Inverell Courthouse | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Inverell Courthouse

Item details

Name of item: Inverell Courthouse
Other name/s: Court house
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Law Enforcement
Category: Courthouse
Primary address: 115-119 Otho Street, Inverell, NSW 2360
Local govt. area: Inverell
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
115-119 Otho StreetInverellInverell  Primary Address

Statement of significance:

A well detailed Italianate Courthouse whose tower is one of the most prominent features in the landscape of Inverell. It is an important element in the streetscape of Otho Street. Significant for its landmark quality and contribution to townscape quality of its setting and historic character of the town at large.

Within the town centre precinct.
A well detailed Italianate Court House with a dominate tower and simple gardens all making a significant contribution to the streetscape of the precinct.
Date significance updated: 02 Mar 08
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Designer/Maker: Barnet, James
Construction years: 1886-
Physical description: The present building is Inverell's fourth Courthouse - a single storey Italianate building of white painted English bond brick with stretcher bond additions at rear. Iron roof with main gable front and smaller side wings. Various typical mouldings: round-arched windows with keystone motifs and panels above; large simple pilasters breaking the facade into three bays; entablature and pediment bearing the coat of arms. Side wings have hipped iron roofs and simple parapets. Moulded chimneys. The Courtroom has original cedar joinery (now painted), four-panel doors with transoms, two marble chimney pieces, mouchette vents and original gallery structure. All other fittings have been replaced and original dado removed. The clocktower has a clock face and small corbelled pediment to each side, with two cupolas above, one sitting on the other, and decorative orbs. Architectural Style: Italianate. Building Material: White painted English bond brick, stretcher bond additions, round-arched windows, keystone motifs

A single storey painted English bond brick building with central gable roof, with two side wings with hipped roof. Round arched windows with keystones motifs and panels above, large simple
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The building is in good condition with a high degree of original fabric intact.
Date condition updated:09 Mar 08
Modifications and dates: Built 1886, architect James Barnet. Clocktower added 1889.


Historical notes: Before its exploration by Allan Cunningham in 1827, the Inverell district was included as part of the taurai of five Aboriginal tribes. Following on the explorer's steps, squatters moved into the district from about 1835, establishing large sheep and cattle stations. While some squatters and their employees lived peaceably with the Aborigines, others were determined to exploit or eradicate them. In June 1838 the Myall Creek massacre occurred 35km from present Inverell. This became famous in Australian history because it was the first time that white men were punished (hung) for killing Aborigines. It was not an isolated incident. Subsequent massacres went unreported.

Many of the early property owners came from Scotland, bringing with them their Presbyterian faith, Gaelic language and Scottish customs. One, Alexander Campbell, gave Inverell its name, made of two Gaelic words - "Inv" a meeting place & "Ell" swans, so named because of the many swans in the area at that time. Campbell was a Scottish immigrant who arrived in Australia in 1824 and was employed by Peter Macintyre in the Hunter Valley. Macintyre was also a Scotsman had been formerly employed by Lord Gwydir and then T.P. Macqueen – a British MP who invested large sums of money in NSW and thus received substantial land grants of 20 000 acres. Macintyre was in charge of Macqueen’s Australian ventures and arrived in NSW in 1825.

During the period Peter McIntyre owned “Byron Plains”, the Andersons had “Newstead” and the Borthwick family “Auburn Vale”. In 1853 the McIntyres invited Colin and Rosanna Ross to come to the hill overlooking Green Swamp and set up a store on Byron Station land. They did so, but soon settlement moved onto the flat area (present CBD), which was on Inverell Station land. The area proved to be flood-prone (notably in 1872) but was marked out as a town by Surveyor Henderson in 1856 and the first lots sold in 1859. The public school opened in 1862 and the area incorporated as a municipality in 1872.

Inverell grew slowly until 1871 when the first viable tin deposits in Australia to be discovered were announced at Elsmore and Tingha followed with thousands of mines soon dotted the granite belt. Tin remained significant in Inverell's economy for over a century. Many of the miners were from China, others from Cornwall and others were former gold miners.

From the late 1860s selectors moved in to the big stations, and a degree of closer settlement took place. During the 1890s the district suffered from climatic extremes and economic depression but two new mineral sources, silver and diamonds began to be exploited. The basic streetscape of Inverell's Otho Street reflects the prosperity of the period from 1888 to 1914.

The new century saw the arrival of the railway (as a branch line from Moree). After the breaking of the 1902 drought the mines were flourishing and as well official closer settlement began - the first in NSW was the government division of Myall Creek into 135 farms creating the township of Delungra.

The arrival of Inverell's railway permitted the introduction of dairying, which remained an important industry until the mid 1950s. From the 1860s wheat was grown successfully on Inverell's soils. The most fertile are the black soil river flats, but crops also flourish on lighter soils. Large numbers of sheep and cattle have been run since the early days of settlement. During the first half of the 20th century the country areas around Inverell were thickly populated with farmers and miners and small villages flourished everywhere, but the majority of these declined into insignificance during the second part of the 20th century (particularly after the closure of many small schools in the late 1960s).

The town of Inverell has suffered the vicissitudes common to the rest of Australia, with two world wars, a depression and the slow decline of small mixed farming since the mid 1960s. While the district is not as prone to drought as most other areas of NSW, the town was flooded seriously in 1955 and 1991.

By the 1950s Inverell had developed into a regional centre and has retained that status ever since. Its shopping centre competes favourably with Armidale, and business comes to Inverell from a very wide area of the North-West. At the same time, the rural population around Inverell has declined and Inverell's own population has been constant at around 10 000 for the past 30 years. The area has a strong tourist industry (based on the two large dams Copeton and Pindari) and an abattoir which employs around 600 people.
Elizabeth Wiedemann - Local Historian

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
7. Governing-Governing Law and order-Activities associated with maintaining, promoting and implementing criminal and civil law and legal processes (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The building has historic significance as it dates from the key period of establishment of Inverell originating from the Henderson subdivision of 1859. It dates from the prosperous period of development for Inverell from 1888 to 1914 and the rebuilding of the town centre.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The building is associated with James Barnet.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The building has aesthetic significance as a good example of a Victorian courthouse which demonstrates many of the key aspects of the style.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The building is held in high esteem by the local community as a landmark and place of respect.
SHR Criteria f)
The building is rare in that it is the only one of its type within Inverell Shire.
SHR Criteria g)
The building is a representative example of a Victorian courthouse building found in the north west region of NSW.
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 building 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 building 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, and shall not be visibly prominent. Any proposed additions and/or alterations shall be in accordance with the Inverell Shire Council Development Control Plan.


Management CategoryDescriptionDate Updated
Recommended ManagementProduce a Conservation Management Plan (CMP)09 Mar 08


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanInverell LEPOTH03519 Aug 88   
Local Environmental PlanInverell LEP 2012I16007 Dec 12   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
National Trust Country Register03069National Trust of Australia (NSW)  No
Community Based Heritage Study2007 INHERITage  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenSheedy, D National Trust of Australia (NSW)

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: 1820235

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