Ultimo Uniting Church Group Buildings and Grounds, Including Interiors | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Ultimo Uniting Church Group Buildings and Grounds, Including Interiors

Item details

Name of item: Ultimo Uniting Church Group Buildings and Grounds, Including Interiors
Other name/s: Manse Aka The Harris Centre, Dutch Presbyterian Church, Ultimo Uniting Church
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Religion
Category: Presbytery/Rectory/ Vicarage/Manse
Primary address: 97 Quarry Street, Ultimo, NSW 2007
Local govt. area: Sydney
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
97 Quarry StreetUltimoSydney  Primary Address

Statement of significance:

The building dates from one of the key period of layers for the development of Ultimo as a direct result of subdivision of the Harris and Macarthur Estates. It is a good example of a late Victorian church complex on a prominent corner site which makes a positive contribution to the streetscape.

The Ultimo Uniting Church Group, dating from 1883, is historically significant as a surviving local Church complex which has been in continual use as a place of worship for over a century. Its origins are associated with the development of the Presbyterian Church in New South Wales and its predecessor Church arose through the activities of Dr John Dunmore Lang. Its history and development are closely allied to the history of the neighbourhood and it has been part of the social and spiritual fabric of the local community since it was established (Criteria A.4 and G.1) (Historic Theme 8.6 Worshipping). The Ultimo Uniting Church is associated with the Harris family which played a significant role in the history of Ultimo (Criterion H.1). The Church is an excellent example of a small Victorian Gothic Church which exploits local stone and relates well in scale and finishes to the housing and other buildings nearby. The manse reflects well the characteristics of a Victorian Filigree terrace (Criteria D.2 and E.1).
Date significance updated: 12 Apr 13
Note: There are incomplete details for a number of items listed in NSW. The Heritage Division intends to develop or upgrade statements of significance and other information for these items as resources become available.


Construction years: 1888-1902
Physical description: The church is a 2 storey Victorian Gothic style constructed of sandstone with stone and rendered dressings, buttresses and gable roof. The building is symmetrical with double gothic arched leadlight windows with stone tracery above panelled doors at ground floor level. The adjacent manse is a Victorian free-standing villa in the Italianate style with highly decorative cast iron columns and ballustrades. Religious overtones are notable in the pointed arch window design and render details. The ground floor verandah features black and white tessellated tile paving. The interior has intact plaster ogee cornices and ceiling roses, timber architraves and 4 panel timber doors. The adjacent hall is single storey constructed of face brickwork with paired timber double hung windows andstone detailing. Church and Manse constructed 1888 and Church Hall 1902 (dates from foundation stones).

The Church is a modest Victorian Gothic design, featuring pointed arch windows and door openings. It is constructed of coarse dressed ashlar contrasted with smooth dressed ashlar used for quoins, window and door architraves and for the tower walls; the sandstone used for the building is local. The gable roof is clad in slate tiles and the spire is clad in sheet metal with rolled joints. The Church relates well in scale and finishes to nearby housing and other buildings. The Church hall at the rear of the Church is a single storey brick rectangular hall with a corrugated iron gable roof and sandstone footings and coping to the gable parapet. The former manse, now the Harris Centre, is a two storey Victorian Filigree style house of face brick with a terracotta tile clad, hipped gable roof. It has a cast iron lace verandah balustrade, columns and valance on the upper level.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
In good condition with a high degree of original fabric intact and high potential for restoration.
Date condition updated:10 Mar 05
Modifications and dates: The front garden area of the church and manse has been altered.
Further information: Heritage Inventory sheets are often not comprehensive, and should be regarded as a general guide only. Inventory sheets are based on information available, and often do not include the social history of sites and buildings. Inventory sheets are constantly updated by the City as further information becomes available. An inventory sheet with little information may simply indicate that there has been no building work done to the item recently: it does not mean that items are not significant. Further research is always recommended as part of preparation of development proposals for heritage items, and is necessary in preparation of Heritage Impact Assessments and Conservation Management Plans, so that the significance of heritage items can be fully assessed prior to submitting development applications.
Current use: Childcare
Former use: Residential


