Wingham the (once) Heritage Town

Joshua Cochrane's Emporium in Wingham was one of the most impressive commercial buildings in Wingham and was situated at the north-eastern end of Isabella Street - Greater Taree City Council.

 

Wingham has always been a heritage town, built on the classic British Town Square design, where gracious colonial style buildings face the village green – an oasis of social activities from cricket to concerts.

It was a clever marketing move to designate and trade on the Heritage Town concept for Wingham.

Those thinkers and people with vision could see trading on and developing the charming country heritage town was a terrific idea for businesses and tourism.

So what happens? The dollar kicks in . . . developers and business owners or others with deep pockets, decide they have a better idea – let’s pull  those “old” buildings down.

Why not think, this could be restored, copied, rebuilt in the same style to fit in with the Heritage concept, and continue the attractive theme of the town.  But no, the wreckers go in with chainsaws at dawn and under Council’s instructions.

So we lost the Wingham Hotel and their rare classic stables, the last of their kind in NSW, plus Cochrane’s Palace Emporium and the Australian Joint Stock Bank at the entrance to Wingham. And we are left with empty storefronts and an ugly parking lot and a ghostly empty grassy lot.

But wait . . . there is indeed more.

Council is currently contemplating approving a Coles Service Station for the site.

Yes. Welcome to Heritage Wingham where a supermarket service station with, one assumes, it’s attendant Servo and cheap prices, will grace the iconic entrance to our township.

Why?  It is completely inappropriate. It will undercut and harm existing businesses. It is too close to the school.

Locals Object

Says Robert Milliken at hearing the news of a proposed Service Station on the site ; ‘I grew up in Wingham when my parents owned the Wingham Hotel. The building opposite, The Palace Emporium,  on the corner of Isabella and Wynter Streets, the proposed development site, was a charming nineteenth century building with a veranda upstairs, via a magnificent cedar staircase, complementing the hotel. Both buildings have tragically disappeared, but they defined Wingham’s heritage character at the town’s entrance. I believe any development on that site should reflect that character, especially as the heritage central park and school buildings directly opposite have survived.”

Both Eric  and Mave Richardson are on the GTCC Heritage Advisory Committee and feel strongly also, ‘This committee has discussed the preliminary proposal and has expressed concerns as to its suitability and stated, “It is considered that the construction of a service station on that site would be in direct conflict with the heritage image many people have worked for decades to develop and promote.

Wingham`s Central Park is of historic significance and is the centrepiece of the town. It is bordered by buildings which complement the heritage image. We consider construction of a service station on the corner of the entrance to the town to be both unecessary and entirely inappropriate. Additionally, there are already several service stations in Wingham – one only around the corner from the proposed site, opposite the Wingham Brush Public school.”

John Hancock is a new business owner in Wingham, the proprietor of the Bank Guesthouse and The Vault Restaurant and has this to say,  ‘A third petrol station in Wingham is just crazy. A pretty little heritage town with no traffic lights does not need another multi-national! We have guests staying every week up here from Sydney looking to buy property, because they want to get away from the hustle-bustle, fashions and fumes down south. Let’s encourage new, enterprising business investment in this town, not ho-hum petrol stations.’

So what do you think? Why do those in charge, albeit temporarily,  and those with the dollars, aim for the lowest common denominator and fast bucks instead of aiming to raise the bar, think big and clever and inspirational?  Destruction of heritage buildings removes any chance of developing them with vision later.

Who do we want to attract to our towns and villages? How can we market and sell ourselves as something secret and special? Yes, the roads are the pits, but that’s not the be all and end all of life as we know it in this area. Bring on the vision, the enterprise and some entrepreneurs and smart thinkers and see where roads lead us!

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4 Responses to Wingham the (once) Heritage Town

  1. TheGoodEgg says:

    Not in Wingham please! For several reasons: We are well serviced with fuel stops and certainly don’t need one owned buy a multinational. Isn’t it enough that they have a grocery store, fruit& veg, bakery and liquor all competing with small business owners in our town.
    The impact of such a commercial, high traffic site in that location?
    and the look – what an eyesore

  2. Anne Bain says:

    Agree – we must preserve our heritage buildings. I grew up in Wingham and still have family living there. In this day and age there is no reason why, if a building needs replacing it cannot be replaced with a ‘heritage look’ building( prime example is the new doctors’ building in Isabella Street – horrible, horrible, horrible!

  3. Gary Hayes says:

    Let us hope that GTCC has some common sense in this matter, as wonderful Wingham is one of the very few remaining towns on the north coast to still have some of these
    heritage buildings.
    My very first job after leaving boarding school was at the former Bank Of New South Wales,in Wingham, which was an absolutely great place in which to work, but unfortunately I was transferred to another town after being in the job for six months, so I resigned from the bank, and commenced another great job in the Manning Co-op Meat Society office, starting as a clerk, then becoming paymaster.
    We travel to Wingham quite often, to enjoy a nice coffee, and to still marvel at the few remains old buildings.
    We often wished we had enough money to purchase the former car dealership site in question, and would have loved to have erected a building in keeping with the few remaining heritage buildings, but money is the root of all evil, and will probably win in this case.
    So, let’s hope common sense wins in the end.

  4. Like many others, I have always held a vision for Wingham, It has so much potential, with its riverbank, rainforest, position and heritage buildings. I have always said it could be another Morpeth or Bangalow. The vision does not include another service station. The town has 3 service stations and that is plenty. When I started Bent on Food 12 years ago, I began working towards attracting tourists to allow more people to see this wonderful town. Growth can be achieved in other ways and I take pleasure is seeing quirky little antique shops popping up as this is what I always hoped for. As the president of Wingham Chamber of Commerce we must also look after our current members/business owners and more competition in the service station industry would make it very difficult for the existing ones. There are only so many of each business type that can be supported by a small town. Lets work towards more cultural services, quirky shops and galleries.

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