The preservation of the monuments of Ross Bay has been a concern of the Old Cemeteries Society since the beginning of its involvement with the cemetery. Monuments are victim to the ravages of age, the extremes of seaside weather, and the malice of vandals. Keeping them safe is an ongoing, and sometimes overwhelming, chore.
There are two schools of thought on the preservation of monuments in cemeteries. The first suggests that it is appropriate to allow the monuments to disintegrate over time, in place, without interference, especially when the deterioration is a natural process. This school of thought is widespread throughout Europe, even to the point where people are not encouraged to clean away undergrowth that has grown over the monuments and hides them from view. A key element of this philosophy is recording; that is to say, all aspects of the monument should be recorded in detail, in order that a record of what the monument originally looked like can be kept.
The other school of thought maintains that good conservation should be undertaken to extend the life of the monument as long as possible and to reveal or restore what the monument maker originally produced. It follows from this argument that the physical artifact is always more stimulating and evocative than a paper sketch or a photograph. Anyone embarking on heritage cemetery preservation and maintenance will likely encounter both of these arguments, and it is important for community groups to reach a consensus on this before embarking on further maintenance programs.
In Ross Bay’s case, however, it has been the choice to pursue the more active of the two schools of monument preservation. Major restoration projects, such as the wrought iron fence surrounding the Douglas family vault, have been undertaken by the Old Cemeteries Society.
Most repair jobs done in Ross Bay are stone cleaning or the reassembly of damaged tombstones, as well as the more involved project of leveling leaning columns or sunken graves.
Conservation and Restoration Projects
To ensure the survival of Ross Bay for visitors and residents alike, the Ross Bay Cemetery staff follow a well designed maintenance and preservation program. This program includes the careful mowing and trimming of the grass around the stones, and the general maintenance of the plant life that has been cultivated over Ross Bay’s history.
Ross Bay has become as much a garden as a cemetery, and as such has relied on the dedication of its caretakers to not only maintain its fair grounds but to beautify them. Being so close to the rough seas off Dallas Road, Ross Bay has weathered storm and gale, snow and sun, and any manner of natural or unnatural decay that has manifested itself since Ross Bay’s 1873 inception.
In 1987, the Old Cemeteries Society began a program of grave conservation. Experts in monument conservation were brought in to give workshops and over half of the markers in Section H were cleaned and restored in 1987/88. Since then most of the cemetery grave markers have been cleaned at least once.
Over the years the Society has undertaken many smaller restoration projects to restore damaged and broken grave sites
The Old Cemeteries Society volunteers conduct cleaning and restoration of graves on a regular basis.
Other ambitious projects have included:
Restoration of cast-iron grave fences around the Douglas family plot
Restoration of cast-iron grave fence around the grave of Charles Moss
Grave Preservation – Charles and Hannah (Parker) Ball Fence
This fence is one of the few publicly displayed examples of the blacksmith’s art. The original fence was installed between 1914 and 1917. It is a very unique example of the blacksmith art.
Pritchard Tomb Restoration
Conservation project on the Pritchard Tomb in the Old Burying Ground (Pioneer Square). It took three years and cost over $20,000. Moving some gravestones from the Old Burying Ground to safe storage and repairing markers and curbing that had been knocked over or damaged.