Historical notes: The "Eora people" was the name given to the coastal Aborigines around Sydney. Central Sydney is therefore often referred to as "Eora Country". Within the City of Sydney local government area, the traditional owners are the Cadigal and Wangal bands of the Eora. There is no written record of the name of the language spoken and currently there are debates as whether the coastal peoples spoke a separate language "Eora" or whether this was actually a dialect of the Dharug language. Remnant bushland in places like Blackwattle Bay retain elements of traditional plant, bird and animal life, including fish and rock oysters.

With the invasion of the Sydney region, the Cadigal and Wangal people were decimated but there are descendants still living in Sydney today. All cities include many immigrants in their population. Aboriginal people from across the state have been attracted to suburbs such as Pyrmont, Balmain, Rozelle, Glebe and Redfern since the 1930s. Changes in government legislation in the 1960s provided freedom of movement enabling more Aboriginal people to choose to live in Sydney.

(Information sourced from Anita Heiss, "Aboriginal People and Place", Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/barani )

The first land grants were made in 1803 and 1806 to Surgeon John Harris who was granted 34 acres and then constructed and named Ultimo House in 1804. He named it Ultimo (meaning last month) as a result of a clerical error in his charge papers. There were further grants to Harris of 9 and 135 acres in 1806 and another 12 acres in 1818. He moved to his farm at Shanes Park (near St Marys) in 1821 but retained the estate and leased Ultimo House first to Edward Riley and then to Justice Stephen.

Proposed improvements along the first few miles of Parramatta Rd prompted subdivision by Harris along the Parramatta Rd and George Street frontages, and these were developed into houses, shops and public houses over the next 10 years. The remainder of the estate remained largely undeveloped and following Harris’ death in 1838, legal complications prevented further subdivision until 1859. Ultimo was incorporated into the City of Sydney in 1844 and the early 1850’s saw a number of major developments in Pyrmont and also in Ultimo to a lesser extent. Its close proximity to the city’s expanding central business district, Brisbane Distillery port and transport facilities made it an attractive area for housing. In 1853, the Sydney Railway Company resumed 14½ acres of the Ultimo Estate for a railway line to and with a terminus at Darling Harbour. The area was further subdivided in 1860 which established major north/south streets including Pyrmont, Harris, Jones and Wattle Streets although the roads were not fully formed until 1870. The west side of the estate was dominated by quarrying activities and the remainder used for dairying paddocks. Services including water and sewer came to the area in the early 1860’s and gas lighting between 1868 & 1872.

The population doubled during this time, and industry began to establish including Castlemaine Brewery in Quarry Street, Atlas Ironworks, and manufacturer and merchant Samuel Freeman in Harris Street. The early 1880’s saw a boom in housing in the area followed by Goldsborough Mort’s woolstores in 1883 and other substantial warehouse buildings including a large grain and produce store in Allen St, Waite & Bull’s woolstore in 1893, Winchcombe Carson No.1 in 1895 (in Wattle St) and Farmers and Graziers (between Wattle and Jones Sts). In 1892 the Ultimo Technical College opened in Mary Ann St. By the early 1880’s Union Square was established as a commercial centre and by 1900 most residential development had ceased by which time the Pyrmont and Ultimo Power Houses had opened and the new Pyrmont Bridge had been constructed. Most development in the 20th century was commercial and industrial and included additional woolstores, Pyrmont Incinerator (1934) , flour mills (1940) , additional power stations (1955) and the Government Printing Office (1960’s).

