of the latest instalment of the historian-in-residence program.

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The program includes local heritage experts shining a light on a broad range of topics from First Nations to European settlement stories, with the community invited to provide input.

Dr Lisa Murray will lead the foray into the evolution of cemeteries and the stonemasons who crafted history.

“There are 19 cemeteries on the Sunshine Coast; 15 of these and five burial sites are heritage-listed and great sources of heritage information,” she said via a council media release.

The entrance portico and memorial gates at Buderim Cemetery.

“Monumental masons were the public artists of their day and often the most skilled craftsmen in the area.

“The shape, style and material of a headstone are pointers to the period in which stones were manufactured.

“Many of these masons signed their work and while many were Brisbane-based, I’m interested in uncovering those memorials attributed to Andrew Lang Petrie, who covered the period between 1903-1983.

“I’d be keen to hear from anyone who engaged the services of Petrie during this time or who has stories or photographs of local monumental masons.”

Dr Murray said individuals also chose memorials as a personal yet public expression of their beliefs, values and community connections, so anyone with information about why certain stones were chosen is of interest.

“I’m also researching cemetery trees, gates and entrances, unique memorials, grave furniture and floral displays, so photos, stories or information will be gratefully received.”

Dr Murray’s research will build and strengthen knowledge of local heritage and provide avenues for possible heritage trails and resources.

Another current focus for the program is one of the region’s most historic homes, Bankfoot House at Glass House Mountains.

Dr Ken Greenwood, a behavioural scientist, will flesh out the lives of the three generations of the same family who lived at the property, which was a staging post for those on their way to the Gympie gold rush.

“Bankfoot House is a time capsule and unique for its intact collection. I’m hoping my research will strengthen and enrich the visitor experience and would love some help from the local community,” he said.

Bankfoot House is a state heritage-listed property.

“My research topic has three areas of focus and the first is to create properly referenced biographies for William and Mary Grigor and all of their descendants and spouses who lived at Bankfoot House. 

While death certificates, land matters and probate documents paint a good picture, it’s a little flat. To really bring the personalities to life and provide the best visitor experience to the heritage precinct, we need the colour that personal stories bring.

“I’d love to hear from anyone who knew the Grigors or their descendants and has stories, photographs or anecdotes that bring vibrancy to these characters.

“It can also be tricky to work out who was living in the house at any given time, so another part to my research will be to create a biography of the precinct itself, using the house as a narrator – hopefully providing an interesting way to share this information.”

Anyone who has information or photos to share on either topic can contact Cultural Heritage Services via email at culturalheritage@sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au or phone 5420 8600.

For further information, see on the historians-in-residence program and to read past historian reports click here. The project is supported by the Sunshine Coast Arts and Heritage Levy.

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