The Justice and Police Museum comprises two main elements, the Museum Buildings and the Museum Collection.
THE MUSEUM BUILDINGS
These are two 19th century courthouses and a police station built on the corner of Phillip and Albert Streets at the eastern end of Circular Quay for use by the Sydney Water Police, the Water Police Magistrate and the metroplitan police.
1856 - Court House - 4 Phillip Street
1858 - Police Station - 8 Phillip Street
1886 - Court House - 6 Phillip Street
(Historic Houses Trust 1990:1)
THE 1856 BLACKET COURT BUILDING AREA is a single storey classic revival sandstone building with an arched colonnaded portico roofed with a Doric pediment. The facades comprises timber framed windows and doors with the main entrance to the northern wall enclosed with curved timber and glass walling.
The Court House consists of five smaller roof areas. These include the main gabled or pedimented roof area to the court room, with two lower hipped roof areas on each side of the main court room area. The building area also includes a flat roof area to the rear or south end of the court which extends over a sandstone paved corridor between the Blacket Court Building (1856) and the Barnet Court Building (1886). The western wing has a lean-to verandah roof extending along the Phillip Street facade.
The main gabled ended roof and the two hipped roof areas are covered in slate with lead hip and ridge flashings.
The flat roof area at the rear is covered in copper and contains three glazed skylights with steel grilles. The western lean-to verandah roof is covered with corrugated steel 'colourbond' roofing.
There are four chimneys located on the main courtroom roof area.
THE 1886 BARNET COURT BUILDING AREA is a single storey sandstone building erected at the rear of the Blacket Court Room as an extension. It consists of an arched colonnaded portico, also roofed with a pediment to match the detail of the earlier Blacket Court Building.
The main front entrance portico is enclosed with a curved timber and glass walling,
The main roof area is gabled with slate roofing and the stair roof comprises a lean-to corrugated steel 'colourbond' roof sheeting.
THE 1858 POLICE STATION AREA is a two storey Pyrmont sandstone building of simple Classical style with a pediment over the central section of the front facade. It has a 'T' shaped hipped roof with lead ridge and flashings and slate tiles. The windows are timber framed. The front facade to Phillip Street has a metal pike fence and gate on a low sandstone wall extending the full extent of the facade.
(Heritage Group 1995:2-6)
The collection is general and largely police-based in content. Its nucleus is formed from the 1910 Police Museum teaching collection of criminal implements. It contains few objects relating to the specific theme of the Water Police but covers a broader cross-section of policing activities and law related themes. The collection includes historical artefacts, photographs and documents. It is particularly strong in firearms of the colonial period and forensic evidence from famous crimes.
(Historic Houses Trust 1990:1&23)
1862 - Alterations to Clerk of Petty Sessions Office and the Guard Room. Partitions removed.
1865 - Water Police Station supplied with gas lighting
1875-76 - Two stone cells added to the rear of the Water Police Station
1879 - A Court Keepers's cottage constructed from timber on the eastern side of the Water Police Court.
1885-86 - Second courthouse designed and completed by Colonial Architect James Barnet, Colonial Architect.
1897-99 - Office on northern end of Phillip Street frontage in Water Police Court converted into a courtroom.
1899-1900 - Timber and glass witness waiting rooms designed by Colonial Architect Walter Liberty Vernon and installed in the entrances to both courthouses.
1903 - Alterations and additions to officers quarters in the Water Police Station.
1912 - Prisoners dock in Court Number 1 altered.
1924-28 - Further subdivision of offices to create space
1930s - Toilets in glazed brick constructed at rear of Police Station
1933 - Phillip Street frontage of the Water Police Court altered to house a fibro cement infill and new waiting room
-Internal work on ground floor.
1941 - Police Station porch altered
c1941 - Reinforced concrete air raid shelter constructed on southern end of porch.
1947-48 - Levels of Phillip and Albert Street lowered. External stairs, an elevated footpath and sandstone retaining walls were constructed to provide public access and building support.
1986-1990 - Alterations, additions and reconstruction.
(Historic Houses Trust 1990: Section 14)
Physical Condition - Good
Archaeological Potential - Low
After demolition of the first Government House in 1845-46, a large portion of its grounds was carved off into new streets and allotments. But one block was reserved for public buildings, and a core part remains in public ownership today - the former Water Police Office, Water Police Station and Police Court (Kelso, 2017, 15).
