The Sacred Heart Church was constructed between 1915 and 1918 by Pallottine Missionaries and local Aboriginals. The building is unique on a world scale and its heritage significance is reflected through listings on the Heritage Council of Western Australia register and the Shire of Broome Municipal Inventory. WGE was commissioned to complete a thorough structural audit of the building and to document recommended conservation works.
The church has suffered from rising damp for a long time as a result of its location on a tropical floodplain. The wall construction is unique, consisting of locally-cast clay masonry units with a rubble filled cavity. The walls are cracking and fretting in places. The bell tower collapsed in 2008 due to the weak nature of the bricks.
A sensitive approach was taken in resolving these issues. A number of alternatives were explored with respect to the rising damp, including the construction of a physical damp-proof membrane and chemical injection techniques. By managing the groundwater, the need for either form of intervention was avoided and sub-surface drainage was documented such that fluctuating ground water is managed in a sustainable way.
Stitch repair methodologies were developed to address wall cracking. Mineral silicate and traditional lime washing techniques were recommended to allow the masonry units to breathe thereby protecting them into the future, while a poultice (sacrificial render) was documented to protect the masonry in certain locations. All of these solutions demanded WGE’s heritage knowledge and experience to ensure a positive outcome which balanced economy with preservation in a remote and exposed environment.