Redfern Estate Heritage Conservation Area | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Redfern Estate Heritage Conservation Area

Item details

Name of item: Redfern Estate Heritage Conservation Area
Type of item: Conservation Area
Group/Collection: Urban Area
Category: Townscape
Primary address: Refer To Map, Redfern, NSW 2016
Local govt. area: Sydney


Cleveland St, Elizabeth St, Phillip St, Cope St, and Regent St.
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Refer To MapRedfernSydney  Primary Address

Statement of significance:

The Redfern Estate Heritage Conservation Area is historically significant as an early Victorian structured subdivision covering the entire grant to William Redfern. The development of the estate from the 1840s - 1890s reflects the establishment of the Railway at Redfern. The importance of the suburb of Redfern in the mid/late nineteenth century is evidenced in the development of the Commercial Centre, the fine Civic buildings, the Park and the prestige housing on primary streets. The area is able to represent a great diversity of housing types dating from the period 1840 - 1890. Large scale factories and warehouses reflect the importance of manufacturing in Redfern in the early twentieth century
Date significance updated: 28 Jul 06
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: 1842-1940
Physical description: A residential subdivision dating from 1842 covering the original grant of William Redfern. The subdivision comprises eight regular blocks with irregular secondary streets dividing these blocks. Redfern Street bisects the area and is the civic and commercial centre of the area, containing major civic, religious and commercial buildings. Shops date from the Victorian, Federation and Interwar period. Housing ranges from early single storey cottages, Victorian terraces, some later terraces and recent medium density developments. The Area is interspersed with factories and warehouses dating from the early twentieth century, some of which are being converted to residential uses. The urban fabric has deteriorated at Phillip Street west area and in the vicinity of the Australia Post complex, where sites have been amalgamated. Redfern Park provides a focus for the area.

Turner Street: Post World War 1 development, 3-5 storey flats, rear Heritage Items Rating C
Pitt Street: Predominantly intact grand Victorian terrace development,
2-3 storeys, Hotel, Town Hall, Detracting development at 65, 52, 2, 47, 43, 53, 72, 86, 114, 119, 146-152. Rating A
Phillip St: Park (housing commission opposite), school, detracting contemporary development, small scale Victorian terraces. Plant vacant site. Rating C
George Street: Two storey terraces, Victorian, public buildings, school. Detracting development at rear Post Office, 125, 128, 97, 68, ICAC, flats. Rating B
Regent Street: Group Victorian shops near Redfern Street, detracting signboards, commercial development. Rating C
Cope Street: 2 storey Victorian terrace (detracting development 53). Rating A
Redfern Street: Significant Public Buildings. Victorian 2-3 storey development park, detracting shopfronts and above awning, 140, 134, 107, 112 detracting. Rating A
Great Buckingham Street: 2 storey Victorian terraces intact, detracting development at 85, 63, 29 and corner Redfern Street. Rating A
Elizabeth Street: 2 storey Victorian terraces, Park. Detracting mixed use development. Rating B
Chalmers Street: Victorian terrace development east side, detracting large scale contemporary development west side. Rating B
Wells Street: Small scale Victorian terraces, weatherboard cottages, mixed development and uses, flats (detracting). Rating B
Burnett Street: Small scale Victorian terraces, Heritage Items, rear Chalmers Street properties. Rating B
William Street: 1 and 2 storey Victorian terrace development, early, intact. Rating A
James Street: No properties fronting lane, park. Rating C
Renwick Street: Small groups terraces, mixed use and scale. Rating C Albert Street: Mixed scale / use, small groups terraces. Rating C
Cleveland Street: Park, 2-3 storey grand Victorian terraces, detracting development corner George and Cleveland, 217, Post Office, Factory. Rating A
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
This area was affected by the 1999 Sydney hailstorm, resulting in extensive replacement of roofing materials. Hasty reroofing following the hailstorm has resulted in many cases in the installation of inappropriate roofing materials, inconsistent roofing materials within terrace rows, the removal of separate front verandah and/or balcony roofs, and the removal of stucco detailing at the top of fin walls between terraces.

Medium, Archaeological potential
Date condition updated:15 May 06
Modifications and dates: Industrial buildings / sites converted to residential in recent times.
Further information: Industrial establishments in the conservation area needs further attention and heritage study. Former department store Hodden & Son P/L warehouse at Elizabeth St (No 607-609) and Great Buckingham St (No 53-63) date from 1880s and may have high significance.
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.

