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Located on the Manning River just inland from northern New South Wales coast, the town of Wingham is part of the traditional lands of the Birpai Aboriginal people. First settled by cedar cutters in the 1820s, the river fronted settlement quickly established a wharf to transport and collect the timber. Seeing the potential for river trade in the region, a town was surveyed for the area around the wharf in 1843 making Wingham the first town in the Manning Valley region.
Named after a village in Kent, England, settlement in Wingham was slow with only a few land allotments sold before the Robertson Lands Act in 1861 saw cattle farmers take advantage of the opportunity to move into the fertile lands. With land use diversifying, the trading of goods from the Wingham Port would increase and by the 1880s the opening of a bank saw Wingham overtake neighbouring towns to become the primary service centre for the surrounding districts.
Unlike many other rural communities Wingham did not experience much bushranger activity in the late 1800s, yet the town would gain notoriety through its part in the capture of Jimmy Governor of the Governor Brothers. The brothers had been on the run for three months after murdering five people on a property near Gilgandra and had continued their bloody rampage through New South Wales, before Jimmy had been shot in the face by Herbert Byers and severely injured in early October. His brother Joe fled north and Jimmy in a weakened state would be apprehended by a party of Wingham residents just outside of the town in October 1900 before being transferred to Darlinghurst Gaol in Sydney to stand trial.
As river trade diminished in favour of the railway, river ports such as Wingham would cease to be the singular point of trade and industry they once were. A railway line was extended through the town in 1913 yet by the mid 1900s the nearby town of Taree took over as the key commercial centre. Although a mainstay of the local industry since settlers moved to Wingham, the local timber industry would be replaced by the cattle and dairy farms that today comprise the majority of local land use in Wingham.
Although tourism has not affected the town as dramatically as many nearby coastal towns, the well preserved heritage architecture of the town has seen Wingham become a favoured top for visitors to the area. The town also stands on the fringes of several national parks including the Wingham Brush Nature Reserve and Tapin Tops National Park. The river fronted Wingham Brush is the last remaining example of flood plain rainforest in New South Wales with a combination of native flora and fauna rare to find anywhere else in the state.