Sydney Town Hall | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage

Heritage

Sydney Town Hall

Item details

Name of item: Sydney Town Hall
Other name/s: Town Hall, Centennial Hall, Main Hall, Peace Hall, Great Hall, Old Burial Ground
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Government and Administration
Category: Council Chambers
Location: Lat: -33.8732096512 Long: 151.2062082520
Primary address: 483 George Street, Sydney, NSW 2000
Parish: St Andrew
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Sydney
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Metropolitan
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
PART PORTION31 Sydney 
LOT4 DP557601
LOT7 DP591730
PART LOT1 DP600413

Boundary:

The listing boundary is formed by George Street in the east, Druitt Street in the north, the property boundary to the south and the prior lot boundary of the burial ground in the west.
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
483 George StreetSydneySydneySt AndrewCumberlandPrimary Address

Statement of significance:

Sydney Town Hall is significant for its continuing use as the offices of the Council of the City of Sydney and as the city's civic and cultural centre. It is the centre of city politics and the place where decisions are made about the city. Major civic events are celebrated here and the hall acts as the venue for major cultural events, benefit concerts and rituals. It has high social value for all sections of the community and is used regularly as the meeting place for political protests and rallies.

The building with its clock tower and steps is a city landmark and symbol of the city, both historically and today. It is the most elaborate and exuberant work of Second Empire Style architecture in Australia featuring corner towers, domed pavilions, pedimented breakfront entries, a hierarchy of decorative orders, columned and pedimented window treatment, venetian windows and elaborate decoration. It exhibits the highest level of craftsmanship, quality of materials and incorporates technological advances. Elaborate interiors exhibit fine design and craftsmanship.

Decorative features of exceptional significance include the vestibule glass dome, the organ, mosaic floors, carved cedar joinery and carved sandstone and marble. It features the first known use of Australian motifs in the etched glass. Exceptional windows by Lucien Henry also feature Australian flora.

The growth of the building reflects the growth and importance of the city. The development of the city coat of arms is also recorded in the building fabric.

The site and surrounding land has high historical and archaeological importance as it represents the location of the former Old Sydney Burial Ground. The cemetery was Sydney's first permanent cemetery, set out in September 1782 by Governor Phillip and the Reverend Richard Johnson. It was closed in 1820 when the Sandhills or Brickfield cemetery was opened. Works within Town Hall and its vicinity regularly expose remains of graves.

As an archaeological resource, Old Sydney Burial Ground has high scientific research potential as it contains material culture related to a seminal phase of the nation's history. As a burial ground which includes remains of some of the city's founding pioneers and one of Sydney's oldest European religious and ceremonial sites, the Old Sydney Burial Ground has outstanding social value to the people of Sydney and Australia. The Old Sydney Burial Ground is a site of State heritage significance.

The place is associated with many important people including politicians, designers, artists as well as performers and community figures and names are recorded in the fabric. There are important associated collections of records and of items such as art works which enhance understanding of the place and research and educational value.
Date significance updated: 02 Jun 09
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.

Description

Designer/Maker: John H. Wilson, Edward Bell, Albert Bond, Thomas Sapsford, John Hennessy, George McRae
Builder/Maker: Kelly and McLeod, Smith and Bennett, McLeod and Noble, J. Stewart and Co.
Construction years: 1869-1889
Physical description: Sydney Town Hall is a monumental brick and stone structure. It is on four levels referred to as Lower Ground, Ground, First and Second floors and there are some intermediate levels in the area of the stage and organ. The building was built in two main stages the first being the vestibule and offices (1869 - 1880) and the second being the two halls (1880 - 1889). On the lowest level of the second stage is the Lower Town Hall, main north and south stairs (which extend to the first floor), corridors, backstage facilities, north and south entrances, and ancillary spaces. The north corridor links via the enclosed colonnade to Town Hall House to the west. On the lowest level of the first stage, which is about a metre higher, are vaults in the centre, corridors and offices around the outside.

