During a visit in 2010 to the Thomas Jillett's Family Crypt in St Peter's Anglican Church Cemetery in
Oatlands it was very clear that the damage to the Crypt was very extensive.
The site is been listed with Heritage Tasmania, and any work has to be done within their guidelines.
After our visit to the cemetery, I researched the possibility of obtaining a grant for part of the repairs,
and felt confident that the remainder would be raised somehow. An application was submitted to
the Federal Government for their Historic Sites funding programme, and after 9 months they advised the
application was successful.
This Family Crypt Restoration is vitally important to preserve the crypt, which stands alongside its brother, as a proud monument not only to the seven young children whose remains lie inside, but as a standing memorial to all the young children who died at an early age, and for their families who suffered accordingly.
The crypt was built in 1859, from local sandstone sourced around the area, and from Lake Dulvarton. The sandstone had crumbled, and the ground beneath Thomas's family crypt has sunk due to the extensive drought in the area, the prevailing weather conditions and the ravishes of time.
Rather than complete a temporary repair under the Heritage Tasmania guidelines, we could have done of two things. Just sit back and do nothing, and let the crypt crumble into the ground beneath, or we could be pro-active and try for a full restoration which would be beneficial not for the remaining family members of Thomas and Mary Jillett, who nearly all live on Mainland Australia, but for the tourists and visitors to both Oatlands and Tasmania, and the descendents of the young children whose gravesites cannot be traced. We chose to follow the second option.
A visit to Oatlands will become a must, and while they can experience the historical significance of the Mill, it's owners, and their lives, that experience can be completed by viewing the final resting place of one of the town's successful business men, his forefathers and his family.
The completed project will stand as a permanent memorial to the lives of all the young children whose remains are buried in cemeteries throughout Tasmania, and whose headstones and markers, have also decayed over time. 6937 children died in 1850's, an incredible number of deaths. No-where is there a memorial to them. This project will change that.
The Condition of the Thomas and Mary Ann Jillett Family Crypt in Oatlands 2010
After receiving notification that the Australian Government had recognised the significant contribution that Thomas Jillett and his family had made to the fabric of early Australian history, I was very fortunate indeed to have the full support from the Mayor Tony Bisdee and the Heritage Officer Soothern Midlands Council, Brad Williams. While not able to contribute in monetary terms the Southern Midlands Council certainly did so in kind.
The help and support from Brad, as the on-site Project Manager was invaluable. He is very dedicated to his role and very keen to ensure that Heritage projects are carefully restored to preserve their life. Along the way, we certainly hit some rough patches. Firstly the project had to be completed within 12 months. However, we had to request an extension of a further 6 months, as the weather had turned rather nasty, and stonemasons were extremely busy on other works including sandstone that had been flooded, at Port Arthur. Even getting a firm quote for the work was rather difficult.
After running around Australia via the internet, looking for suppliers of the fencing, I made a decision not to even attempt the one section of fencing that had been stolen. As usual, to comply with the Heritage Requirements the fencing had to be identical. It appeared that Thomas had the fence pieces brought from England, and the cost to replace the 11 posts would be around $16K.
Then Brad arranged it all. We had a quote, and the works of dismantling the "box" began. After approval from Tasmanian Heritage we were permitted to create a solid base for the return of the "box". Contrary to belief, the box does not contain anything but was more of the custom of the day. Subsequent photos of the St David's Cemetery in Hobart, revealed many, many such "boxes", prior to their destruction in 1926.
The works were completed in February 2012. One hundred and fifty years after the deaths of Thomas and Mary Ann's children.
The Dedication was carried out in April, 2012. On rather a cold, damp day but a very rewarding one for all of Thomas and Mary Ann's descendants who braved the conditions to pay their respects to some very brave ancestors. Many of those family members had never met and it has only been the research for this website that has resulted in cousins meeting others for the very first time.
Family secrets were very guarded in those times.
On the crypt it indicates that Robert and Elizabeth are buried there. That is not so. We have researched and came to the conclusion that they were buried in New Norfolk.
Subsequently we have discovered they were buried in St David's Cemetery in Hobart.
However in the list of names recorded in 1926 before the cemetery was destroyed for parkland,
no mention of their names can be found.
Another mystery that might be explained one day.
To the family members who gave willingly to help with the costs, to those who came to the dedication, to
Dick Adams who opened the restoration, and sponsored the lunch, to the Southern Midlands Council, to those
clever stonemasons who completed the work, and to Brad Williams, a huge thank you.
Completing the Works
Dedication Service Thomas and Mary Anne's great granddaughters and Dick Adams John Herron, Thomas's 3rd g. grandson, Joanne Berridge his 4th ,Granddaughters
Special Thanks to Brad Williams Heritage Officer of Southern Midlands Council.