Industrial establishments in the conservation area needs further attention and heritage study. Former department store Hodden & Son P/L warehouse at Elizabeth St (No 607-609) and Great Buckingham St (No 53-63) date from 1880s and may have high significance.
Current use: Residential, Commercial, Industrial, Civic
Former use: Residential, Commercial, Industrial, Civic


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 )

On June 17th, 1817 Dr William Redfern received a grant of 100 acres from Governor Macquarie. The land was described as a rich alluvial flat, surrounded by and partly encroached upon by sand hills. The boundaries were defined approximately by the present day Cleveland, Regent, Redfern and Elizabeth Streets. The grant was made on the condition that he did not sell or alienate the land within 5 years and that he cultivate 20 acres. Redfern (1774-1833) was a pioneering doctor who came to the country as a convict in 1801. He received the first medical diploma issued in Australia and had the largest private medical practice in the colony and was one of the most important emancipists in early N.S.W.

The growth of Redfern as a suburb commenced with the 1842 subdivision of the original Redfern land grant, which had been left in the trusteeship of Mr Alexander & Captain Pockley on Dr Redfern's death, in 1833. The sale of the subdivision was handled by the auctioneer Mr Stubbs. The subdivision plan setting out the lines of streets and allotments, drawn up by the surveyor E.J.H. Knapp, formed the physical framework for the future development of Redfern. The Estate was divided by George, Pitt and Chalmers (Castlereagh) Streets and Redfern Street into eight sections.

The earliest sales and development commenced near Regent and Cleveland Streets where a number of brick and stone houses were located by 1843. Cleveland Street was named after Captain Cleveland, an officer of the 73rd regiment. A few slab, lath and plaster or weatherboard homes were located further out to the east and south, with much of the remaining land being described as pasture land. Development pushed outwards towards Pitt Street and in 1846, the Cricketer's Arms Hotel at the corner of Redfern and Pitt Streets was built. The Congregational Church, at the corner of Cleveland and George Streets, was erected in 1847, largely due to the efforts of George Renwick, who was later to become Mayor of Redfern.

The pivotal period of development in Redfern was from 1842 to 1890. During this period Redfern progressed from the subdivision of the original land grant to a thriving inner suburb supporting many flourishing businesses. The municipality was proclaimed in 1859 and the Town Hall was erected at the height of this development in 1870. Redfern subsequently became known as the Borough of Redfern which remained an independent municipality until 1949.

By the early 1850's Redfern and particularly Pitt Street was known as a select address. In 1850 William Campbell of the Crown Solicitor's Office occupied the newly built Fitzroy Terrace in Pitt Street. The style of construction of houses in Pitt Street reflected the social status of the street with attic storey, timber columns, French doors, and stucco ruled out to resemble ashlar stonework often being used. The courthouse, police station, post office, fire brigade station were all built on the land between Pitt and George Streets. The roads were well laid out and well maintained.

Aided by its close proximity to Sydney, Redfern thrived. The first railway in N.S.W. ran from Redfern to Parramatta in 1855. Until the beginning of this century Redfern was the major railway station in Sydney. It's proximity to transport due to the train terminus and the horse drawn vehicles which travelled from Redfern along Pitt Street to the Quay, from 1861 to 1865, provided an entry corridor to the main precinct of Sydney.

The last sections (4 and 5) of the Redfern Estate (bounded by Chalmers and Elizabeth Street) were advertised for sale in 1882. By 1884, Section 4 had been subdivided into regular allotments for auction sale and Section 5 had been purchased by the Governor for a public park.

When Sydney's original railway terminus was built in the Cleveland Paddocks, which extended from Devonshire and Cleveland Streets to Chippendale, the station's name was chosen to honour William Redfern. The remains of Cleveland Paddocks is Prince Alfred Park, dedicated as a public reserve in 1856. The NSW Agricultural Society’s architect, Benjamin Backhouse, was responsible for laying out the park in 1870 with curvaceous paths, terraces and shrubberies.

Redfern's position as a terminus within the growing railway system resulted in the creation of the new locomotion motor workshops, now known as Eveleigh (No. 1 to 4), in 1887. This coincided with the removal of the large works, over 1,000 men employed, of the Hudson Brothers. By 1889, 20,000 of Sydney's 25,000 manufacturing jobs were located in the Municipalities of Sydney, Balmain and Redfern. It was estimated, in 1890, that the Municipality of Redfern contained 450 businesses.

