Plans to move Historic Ravensworth Homestead to new town centre

Ravensworth Homestead is to be moved.
Ravensworth Homestead is to be moved.

The historic colonial country estate Ravensworth Homestead will be relocated to the nearby Broke village in the NSW Hunter Valley as part of a new Village Square development funded by mining giant Glencore.

Veteran property developer and Hunter Valley resident Stewart Ewen, who developed the Kelman Vineyard in Pokolbin, plus a group of high-profile Sydney and local businessmen including winemaker Andrew Margan, are behind plans to relocate the sandstone Ravensworth Homestead from its present site atop coal reserves about 20km north of Singleton.

The proposal, before the NSW government, is to move the homestead from above the coal reserves within the proposed Glencore-owned Glendell mine scheme to picturesque Broke. Options to develop a Village Square to support the Ravensworth Homestead relocation include a cellar door display, cafes and restaurants, a wine museum, a boutique brewery plus a market stall zone. Glencore would fund the project to the tune of $18 million to $20 million.

Ravensworth Homestead comprises five sandstone buildings, a main house, two outbuildings, an ablutions building and a timber cottage. The homestead was architecturally designed by John Verge in the 1820s for naval surgeon and pastoralist Dr James Bowman.

“The property is a significant homestead, having escaped major alterations to its original design — besides restoration works undertaken by heritage specialists a decade ago,” Ewen, a vineyard owner and board member of the NSW Wine Industry Association, told The Australian.

When it comes to preserving historic buildings Australia does not have a great track record with few properties retaining their original heritage features. Wambo Homestead is one such example. In 2010, Wambo Coal attempted to delist Wambo Homestead in the Hunter Valley on the grounds that retaining the buildings would cause “undue financial hardship”. Despite that request eventually being withdrawn, years of leaving the property vacant and in limbo while awaiting a decision on its future resulted in the homestead being lost to history.

An artist’s impression of the final layout.

Ewen says Ravensworth Homestead could suffer the same fate if a suitable constructive alternative was not found, adding that the relocation proposal would inject more life into the village of Broke, which sports more than 45 vineyards, five wineries, 18 olive groves, 13 cellar doors, four restaurants and cafes and more than 65 short-term accommodation facilities.

Events such as the annual Broke Fair pull in about 10,000 people while community markets are held on the first Sunday of each month.

Set against the backdrop of the striking Brokenback Mountain Range and Yellow Rock Broke Fordwich is a premier tourism region sporting an old-fashioned village ambience, fine wines from boutique family-run vineyards, high standard olive oils, as well as farmgate produce. Accommodation ranges from quaint bed-and-breakfast cottages to opulent country estates, wineries and wedding venues.

The Village Square proposal is before the Department of Planning and is expected to be referred to the Independent Planning Commission.

The plan is for the Village Square to operate as a self-supporting enterprise overseen by a local board of trustees including BlueScope chairman John Bevan.

Any financial benefits would go towards improving local infrastructure, services and facilities.

“Any financial benefits would be used to directly benefit local residents through improved infrastructure, services and facilities — such as the volunteer fire brigade, local public school and other community resources,” Ewen says.

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