Restoring an icon: Wrens’ passion to give historic Carrawobitty a future

It’s almost an understatement to call Carrawobitty a labour of love for Ken and Monica Wren. 

Since 2014 they have put in untold hours to repair and renovate the historic homestead, and travelled miles to appropriately refurnish the 1920s dwelling.

They have balanced their respect for the unique concrete dwelling, built by Reginald and Beryl Coward, with the need to meet modern standards so it can be opened for functions and accommodation. 

So it’s hard to capture their delight at receiving at $100,000 Heritage Near Me grant, announced last week by Parliamentary Secretary for NSW Rick Colless.

The funding will be used to restore the upper balcony and repair the roof, the final stages in the works they have envisaged for the distinctive two-storey house itself, which sits on Bedgerabong Road just a few kilometres out of Forbes.

It will mean guests can enjoy the view, of the surrounding agricultural land or incredible night sky, from the balcony which sits under the iconic “Carrawobitty” property name. 

And the Wrens are thrilled. Having left Forbes as young people and made careers in Canberra, they have always considered this town their home and were delighted to be able to return and move into such an iconic piece of Forbes property in 2012. 

They’ve laboured long and hard on the internal restorations, picking up the work previous owners began.  

“Our vision was always to complete the restoration process, to make her accessible to the public, but with the heritage aspects first and foremost in our planning,” Monica said.

“Our aim with this is to ensure she has a purpose well into the future, and beyond our custodianship.

“This is not about us, this is about the house, future-proofing it.”

While the works that have been funded are a real milestone, it won’t be the end of their restoration efforts with work on the garden, the old machinery and horse stables that pre-date the current house. 

The Wrens feel they owe thanks to many who have supported them in their works and in the application for the grant: James and Penny Carlisle, Rob Willis OAM, Dianne Decker AM, Council’s heritage advisor Graham Hall, Historical Society’s Bruce Adams, Council GM Steve Loane and Member for Orange Phil Donato. 

They particularly thanked grants officer Andrew Rawsthorne for his encouragement and work on the project plan.

After a “soft opening” offering events and accommodation, the Wrens are finding the right fit for Carrawobitty.

“Carrawobitty” is an Aboriginal word, and the story of the land spans many generations of both Indigenous people and Europeans. As well as a private home, the house has been a government home for boys, and a Catholic Church aged care home. 

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