Former St David's Church Group Church and Residence Including Interiors | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Former St David's Church Group Church and Residence Including Interiors

Item details

Name of item: Former St David's Church Group Church and Residence Including Interiors
Other name/s: Rectory; St Davids Sabbath School (1880S)
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Religion
Category: Church
Primary address: 17-19 Arthur Street, Surry Hills, NSW 2010
Parish: Alexandria
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Sydney
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
17-19 Arthur StreetSurry HillsSydneyAlexandriaCumberlandPrimary Address

Statement of significance:

The building dates from one of the key period of layers for the development of Surry Hills as a direct result of the subdivision of the Riley Estate. It is a good example of a late Victorian church complex which makes a positive contribution to the streetscape.
Date significance updated: 17 Feb 03
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.


Physical description: Single storey Victorian Gothic style hall and two storey Victorian Rectory. The building is a 2 storey Victorian Filigree style terrace house which is part of a group. The building is constructed of rendered brickwork with timber windows and doors and a 2 storey verandah with cast iron filigree detailing. An elaborately detailed parapet with classical motifs and pilasters filigree detailing and urns and semi circular name plate screens a simple skillion corrugated iron form.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
In good condition with a high degree of original fabric externally and potential for restoration.
Date condition updated:20 Feb 03
Modifications and dates: Church Building--alteration in 1980 and conversion to a flat building. Windows on the south, east and west have been enlarged vertically. Internal mazzenine level added. In 1992, an application changed its use to office.
Further information: Heritage Inventory sheets are often not comprehensive, and should be regarded as a general guide only. Inventory sheets are based on information available, and often do not include the social history of sites and buildings. Inventory sheets are constantly updated by the City as further information becomes available. An inventory sheet with little information may simply indicate that there has been no building work done to the item recently: it does not mean that items are not significant. Further research is always recommended as part of preparation of development proposals for heritage items, and is necessary in preparation of Heritage Impact Assessments and Conservation Management Plans, so that the significance of heritage items can be fully assessed prior to submitting development applications.
Current use: Office (Hall) and residence (Rectory)
Former use: Church Hall, Rectory and Sabbath School


Historical notes: The "Eora people" was the name given to the coastal Aborigines around Sydney. Central Sydney is therefore often referred to as "Eora Country". Within the City of Sydney local government area, the traditional owners are the Cadigal and Wangal bands of the Eora. There is no written record of the name of the language spoken and currently there are debates as whether the coastal peoples spoke a separate language "Eora" or whether this was actually a dialect of the Dharug language. Remnant bushland in places like Blackwattle Bay retain elements of traditional plant, bird and animal life, including fish and rock oysters.

With the invasion of the Sydney region, the Cadigal and Wangal people were decimated but there are descendants still living in Sydney today. All cities include many immigrants in their population. Aboriginal people from across the state have been attracted to suburbs such as Pyrmont, Balmain, Rozelle, Glebe and Redfern since the 1930s. Changes in government legislation in the 1960s provided freedom of movement enabling more Aboriginal people to choose to live in Sydney.

(Information sourced from Anita Heiss, "Aboriginal People and Place", Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City )

The building is within the area that was part of the original grant to the first Surry Hills landowner - Captain Joseph Foveaux, who was assigned 105 acres in 1793 and subsequently increased his holdings to encompass most of Surry Hills. By 1800, John Palmer - farmer and grazier, had acquired more than 200 acres of Surry Hills and become Commissary General. However by 1814, Palmer had fallen into financial trouble and lost his position in the colony, resulting in his estate being divided and sold at public auction. Edwards Riley attempted to reassemble the Palmer Estate during the 1820s, although after his suicide in 1825 the holdings were once again subdivided according to Meehan’s original plan and sold to the public. The economic boom of the 1830s acted as the necessary catalyst for residential development in Surry Hills with the original allotments being initially subdivided into villa estates. With much of the Riley Estate still locked up in a legal battle, the early development in Surry Hills focused on the lands around Albion and Bourke Streets. It wasn’t until the gold rush boom of the 1850s that the Riley Estate finally become available, and provided substantial land for the development of workers housing locally employed by the breweries and other industries. The church complex was constructed c1886.
HIS report by Urbis (April 2012) suggests the site was vacant before 1865 and was taken by a school building in 1886. The school was demolished and the church was erected during1885-1900 (further research suggest the church was started for construction in 1886 by Church of England). The 1900 survey map suggests the front hall and rear hall were built at the same time and the footprint of the church has not been since changed. The rectory building dates from c1880, earlier than the church hall.

No major alterations were recorded in City’s Archives. The planning records of 1980 and 1992 suggest the church hall “being used for commercial purpose since 1956”. However, an archival record suggests the church was leased to Reform Church in 1965. In 1980, an application was approved for converting the hall into a flat containing 3 units. It is understood the mezzanine level had been added prior to the conversion. The windows on the south, east and west elevation were enlarged in 1980s during residential conversion. The application in 1992 changed its use to offices but the rear hall remains as a flat unit. The 1980 photo shows the church hall had been painted or lime washed white.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Religion-Activities associated with particular systems of faith and worship (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The building has historic significance as it dates from the key period of development of Surry Hills and the consolidation of residential estates to commercial development.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The building is a prominent element in the streetscape and good example of a late Victorian Church comple with typical key elements of the style.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The area is not identified in an archaeological zoning plan and the area has been well researched and it is unlikely that the site would reveal further information that would contribute to the significance of the area.
SHR Criteria f)
The building is not rare.
SHR Criteria g)
The building is a representative example of a Victorian Church complex found in the inner suburbs of Sydney.
Integrity/Intactness: High externally
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 above awning level other than to reinstate original features. Any additions and alterations should be confined to the rear in areas of less significance, shall not be visibly prominent and shall be in accordance with the South Sydney Council Heritage Conservation DCP. The building should be retained and conserved. A Heritage Assessment and Heritage Impact Statement, or a Conservation Management Plan, 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 façade of the building other than to reinstate original features. The principal room layout and planning configuration as well as significant internal original features including ceilings, cornices, joinery, flooring and fireplaces should be retained and conserved. Any additions and alterations should be confined to the rear in areas of less significance, should not be visibly prominent and shall be in accordance with the relevant planning controls. The general form and appearance of the building must be retained. When opportunity arises, the internal mezzanine level is to be removed and the original internal lofty open space reinstated. The porches on the front and rear should be retained. The altered windows may stay. However, when opportunities arise, the external windows and external finishes may be reinstated.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanSydney LEP 2012I141914 Dec 12   
Heritage study     

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenAnita Heiss Aboriginal People and Place, Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City
WrittenUrbis2012Heritage Impact Statement 17 Arthur Street Surry Hills

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: 2420431

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