On the ground floor of the second stage is the Main Hall. This is the main space in the building and is three storeys high. At the west end is the stage and the organ which is under a proscenium arch and behind which are facilities for performers. There are galleries on the other three sides accessed from the second floor with clerestory windows above. On the north and south sides are wide corridors, main stairs, entrances and rooms containing offices and toilets. The entrances open onto balconies and grand stairs leading to the street. The main space on the ground floor of the first stage is the Vestibule which is an elaborate two storey space topped by an oval shaped curved glass dome. The vestibule has wide corridors on three sides and around the perimeter are rooms containing offices and some public spaces. Centrally located on the eastern side is the octagonal entrance foyer over which is the clock tower. This leads off the main entrance to the building, the George Street stair. The Grand Stair is to the north of the foyer and includes a passenger lift.

On the first floor in the second stage are the corridors servicing the galleries in the Main Hall, the north and south stairs, rooms containing offices and toilets. In the backstage area are performers facilities and there are links on each side to Town Hall House which is west of the Town Hall. On the first floor in the first stage, on either side of the upper portion of the vestibule are the main spaces on this level; the Council Chamber and the Reception Room. A corridor to the east of the Vestibule serves these spaces and offices along the east of the building. The Grand Staircase ends at this level and a spiral stair under the clock tower leads to the second floor. The second floor is mainly in the first stage of the building and is offices and ancillary spaces. There are two main spaces on the north and south of the dome, linked by a corridor to rooms within the corner pavilions and to the lift, which continues to this level. Walkways on the roof provide access to storerooms in the roofs of the pavilions over the North and South entrances. To the west of the Main Hall two spiral stairs give access to the roof. The spiral stair in the clock tower continues giving access to higher levels where the bell and the clock mechanism are located. The counterweights for the clock are located within the walls at each corner of the tower.

CONSTRUCTION
Sydney Town Hall is a composite brick and stone construction. The external walls and elements such as the upper levels of the clock tower, balconies and colonnades, external stairs and roof top decoration are of Sydney 'yellowblock' sandstone. Internal faces of walls and internal walls are rendered and/or plastered brick. The building is supported on brick and stone strip foundations or brick piers. The first stage mostly has timber floor structures and floors except for the corridors and the vaults. The second stage has concrete floors vaulted between steel beams, and has some timber floors. The floors are tile or timber over the structure.

The roof structures of the first stage are timber with trusses spanning the two larger spaces. The nature of the structure supporting the vestibule dome and the adjacent rooms is not known. The second stage utilises a steel roof structure with massive riveted steel girders spanning the main hall. Over these girders are wrought iron and steel trusses forming the pitched roof. The structure of the flat roof areas is concrete vaulted between steel beams. The domed pavilions have a steel structure. The roofing is slate to pitched roof areas, membrane to flat areas and corrugated steel to the curved roofed pavilions.

Internally the walls and ceilings to important spaces are elaborately finished in plaster. There is a hierarchy of decorative treatments reflecting the importance and use of spaces. Less important spaces are finished with render, sometimes lined to resemble stone. Fine timber joinery to windows and doors is cedar and there are many stained and leadlight glass windows to major spaces.

INTERNAL DECORATION
The Town Hall was temporarily occupied in 1875 however the finishing of the ground floor rooms was not undertaken until 1878 and the finishing of the second floor rooms was undertaken to coincide with the opening of the Main Hall. The decoration of the ground floor chambers and corridors of the first stage was designed by David McBeath and the decoration of the Vestibule by Albert Bond. All of these interiors exhibit a high level of ornament to all surfaces. The High Victorian interior of the Vestibule was finished in a variety of colours (at least forty) and surface finishes such as marbelling, faux sheen, waxing and graining as well as tinted plaster were employed (or specified). Sharp corners and crisp details were obtained through the use of Keene's Cement, a hard plaster which could be oiled and polished, coloured or painted. Polished plaster was also employed in the first floor rooms, such as the Reception Room and the corridors.

One of the characteristic features of the decoration of the first stage of the Town Hall is the use of embossed (or etched) glass. The milky design is actually raised and the polished sections recessed. The fanlights to the offices and the first floor windows into the Vestibule feature Australian flora and fauna as decorative motifs. This is one of the earliest known uses of the use of Australian motifs to decorate architectural elements. In addition symbolic decoration is employed.

