News that a portion of a Southern Highlands street be listed as a new heritage conservation area would be music to the ears of one Bowral woman.
Sadly the historian, author and strong supporter of the heritage push passed away just a month before the announcement.
But not before she completed a stunning publication that will be a lasting legacy to her appreciation of the region's heritage.
Maureen Townsing was one of several Bowral residents eager to preserve the heritage value of properties in Aitken Road.
In fact, Mrs Townsing and her husband, Bud, recently completed a book highlighting the history of two early 20th century properties located along the road.
Their work was prompted after they learned that the properties had been purchased by a developer, Lend Lease, and were earmarked for demolition to pave the way for a proposed aged care facility.
Mrs Townsing wasted no time piecing together the history of the building company Alf Stephens and Sons. The company was behind the construction of Aitken Road properties, Grantham and Dulwich/Barkfold.
The company and its namesake, Alf Stephens, were also responsible for many other significant properties in the Southern Highlands including Bowral Courthouse, the Gaol Governor's residence at Berrima Gaol, Bowral Golf Club, The Empire Cinema, The Hotel Robertson (Ranelagh House), Springett's Arcade and many other properties across the Wingecarrribee Shire.
Stephens' son, Alf Stephens Junior built and was the original resident of Grantham. Meanwhile, Dulwich/Barkfold was a project of the plumbing business Gurney and Platt. The Gurney family had close links with the Stephens family, made tighter with the marriage of Richard Victor Gurney to Ethel Grace Stephens in 1918. They were the first residents of Dulwich/Barkfold.
Grantham is also home to a historic cricket pitch which was regularly used by a young Sir Donald Bradman at the invitation of former Bowral mayor Alf Stephens.
And if the walls of these two buildings could talk they would share the stories of people and circumstances that have helped to shape the Highlands.
Fortunately Mr and Mrs Townsing stepped in to ensure many of those stories will live on through the pages of their book.
They began researching for the publication in November 2019.
Their hard work was brought together in a beautiful hard cover book, published in February 2020 and released in March, just short of the COVID-19 shutdown.
The book, A brief history of Alf Stephens and Sons, has been made available to many people in the community who want to know more about the work of Alf Stephens and Sons.
However, it has not been made available in a mass production in book shops.
This publication was a labour of love of history for Mr and Mrs Townsing.
It was not their first publication, but sadly for Mrs Townsing it would be her last.
Mr and Mrs Townsing were among several residents who gathered in front of the two historically significant Aitken Road properties in May.
They were on site for a photo opportunity in recognition of news that the two buildings had been saved from a proverbial wrecking ball.
Only a few days earlier the residents had learned that Lend Lease had withdrawn its development proposal for an aged care facility at that location.
The Southern Highland News caught up with the residents to chat about the news and take a photo to mark the special occasion.
Sadly, later that afternoon, Mrs Townsing fell ill and passed away.
Mr Townsing proudly sings the praises of his late wife's dedication to bringing back to life the stories of the past in several books.
He points out that his wife researched and wrote the published words, while he supported her work with photographs.
"When we first moved to Bowral from Bundanoon about five years ago we wrote our first book about the history of the houses of Church and Edward Street," he said.
"It was our contribution to our neighbourhood in an effort to preserve the heritage of the area.
"When the Aitken Road situation came along, we asked what could we do to help ensure the history of that area was not lost.
"So we wrote this book with assistance from the Springett family, which once owned Grantham."
Mr Townsing said that there was never an intention to produce a commercial book.
"But if people want a copy, we are happy to sell them one at cost," he said.
While Mrs Townsing has passed, she will be integral to the next planned publication from her devoted husband.
Mr Townsing said he was working on "a book about Maureen's library and collectibles".
That is sure to become an intriguing read with Mrs Townsing's love of books highlighted in book shelves that grace many of the walls of the couple's Bowral home.
"Maureen had an extensive taste including children's pop-up books," he said.
Mr Townsing said that one of his wife's greatest treasures was the rare Ida Rentoul Outhwhaite publication, Elves and Fairies.
"Former politician Rod Cavalier called her collection one of the finest little libraries," he said.
"She was also once featured on the program The Collectibles on the ABC."
Mrs Townsing is survived by her husband, Bud, two children Matthew and Elizabeth and four grand children, Charlie, Olivia, Emily and Evie.
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