An old cottage believed to have been one of the earliest built in Goulburn will not be demolished to make way for a council car park.
The Georgian house at 4 Hetherington Street was destined for the bulldozer to construct a carpark for the council’s new office building, to be built on the same land. The office supplements a new depot under construction opposite.
The council announced on Thursday there were no plans to raze the cottage, thought to have been built in the 1840s.
“When time and resources permit (we) will explore options for the future use of this building,” a spokesman said.
The decision followed a report by council heritage adviser Louise Thom recommending retention and its stabilisation for educational purposes, demonstrating early construction methods. If the council decided to demolish, then its history should be documented, she said.
She acknowledged the rubblestone and brick structure was in poor condition but demonstrated housing development in the area.
“(But) the cottage demonstrates an unusual and potentially rare building construction method that could yield more information about the way in which buildings were constructed in the early 19th century in Goulburn,” Ms Thom wrote.
It was also believed to have early connections with James Sinclair, the builder of St Clair, but this had not been proven.
Yet an initial consultant’s report for the council’s development application did not identify any European heritage on the site. A statement of environmental effects last July also described it as a “derelict cottage” which was proposed for demolition.
Nearby resident and Goulburn and District Historical Society member Jeff Coggan said he noticed at the time there was no mention of the cottage and brought it to the council’s attention in a submission. He told The Post he did not receive a response.
The Goulburn Heritage Group (GHG) also raised it. In a recent letter to the council, the group described the process as “oddly unprofessional.”
If the council is not demolishing it the question remains, what will they do with it
“Development had been approved before a local site study been carried out and then approval given for building demolition before the heritage study was completed,” the group stated.
The council says Ms Thom’s report was not prompted by public submissions but by an independent assessment. The spokesman said the council had “absolutely” followed due process by having a consultant prepare the DA, followed by independent scrutiny.
Mr Coggan said he would like to see the cottage retained, especially if the Sinclair link could be proved.
He has extensively researched the area, where he has lived since 1957, and provided information to Ms Thom.
Mr Coggan recalled that his former neighbour, Roy Sinclair Yabsley, who lived at 62 Hetherington Street told him that his ancestor, James Sinclair had built number 62 and 4 Hetherington Street. Mr Yabsley passed away in 1964 and no documentary evidence was found to support his account.
“I think it was built in the late 1830s or early 1840s on part of Joseph Roberts’ estate,” he said.
“...Sinclair lived in number 62 and walked over to St Clair (which he was building) every day. He also had a brick works on the flats, upstream of the wetlands. In one account he complained he couldn’t use the track to the brick works because (William) Hovell had dug it up.”
Sinclair also constructed the old Goulburn jail in the early 1840s.
Mr Coggan said he had sourced extensive material about the cottage and early subdivisions through the Historical Society and questioned why consultants for the depot DA initially concluded that “little documentary evidence was available.”
Ms Thom could not say definitively when it was built but stated that it appeared on an 1868 subdivision plan. She did not believe it warranted inclusion in the Local Environmental Plan.
“Taking into consideration the heritage significance of the building and its lack of intactness, the most positive option would be stabilisation for research and education purposes,” she wrote in her report.
“This option would respect the history of the place and allow exploration of its research potential as well as providing opportunity for education and training in heritage trades.”
If demolition was to be considered then she recommended an archival record be kept.
Meantime, GHG has cautiously welcomed the cottage’s retention.
“If the council is not demolishing it the question remains, what will they do with it?” member Daphne Penalver said.
”Will it follow the heritage adviser’s recommendation to use it as an opportunity for an educational site or leave it to deteriorate and fall into neglect, which would be an appalling outcome.”