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AHS uncovers a lengthy historical legal challenge while researching the William Mitchner Shelter


Comparative analysis is an important tool when assessing heritage significance, as comparison with similar places helps to determine a site’s degree of representativeness and rarity.

The AHS team was recently commissioned by Southern Downs Regional Council to deliver a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) for the William Mitchner Shelter in Allora Cemetery and found that the dedicated memorial shelter is a rarity in Queensland cemeteries.

Only Allora and Warwick are known to have a dedicated memorial shelter, and it is more typical for cemeteries to memorialise in the form of tombs or mausolea.

Funds bequeathed by William Mitchner

The shelter was constructed in the mid-1920s with funds bequeathed to the region’s council by local resident William Mitchner. AHS’s historical research revealed controversy surrounding the bequest which stemmed from his German heritage.

Mitchner was born in Germany in 1841 and arrived in Allora around 1872. He soon acquired interests in the Darling Downs region with investments in Allora, Warwick and Toowoomba.

Upon his death in 1918 he bequeathed his estate worth approximately $35,000 to organisations including the Warwick and Toowoomba hospitals, local Anglican churches and the Warwick and Allora cemeteries for the purpose of erecting memorial shelters.

The will stated that if Mitchner died in Allora he was to be buried in Allora Cemetery, and if he died elsewhere he was to be buried in Warwick. Following his death in Toowoomba he was interred in Warwick, and his tomb is currently located in the Warwick shelter.

He also left money to charities in his homeland, which created legal problems concerning the execution of his will as Australia was at war with Germany when he died. It was not until 1927 that the courts ruled his bequeath was lawful, which may explain why the shelters at Allora and Warwick were not built until the mid-1920s.

The William Mitchner Shelter at Allora Cemetery


Original bell still remains inside bell tower

The William Mitchner Shelter is located at the main entrance to Allora Cemetery, on the site’s western boundary to the immediate south of the central pathway. The entrance faces west towards the road with a central arch separating a pair of arched windows.

The shelter is a square structure with solid brick walls of Flemish bond that are approximately 3 metres high. The corrugated iron roof rises to a square timber framed bell tower capped by a small, vaulted iron roof and finial. The original bell still remains inside the tower.

The internal space includes a memorial marble plaque which reads “This shelter shed is a gift of William Mitchner for the benefit of the public, Born 2nd August 1841 Died 1st June 1918”. In front of the plaque is a bust of Mitchner mounted on a green ceramic plinth. The bust is a replacement commissioned in 2004, as the original had been stolen.

Overall, the building is in good condition and the key to its continued conservation is a program of regular maintenance of the existing fabric and immediate setting.

Interior of the shelter showing the bust, plinth, plaque and bell cord


A gentle approach to conservation

The William Mitchner Shelter is a significant element within Allora Cemetery which is an historic site of State significance to Queensland.

The AHS team recommended a gentle approach to its conservation, recognising that all aspects of the history of the place are of equal importance. The early fabric has stories to tell about the site, which is included in the patina of age.

The William Mitchner Shelter’s continued use within the cemetery site is important, including its purpose as a bell tower. Our inspection revealed that the bell has not been tolled for many years, despite this aspect of the shelters use being an explicit request in William Mitchner’s will.

There is an aspiration that groups including Council, the local historical society and RSL might establish a program to ensure the bell is tolled regularly, such as during local ANZAC Day events.

Contact us

To discover how we may be able to assist on your next project, contact us today here or phone (07) 3221 0000. You can also connect with us on LinkedIn.

Internal view of the bell tower showing the original bell

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The Challenge

The shelter was constructed in the mid-1920s with funds bequeathed to the region’s council by local resident William Mitchner. AHS’s historical research revealed controversy surrounding the bequest which stemmed from his German heritage.

Mitchner was born in Germany in 1841 and arrived in Allora around 1872. He soon acquired interests in the Darling Downs region with investments in Allora, Warwick and Toowoomba.

Upon his death in 1918 he bequeathed his estate worth approximately $35,000 to organisations including the Warwick and Toowoomba hospitals, local Anglican churches and the Warwick and Allora cemeteries for the purpose of erecting memorial shelters.

The will stated that if Mitchner died in Allora he was to be buried in Allora Cemetery, and if he died elsewhere he was to be buried in Warwick. Following his death in Toowoomba he was interred in Warwick, and his tomb is currently located in the Warwick shelter.

He also left money to charities in his homeland, which created legal problems concerning the execution of his will as Australia was at war with Germany when he died. It was not until 1927 that the courts ruled his bequeath was lawful, which may explain why the shelters at Allora and Warwick were not built until the mid-1920s.



How we helped

The William Mitchner Shelter is located at the main entrance to Allora Cemetery, on the site’s western boundary to the immediate south of the central pathway. The entrance faces west towards the road with a central arch separating a pair of arched windows.

The shelter is a square structure with solid brick walls of Flemish bond that are approximately 3 metres high. The corrugated iron roof rises to a square timber framed bell tower capped by a small, vaulted iron roof and finial. The original bell still remains inside the tower.

The internal space includes a memorial marble plaque which reads “This shelter shed is a gift of William Mitchner for the benefit of the public, Born 2nd August 1841 Died 1st June 1918”. In front of the plaque is a bust of Mitchner mounted on a green ceramic plinth. The bust is a replacement commissioned in 2004, as the original had been stolen.

Overall, the building is in good condition and the key to its continued conservation is a program of regular maintenance of the existing fabric and immediate setting.

Results

The William Mitchner Shelter is a significant element within Allora Cemetery which is an historic site of State significance to Queensland.

The AHS team recommended a gentle approach to its conservation, recognising that all aspects of the history of the place are of equal importance. The early fabric has stories to tell about the site, which is included in the patina of age.

The William Mitchner Shelter’s continued use within the cemetery site is important, including its purpose as a bell tower. Our inspection revealed that the bell has not been tolled for many years, despite this aspect of the shelters use being an explicit request in William Mitchner’s will.

There is an aspiration that groups including Council, the local historical society and RSL might establish a program to ensure the bell is tolled regularly, such as during local ANZAC Day events.

Contact us

To discover how we may be able to assist on your next project, contact us today here or phone (07) 3221 0000. You can also connect with us on LinkedIn.

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Case Study

AHS analyses iconic Queens Plaza façade

Case Study

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Case Study

Extensive war history unearthed at Milman Hill Complex on Thursday Island

Case Study

AHS ensures cultural preservation of the Mt Coot-tha Kiosk and Lookout, unearthing a rich history at one of Brisbane’s premiere vantage points

Case Study

AHS helps to record and conserve Bega’s network of historic granite kerbs and gutters for our client Bega Valley Shire Council

Case Study

AHS delivered a Conservation Management Plan for the State heritage listed former Cairns Masonic Temple

Case Study

Delivering heritage services including an Archival Recording at the Coffs Harbour Forestry Building

Case Study

Conserving Willard’s Farm, one of the oldest surviving farms and residences within the Redlands on Brisbane’s Bayside

Case Study

AHS projects with Cairns Regional Council include a CMP for Mulgrave Shire Council Chambers

Case Study

AHS helps visitors experience the history of Cairns Court House

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AHS helps to conserve the Mount Morgan Coronation Lamp and Boer War Memorial

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Discovering the evolution of Queensland ambulance services at Charters Towers

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