Darlinghurst Court House Group Including Interior, Fencing and Grounds | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Darlinghurst Court House Group Including Interior, Fencing and Grounds

Item details

Name of item: Darlinghurst Court House Group Including Interior, Fencing and Grounds
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Law Enforcement
Category: Courthouse
Primary address: 138 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst, NSW 2010
Local govt. area: Sydney
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
138 Oxford StreetDarlinghurstSydney  Primary Address
Darlinghurst RoadDarlinghurstSydney  Alternate Address
Forbes StreetDarlinghurstSydney  Alternate Address

Statement of significance:

The Darlinghurst Court House and residence is the finest, and only erudite Old Colonial Grecian public building complex surviving in Australia. Commenced in the 1830s, it has a long and continual association with the provision of law and order along with the neighbouring Darlinghurst Gaol complex. The building is prominently sited at Taylor Square.

The Court House, designed by colonial architect Mortimer Lewis and built between 1837 and 1844, is the first purpose designed court house to be built in NSW. The pavilions on either side were designed by James Barnet around 1886. The extension facing Victoria Street was designed by the Government Architect's Office and completed c.1963. (Lumby, 2006) [from State Heritage Register Inventory sheet]
Date significance updated: 13 Mar 07
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: M Lewis, J Barnet, 1965 extensions - Government Architect E.H. Farmer
Construction years: 1826-1965
Physical description: Darlinghurst Court house group includes single storey Colonial Grecian style building, c. 1836, with wing additions 1884-1888, site, including perimeter fences and gates, and 1965 extensions by Government Architect E.H. Farmer.

"The Darlinghurst Court House and Residence is a massive, heavily designed old colonial Grecian /Greek revival style public building. It communicates its civic presence through its form. The symmetrical building uses elements of the Greek temple form, having a fluted stone Doric columned portico supporting a pedimented gable entrance to the central court, flanked by colonnaded wings which stand forward of the robust front elevations.

The Darlinghurst Court House and Residence is constructed in smooth dressed sandstone with a slate roof, timber floors and joinery and a marble tiled vestibule." [from State Heritage Register inventory sheet].

Exterior: Sandstone, Slate
Interior: Joinery, Marble
Modifications and dates: Alterations and flanking court additions by J Barnet in 1884 - 88. High Court added in 1922. 1965 extensions facing Victoria Street: sandstone facing, dark toned bronze clad fenestration panels, modernist style, by Government Architect E.H. Farmer.
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 http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/barani )

The Darlinghurst Court House and Residence was originally designed by the Colonial Architect Mortimer Lewis. Building was commenced in 1835 and was not completed until 1844. James Barnet designed major flanking Court room pavilion additions 1884 - 88. The high court was added in 1922. This building was a milestone building, being specifically designed to suit its purpose and impart authority and the power of the law. The former Darlinghurst Gaol is sited adjoining this site.

Historical period: 1826 - 1850, 1876 - 1900, 1901 - 25

The extension facing Victoria Street was designed by the office of the Government Architect and completed 1965.

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)-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Social institutions-Activities and organisational arrangements for the provision of social activities (none)-

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 fa├žade 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 LEP 2012I40314 Dec 12   
Heritage study     

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenAnita Heiss Aboriginal People and Place, Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City
WrittenNSW Heritage Office2007State Heritage Register Inventory sheet

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

Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Local Government
Database number: 2421062

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.

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