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Homecoming for long-lost Port Arthur urn

13/04/2005

A heritage treasure missing from Port Arthur since the early 1900s is home again after being unearthed on a property in West Hobart.

The return of a magnificent urn, one of a pair which once adorned columns at the historic site, has been welcomed by Port Arthur staff who consider it a highly significant and beautiful artefact.

Believed to be crafted by convicts, the sandstone urn will most likely be used as a template to create two new showpieces. These will be returned to their original position at the foot of Church Walk on Tarleton St.

PAHS interpretation and collections manager Julia Clark is elated by the return of the urn which came completely out of the blue.

She received a phone call from Hobart man Craig Cornelius offering the site a “flowerpot” which had been in his family for years.

“Imagine my surprise and delight when I saw this magnificent urn,” Julia said.

“Apparently the family had three of these urns, which is interesting in that we only have photographic evidence of two on site.”

The urns disappeared around the turn of the century and were replaced by two stone balls which still remain on top of the Church Walk columns.

Mr Cornelius said his late mother’s family somehow acquired the urns from Port Arthur and he was now very pleased to be able to return the remaining one.

“Mum had three urns and two of them sat on the front steps of her house in Mt Stuart for many years,” he said.

“We did not appreciate their significance at the time even though Mum had mentioned they were from Port Arthur.

“When she moved from Mellifont St to Knocklofty there was only one left. One had been stolen and the other was in disrepair.”

Mr Cornelius’s mother died earlier this year and while he was tidying her home he recovered the urn and recalled the Port Arthur connection.

He discussed with his brother the idea of returning it to its original home.

“He agreed and it is good that it’s back where it belongs,” Mr Cornelius said.

Julia is now keen to track down the second urn.

“Perhaps there is someone out there who knows where the twin is and might help to reunite them,” she said.

Given the now fragile and slightly damaged condition of the returned urn, and its enormous significance, it is unlikely it will be put back into “active” service.

Julia said two copies probably would be commissioned .

“And now we have the original we can ensure that the copies are totally accurate,” she said.

“There is no reason to think that they are not of convict manufacture and they once again show the extraordinary skills which convicts either brought to Van Diemens Land or acquired here.”

Homecoming for long-lost Port Arthur urn

The urns in historical context - atop the columns at the foot of Church Walk on Tarleton St

Homecoming for long-lost Port Arthur urn

PAHS interpretation and collections manager Julia Clark admires the beautiful urn now back on home ground