By 1851 the old Water Police Office (with its court and lock-up) in The Rocks was inadequate and dilapidated, and part of the reserved (city) block, a site at the corner of Phillip and Albert Streets, was chosen for its replacement. Plans were drawn up by Colonial Architect Edmund Blacket, but the project repeatedly stalled. Labour and materials were scarce and expensive, just as the colony was entering a boom period, and it was difficult to attract a contractor willing and able to carry out the work (ibid, 2017, 15).
In 1851 the Governor General approved the Colonial Architect's plan for a new Water Police Office. By November the site had been chosen. In 1853 work began on quarrying the sandstone at Bennelong Point for the Water Police Office but work was delayed because of high prices and a labour shortage casued by the gold rushes. A sum of 4000 pounds was allocated in 1854 for the construction of the Water Police Station on Phillip Street to the south of the Water Police Office.
The new Water Police Office on the eastern side of Circular Quay was completed. The building, designed by Edmund Blacket, consisted of a main court and four adjoining offices.
In April the buildings were occupied by the Water Police Magistrate, Hutchinson Hothersal Brown, and court staff consisting of a Clerk of Petty Sessions and a second clerk. Cases heard in the court related to the workings of the Harbour Regulations Act and the Act for Establishing a Water Police.
In May permission was granted for the Steam Navigation and Pilot Boards to take possession of one room.
The Water Police moved from Cadman's Wharf to the Water Police Station located in Phillip Street to the south of the Water Police Office. It was designed by Colonial Architect Alexander Dawson and construction commenced in 1857. The building consisted of a ground floor with Charge Room, adjoining offices, cells to the rear, a kitchen, store room and exercise yard. Upstairs was a barracks providing accomodation for four water policemen and their families. It also contained a kitchen and wash house.
The original police station design was based on stations at Darlinghurst, Newtown and Balmain. The building was intended to accomodate six cells and a lock-up keeper. However, due to financial constraints and delays caused by labour shortages during the Gold Rush period, the station was completed as a modest two storey building.
The second court, designed by Colonial Architect James Barnet, was completed during this period. It consisted of a court room and two Magistrates Offices at the rear. While it functioned as a Summons Court hearing cases of petty crime, the Blacket Court became a Charge Court.
This period witnessed a growth of police and court operations. The buildings were affected by a number of alterations and additions caused by changes to the nature of the courts and the business they attracted.
In 1913 the Water Police who lived at the station were removed to their new accomodation on the north-western side of the Quay at Dawes Point, providing two locations for their activities. The station became known as the Phillip Street Police Station from this time although it was still often referred to as the Water Police Station. The activities of the station were incorporated more fully into the Metropolitan Policing District, becoming the head station for Number 4 Division by 1933. It seems that the Water Police held the two locations at least until this time, when the split between the metropolitan (essentially foot) duties associated with the Station and the Water Patrol had become more definite. However, the adjacent court continued to be referred to as the Water Bench until late 1940.
In 1917 the Police Traffic Branch moved into offices at the Water Police Court and remained there until 1924. In 1918 the Water Police Court closed for alterations and was reopened in 1924.
By 1924 special arrangements had been made for hearing traffic offences in the Water Police Court in addition to those concerning shipping, military trainees and children. From 1926 the courts became known as Traffic Courts 1 and 2 for hearing all traffic and parking offences in the Sydney district. They also continued to hear cases relevant to shipping and cases arising from Water Police activity.
The courts were vacated by court staff, providing valuable space for the police in the adjoining station in late 1979.
COURT FUNCTIONS - 1890-1924
1890s - Licensing Court
1917-1924 - Traffic Office
1918 - Fair Rents Court
1919-1933 - Small Debts Court
1924-1980 - Traffic Court
OTHER OCCUPANTS OF WATER POLICE COURTS - 1890-1918
1890-1933 - Clerk of petty Sessions and Chamber Magistrate
1890-1897 - Stipendiary Magistrate
1890-1918 - Chief Clerk
1890-1904 - Accountant
1890-1902 - Clerks
1891-1902 - Bailiff of the Small Debts Court
1894-1902 - Messenger
1914-1918 - Chief Industrial Magistrate
(Historic Houses Trust 1990:15-17 & Section 14).
The site is run by Sydney Living Museums (formerly the Historic Houses Trust of NSW) as a Police & Justice museum.
The Friends of the Historic Houses Trust have been responsible for fundraising through interpretive tours and events to acquire the Neville Locker collection of convict artefacts for Hyde Park Barracks and the Police & Justice Museum (Watts, 2014).