The High Victorian interiors went out of fashion quickly and the designers of the second stage, in particular John Hennessy, were influenced by the Aesthetic Movement. The first floor chambers including the Council Chamber, the Finance Room, the Aldermen's refreshment room (now the Aldermen's WC's), the Reception Room, the Town Clerk's and the Lord Mayor's offices and the first floor corridor and Grand Staircase were redecorated between 1888 and 1890 with Aesthetic Movement style decorative schemes.

The corridors and staircases of the second stage of the Town Hall were designed in a far less ornate manner. Throughout the corridors and the Main Hall the hard white plaster was given a polished finish. Doors were added, c1890, to the Vestibule to separate it from the Main Hall. The rooms were subsequently repainted many times in simple one colour schemes.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The building is in excellent condition. As at 2003 maintenance is required to stonework on the north, west and south facades.

The site has exceptional archaeological potential because Town Hall is built within the former Old Sydney Burial Ground. The cemetery was Sydney's first permanent cemetery and it is estimated that at least 2000 burials were made in the Old Sydney Burial Ground between 1782 and 1820. The majority of the people who died in Sydney would have been buried there, convict and prominent citizen alike, unless they were buried on their own land. Certain parts of the cemetery were set aside for particular people or groups (ie. New South Wales Corps' area was near the Druitt and George Street Corner).

After it closed in 1820 the state of the cemetery deteriorated so that in 1845 evidence was given to a committee inquiring into its future that most of the graves were no longer marked and that it would be impossible to find them without clearing the land down to coffins.Notice was given in the Sydney Morning Herald that remains of the interred 'so far as they can by reasonable search be discovered' would be reburied at Rockwood Cemetery. Since that time, works in the vicinity of the Town Hall regularly expose remains of graves. Excavation of services in the footpaths along George and Druitt Streets in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries found evidence of graves. Excavation for Town Hall railway station in 1929 exposed coffins and headstones. Several brick tombs were recorded in 1974 when the Town Hall arcade was being excavated.

In 1991 works to Town Hall revealed a brick tomb and several graves so the potential for the proposed 2003 works to disturb graves of exceptional significance is considered to be high. Remains from the site have rare research potential for learning more about the health and well-being of the early settlers.
Date condition updated:16 May 03
Modifications and dates: There have been few modifications after the completion of the second stage of works associated with the Town Hall building. In 1906 a lift was added and the main stair altered and the Lord Mayors private rooms were converted into the Lady Mayoress suite.

In 1892 a port cochere was added to the front of the building. In 1934 the main entrance was remodelled with the demolition of the port cochere and replacement with a flight of steps. During WW2 the Lower Town Hall was altered with additional columns to strengthen the structure.

In the 1970s Town Hall House was added to the rear, earlier offices demolished, a two storey wing added on Druitt Street, which involved the removal of part of the north stair, Sydney Square was formed, earlier fences and gardens removed and pebblecrete paving layed around the building.

In 1990 to 1992 a restoration program replaced some marble to the front stair and sandstone on the east facade, the vestibule and Main Hall were redecorated stormwater and sewage systems were upgraded and a protective roof installed over the Vestibule Dome.
Current use: Town Hall
Former use: Burial ground; Town Hall

History

Historical notes: The Sydney Town Hall is built within the former Old Sydney Burial Ground. The cemetery boundary originally extended into George Street and up to the southern side of Druitt Street. The cemetery was Sydney's first permanent cemetery, burials previously being reported in land adjacent to the Military Barracks and in the Rocks. The cemetery was set out in September 1782 by Governor Phillip and the Reverend Richard Johnson on land that had belonged to Marine Captain Shea (buried there in 1789) and the first interments presumably took place from this time. More land was added on the northern and western sides of the cemetery in 1812. The cemetery was closed in 1820 when the Sandhills or Brickfield cemetery (now Central Railway Station) was opened.

It has been estimated that at least 2000 burials were made in the Old Sydney Burial Ground between 1782 and 1820. The majority of the people who died in Sydney would have been buried there, convict and prominent citizen alike, unless they were buried on their own land. Certain parts of the cemetery were set aside for particular people or groups (ie. New South Wales Corps' area was near the Druitt and George Street Corner).

