Royal collection: our loss is Hunter's gain

A Hunter Valley couple is poised to swoop on one of the world's biggest collections of royal memorabilia, now housed in Woonona.

Janet Williams has had an offer for her royal memorabilia collection.

Janet Williams has had an offer for her royal memorabilia collection.

Wollongong councillors this week knocked back an offer to buy the collection for $350,000 from its owner, Janet Williams, instead referring the proposal to the city's tourism arm, Destination Wollongong.

Mrs Williams said she was disappointed by the council's lack of interest, and in particular comments by Councillor David Brown, who said he would "rather eat glass and gouge my eyes out with a fork" than visit such a "kitsch" collection that celebrated "the House of Battenberg".

"He's letting political issues enter this, but it's not a political thing, it's about tourism for Wollongong," Mrs Williams said.

She said she would wait until the end of January before selling to the Hunter couple, who had visited the collection multiple times when it traded from the Williams's house as Janet's Royalty Rooms.

"They've always wanted it," Mrs Williams said.

"I've had other [offers] from America. They know it's a big-time tourist attraction.

"My dream would have been for it to remain in Wollongong because we need tourism, but I am not begging Wollongong to buy it."

Destination Wollongong general manager Mark Sleigh said he was awaiting documentation from the council on the proposal, but was "more than happy to meet with Mrs Williams in the new year to discuss the collection and her thoughts on how to maximise its benefit for the Wollongong region".

"I am extremely aware of the importance of having a diverse range of cultural offerings throughout the region, and the important part this can play in the greater tourism picture," Mr Sleigh said.

"I would hope that the exposure that this important collection is receiving in the local media may generate interest from a private party to purchase the collection and keep it in the Wollongong region."

Janet's Royalty Rooms traded as a tourist attraction at Woonona for 10 years, but its opening hours and visitor numbers were heavily restricted as a result of its quiet, suburban surrounds.

The attraction was limited to a single coachload of visitors, or two minibuses, no more than four times a week.

"We were getting 50-60 people in there and that was all we were allowed. We weren't even allowed to work on the Queen's Birthday weekend," Mrs Williams said.

"If the [collection was relocated to] a place where it could [open] seven days a week and [receive] two coaches a day, imagine how much money they could make."

Mrs Williams said she had spent far more on the pieces than $350,000.


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