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Rediscovering Ginninderra:
Ginninderra Store

The origins of the Ginninderra store go back to the establishment of a 'station store' by William Davis for the benefit of workers and residents at his Ginninderra Station (formerly Palmerville). George Harcourt Snr, Davis' book-keeper at the time, purchased the store from his employer around 1863 and ran it with his wife Millicent (nee Ward) until 1887. It appears that the change of ownership was related to a fire that seriously damaged the store in 1863, reported by the Golden Age:

"A disastrous fire broke out in the Ginninderra Store on Saturday night last. The premises were closed all apparently being safe at ten o'clock that night and in two hours afterwards the building was discovered to be on fire, the flames at times bursting through the walls and roof, the building being of pine boards and galvanized iron. Very fortunately a strong muster of hands employed on the station were immediately on the spot and by means of a fire pump erected in the yard and buckets – abundance of water being available – the flames were promptly subdued, but not before the iron ridge capping on the roof was literally melted and the timber burnt almost to charcoal. The damage done to the building is extensive and the damage to the store goods more so, caused chiefly by burning fragments of calico lining of the roof falling on the goods below. The loss extends over several hundreds of pounds. It is not known how the fire originated but it appears to have broken out first in the ironmongery department amongst which however there was but one 1lb canister of powder which of course exploded and had it not been for the promptitude with which the fire was combated, in a few minutes or more the whole building and its contents would have been a mass of ashes" (The Golden Age 9.4.1863).

The fire was followed closely by a sale advertised in the Golden Age a week later:

"Extensive and unreserved sale of Drapery, sadlery, haberdashery, boots, shoes, ironmongery etc. J Nugent & Co have been honoured with instructions from Wm Davis Esq to sell by auction on the premises at Gininderra on Thursday April 24 and Friday 25 the whole of the stock of the General Store consisting of goods as above enumerated without the slightest reserve. Some of the property slightly damaged". (The Golden Age 16.4.1863)

By that time the store had been relocated to a site close to the Queanbeyan-Yass road, a little downstream from where that road crossed Ginninderra Creek. Harcourt was also the Ginninderra postmaster 1862 - 1882. Under his ownership the store flourished. Apart from selling all manner of things the store bought wool, grain and local produce.

In December 1877 a correspondent for the Town and Country Journal wrote of his tour of the district:

"Two miles further (from Gungahlin) and I arrived at Mr George Harcourt's Gininderra Store, where I met with a warm welcome. The store is well stocked with every description of goods and a large business is done by the owner in the district. The post office is attached to the store. The willows and poplars around give a pretty effect. A stroll in the garden was most enjoyable and I must compliment Mr Ward for the industry and care which he has bestowed upon it. It now bears evidence of his perseverance in the abundance of the various kinds of fruit to be found in it. Though of small compass about an acre, it contains as much fruit as nearly all the gardens in the district put together. I had the pleasure of seeing the Christmas Holly tree growing in the garden; it is about four feet high with dense foliage and covered in berries at this time of the year they are green, but towards June become red. This tree has thrived well and Mr Ward has several plants from it in all stages of growth – I believe as the only tree with berries (except a pot plant) in the colony."

George Harcourt and Edmund Ward retired from the store in 1887 and it was taken over by new arrival, Harry Jones, who took it over and contracted William Henry Jones (not a relative) to build a second store in the following year on the other side of the Yass Road near the Gininderra Blacksmith's Workshop.

An advertisement from 1892 for the old store proffered:

"Once there you can get a well fitting suit of clothes, a fashionable hat, tea, sugar and everything your heart desires or should your soles be defective we can set you up from our grand stock of boots." (Queanbeyan age 5.3.1892). The store struggled as the depression hit in the early 1890s however, and Jones sold out to established Queanbeyan storekeepers Hayes and Russell. But the business continued to falter and closed in 1894. There was an 'obituary' in the Queanbeyan Age:

"A very magnificent sign of the times is the closing of the Gininderra Store (which has been in existence for 30 years). Owing to the general depression the business carried on has been gradually declining to such an extent that the proprietors Messrs Hayes & Russell found it necessary to put up the shutters. The store originated with Mr W Davis, a farmer proprietor of the Gininderra Estate, and was first erected at the old Gininderra homestead and was purchased by the late George Harcourt Esq JP who had it removed to its present site and who, being possessed of great business tact conducted a lucrative business with laborious diligence for a great many years and retired with a well earned competence; he was succeeded by Mr HL Jones who gave way to the present owners. Great inconvenience will be felt by the residents to whom it was a great boon, and it is much regretted that it was not financially successful". (Queanbeyan Age (Gininderra correspondent) 30.6.1894)

Two last attempts were made to revive the fortunes of the store. Arthur Flower took over the business, but he closed up in 1896. Bray and Son also tried, but they only lasted 12 months and the Ginninderra store closed down in 1897. After this it was closed and the building was rented by G J Ruwald and used for some years as a gymnasium and meeting place. Later the abandoned store was used occasionally for local events; e.g. in 1899 as the venue for a ball organised by Harry Curran to raise funds for the racing club, and as the initial meeting place for the Ginninderra School of Arts.

The building was badly damaged in the catastrophic 1905 bushfire that swept through the Ginninderra district from Wallaroo, and was demolished:

"Report of damage by bush fires by Weetangera Correspondent...The once famous old Ginninderra Store was completely destroyed with the old historical building known in past years as 'The Village Cottage' lately occupied by Mr E H Clark who lost all his household furniture and clothing. He was away at Wallaroo on Saturday afternoon at the fire there". (Queanbeyan Observer 6.1.1905)

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