Formerly The Shipwright’s Arms, former hotel | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

Culture and heritage


Formerly The Shipwright’s Arms, former hotel

Item details

Name of item: Formerly The Shipwright’s Arms, former hotel
Other name/s: Dolphin Inn
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Residential buildings (private)
Category: Block of Flats
Primary address: 10 Darling Street, Balmain East, NSW 2041
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Leichhardt
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
10 Darling StreetBalmain EastLeichhardt CumberlandPrimary Address

Statement of significance:

No. 10 Darling Street is of local historic, aesthetic and social significance as a good and relatively intact example of an early stone building and former Hotel constructed in c. 1840 that demonstrates the early development and changes in the maritime use of the local area. The building is associated with John Bell and J Fenwick and Co. Depsite the infill of early verandahs and changes to the rear the building retains original sandstone walls and sense of its earlier scale and is part of a group of sandstone buildings that make a positive contribution to the local area.

Note: This inventory sheet is not intended to be a definitive study of the heritage item, therefore information may not be accurate and complete. The information should be regarded as a general guide. Further research is always recommended as part of the preparation of development proposals for heritage items.

Council's Library Service has identified photos and/or subdivision plans relating to this item which may be viewed online through the council website at Select Library & Local History to get to the Library online catalogue and keyword search "Balmain Map" for results.
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.


Builder/Maker: John Bell
Construction years: 1841-
Physical description: Two storey stone and rendered brick building with hipped and flat roof clad in corrugated steel with rendered chimneys with profiled capping. Located on the south eastern corner of Weston Street the building is constructed to the street frontages and also faces the Darling Street Wharf and is elevated above the adjacent bus turning circle. A rendered quoin detail is located at the corner of the Darling Street façade which also features a rendered stringcourse, simple timber framed double hung windows and single door opening with toplight over located at the north western corner of the building. A painted brick infilled two storey verandah with flat roof over extends across the north eastern façade of the building. An open timber balcony supported on timber posts with timber balustrade wraps around the south eastern corner of the building. The rear of the building features a double hip and timber framed windows and doors and faces a terraced open yard which includes an elevated concrete slab/car space accessed from Weston Street.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The building appears in fair to good cndition and is currently undergoing works including repairs to stabilise the stone front façade.
Date condition updated:08 Jun 10
Modifications and dates: 1967: Conversion into (5) flats and engineer's details (8011).
1993: Alterations and additions (92/516).
2005: Occupation of footpath by temporary propping to unstable wall (R/2005/60, R. 2007/45).
2009: Repair wall (LGA/2009/40)
2010 - Alts and adds to existing building (D/2010/76)
2010 - S96 modification (M/2010/149) includes relocating air conditioning units, two new windows in southern elevation and metal screen to screen air conditioning
Further information: Works, including rebuilding of the Darling Street ground floor façade were in progress at the time of the inspection (2010).
Current use: Office and residential
Former use: Hotel and residential


Historical notes: This area comprises the earliest land to be subdivided and developed in Balmain. Surgeon William Balmain was granted 550 acres and most of the area now encompassing Balmain in 1800. In 1801 the entire grant was transferred to fellow surgeon John Gilchrist. Gilchrist never actually lived in NSW and advertised the land for sale in 1823. However, the sale was not a success. He gave power of attorney to his Sydney-based agent and merchant, Frank Parbury, who commissioned Surveyor John Armstrong to subdivide part of the land. In 1836 22, 2-4 acres lots were auctioned for sale by Parbury on behalf of the absentee landowner, Gilchrist.
The site is part of Lots 5 and 6 purchased by George William Paul who subsequently commissioned Armstrong to re-subdivide the two large allotments into 14 smaller parcels, including 4 waterfront lots bounded by Weston Street. Two of these lots, including the subject site, were purchased by “shipowner” John Bell in August 1840. By the end of 1841 Bell had constructed a stone wharf and house at the intersection of Darling and Weston Streets. In 1844 this house was leased to William Walker who obtained a publican’s licence and established the “Dolphin Hotel” in the building. In 1846 Bell took over the licence and renamed it “The Shipwrights Arms”.
The Bell’s family continued to run the Hotel until 1852, when Sarah Bell leased the building to Thomas Rostro. The licence was transferred a number of times until 1878 when the property was put up for sale by public auction. In 1882 architect William M Martin advertised for tenders from builders to undertake alterations and additions to the building. The Bell family finally sold the property in 1883 which included the shipyard and the hotel to tug builder/ operator John Fenwick.
In 1931 minor internal alterations were undertaken to the bar and beer plant and refrigeration. Internal mechanical coolers and cabinets were installed in 1940. Photographs from this period show a timber framed, skillion roofed posted awning then by 1940 a suspended awning to the Darling Street façade and open two storey verandah with timber posts and balustrade on the north eastern façade. By 1941, however, the ground floor north eastern verandah had been enclosed with brick infill, with solid and window infill to the first floor balcony in place by the 1950s. At this time the photos also show an associated yard extending to the waterfront bounded by a fence along the Darling Street alignment. In 1950 the hotel was sold to Millers Brewery.
The hotel business continued to operate under lease until it was closed by Tooth & Company Limited in 1965. It was de-licensed in 1966 and in the following year an application was submitted to Council by the new owners for conversion of the building into 5 flats. It has since been converted for professional offices and a private residence.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Commerce-Activities relating to buying, selling and exchanging goods and services (none)-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Accommodation-Activities associated with the provision of accommodation, and particular types of accommodation – does not include architectural styles – use the theme of Creative Endeavour for such activities. (none)-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The site is of historic significance as part of one of the earlier subdivisions in Balmain and early developments of the local area. Changes to the building and site reflect the development of maritime industry and growth of waterfront services and evolution of the local area.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The site is associated with John Bell, an early ship builder and personality in the area. It is also associated with J Fenwick and Co Pty Ltd who owned and developed the adjacent site and played a crucial role in the maritime activity in the area and Harbour in general. The former Hotel is also associated with Millers Brewery who bought the building in 1950 and Tooth & Co.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The building is of aesthetic significance as a good and relatively intact 19th century sandstone building that despite some alterations and additions retains a sense of its earlier character. It is one of a number of sandstone buildings which all demonstrate similar characteristics and make a positive contribution to this section of the Darling Street streetscape and waterfront.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The building is of some social signficance as a former Hotel that was in continuous use and servce the local community and martime workers from the 1840s to the 1960s.
SHR Criteria g)
The building is a representative example of an early stone building and earliest development remaining on the Balmain peninsula. It is one of a number of Hotels in the area.
Integrity/Intactness: Medium
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 existing external form and scale of the building should be retained. No new openings to the facades should occur. The sandstone facades should be retained and remain face stone. Associated rendered details including the corner quoins and stringcourse should also be retained. Elements such as rendered masonry, timber and metalwork should continue to be painted in appropriate colours. Replacement and some adaptation of the rear balconies and yards are permissible provided there is no impact on the original character of the main part of the building.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental Plan I36423 Dec 13   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Leichhardt Municipality Heritage Study1990 McDonald McPhee Pty Ltd (Craig Burton, Wendy Thorp)  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenMax Solling and Peter Reynolds1997Leichhardt: On the Margins of the City

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

rez rez rez rez rez rez
(Click on thumbnail for full size image and image details)

Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Local Government
Database number: 1940383

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.

All information and pictures on this page are the copyright of the Heritage Division or respective copyright owners.