Paddington Uniting Church Group including buildings, and their interiors and grounds | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

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Paddington Uniting Church Group including buildings, and their interiors and grounds

Item details

Name of item: Paddington Uniting Church Group including buildings, and their interiors and grounds
Other name/s: Includes: t Wesleyan Methodist Church, George Smith Memorial Hall, Parsonage, The Nest
Type of item: Complex / Group
Group/Collection: Religion
Category: Church
Primary address: 395 Oxford Street, Paddington, NSW 2021
Local govt. area: Sydney
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
395 Oxford StreetPaddingtonSydney  Primary Address
30 Gordon StPaddingtonSydney  Alternate Address

Statement of significance:

The Paddington Uniting Church group which includes the former Methodist Church, the George Smith Memorial Hall, former Parsonage, and "The Nest" forms one of the most intact and architecturally significant groups of ecclesiastical buildings in Paddington. The earlier and present use of the buildings (including the Saturday Paddington Markets) demonstrate to a large degree, the development of Methodism and later the Uniting Church of Australia and ably demonstrates their active pastoral, caring attitudes and practices to their congregation and the community generally. In this manner the site demonstrate high social significance. As a group, the buildings demonstrate high aesthetic/technical cultural and social significance.

The former Methodist Church on the site is significant as an important architectural work of Thomas Rowe, one of Sydney's most prominent architects in the latter half of the 19th Century and as a highly significant architectural landmark at the centre of the Oxford Street shopping precinct on Oxford Street. Internally the Church contains some significant memorial stained glass windows, church furniture and an organ.
Date significance updated: 19 Jan 16
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: Thomas Rowe (Church)
Construction years: 1877-1910
Physical description: The group includes two storey Victorian Romanesque style church constructed of sandstone with a slate roof c. 1877; two storey Victorian Gothic style parsonage constructed of rendered brickwork with a slate roof c. 1874; single storey Victorian Gothic style house known as "The Nest" c. 1860s; two storey Federation Romanesque style parish office and former school hall known as the George Smith Memorial Hall.

The Church on the site fronting Oxford Street is the former Paddington Methodist Church, completed in 1877, to the design of Architect Thomas Rowe. The church is of plain and carved ashlar sandstone, with a high pitched gabled slate roof. Internally the Church contains some significant memorial stained glass windows, church furniture and an organ which was built by the English organ builder, WE Richardson (Manchester) and installed in 1887. The lath and plaster barrel vault of the nave ceiling is a highly unusual architectural characteristic and extremely rate in Australian 19th Century ecclesiastical architecture.

There is a a flood diverting ‘moat’ around the Church, which was constructed in the mid- 1990s together with steel framed glazed awnings, to the design of Alexander Tzannes Associates, for the Saturday Paddington Markets.

The George Smith Memorial Hall to the south of the Church, is a one and two storey face brick hall, with a hipped and gabled roof, originally of asbestos tiles, now corrugated metal. The hall is Federation Romanesque in style, c. 1910, with semi-circular arched windows and door openings.

The two storey rendered brick Victorian Italianate residence, formerly the Parsonage, fronts Newcombe Street. The front façade features a front gable which has a decorative e barge board, two storey verandah with cast ironwork, and decorative stucco detailing.. The main roof is clad in slate. A side verandah , internal alterations and two storey rear additions were carried out in in 1991 when the building was converted for use as a child care centre..
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Generally in reasonably good condition with a high degree of original external fabric in tact.
Date condition updated:19 Apr 12
Modifications and dates: The church has been altered by some of the removal of the original external detailing and the original pews. The interior walls have been coated and the lighting changed.

1991 - Alterations and additions to the former Parsonage to accommodate a child care centre.

Mid 1990s - A flood diverting ‘moat’ around the Church was constructed together with steel framed glazed awnings for the Saturday Paddington Markets.
Further information: Further reseach is required. This should include identifying the original architects and builders of the former Parsonage, "The Nest", and George Smith Memorial Hall.

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: Church, child care centre, markets
Former use: Church, parsonage and residence


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.

In 1811, Governor Macquarie dedicated 490 acres to the south of South Head Road for public use. This included all land south of Oxford Street from South Dowling Street to Centennial Park and Moore Park. The area was swampy and unattractive for residential settlement. South Head Road (now Oxford Street) was built in 1803 to access a Pilot and Signal Station at South Head. The first toll bar in Paddington was at the intersection of Darlinghurst and Oxford Streets. By 1841 it was relocated near Victoria Barracks (cnr Oxford and Glenmore Road).

The growth of Paddington gained momentum in 1838 when it was decided to build the new military barracks at Paddington Hill. The site chosen was located on part of the Sydney Common adjoining the road to South head. At this time the land was described as being remote from the town centre with a terrain unsuitable for agriculture and covered with stunted trees, sand, and scattered outcrops of stone. Its advantages as a location for a Military Barracks included its proximity to good drinking water at Busby's Bore, the bounteous quantity sandstone available plus the high ground which was very suitable for defence purposes. The barracks fronted the South Head Road and for its first 30 years were surrounded only by the crown lands of the Sydney Common.