After it closed in 1820 the state of the cemetery deteriorated so that in 1845 evidence was given to a committee inquiring into its future that most of the graves were no longer marked and that it would be impossible to find them without clearing the land down to coffins. Notice was given in the Sydney Morning Herald that remains of the interred 'so far as they can by reasonable search be discovered' would be reburied at Rockwood Cemetery. Since that time, works in the vicinity of the Town Hall regularly expose remains of graves.

The City Corporation was formed in 1842 meeting in various temporary offices. They lobbied the Government for a suitable site for many years and were eventually granted the Old Burial Ground, in the heart of the commercial district. The site was used as Sydney's official burial ground from 1792 to 1820. Graves ranged from paupers unmarked burials to elaborate tombs and vaults. Vandalism of the site is described in the 1840s to 1860s and some tombstones were used in footpaths. When the site was developed for the Town Hall remains that where disturbed where reintered in a memorial in Rookwood cemetery. Where graves were not disturbed they were left untouched.

The construction of Sydney Town Hall commenced in 1869, and it was designed to be a symbol of the wealth and status of the city. The building was constructed in two stages, Stage I: 1868 - 1878 and Stage II: the Main Hall, 1885 - 1890. The Town Hall design was the result of a competition, won by J. H. Willson. The Second Empire style design (including four eastern pavilions, clock tower, vestibule, reception room and Council Chamber) was modified by the City Engineer to reduce the cost. Following Willson's death Stage I was completed by successive City Architects. The design and construction were associated with intense political and personal battles. In 1875 council occupied the incomplete building in temporary offices on the lower floor. Discussion continued about Stage II, including a report by McBeath in 1878 with costs for the foundations. These proceeded in 1880 but were faulty and work halted.

The building was extended from 1884-86 with construction of Centennial Hall to the west. In 1881 Stage II was redesigned by Thomas Sapsford, City Architect, assisted by John Hennessy, and after Sapsford's death was completed under the supervision of George McRae, City Architect. The new design featured a wider hall and curved corridors.

The new foundation stone was laid by Lady Mayoress Lizzie Harris in 1883 and the contract for the superstructure was let in 1885. John Harris was mayor five times from 1875 to 1900. The completion was delayed waiting for roof girders from England and was finally opened in 1889. Electric lighting was used from the start produced by an engine on site. The practice of inscribing names in the building continued in the form of plaques, tablets and bronze medallions often unveiled by important public figures.

From the late 1880s through the 1890s, Town Hall was significantly the site where a number of important meetings on the issue of federation took place. Specifically, it was the venue for the formation and official launch of the Australasian Federation League, the principle pro-federation organisation in NSW, in June and July 1893 respectively. The League also held its annual general and other meetings in the building and, on the eve of the second- and successful- federation referendum in June 1899, organised a massive public demonstration at the Hall in support of federation. The opponents of federation also used the Hall for important gatherings, such as the major public meeting organised by the Anti-Convention Bill League in April 1898 as the first major public exposition of its views.

Redecoration and various additions and alterations took place in the late 19th and early 20th century. In 1889 upgrading works included facing the stone treads of the north and south stairs with marble and redecoration of the front entrance and first floor chambers. Painting of the Main Hall was extensively debated and in 1903 proposals for colours were rejected and a scheme of "cream tones, flatted" was chosen.

In 1890 the Mayor's private rooms, on the first floor in the north of the second stage, were grandly furnished by the Mayor. It was redecorated in 1906 for the Lady Mayoress with new openings between rooms in the Art Nouveau style. The rooms house some of Town Hall's most precious items, including the 'Vase de Remini'.

During WWI, the Town Hall displayed banners saying "Welcome" and "God Speed" and there was a controversy over hiring the hall to various groups and many tried to obtain bookings at charity rate. The Artists Ball in 1924 "got out of hand" and there was heightened debate over use.

Labour assumed control of Council in the mid 1920's but were sacked by the State Government who installed Commissioners in 1927. They answered criticism of the diffuculties of using the halls with a proposal to revamp the place to enhance its letting value. The Labour Daily criticised the sacrifice of staff rooms.

