Former Macdonaldtown Heritage Conservation Area | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

Culture and heritage


Former Macdonaldtown Heritage Conservation Area

Item details

Name of item: Former Macdonaldtown Heritage Conservation Area
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Urban Area
Category: Other - Urban Area
Primary address: Refer To Map, Erskineville, NSW 2043
Parish: Petersham
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Sydney


Bounded by the eastern side of Union Street, Munni Street, Rochford Street, Macdonald St, the eastern side of Smiths Lane, northern side of 26 Smiths Lane, northern boundary of 163 George Street, George Street, northern boundary of 220 George Street, the western boundary of the railway line, Macdonald Street, eastern boundary of No 43 Macdonald Street, the rear of 2-34 Flora Street, southern boundary of 34 Flora Street, Flora Street, southern boundary of 31 Flora Street, rear boundary of No32-50 Amy Street, Devine Street, western boundary of the railway line, rear boundary of 1-33 Bray Street, Bray Street, eastern side of Bray Lane, southern boundary of 7-9 Bray Lane, southern boundary of 192 Rochfort Street, Rochford Street, and the southern and western boundary of 195-199 Rochford St.
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Refer To MapErskinevilleSydneyPetershamCumberlandPrimary Address

Statement of significance:

The Former Macdonaldtown Heritage Conservation Area has historic significance as a substantially intact subdivision developed as a working class residential community in the late Victorian period. It contains a mix of mid to late Victorian houses and shop buildings,of varying scale and differing construction materials. The area possesses a cohesive scale and character of high amenity that demonstrates the subdivision and working class development of residential estates in the Victorian Period.
Date significance updated: 25 Oct 10
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: Various
Builder/Maker: Various
Construction years: 1840-1900
Physical description: The area comprises single storey cottages, one and two-storey Victorian terraces, occasional two storey Victorian villas, Victorian era former corner shop buildings and hotels constructed of varying materials predominantly brick, rendered brick and timber (weatherboard) which contribute to the area, and intermixed with occasional small scale industrial buildings and modern residential infill dwellings (the latter generally 2 storey in a terrace form).

Street Ratings

Amy Street - south end from Knight Street
A straight narrow street with narrow footpaths and little street tree planting, characterised by Victorian Filigree 1 and 2 storey terraces, and single storey cottages, weatherboard and Victorian stuccoed brick. Nos. 22 & 24 Amy Street form part of a distinctive group of Federation Arts & Crafts single storey terraces, the majority of which are in Knight Street (Nos. 25 to 37 Knight Street). Street Rating: A

Amy Street - north end from Knight Street
A straight narrow street with narrow footpaths and little street tree planting, characterised by a mix of Victorian residences including weatherboard houses, park on the western side, and some modern development. Street Rating: B

Bray Street
A very wide street with a mix of one and two storey Victorian terraces, substantial street planting. Some infill development. Street Rating: A

Devine Street
A narrow kinked street with narrow footpaths and little street tree planting, characterised by a mix of Victorian terraces and modern development, 1, 2 and 3 storeys. Street Rating: B

Flora Street
A straight, narrow street with some street tree plantings, characterised by mixed residential development, predominantly Victorian era and modern, 1, 2 and 3 storeys. Northern end dominated by "Alexandra Terrace" at 2-34 Flora Street, a potential heritage item. Street rating: B at the southern end, Street rating A at the northern end.

George Street
A relatively narrow street dominated by 2-3 storey modern residential development, some out of scale with the context. Little street tree planting. The southern end is more intact, with single storey Victorian era cottages, including a group of unusual Victorian Gothic terraces at 165-173 George St, and a pair of Victorian Regency terraces at 226 & 228 George St, which are all potential heritage items. Street rating: C

Knight Lane
Typical narrow Victorian era lane in a terrace house area, dominated by single storey garaging with roller doors. No street tree plantings. Street Rating: B

Knight Street
A narrow street with narrow footpaths and relatively few street trees, Characterised by a mix of 1 and 2 storey Victorian and early 20th century dwellings and modern residential infill dwellings. Street Rating: B

Macdonald Street
A relatively wide street with narrow footpaths and relatively few street trees, terminated at the eastern end by a vista of the Railway Bridge/road overpass. Characterised by a mix of 1 and 2 storey Victorian and early 20th century dwellings. 31 Macdonald St (corner Amy St) is a remarkably intact Victorian corner shop (potential heritage item). Street Rating: A

Rochford Street - excluding east side between Victoria St and Macdonald St:
A narrow street with a mix of 1 and 2 storey Victorian era terraces, with mixed, medium height street tree plantings. Street Rating: A

