GOVERNOR PHILLIP FOUNTAIN
The New South Wales Public Works Advisory (NSWPWA) engaged O’Sullivan Conservation to perform conservation works on the Governor Phillip Fountain in the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. The fountain, built from four different types of marble in the shape of a St. Andrew’s cross, was erected in the former location of the Garden Palace and dedicated on the 22nd of June 1897 on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. The fountain incorporates thirteen bronze elements—four reclining figures symbolising agriculture, commerce, industry, and shipping; four bronze bas-reliefs depicting Aboriginal hunting techniques; and a large central statue of New South Wales’ first Governor, Captain Arthur Phillip—along with three carved marble bas-reliefs representing justice, patriotism, and education and a dedicatory inscription. Further information about sculptures at the Gardens can be found on their website: https://www.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/learn/living-learning/primary-school-resources/garden-art/sculpture-at-the-gardens.
Prior to works commencing all safety documentation was submitted to the client for approval by OSC. Temporary fencing, branded mesh, and scaffolding were erected to prevent unauthorised site access and to allow OSC’s conservators the ability to treat the elevated bronze elements. Silt protection was also installed over the fountain’s in-floor drainage to filter runoff from conservation works.
The original treatment scope included:
- Conservation of all thirteen bronze elements, including cleaning, removal of degraded wax, corrosion treatment and the application of a corrosion inhibitor, localised repatination, and rewaxing
- Replacement of missing and failing pointing around the four bronze bas-relief panels
- Investigation of the bird deterrent system and removal of the conduit and associated silicone; it was determined in consultation with the client that this would not be replaced
- A full hand wash of all marble surfaces
The project as originally planned was scheduled for completion in April 2020, but was extended following the approval of additional variation works which included:
- Removal and replacement of the failing pointing at the base of the Governor Phillip statue and of the sealant at the base of the four anthropomorphic bronze figures
- Sealant removal and repointing in each of the twenty-eight marble joins in the outer fountain rim
- Inpainting of the lettering in the three marble bas-reliefs and the dedication, and re-gilding of the inscriptions beneath each of the four symbolic figures as needed
- Removal of loose substrate on the floor of all four of the fountain’s outer basins and feathering of solid concrete to provide an even surface
- Waterproofing of the outer fountain basins
- Trial application of poultice to white marble for reduction of corrosion staining
O’Sullivan Conservation provided full reports to the client on three occasions throughout the period of works, which included information on all materials used as well as recommendations for future care and cleaning and a suggested maintenance schedule.