Heritage Council decision on Conservatorium site

The archaeological remains gradually uncovered on the Conservatorium of Music site since May this year are associated with some of the earliest European settlement in Australia. Dating to the 1800s, the remnants are associated with the Macquarie family and the operation of the stables for First Government House.


An eliptical drain, together with a culvert are among the most recent finds on the Conservatorium of Music Site. Photograph by Caitlin Allen


An eliptical drain, together with a culvert are among the most recent finds on the Conservatorium of Music Site. Photograph by Caitlin Allen

The NSW Heritage Council resolved in early September that a substantial section of the significant archaeological remains be retained and interpreted to the public within the proposed redevelopment.

The extensive remains of the stables forecourt and its complex drainage system on the southern side of the Greenway building are surprisingly intact and reveal much about the working of the stables.

The Heritage Council emphasized that the discovery of the remains provided an important opportunity to interpret this exceptional heritage site to the people of NSW and to educate the wider community about historical archaeology and heritage generally. An Archaeological Conservation Management Plan has been prepared which will guide this process.

Since the first discovery of a fragment of road in May this year, the Heritage Council and the Department of Public Works and Services have worked together to fully investigate and understand the site. The process, while lengthy, was necessary to ensure that the Conservatorium redevelopment reflects the importance of the site and presents the remains in a meaningful way to the public.

Speaking after the Heritage Council decision, the Director of the NSW Heritage Office Rosalind Strong said, 'The Heritage Council wanted to ensure that the full extent and significance of the remains was known before making any irreversible decisions. As a result, a process of careful investigation has revealed an exciting level of archaeological material'.

'All the options in the Conservation Management Plan for the site have been carefully considered to ensure that the final outcome reflects the site's heritage value and does justice to the obvious public attachment to the site, both for its association with the beginnings of European settlement in Australia and the Conservatorium of Music'.

The Heritage Council recognises that their decision may require reconsideration of the current design of the proposed new foyer area. The decision creates the opportunity for public presentation of significant archaeological material in its original location and in association with the Greenway Stables building itself, rather than as disjointed fragments. Although the Heritage Council decision does not require preservation of all the remains, the key features of the building forecourt will be preserved. An option for some of the items may be careful removal during construction and reinstatement. Any items being removed will be recorded and then interpreted and displayed within the final development.

'The decision to retain some items in favour of others was a difficult and carefully considered one' said Ms Strong. 'But the Heritage Council is confident that the balance achieved will allow the significance of the forecourt remains to be maintained and interpreted meaningfully to the public. The Council is confident that the Department of Public Works and Services and the project architects will develop an imaginative way to build the extension around the remains'.

Page last updated: 01 September 2012