Smiths Lane
A terrace housing lane, relatively wide for a lane, with no street planting (typical of service lanes to terraces), now dominated by modern 2 storey residential development at Nos. 2-14 Smiths Lane on the eastern side, with rear fences and single storey garages to terraces on the western side. Street rating: C

Union Street - east side only
A narrow straight street dominated by 2 storey generally Victorian era terraces, with some weatherboard cottages and modern infill in the mix. Mixed, medium height street tree plantings. Street Rating: A
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
In fair to good condition with a high degree of original fabric remaining with high potential for restoration.
Date condition updated:19 Oct 12
Modifications and dates: Varying extents of additions and alterations throughout the area which generally still allow the original scale and building forms to be interpreted.
Further information: With the gazettal of LEP 2012, the boundary of former Macdonaldtown Heritage Conservation Area previously listed under South Sydney LEP 1998 has been adjusted to:

(1) exclude the following areas which do not contribute to an understanding of the Significance of the Heritage Conservation Area,
(a) around the intersection of Devine Street and Concord Street/Flora Street ;
(b) area north of 163 and 220 George Street, extending through to Smiths Lane, but not including 141 George St (Corner Victoria St) or 1-19 Victoria Street.

(2) include the area at the south - eastern end of Devine Street and also Bray Street, which contributes to an understanding of the Significance of the Heritage Conservation Area

(3) exclude the area north of Macdonald Street between Rochford Street and Smiths Lane and Victoria Street which has been included as part of a separate "Pleasant Avenue Heritage Conservation Area" as it is largely a separate distinctive subdivision developed later than the rest of the area.

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: Predominantly residential
Former use: Predominantly residential


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. .

With European Occupation of the Sydney region from 1788, the Cadigal and Wangal people were largely decimated but there are descendants still living in Sydney today.

Nicholas Devine, a superintendent of convicts arriving in Sydney in 1790 was granted 120 acres at Bulnaming (near Newtown) in 1794 and an adjoining 90 acres in 1979. Devine’s Estate was subdivided from 1828 when Erskineville road, Wilson Street and Cooks River Road were the only roads in the area. The northern part of the Estate was subdivided into lots of 7-13 acres, with the early purchases of land in Erskineville being predominantly middle class professionals building villas on large grounds.

Erskineville was named after Reverend George Erskine, an early Wesleyan minister who bought up part of Devine’s Estate and built a residence named "Erskine Villa". Upon Erskine’s death, the property was bought by Robert Henderson, followed by William Toogood, a Sydney Inn Keeper. Toogood left the land to the Church of England and the house was used as a rectory for the Holy Trinity Church Macdonaldtown.

Early development in Macdonaldtown concentrated in the south of Devine’s Grant in the vicinity of Rochford Street, near Cooks River Road. Allotments in this area were advertised in 1846.

Macdonaldtown Municipality was incorporated in 1872, and the name changed to Erskineville in 1894. Macdonaldtown Railway Station opened in 1878. Erskineville Public School was established in 1881 and Macdonaldtown Park (Erskineville Oval) was proclaimed 28 July 1885. Subdivision of the villa estates began in the 1880s, prompted by the expansion of the Railway. Erskineville Station was opened on the Sydenham (Illawarra) line in 1884. With the expansion of the railway the residential focus of the municipality moved north. The name Macdonaldtown also moved north from its original location to the railway line.

In 1893 part of Macdonaldtown became a new suburb known as Erskineville, via the Borough of Erskineville Naming Act. In 1894 the boundary and name was changed to Erskineville, while in 1909, Electric trams ran to Erskineville. The site of Erskineville Station was altered in 1912.

In December 1936 the Housing Conditions Investigation Committee presented a report on Sydney inner city slums which suggested the problems could be solved by demolition of the slums and rebuilding to conform to a number of guidelines. Detailed inspections of Woolloomooloo and Erskineville, along with parts of Newtown and Alexandria, were made. Erskineville was singled out for special attention "most of the houses are definitely unfit for human occupation and should be demolished." The Committee accordingly put forward a proposal for a model slum clearance scheme at Erskineville that was estimated to cost over 2 million pounds. The Housing Improvement Act was passed at the end of 1936, but was amended the following year by the Housing (Further Provisions) Act, which empowered the Housing Improvement Board to take over Erskineville Park and erect 56 dwellings and ancillary buildings on four acres comprising the north western portion of the Park. The much larger eastern portion was set aside for the construction "of such works (including provision of a sports ground) as may be necessary to render that portion suitable for use by the public for purposes of public recreation, convenience, health or enjoyment." (From Roy Lumby's National Trust Classification Report, 2002). The Erskineville Housing Scheme is bounded by Swanson Street, Elliott Avenue and Binning Street. It consists of seven two-storey brick buildings each containing eight flats.

