Just south of Inverell, NSW, Australia, on the NSW, New England Tablelands, lies the small country town of Tingha. Preserved here is a snapshot of time is the Wing Hing Long & Co General Store. If you are travelling in the New England area of NSW Australia and in any way at all interested in history then put Tingha on your route and plan to stop at Wing Hing Long & Co in Tingha.
The main part of the Wing Hing Long & Co store was built in the 1880s to service the tin mining community that centred on Tingha and ever since that time the store has been owned by Chinese migrants or their descendents. Today the store is a preserved snapshot of what a typical rural general store in New South Wales carried, albeit with a mining and Chinese twist.
It’s truly amazing to walk into this store today and to see a snapshot of products from many different decades of life. The store’s preservation is due to historian Janis Wilton recognising its significance and in 1998 the store and its contents was purchased by Guyra Shire Council, with assistance from the NSW Heritage Council, to be operated as a living museum by local residents. It maintains as close as possible the store’s fabric and contents exactly as it was when the shop closed for business in early 1998.
If you want to look at pattern books from the 1950s and ‘60s you’ll find them here. Interested in what groceries were for sale between the 1960’s and 1990’s, tick, also on display here.
What is fantastic is that you can see and feel the organic growth of this store over time with a haberdashery department, men’s wear, ladies wear of course, groceries, hardware, mining equipment including explosives (now made safe), chemist shop, Chinese Herbalist, and the list goes on.
Tin ore was discovered in Tingha in the early 1870s and by 1880 it was the largest tin producing area in New South Wales with the districts population peaking at circa 5,000, of which approximately 900 were Chinese. With the boom came Chinese merchants and the store was established by Inverell shopkeeper Ah Lin initially to cater the Chinese Community.
In 1918 Jack Joe Lowe bought the store and developed its scope to service the general population and widened the product range. His wife, Fong Quain Lowe, ran a cafe near the store and his five children also worked there and additionally the family had interests in several other businesses around town.
With the play out of the tin Tingha went into decline, just the same as many other mining towns, and today has a population of about 700.
Wing Hing Long & Co’s significance today is the frozen snapshot in time, a time before the car and supermarkets dominated the grocery trade, a time when a general store such as this provided all the needs of a community and if they didn’t have it they would order it in for you. This is a treasure trove amongst Chinese – Australian history.
The Wing Hing Long & Co store is open:
Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday & Sundays (also open public Holidays except Christmas Day & Good Fridays)
April – Sept 10:00am – 2:30pm
Oct – Mar 10:00am – 3.30pm
Open for groups and bus tours by appointment.
Ph (02) 6723 3156