The church and manse were constructed c1888 and the hall completed in 1902. (Foundation stones)

(NE Register) The Presbyterian Church in Pyrmont and Ultimo has its origins in a Scottish Presbyterian Chapel established in Mount Street, Pyrmont by Dr John Dunmore Lang in 1842. This chapel was established at the same time as the Australian Steam Navigation Shipyard on Darling Island and was patronised by the Scottish shipwrights employed there, as well as by many Scottish stonemasons working in the quarries. This chapel appears to have operated until 1856, when it was taken over by the Free Church sect of Presbyterianism and it later became a local school. In 1864, Lang attempted to restart the Scottish Church in Pyrmont and leased, with a fixed price option to purchase, a block of land on Harris Street, near Gipps Street and erected a weatherboard Church. The various sects of the Presbyterian Church amalgamated in 1865 as the Presbyterian Church of New South Wales. Prior to this, John Harris (the second) had provided that a half acre block of his estate should be given to the Church of Scotland and, in the subdivision of the estate in 1859, the Trustees of the Estate had allocated such a block in Quarry Street. In 1864 Lang had not wished to use this block as, at that time, it was undeveloped, barren land. The Church sought to have the Quarry Street land sold to finance the purchase of the leased Harris Street land, but the Harris Estate Trustees objected and insisted that the Church should be built at Quarry Street. In 1880, the Church acquiesced, purchased the Harris Street land that had been leased, sold it almost immediately for double the price and used this money to pay for a new Church at Quarry Street. The Church building was completed in 1883 and the Manse in 1888. In 1902 a Church Hall was added, paid for largely by donations from Margaret Harris, who also laid the foundation stone. In April 1960, to allow for altered demographics, the Ultimo Church was allocated to the Dutch congregation of the Presbyterian Church, with English language services now being given at Redfern. In 1972, the Manse was given over for the Harris Centre, a community welfare facility. Although the Church's design has been attributed to architects Blackmann and Sulman, Sulman did not arrive in Australia until 1885.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Community facilities-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Religion-Activities associated with particular systems of faith and worship The Church-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Social institutions-Activities and organisational arrangements for the provision of social activities (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The church complex has historic significance as it dates from the key period of development of Ultimo and the subdivision of grand estates into residential and commercial development.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The church complex is associated with the Dutch community in Sydney.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The building are a prominent element in the streetscape and good example of a late Victorian building with elaborate parapet detailing with classic motifs and other typical key elements of the style.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The building is held in high esteem by the local community as a place of worship and meeting.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The area is not identified in an archaeological zoning plan and the area has been well researched and it is unlikely that the site would reveal further information that would contribute to the significance of the area.
SHR Criteria f)
The buildings are not rare.
SHR Criteria g)
The building is a representative example of a Victorian church complex found in Pyrmont/Ultimo and the inner suburbs of Sydney.
Integrity/Intactness: High
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Recommended management:

The buildings should be retained and conserved. A Heritage Assessment and Heritage Impact Statement should be prepared for the building prior to any major works being undertaken. There shall be no vertical additions to the buildings and no alterations to the facade of the building other than to reinstate original features. Any additions and alterations should be confined to the rear in areas of less significance, shall not be visibly prominent and shall be in accordance with the Sydney City Council Development Control Plan. The building should be retained and conserved. A Heritage Assessment and Heritage Impact Statement, or a Conservation Management Plan, should be prepared for the building prior to any major works being undertaken. There shall be no vertical additions to the building and no alterations to the façade of the building other than to reinstate original features. The principal room layout and planning configuration as well as significant internal original features including ceilings, cornices, joinery, flooring and fireplaces should be retained and conserved. Any additions and alterations should be confined to the rear in areas of less significance, should not be visibly prominent and shall be in accordance with the relevant planning controls.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanSydney LEP 2012I205714 Dec 12   
Heritage study     

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Pyrmont/Ultimo Heritage Study1990 Anglin Associates  No

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written   City of Sydney, "Ultimo Pyrmont Conservation Report". (Ranking - 1).
WrittenAnita Heiss Aboriginal People and Place, Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Local Government
Database number: 2424473

Every effort has been made to ensure that information contained in the State Heritage Inventory is correct. If you find any errors or omissions please send your comments to the Database Manager.

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