In 1929 blasting for the underground railway destabilised the port cochere to the east entrance and the Labour Daily called for its removal saying it was an afterthought for the aristocracy. In 1934 the current, more democratic, George Street stair and portico entrance commenced construction and the project incorporated works modernising Lower Town Hall. The additional columns in the Lower Town Hall may have been installed at this time.

During WWII Town Hall took an active role in maintaining civilian morale and safety. Areas were set aside for administration of National Emergency Services. The Lower Hall was altered to accommodate stretcher parties and there was an emergency battery. By 1948 letting of Town Hall to the Communist Party and similar organisation was banned.

Up till the opening of the Sydney Opera House, Town Hall was the major venue for reception of guests to Sydney, including Royalty. Such visits were sometimes preceded by renovations to the building and accompanied by decorations with drapes and illuminations. In the 1950s and 1960s the hall was also the venue for naturalisation ceremonies and for mass vaccinations and events promoting public health. In the 1970s the front steps became the saluting base for Vietnam marches and for demonstrations and subsequently witnessed demonstrations about the law and the Green Bans campaign.

Sundry additions and alterations have taken place throughout the building in the late 20th century, including addition of a goods life servicing Centennial Hall and Lower Town Hall in 1978 (TKD Architects, 7/2015, 2).

In 1989 and 1990 the centenary of the main hall, and Council's sesquicentenary were celebrated and resulted in the restoration of the main public spaces and the east facade. Substantial restoration and redecoration works took place in the early 1990s (TKD, 2015, 2).

In 2000, Olympic and Paralympic ceremonial events took place at Sydney Town Hall.

A major upgrade of essential services was undertaken in 2009-10 (TKD, 2015, 2).

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Science-Activities associated with systematic observations, experiments and processes for the explanation of observable phenomena Researching archaeological relics and landscapes-
5. Working-Working Labour-Activities associated with work practises and organised and unorganised labour Working as a manager or executive officer-
5. Working-Working Labour-Activities associated with work practises and organised and unorganised labour Working in offices-
5. Working-Working Labour-Activities associated with work practises and organised and unorganised labour Working in the public service-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Campaigning for inclusion in political processes-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Local and municipal self-governance-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Federating Australia-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Designing making and using coats of arms and heraldry-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Performing important ceremonies and rituals-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Designing in an exemplary architectural style-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Designing making and showing stained and coloured glass-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Architectural styles and periods - Victorian Second Empire-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Birth and Death-Activities associated with the initial stages of human life and the bearing of children, and with the final stages of human life and disposal of the dead. Burying and remembering notable persons-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Birth and Death-Activities associated with the initial stages of human life and the bearing of children, and with the final stages of human life and disposal of the dead. Burying the dead in customary ways-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Sydney Town Hall is Sydney's first permanent town hall and continues to be used as the seat of the Lord Mayor and the Council, as a workplace, and a venue for community events and international artists. It is the place where decisions have been and are made about the physical and social character of Sydney.

Its flamboyant design expressed Sydney's ambitions and was the result of a competition, which involved political interference and conflict. Successive generations of elected officials have influenced the building's historical evolution. The development of the city is demonstrated in the fabric of the building. The place and its associated records tell stories of historical development and controversy.

Town Hall sits above Sydney's first permanent cemetery - the former Old Sydney Burial Ground. It is the oldest known site with insitu graves from the earliest period of European settlement and is of State significance.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The place is associated with the pre 1820 population of Sydney as the burial ground and human remains and monuments survive in situ. The majority of the people who died in Sydney would have been buried there, convict and prominent citizen alike, unless they were bruied on their own land.

