'Most valuable collection' lost in fire

The cause of the fire at Busselton’s Old Buttery Factory remains unknown.

The March 27 blazed caused approximately $400,000 damage to The Busselton Museum and destroyed precious artefacts on the building’s second floor.

Busselton Historical Society president Sandra Johnston told the Mail the fire claimed the museum’s most valuable historical collection.

“All the wedding dresses are gone as is the cape Stewart Bovell was knighted in and the furniture in the main upstairs room,” she said.

“The other three rooms with the nursery, music room and kitchen are all badly smoked damaged.”

Ms Johnston said the loss was like a death in the family for the volunteers.

“For the first few days everyone was in tears,” she said.

“It was horrid, we are exhausted but we are thankful more damage wasn’t done.”

More than 30 firefighters from Busselton, Dunsborough and Bunbury were involved in saving the Busselton icon.

Ms Johnston praised the volunteer firefighters for their quick response to the situation.

“Without them there would be no museum, and that is not an exaggeration,” she said.

“They saved the museum by containing it to the one room.

“I can’t say enough about them, downstairs is in exceptionally good condition, with almost no damage and that is down to their skills and efforts.”

The City of Busselton will work with museum board and volunteers as well as the members of the Busselton Pottery Club who share the Butter Factory premises, to progress a schedule of works aimed at reopening the building as soon as possible.

The first step would be to ensure the building was safe and this would include an asbestos contamination risk assessment.

City of Busselton mayor Grant Henley said council shared the upset of museum personnel and the broader community and would do all it could to progress repair work and ensure the building was operational in the shortest possible time frame.

The Old Butter Factory recently celebrated its 100 years with an official ceremony for former workers and families and a community open day.

WA minister for culture, arts and heritage David Templeman, who attended the centenary celebrations, has expressed his sadness to Ms Johnston and the Busselton Historical Society volunteers.

“This is a significant loss for the local community and the state as a whole,” he said.

“I have asked the Western Australian Museum and State Heritage to assist in any way possible.”

Ms Johnston thanked the community for the outpouring of support and offers of donations.

A Go Fund Me page will be set up in coming days.

  • Images courtesy of  Megan Williams Lawless from Memories of Busselton and Michael Torrent.