Former Police Station Buildings Including Interiors | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

About us

Former Police Station Buildings Including Interiors

Item details

Name of item: Former Police Station Buildings Including Interiors
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Law Enforcement
Category: Police station
Primary address: 701-703 Bourke Street, Surry Hills, NSW 2010
Parish: Alexandria
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Sydney
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
701-703 Bourke StreetSurry HillsSydneyAlexandriaCumberlandPrimary Address

Statement of significance:

The former Bourke Street Lockup is a small scale public building of Walter Liberty Vernon, the New South Wales Government Architect. The original fabric is substantial intact and subsequent alterations in 1979 have generally respected the original floor plan and building form. The architectural detailing of the Bourke Street façade demonstrate Vernon’s interest the principles of the Arts and Crafts movement’s use of materials and the then though fleeting popularity of Neo-Romanesque style. Built on a site of double typical terrace allotment width, Vernon’s design of the façade skilfully combines the scale of a small public building to the established nineteenth century typology of a typical Sydney terrace houses. The building makes a considerable architectural contribution to the setting of Bourke Street and adjacent terrace houses through careful use of materials, controlled scale, roof form and details.

Although enjoying mixed contemporary esteem in its original use police detention or, after 1979, as an alcohol and drug advisory centre, the former lockup has played an important historical role in the development of the social structure of Surry Hills, and especially in serving the needs of serious social problems.
Date significance updated: 18 Jul 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.


Designer/Maker: Walter Liberty Vernon
Physical description: Single storey brick and sandstone Federation Romanesque style building. The general state of repair of the fabric is varies from fair to poor. There is evidence of localised areas of penetrating and falling damp and some areas of sandstone fretting.

The building is of unpainted face brick and corbelled upstanding sandstone piers. The roof is slate with terracotta ridge cappings. The doors and windows
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.


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 )

Early land grants were made to Joseph Foveaux 105 acres in 1793, John Palmer was granted 70 acres in 1794 and Alexander Donaldson was granted 25 acres in 1795. By 1830 all crown land had passed to private ownership by grant and thereafter by sale. Palmer by 1814 had consolidated his land by acquiring Foveaux’s and Donaldson’s land however, mounting debts forced the sale of his land.

Palmers land was subdivided by Surveyor General Meehan and auctioned off in late 1814. Edward Riley began buying parcels of lands that had originally comprised Palmer’s estate. He committed suicide in 1825 and his estate was under legal proceedings till the mid 1840s.

F.W. Unwin’s estate in 1829 was subdivided and sold a proved to be successful. Citizens petitioned the government and Bourke Street was formed. The growth in population in Surry Hills brought on the need for a primary school. The school was opened in 1884 with the Bourke Street Lockup opening in 1895.

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Historical Walter Liberty Vernon designed many and wide variety of buildings as the government architect. This building was one of many lock ups built in the widening program to provide adequate police and court buildings throughout NSW.
Integrity/Intactness: The original fabric of the former lockup is generally intact.
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, 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.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanSydney Local Environmental Plan 2012I145414 Dec 12   
Heritage study     

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
South Sydney Heritage Study1993 Tropman & Tropman Architects  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenAnita Heiss Aboriginal People and Place, Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City
WrittenTrevor Howells1998Conservation Management Plan - 703 Bourke Street Surry Hills

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

(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: 2420486

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.