Residents of Singleton will vividly remember the day in October 2017 when a stolen truck crashed into the Ewbank building – a heritage-listed private residence and former bank.
We take a look at the building’s history, its original heritage architecture, and its current restoration following the accident.
Built around 1884 as the Bank of New South Wales’ Singleton branch offices and manager’s residence, the heritage-listed property that was damaged in that memorable crash has only known three owners in its lifetime. The first owner was the bank. It was purchased by a Mr R Terrey in the 1950s, who renamed it Ewbank and used it as a private residence. Its current owners, the Redmond family, bought the property in 2010 as their family home.
Construction and early days
The original construction of the property was a significant milestone in Singleton’s early days as an economic centre. Singleton was inspired by Governor Lachlan Macquarie who, in 1819, ordered the exploration of the country inland from Newcastle. First laid out in 1836, Singleton began to flourish with the arrival of the railway line in 1863. However, the town suffered a major setback when the rail terminus was removed to Muswellbrook and some of the local business followed. Despite this, the Directors of the Bank of New South Wales showed faith in the town’s future when it authorised the opening of a branch in Singleton in 1875.
As business increased, the branch needed to look for new premises. Land was purchased on the corner of George and Market Streets, next door to the Royal Hotel, and a two-storey building with slate roof was erected by William Burnett and designed by architect Benjamin Backhouse. The building featured thirteen columns supporting a wide balcony, with local stone and polished cedar used lavishly throughout.
According to an article published in 1884 in The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser: “The erection of such handsome premises demonstrated the growing importance of Singleton as a business centre, as well as the enterprise of the old established banking corporation, to whom it belongs, and its confidence in the future prosperity of the town.”
The building is built of bricks made at Dunolly near Singleton on a solid concrete foundation with a base of stone. Its impressive entrance porch is built according to the Greek Doric order – a classical architectural style – and made out of Pyrmont stone. On each side of the porch, along the entire length of George and Market streets, are six-feet-wide verandas. On the first floor are balconies, supported by an iron pillar with a distinctive iron-work design. The main roof is covered with Bangor Countess slates with the outer edges supported by cantilevers. The windowsills are constructed of Ravensfeld stone and the two main entrances have steps made of Melbourne Blue Stone. Great care was taken in the original design to create an efficient system of ventilation in Singleton’s semi-tropical climate.
Restoring the property to its former glory
The 1884 Maitland Mercury article also noted that “It seems almost impossible that either fire or thieves could ever gain access to the strong room.”
Current owner Lisa Redmond, whose family lives in the property today, says that it is a testament to the exceptional design of the building that the crash didn’t cause more damage than it did.
“It’s a beautiful building – one of the best built buildings you’ll ever see, which is why it didn’t have more damage and is such a significant building in Singleton,” Lisa says.
However, a significant part of the entryway was wiped out in the crash with the front veranda being ripped off entirely and substantial damage caused to the front walls of the property.
Because the property is a state significant heritage building, restoring it has been a complex process involving heritage and building consultations and approvals. Today, however, the renovations are about a third complete, with progress expected to speed up considerably once the next stage – the stonework being restored at the building’s front – is completed.
The Redmonds have made sure that the right contractors, consultants and materials have been used to guarantee that this exceptional building is restored as close as possible to its original state, so it may remain a landmark in Singleton for many years to come.