In 1949 small municipalities were amalgamated and became part of the City of Sydney Council, and then in 1968, South Sydney Municipal Council was created in which Erskineville was situated.

In 1982 South Sydney Council was amalgamated but then again in 1988 reformed. In 2004 the South Sydney Council was once again amalgamated with the City of Sydney and the suburb of Erskineville is now again within the jurisdiction of the City.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
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)-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Land tenure-Activities and processes for identifying forms of ownership and occupancy of land and water, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal (none)-
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 Living in the City-
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 Development-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The area has historic significance as it dates from the key period of development of Erskineville and the subdivison of residential estates associated with provision of working class housing on Devine’s Grant.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The area is associated with the development of working class settlement, corner store communities on Devine’s Estate which is demonstrated by the small scale houses, terraces, former shops and hotel buildings.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The area possesses a coherent domestic late Victorian streetscape character (c. 1880s), through its harmonious scale, set backs, terrace form and late 19th Century detailing. The street trees enhance the amenity of the area
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The area demonstrates working class housing lifestyles from the Victorian period.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The area has archealogical potential in the vicinity of the former Knights brickyards.
SHR Criteria g)
The area is a representative example of a Victorian residential subdivsion and working class housing found within the inner suburbs of Sydney.
Integrity/Intactness: 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:

GENERAL Heritage Assessment and Heritage Impact Statement To be prepared for heritage items, major works to contributory buildings including demolition Heritage Items and Contributory buildings There shall be no vertical additions to such buildings and no alterations to the façade of the building other than to reinstate original features. 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. Neutral and Detracting Buildings Neutral and detracting buildings should where possible be enhanced. Any replacement of such buildings should be in accordance with the infill provisions of the relevant planning controls. POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS - (Generic Conservation Area policies) 1.Protection of Significance (a) Subdivision -Retain Victorian/Federation subdivision - Do not allow amalgamation of sites (b) Key Period Significant (Contributory) Development: - Retain one storey Victorian / Federation terraces, semis and cottages - Retain two storey Victorian terraces - Retain Victorian / Federation Public Buildings - Retain Victorian / Federation retail/commercial buildings - Retain Interwar commercial development if significant - Retain Interwar residential development - Retain small scale of early development -maintain and respect building alignments - Retain form - Retain finishes and details - Reinstate verandahs, balconies, front cast iron palisade fences, lost detail - Protect intact rear lanes - Retain stable buildings, access ways and carriageways of moderate and high integrity - Additions to rear not to exceed ridge height and retain original roof form - Discourage front dormers to terrace rows except where already present in a terrace row - Encourage reinstatement of roofing materials and roofing detail lost in 1999 Sydney hailstorm c) Retail Development/Corner shops: - Protect and reveal the retail history the area through retention of Victorian era corner shops - Reveal original face brickwork, remove non original features, particularly if they conceal original detail. - Restore detail to evidence - Reconstruct new shopfronts modelled on surviving original shopfronts and derived from on-site evidence. In particular retain or reinstate original splayed recessed entrances. - Avoid loss of original significant shopfronts 2. Redevelopment of Non Contributing Sites - encourage interpretation of Victorian subdivision pattern - respect scale and form of contributory development - respect building line of contributory development - encourage rendered and painted finishes - encourage contemporary detail - provide landscape screening/softening - Recognise the collective precedent and impact of the proposal - Develop approach for sympathetic new development to enhance existing heritage character and level of detail - Respect scale and form of contributory development - Avoid flat reflective monotonous glazed façades - Avoid visual clutter: A/C, signs 3. Enhance Significance of heritage conservation area: - Maintain and enhance street planting to unify streetscapes - Encourage redevelopment of detracting sites - Encourage render/paint finishes to detracting development - Encourage use of sympathetic roofing materials - Interpret Victorian street pattern and subdivision - Provide landscape screening/softening to detracting sites - Remove/Discourage reproduction of Victorian detail in contemporary development 4. Car Parking - Do not allow carparking access from the street - Generally allow parking access from rear lanes. - Reduce impact of existing carparking access from street 5. Landscaping - Encourage trees at the end of streets to reinforce landscape vistas and frame views - Encourage trees to screen detracting development 6. View Protection - Reinforce street end vistas with street trees - Encourage and develop appropriate distant vistas 7. Heritage Items - Protect Heritage Items within the heritage conservation are 8. Potential Heritage Items The following buildings should be assessed for possible listing as heritage items: "Alexandra Terrace" at 2-34 Flora St Victorian Gothic terraces at 165-173 George St Victorian Regency terraces at 226 & 228 George St


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanSydney LEP 2012C2314 Dec 12   
Heritage study CA22   

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

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

rez rez rez rez rez rez
rez rez rez rez rez rez
rez rez rez rez 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: 2421476
File number: S047440

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.