After reviewing the dismantled remains of Parramatta’s historic Willow Grove, the National Trust (NSW) has concluded that the building cannot be authentically reconstructed and has withdrawn from the Willow Grove Community Reference Group.
The National Trust (NSW) has long opposed the state government’s decision to demolish and re-create the building Willow Grove as part of the Parramatta Powerhouse development.
The19th century heritage-listed villa was demolished in 2021, with the government pledging to reconstruct it on a new site in Parramatta. The National Trust (NSW) has expressed repeatedly its concerns that the dismantling of the building was in fact demolition, and that rebuilding was impossible. These fears have now come to pass.
At the state government’s invitation, the National Trust (NSW) joined the Willow Grove Community Reference Group (WG-CRG) in November 2021 as a stakeholder involved in discussions regarding the relocation and reuse of Willow Grove.
Informed by the evidence following an inspection of Willow Grove’s salvaged remains, and presentations on the level of cataloguing and detail collected during the demolition process, the National Trust (NSW) believes Willow Grove cannot be authentically reconstructed and no longer constitutes a conservation project. The National Trust (NSW) maintain that the community value of Willow Grove has been lost, and public funds would be better allocated to conserving existing heritage in NSW.
Advocacy Manager at the National Trust (NSW) Jane Alexander said “The enormous public investment required to rebuild Willow Grove would be far better invested in conserving existing heritage places. Parramatta has a remarkable heritage, but with the loss of so many heritage buildings, that unique history is fast diminishing. Instead of demolishing and creating replica heritage buildings, public funds would be better invested in conserving the significant existing heritage in Parramatta, such as the purchase and restoration of the Roxy Theatre.”
Alexander expressed concerns about the impact reconstructing a new Willow Grove building near historic places such as the Parramatta Female Factory. “The National Trust (NSW) remains concerned that this will negatively impact the significance of the precinct and that it would be inappropriate to place replica building on this site or others like it.”
Neil Wykes OAM, President, National Trust (NSW) urged the State Government and their planners to holistically consider master planning and urban design for precious places such as Parramatta. Wykes said “A win-win situation is possible, where development and heritage work in harmony. The best communities are authentic, where a sense of place has been retained. It’s not impossible for heritage and progress to enjoy a relationship where one is enhanced by the other.”
The National Trust of Australia (NSW) mission is to advocate for the conservation of built, cultural and natural heritage. For more than 75 years, we have been at the centre of the state’s most important heritage campaigns. Explore more of our advocacy work.