The building is associated with officials of the city council throughout its life and with its designers and builders, particularly with City Architects and Engineers. Its use means it is associated with royal and other visitors and performers and names are recorded in plaques, in historic records and in people's memory and stories.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The building is a rare and representative example of High Victorian architecture and demonstrates excellence in design of its type and a high degree of craftsmanship and unity of materials. It is prominent in the city particularly in views on York and George Streets. It was a model for other buildings. Its major spaces largely retain their original decoration in High Victorian, Aesthetic and Art Nouveau styles and demonstrate changing taste in design. It contains high quality architectural glass, which features the deliberate and rare, early use of Australian motifs. The building uses symbolic decorative motifs related to its use. It features elaborately carved stonework and an elaborate roof scape with tower and domes. Internal doors have high relief carvings in cedar and walls and ceilings elaborate plaster and painted decoration. It has specially designed light fittings and massive pipe organ. It contains a collection of rare and valuable art works.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
Town Hall is crucial to Sydney's sense of place and is used as a symbol of the city. It continues to be used as offices of the Council and is and integral part of city decision making. It continues to function as the site of important secular events: civic, cultural, ceremonial and public. The clock rings out the time and the front stairs are an important meeting point and ceremonial place. The spaces around the building are a political and social rallying point. Many Sydney residents have strong personal associations with Sydney Town Hall.

The site of the Old Sydney Burial ground (below Town Hall) is a site of fundamental importance to the social and urban fabric of early Sydney. It is one of Sydney's oldest European religious and ceremonial sites, having a very high level of social vlaue to the people of Sydney and Australia.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The site has exceptional archaeological potential because Town Hall is built within the former Old Sydney Burial Ground. The cemetery was Sydney's first permanent cemetery and it is estimated that at least 2000 burials were made in the Old Sydney Burial Ground between 1782 and 1820.

Any sub-surfac impacts within the Town Hall precinct may encounter remains of of the graves belonging to the Old Sydney Burial Ground.

Evidence may also exist of the abandoned earlier footings allowing research into the design of the building. Building technological advances have the potential for research including the early large uninterrupted spaces, use of concrete for fireproof construction, the glass dome of unique construction, the design of the organ, chandelier ignition and the birdcage lift. The extensive archival records add to the potential of the fabric for research.
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
The building is rare as the most elaborate example of Second Empire style architecture in Australia. Rare features are the glass dome; Australia's first pressed metal ceiling, the largest pipe organ in Australia at the time of construction, various decorative features and technical advances in building construction. The continuing use of the place for the purposes for which it was designed is rare along with the survival of the associated collections and archives. The surviving pre 1820 evidence of settlement, including the oldest known site with insitu graves is rare in NSW and Australia.
SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
The building is a fine example of Second Empire style architecture and is outstanding because of its size and the high level of decorative elaboration. It demonstrates the peak achievements of a range of building trades. The character of the design demonstrates the historical ambitions and aspirations of the City Council and expresses a 19th Century vision for Sydney. The building and records demonstrate the operation of Council and political events in the city.
Integrity/Intactness: The Sydney Town Hall is largely intact. Most changes have been layers over the original construction and the stages of construction are evident in the fabric. The function of the place is an essential part of its integrity. It continues to be used for the purpose for which it was designed.

There are numerous graves still intact below the existing foundations of Town Hall and within close vicinity of the site.
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.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
21(1)(b)Conservation Plan submitted for endorsementSydney Town Hall CMP "Keeping Town Hall Useful"  
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
HERITAGE ACT 1977
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

