The canal restoration work was initiated with a $90,000 grant by the Anglican Trust toward the Federation Cultural Heritage Project, undertaken by the Joint Committee of Necropolis Trustees.
The grant was to cover the cost of landscaping the area adjacent to the Serpentine Canal to a limit of $90,000. We originally intended using an earlier commissioned landscape master plan for the cemetery but our accumulated knowledge of the site suggested it was not accurate enough; so we found ourselves examining tree stumps, roots and suckering remnants to determine what the original tree plantings were and where they were.
Slowly we were able to piece together the original landscape planting patterns of the turn of the century. The results of months of research produced a working plan for restoration of the site.
Savings of over $230,000 for landscaping and $600,000 for road restoration were achieved. These opportunities included securing 8,000 cubic meters of road profiling from the R.T.A. at no cost; 5,000 Agapanthus donated by the public; additional labour from Work for the Dole, Friends of Rookwood – Helping Hands, and casuals from the Silverwater Correctional Centre;and propagation of additional plant material by Mr. Glen Piggott, of the Joint Committee of Necropolis Trustees.
These savings, together with the strong community support from the Friends of Rookwood, both physically with planting assistance and financially, with $42,500 for the restoration of the No. 1 Fountain, allowed us to complete additional works not originally planned.
The project for restoration of the ornamentation turned out to be a jigsaw puzzle with most of the pieces missing. The replacement urns for example, were reconstructed from the designs on fragments found of the old urns that lay in the mud of the ponds for decades. These fragments, pieced together with the aid of a few old photos of the period helped the sculpters to recreate the urns - 54 in total comprising many different designs.
As the work progressed the Trustees decided to allocate additional funding to complete the restoration of all 31 hectares (70 acres) of neglected landscape of the P.C.A. (Permanent Conservation Area). This included:
This work has become the catalyst for the Anglican Trust’s commitment to an expansive restoration of many more roads and landscaping of an historic cemetery renowned by generations of visitors for its derelict appearance.