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HPW stonemasons follow family tradition

Stonemasons Dave Thurlow and his son Mitchell

It has been a long time coming, but the complete restoration of Parliament House has been a labour of love for HPW stonemasons Dave Thurlow and his son Mitchell. 

When Dave first started work on the restoration of Parliament House in 1994, his son Mitchell was two years old.

Fifteen years later, Mitchell followed in his father’s footsteps and took up an apprenticeship as a stonemason with the former QBuild. That meant he became the fourth generation of the Thurlow family to ply the ancient craft of the stonemason at Parliament House.

“My grandfather Arthur worked here on Parliament House in the 1920s and then my father Harold in 1948,” Dave says.

Both Dave and Mitchell are proud that together the Thurlow family have more than 100 years’ of stonemason history among them.

“Each generation has worked on some of Brisbane’s best-known buildings including Parliament House, the Treasury Building, the Morgan-Smith building at the University of Queensland, or Anzac Square,” he says.  

As part of a team of six HPW stonemasons, Dave and Mitchell have just completed the main work inside the courtyard facing the Speaker’s Green. This included a full restoration replacing the parapets and working with 300 plus stones – some weighing up to a ton. The sandstone used for Parliament House is still quarried from Stanwell, west of Rockhampton.

“The main work was done up high,” Dave says, pointing skyward toward the parapets.

“I used to be really scared of being up high at first,” Mitchell admits, “but you get used to it. After a week I just got used to it and then you forget about it. You just focus on your work really.”

As for challenges, Dave finds it hard to single out one. “Every part of the building had its own unique challenges,” he says.

It is a time-honoured tradition for stonemasons to leave their initial or mark for other generations to find. Have they come across anything like that?

“Oh heaps,” Mitchell says. “Each mason leaves a different mark over the years, I guess.

“We did carve our names into a piece – I can’t remember which one it was – it will only ever get seen if that stone is lifted off the building – maybe in another 100 years’ time!”

While Parliament House itself has now been completely restored, there will always be ongoing maintenance which will need skilled stonemasons. However, the next project for the team is the refurbishment of the Parliament House fence which will keep them busy for some time yet.

There is much to do in preparation; sourcing the stone needed, measuring and planning, and Dave admits he is eager for the change. 

“To be honest, I am looking forward to walking on the ground again for a while, instead of working up high in the scaffolds atop the parapets,” he grins.

Last updated 15 November 2017    Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

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