HISTORIC WINDSOR – worth preserving or already trashed?

Windsor Post Office. Attractive old buildings are marred by ugly hoardings.

A friend brought to my attention a campaign to save Thompson Square, the oldest town square in Australia, which is threatened by a road-widening proposal in Windsor.

As it happened, I was recently passing through the historic village on the far north-west outskirts of Sydney. I’d stopped there to take a few shots – two in a heart-starting cappuccino and a few more with my camera, but hadn’t paid much attention to Thompson Square. My impression of Windsor generally was that it had already suffered the ravages of uncontrolled development. It could have been a lot more attractive than it is now.

Windsor was established in 1791, making it the third oldest European settlement on the continent. Lachlan Macquarie, NSW Governor 1810-1821, ordered the construction in the town of the essential edifices of civilised society – church, school, gaol and pub.

Now some of Australia’s oldest buildings are sandwiched between petrol stations and supermarkets. Although some residents are clearly passionate about preserving what is left, they’re fighting a constant battle against the forces of development.

A pedestrian mall always improves a town, and cafes with market umbrellas are compulsory.

We don’t have enough old buildings in Australia, so it’s good to see what we have being preserved.

There’s little to fault in Windsor’s site on the bank of the Hawkesbury River, where a short concrete walking and cycling path has recently been laid.

I had time for a short stroll.

The bridge the government is proposing to demolish and replace with a wider one is not in itself particularly attractive. My guess is that the battle is less about preserving it as historic engineering and more about diverting traffic away from the bottleneck (and even early in the morning I ran into such a jam). A new crossing and a bypass road leading to it would allow Windsor to become a sleepy backwater village by the river.

Here’s the bridge slated for demolition and replacement.

A sign of the times. A church converted to a bar.

Here’s the video made by those arguing against the new bridge:

16 Comments

Filed under Travel-Australia

16 responses to “HISTORIC WINDSOR – worth preserving or already trashed?

  1. It has been twenty years since I visited Windsor and it is sad to see how things have developed, I love the old architecture and find that new developments are often boring and lacking in personality.

  2. Good post. As a student of history I always support the protection of the environment. The old bridge does look a bit narrow and worn out!

  3. old building’s in sydney???? the dept of health is about to demolish one of the last 2 story victorian mansions in kogarah to build a new emergency room.?????? wtf.

  4. A bypass for historic Thompson Square would not turn Windsor into ” a sleepy backwater by the river” but would enhance its heritage tourism and would preserve Thompson Square as the well loved tourist and family precinct that it is instead of it becoming an uninhabitable verge beside a highway.

  5. Venecia Wilson

    Richard, thank you for boosting our profile with your article. Windsor and the Hawkesbury need all the help they can get.

    Sadly, Hawkesbury Council has a history of bunging new, inappropriate buildings and developments in all over the Hawkesbury, without considering the area’s history, needs or aesthetics. The new museum in Baker Street is a case in point – looks like it belongs to Ikea instead of the heritage precinct of Windsor – they didn’t provide any parking facilities for it and they shut down the original museum which was an historic building of 3 or 4 levels, including the basement – they replaced it with a 1 room “gallery” style museum that only houses about a 10th of the antiques and archaelogical items of the old museum.

    Windsor Mall – was constructed despite a protest march and all sorts of opposition from residents and businesses. It needs to be removed and the main street restored – albeit with maybe 1 way access and angle parking bays to preserve space for alfresco dining. The mall killed Windsor as a thriving town when it was put built and many businesses there now only survive because of the Sunday craft markets. The street could still be closed on Sundays for the markets, but Council says it will cost $1M to open the mall, so they won’t do it.

    As a long-term Hawkesbury resident, I’m completely disgusted in the way the area has been allowed to be destroyed.

    If you want to see a perfect example of Council’s lack of care and vision – take a look at Franklins, North Richmond. Looks like a nuclear bunker.

    • Thanks for the visit, Venecia, and it is very nice to hear from someone who knows something about it. I saw the new museum but didn’t have time to pay a visit – that can wait till I’m next in town.

      I did find Windsor interesting. I’ve done a great bike ride there a few years ago too – up to Cattai and Sackville and back over the river. It’s a lovely area and important for Australia’s history. Anything which can be done to preserve and enhance it has my support.

  6. Kim

    The Hawkesbury is a fantastic place for cycling! We do it 3 times a week and theres some great coffee places in near by Richmond which still has some ambience unlike Windsor…tired, grubby and inappropriate developments dotted all over Windsor…very sad….the bridge needs to be built as a by pass and the mall needs a big over haul…to do that we need a new council and we have just elected one that supports inapproproate developments!

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