Ruins need urgent rescue

Structure surveyed . . . Assessing work needed to stabilise Cargill's Castle are (from left) trustee of Cargill's Castle Trust Cameron Olsen, University of Otago School of Surveying professional practice fellow Richard Hemi, Origin Consultants architect Kirsten Gibbs, structural engineer Lou Robinson, Origin Consultants director and building surveyor Robin Miller, trustee Naomi Woods, archaeologist Jeremy Moyle, and trust chairman Steven de Graaf. PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD

The spectacular ruin of Cargill’s Castle needs stabilising urgently, supporters say.

It is hoped that a plan of action will be in place by Christmas.

This week, the Cargill’s Castle Trust invited experts in structural engineering, building preservation and archaeology to visit the ruin, on the clifftop above St Clair, to assess its condition.

Trust chairman Steven de Graaf said the group had contracted structural engineers Hadley and Robinson and building conservation specialists Origin Consultants to create a stabilisation plan for the castle.

The project was able to progress thanks to recent grants totalling $75,000 from the Dunedin Heritage Fund, Otago Community Trust, Callis Trust, Alexander McMillan Trust, and Wellington’s JP Stout Trust.

The grants enabled the trust to push on with its efforts to preserve the castle, which was deteriorating through constant battering from the elements, Mr de Graaf said.

“Our plan for today is for these experts to get a close look at the building, so they can assess what needs to be done to stabilise it and provide us with a plan.”

Cargill’s Castle Trust stabilisation subcommittee chairman Cameron Olsen said once a stabilisation plan was completed, hopefully by Christmas, it would be possible to cost the project and move on to fundraising for the work to be done.

Making his first visit to the castle in more than five years, structural engineer Lou Robinson, of Hadley and Robinson consultancy, found the large and growing cracks in the many parts of the castle sobering.

Many of the problems were caused by the use of steel reinforced concrete in the construction of the castle, designed by architect Francis Petre and built in 1877, Mr Robinson said.

The steel had rusted inside the concrete, causing the structure to deteriorate.

“What we need to do is to preserve the shape of the castle, and then keep the weather out of it.”

Putting a roof back on and stopping the weather getting in through the empty windows would be important in halting its decline, he said.

Mr de Graaf said the trust had focused in the past year on paying off debt and building protective fences around the site.

“We are in a strong position, and we have a springboard ready to move forward now – it’s a good feeling,” he said.

“The momentum is starting to pick [up], and it’s really good that things are happening.”

The trust had been knocked back by the deaths of stalwart members Barry Clark and Barry Simpson, but had more recently been joined by some vigorous new members.

“It is good to have some younger people involved, as their generation will benefit from the castle in the long run,” Mr de Graaf said.