Culture and heritage

Heritage of NSW

Wing Hing Long store

Exploring our Chinese heritage

As part of the Heritage Office's commitment to promoting ethnic heritage Heritage NSW looks at the history of the Wing Hing Long Store. This store provides a fascinating glimpse into the history of Chinese settlers in regional New South Wales. The Wing Hing Long Store provided the inhabitants of Tingha, a remote settlement near Inverell in the north west of the State, with everything from grain to knitting needles for over 80 years during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. With the aid of funding recommended by the Heritage Council, the store has been purchased from its current owners by Guyra Shire Council for its establishment as a 'living' museum and resource centre.

The Lowe family at Tingha in about 1921. Members of the family worked in the store from 1914 until 1998, when it passed into public ownership as a living museum. Photograph courtesy Mavis Pratt and the Golden Threads Project

The Lowe family at Tingha in about 1921. Members of the family worked in the store from 1914 until 1998, when it passed into public ownership as a living museum. Photograph courtesy Mavis Pratt and the Golden Threads Project

Chinese teapot from the Tingha History Centre, one of the movable heritage objects which tell the story of Chinese settlers in outback New South Wales

Chinese teapot from the Tingha History Centre, one of the movable heritage objects which tell the story of Chinese settlers in outback New South Wales

The story of Chinese immigrants in the northern tablelands of New South Wales largely began in the early part of the nineteenth century, when they first came to work in the area as shepherds, cooks and farmhands. With the discovery of gold in the 1850s and tin in the 1870s and 1880s, the Chinese population quickly increased. By 1891, the northern tablelands district had one of the highest concentrations of ethnic Chinese in New South Wales. Tingha, located on the road between Guyra and Inverell, became a thriving tin-mining town, with over 10,000 residents. Many of Tingha's inhabitants were immigrant Chinese, who played a significant part in establishing shops in the town, thereby contributing to the economic development of the area.

One of these immigrants was Jack Joe Lowe. Born in China in the 1870s, Jack came to Australia in 1900. After wandering from Queensland to Sydney, Inverell and Gunnedah, Jack took over the Wing Hing Long Store in Tingha, in 1914 and stayed there for the next 25 years.

His daughter, Mavis Pratt, worked in the store from an early age. In 1939, when her father moved to Tamworth, Mavis became owner and manager of the business. She continued to run the store until early this year when, with the help of her two sons, State and local government agencies and community members, the store passed into public ownership as a museum.

The Wing Hing Long Store is significant for several reasons. It has stayed in the same Chinese family for over 80 years and is the only Chinese store on the northern tablelands where the building and fittings have remained virtually intact from the early nineteenth century. Similarly, the building is one of the few left in Tingha from the boom days of the tin-mining era. The interior of the store captures a sense of what rural general stores used to be like.

Records and dockets from the Wing Hing Long Store, a fortune stick container from a Tingha joss house, bowls, teapots, jars and scales are some of the items in a small display at the Heritage Office in Signature Tower, Wentworth Street, Parramatta. The display has been made possible by the NSW Ministry for the Arts. Golden Threads - Chinese in Regional New South Wales project, the Inverell Pioneer Village, Bingara Museum and the Tingha History Centre.The Wing Hing Long Store will open to the public later in the year. For more information contact Guyra Council, ph. (02) 6779 1577.

Page last updated: 01 September 2012