Restoring the store
12 January 2015
Once a crumbling ruin, Weirs Cove storehouse in Flinders Chase National Park has been undergoing restoration so that visitors can better appreciate our cultural heritage and gain an understanding of its purpose and history.
Completed in 1908, the storehouse, together with a jetty and flying fox was one of the first structures at Weirs Cove. It was built as the landing and loading point for the construction of the Cape du Couedic Lighthouse on Kangaroo Island. The building was later used for the landing of stores for the lightstation.
For people used to the convenience of seven-day-a-week, 24 hour (online) shopping, it’s hard to imagine a time when stores were delivered only every three months and that depended on weather conditions being suitable for landing. The goods were hauled up the steep cliffs and kept in the storehouse until they were transferred to the lightstation two kilometres away.
In 1957 works commenced to convert the lighthouse to automatic operation, removing the need for light keepers and their families at Cape du Couedic. The storehouse was sold. The purchaser removed the roof, windows and doors but found that ‘this beautifully constructed building was beyond his powers of destruction’.
The ruined storehouse stood as a reminder of the lightstation’s isolation and remote setting on the rugged south coast of Kangaroo Island. In 1984 the importance of the place to South Australia’s cultural heritage was recognised when Weirs Cove Jetty, Funnelway and Store Ruin were given State heritage listing.
By 2009, after 50 years subjected to the fierce weather from the Great Southern Ocean, the remaining storehouse walls were in perilous condition and the storehouse was fenced off for public safety. Rather than simply demolishing the standing walls, Natural Resources Kangaroo Island in partnership with the State Heritage Unit looked at other options.
In 2014 work was completed to stabilise the ruined walls by re-pointing stonework and capping the tops of walls, keeping water from fretting away the stonework. A timber structure was constructed inside the walls to brace the stone walls against the forces of the wind.
‘We are fortunate to have someone of Chris Jones’s calibre (Regional Asset Services Officer for Natural Resources Kangaroo Island) with his enthusiasm and good working knowledge of heritage conservation’ said Robert Ellis, Land and Visitor Manager, Natural Resources KI. ‘He was instrumental to the project being delivered to the high standard it was. This followed him completing a stonemasonry course in 2009 as part of a Heritage Trades training scheme delivered by the Construction Industry Training Board in partnership with the Department of Environment Water and Natural Resources’.
Weirs Cove storehouse has recently reopened, allowing visitors to learn more about the history and heritage of our state. When you next visit Flinders Chase National Park, take the time to tour the Weirs Cove site and imagine shopping, lighthouse keepers’ style!