Once the Victoria Barracks were erected and the soldiers in residence, stores and cottages grew up in the vicinity to cater for the militia and their needs. In 1839, Charles Gordon was granted one acre in the vicinity of today’s Stewart Street and established a Mill. Gordon was granted a further acre in 1843. Other minor industries also began including a wool-washing business, lime and the first commercial salt water boiling station.

The subdivision of areas of the Sydney Common commenced in the 1850s. The areas were divided into Blocks of roughly 15 - 40 lots and gradually released for sale over the next 25 years. Lots generally had frontages of 20 feet, with wide allotments along Moore Park Road. Major releases occurred in 1867, 1871 and 1881-1882.

Within the Paddington South area there were a number of larger grants for public purposes and three grants to individuals. These were 2 x 1 acre grants to Charles Gordon (incorporating Gordon’s Mill on Stewart Street) and a grant of 2 acres to L.W. Newcombe. Land Grants for Roman Catholic Church, St Mathias School, Wesleyan Church at Newcombe and Oxford, State School and land for Reservoir on Oxford Street were also made. The extensive areas devoted to public purposes reflects the intentions of the 1811 dedication of the Sydney Common for public use.

By 1851 Paddington had a population of 1,389 inhabitants, making it the third largest village in Sydney after Glebe and Balmain. Initially the Wesleyan Methodist Church congregation met in a timber cottage owned by Thomas Cowlishaw in Union St. However by 1850 they had outgrown this building and hence constructed a new place of worship on the present site. The new structure on the site (where the George Smith Memorial Hall stands today) was a simple weatherboard chapel measuring 45 x 25 feet at a cost of 100 pounds. The foundation stone was laid in 1854 marking the first Methodist church building in Paddington. It was known affectionately by its congregation as "Noah's Ark".

The Paddington Methodist Church on the site was completed in 1877. The building was designed by Thomas Rowe and a detailed description of the new church was published in the Sydney Mail on 27 January 1877. It was constructed of sandstone with a slate roof.. The old weatherboard chapel was used for the Sunday School until it was demolished to make way for the George Smith Memorial Hall c 1910.

The parsonage was constructed during c1884 for the Methodist Minister and his family. The two storey building constructed of rendered brickwork and a slate roof in the Victorian Italianate style with Gothic detailing. It has been converted for use as a child care centre.

The "Nest" was originally a house constructed c1880 in the Victorian Gothic style. It was converted for use as a self contained flat and administrative offices for the adjacent former Parsonage.

During the mid 1940s, Oxford Street was widened which included the northern boundary of the site and reducing the land owned by the Methodist Church.

In June 1977 the Uniting Church was formed as a result of the coming together of the Congregational Union of Australia, the Methodist Church of Australasia and the Presbyterian Church of Australia.

The former parsonage was converted to a child care centre in 1991.

During the mid-1990s, concerns about flooding on the site, and the popularity of the Markets, prompted the commencement of a significant works program on the parts of the site immediately surrounding the Church, with the construction of a flood diverting ‘moat’ around the Church and steel framed glazed awnings to the design of Alexander Tzannes Associates Pty Ltd.

The roof of the Church was extensively damaged by a hail storm in April 1999. The slate roof tiles were replaced with new slate.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Creating landmark structures and places in urban settings-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Religion-Activities associated with particular systems of faith and worship The Church-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The Paddington Uniting Church Group is significant as representative of the historic and social development of Paddington from the mid 19th century. It is representative of a mid 19th to early 20th century church complex with a long standing association first with the Wesleyan Methodist and later the Uniting Church community in Paddington.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The church is associated with Thomas Cowlishaw - Superintendent of the Bourke St Methodist School, Thomas Rowe, the Wesleyan and Methodist Churches and the Uniting Church.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The Paddington Uniting Church group display good examples of mid to late Victorian and early 20th century residential and ecclesiastical architectural styles and demonstrates many of the key elements of those styles.

The church is a highly significant architectural landmark at the centre of the Oxford Street shopping precinct on Oxford Street. . Internally the Church contains some significant memorial stained glass windows, church furniture and an organ.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The Paddington Uniting Church Group is highly significant to the local Paddington community for the spiritual, social and welfare services it provides to the disadvantaged and community generally.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
There is potential for further research on the former Parsonage, "The Nest", and George Smith Memorial Hall to establish the original architects and builders.
SHR Criteria f)
The Paddington Uniting Church group is a rare example of a complete church complex which has developed from the mid 19th Victorian to the early 20th century.
The lath and plaster barrel vault of the nave ceiling within the church is a highly unusual architectural characteristic and extremely rate in Australian 19th Century ecclesiastical architecture.
SHR Criteria g)
The buildings are a representative example of a church group with a significant and long standing association with the Paddington community.
Integrity/Intactness: Externally 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 heritage buildings on the site should be retained and conserved. The Conservation Managerment Plan prepared for the site in 1992 should be updated. A Heritage Assessment and Heritage Impact Statement, should be prepared f prior to any major works being undertaken on the site.. There shall be no vertical additions to the heritage buildings and no alterations to their façades 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 2012I109114 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 View detail
WrittenCity Plan Heritage2009Heritage Impact Statement: Paddington Children's Centre, 30 Gordon Street Paddington
WrittenTrevor Howells1992Conservation Plan

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: 2421066

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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