FRANK SARTOR
Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Mar 5 2010
57(2)Exemption to allow workHeritage Act - Site Specific Exemptions SCHEDULE C
Site-wide:
1. All Standard Exemptions
2. All works and activities in accordance with a valid development consent in force at the date of gazettal for listing Sydney Town Hall on the State Heritage Register.
3. Minor modifications to a valid development consent in force at the date of gazettal for listing Sydney Town Hall on the State Heritage Register where the Director of the Heritage Branch is satisfied that:
i. The proposed works are substantially the same as the development for which consent was originally granted, before any modifications to that consent, for the purpose of this exemption only; and
ii. The Director has been notified in writing of the works proposed to be undertaken under this exemption prior to commencement of works, and the Director has provided written confirmation that the works are exempt.
4. Temporary non-structural installations and ancillary new uses for events, such as decorations, rigging, lighting, furnishings, fittings, audio visual equipment and associated temporary services that will:
a. be erected for a maximum period of 3 months; and
b. require no physical intervention, such as brackets, adhesives and hooks, into significant fabric.
5. Removal of internal or external fabric or installations that are:
a. identified as of Neutral or Intrusive significance in Volume 2 of the Conservation Management Plan 2002 Update prepared by Otto Cserhalmi & Partners Pty. Ltd; and
b. in accordance with the assessment and recommendations of City of Sydney Council’s heritage specialist.
6. Removal of hazardous materials such as asbestos that will:
a. not damage or remove significant fabric; and
b. be in accordance with the assessment and recommendations of City of Sydney Council’s heritage specialist.
7. Non-illuminated internal and external signage for directions to areas within the building, for promotion of activities, or promotion of City of Sydney activities within the building that:
a. is compatible with significant characteristics of the item;
b. has no adverse or irreversible impact on significant fabric, including landscape or archaeological features;
c. requires no physical intervention, such as brackets, adhesives and hooks, into original fabric;
d. will not obstruct significant views or features of the item and its setting;
e. re-use existing fixing points where possible;
f. will not remove or conceal significant existing signage; and
g. is in accordance with the City of Sydney Council’s current signage policy; and
h. is in accordance with the assessment and recommendations of City of Sydney Council’s heritage specialist.
Exteriors:
8. Re-paving and minor alterations to existing external hard paving that:
a. is compatible with the significant characteristics of the item;
b. does not require excavation deeper than the foundations of the existing paving;
c. will have no adverse or irreversible impact on significant fabric, including landscape and archaeological features;
d. will not obstruct significant views or features; and
e. is in accordance with the assessment and recommendations of City of Sydney Council’s heritage specialist.
9. Temporary unfixed fences and structures that will:
a. be erected for a maximum period of 3 months; and
b. require no physical intervention, such as brackets, adhesives and hooks, into significant fabric.
10. New planting in existing planting boxes and existing landscaped areas in accordance with the assessment and recommendations of City of Sydney Council’s heritage specialist.
11. Removal of diseased or dead plantings for public safety reasons in accordance with the assessment and recommendations of City of Sydney Council’s tree preservation officer and heritage specialist.
Underground and basement levels:
12. Sub-surface alterations to the existing Town Hall railway station, and associated retail arcades, which do not require excavation.
13. Non-structural works within basement building fabric below the underside of the original Peace Hall floor structure with no adverse or irreversible impact on significant fabric.
Interiors:
14. Minor office space alterations to existing unfixed internal partitions and furnishings that:
a. does not alter or add openings, walls, or structural fabric;
b. has no adverse or irreversible impact on significant furnishings, layouts, fabric or spaces; and
c. is in accordance with the assessment and recommendations of City of Sydney Council’s heritage specialist.
Contents:
15. Maintenance, cleaning, tuning, auditing and electrical upgrades of Sydney Town Hall’s organ in accordance with the assessment and recommendations of City of Sydney Council’s heritage specialist.
16. Temporary relocation of movable heritage items, such as for the purpose of restoration, for a maximum period of 12 months and in accordance with the assessment and recommendations of City of Sydney Council’s heritage specialist.
Services:
17. Services maintenance and essential upgrades, such as electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, fire, lift, security, data, telecommunications and audio-visual services, located within the building envelope and on the roof top within the envelope of the existing plant, including roof exhaust fans and associated support duct work.
Mar 5 2010

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0145205 Mar 10 361156

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Central Sydney Heritage Study1990 Anglin & Associates  No
Central Sydney Heritage Inventory1988 Schwager Brooks  No

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenGodden Mackay Pty Ltd1991Archaeological Report - Old Sydney Burial Ground, Sydney Town Hall, Archaeological Monitoring Excavation
WrittenMargo Beasley1998Sydney Town Hall, A Social History
Management PlanOtto Cserhalmi & Partners Pty Ltd2002Keeping Town Hall Useful - Sydney Town Hall Conservation Management Plan
WrittenTanner Kibble Denton (TKD) Architects2015Lower Town Hall Operable Walls - Statement of Heritage Impact
WrittenTony Lowe2003S140 Application Archaeological Assessment Town Hall Upgrade Phase A

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: Heritage Office
Database number: 5051902
File number: EF14/5613; S90/2197


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