Dyson grave restoration at East Perth Cemeteries

The National Trust was thrilled to assist members of the Dyson family with conservation works to their ancestors’ headstone.

Located in East Perth Cemeteries, the headstone commemorates James Dyson and his two wives, Fanny Hoffington and Jane Edwards. It was commissioned by Andrew “Drewey” Dyson after the death of his mother Jane in 1899. Unfortunately, after 120 years exposed to the elements, the marble headstone had broken in half and the lead-lettering was worn away.

Led by the great-grandchildren of James and Jane, Dyson family descendants raised the funds to restore the headstone.

“Our connection with the headstone began in 1982 with a photo taken by my sister, Lorraine Pekin, who visited East Perth Cemeteries trying to learn more about our ancestor. At that stage the headstone – although on its back – looked quite clean and the printing looked clear,” said John Dyson, James Snr’s great-grandson.

“In 2019, as our knowledge of James and his descendants increased, we were inspired to look more closely at the headstone, but by then it was very degraded. We had a chat with the National Trust volunteers on duty that day, and were given information about the process involved in restoring it.”

After the family had raised the necessary funds needed for restoration, the National Trust engaged Colgan Industries to remove the headstone from East Perth Cemeteries. The conservation process began at Colgan’s workshop, starting with a full JOS clean (hot steam wash) to wash away years of pollution and dirt.

The lead lettering was then replaced by an experienced stonemason who used the opportunity to teach an apprentice this traditional heritage skill. Finally, the repining and repair works were completed to put the headstone back in one piece.

Family members met the conservation team at East Perth Cemeteries for the re-installation of the Dyson headstone in February 2021. It was the first time that a newly discovered descendant, Kerri Rose – whose very generous donation made the restoration possible – met her Dyson relatives.

Family historian, Alan Thompson – great-great-great-great-grandson of James Snr – has also been closely involved through his detailed research, and has documented the process on his website, The Ratbag Encyclopedia.

The National Trust was delighted to be a part of the Dyson grave project and looks forward to more opportunities to help families conserve their heritage at East Perth Cemeteries.

Save a grave!

Some 10,000 burials took place at East Perth Cemeteries in the nineteenth century, yet today only 745 grave markers and railings survive. The wood, marble, slate and stone have been subject to the extremes of our harsh climate, a fire in 1920 that burned for two hours and well-intentioned but sometimes inappropriate repairs.

Your donation can help us conserve the remaining precious memorials and ensure there is a future for our past. Careful conservation under the watchful eye of our own heritage experts will ensure the graves at East Perth Cemeteries will continue to remind us of the people they were erected for so many years ago.

Whether you are interested in a family grave or one selected as a priority by the National Trust your gift over $2 is fully tax deductible. Contact trust@ntwa.com.au to find out more.