Until the postwar years the inner city retained its manufacturing workforce. In 1944-45 the City of Sydney had 135,454 manufacturing jobs, rising slightly to 136,210 by 1953-54. The exodus of manufacturing from the central city began in the mid 1950s and by 1981 there were only 33,000 manufacturing jobs in the city.

Redfern has long contained an aboriginal presence and has formed the focus of Aboriginal efforts to acquire civil rights. In 1943, Bill Ferguson hired the Town Hall at Redfern for a public meeting on September 2nd, where he launched his nomination for a place on the Welfare Board. The hall was packed and Aboriginal people came together to vote unanimously in favour of changes to their present situation. From here Ferguson went on to win a place on the Welfare Board.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Aboriginal cultures and interactions with other cultures-Activities associated with maintaining, developing, experiencing and remembering Aboriginal cultural identities and practices, past and present. (none)-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Industry-Activities associated with the manufacture, production and distribution of goods Factories-
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 Community facilities-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Domestic life-Activities associated with creating, maintaining, living in and working around houses and institutions. Leisure-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The area occupies the grant of Dr William Redfern made in 1817. An early Victorian residential subdivision dating from 1842, structured in eight equal blocks.
Redfern developed from the 1840s to the 1890s as a prestigious inner city suburb with housing for the upper, middle and working class and several fine public buildings.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
Residential settlement, commercial centres, corner stores, pubs etc., associated with the establishment of the railway and small-scale industry.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Streetscape qualities, landmark buildings.
Built form responding to the gently undulating topography. Small scale working class community and fine terraces built for the upper class in harmonious streetscapes. The park and fine plantings have high aesthetic values.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
Continued community and residential focus since the 1850s.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
Archaeological potential on redeveloped sites and to the rear of pre 1860 properties.
SHR Criteria f)
Proportion of single storey circa 1850 buildings.
SHR Criteria g)
The establishment of early Colonial / Victorian residential subdivision and its continued expansion.
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:

1.Protection of Significance (a) Subdivision- Retain Victorian subdivision - Do not allow amalgamation of sites - Interpret original subdivision of Redfern Estate, and St Pauls Place (b)Key Period Significant (Contributory) Development: - Retain 1 Storey Workers Cottages and protect setting - Retain 1-2 Storey Victorian terraces - Retain Victorian Public Buildings - Retain Victorian Retail Strip - Retain scale of Victorian development - Protect public buildings and grand terrace house development in primary streets. - Protect small scale workers cottages and their settings in secondary streets. - Maintain building alignment - Retain form - Retain finishes and details - Reinstate verandahs, front fences, lost detail - Protect intact rear lane - Additions to rear not to exceed ridge height and retain original roof form - Discourage front dormers - Promote public buildings - Promote retail strip (c)Other Significant Development: - Retain Federation/Interwar Public buildings and shops - Retain intact industrial development - Do not exceed scale - Limit redevelopment to existing volume - Prepare policy for redevelopment of industrial sites. 2.Redevelopment of Non Contributing Sites - Encourage reinterpretation of Victorian Subdivision - Respect scale and form of significant development - Respect building line of significant development - Encourage rendered and painted finishes - Encourage contemporary detail - Provide landscape screening - Limit carparking access from street - Do not allow carparking forward of building line 3.Enhance Significance of Area - Enhance Victorian streetscape and screen detracting development. - Establish/maintain and enhance street planting to unify streetscape - Encourage render/paint finishes to detracting developments - Remove / Discourage reproduction of Victorian detail in contemporary development - Interpret Redfern Estate subdivision and boundary - Interpret St. Pauls Place - Interpret Victorian form of Redfern Park - Prepare Conservation Management Plan for Park - Provide landscape screening to detracting sites 4.FSR and Height Controls Controls to reflect desired future character of area. - Height Controls and FSR Controls require review to ensure retention of significant development is encouraged and that new development provides suitable setting for significant development. Maximum FSR - Cleveland, Regent and Redfern Streets to be 1.5 : 1. Maximum height to be 9m. - Elsewhere 6m height limit and 1 : 1 FSR generally appropriate. 5.Boundary Adjustment - Maintain current Conservation Area boundary - Adjust Conservation Area boundary to reflect extent of original subdivision - Adjust Conservation Area boundary to exclude areas which do not contribute to an understanding of the significance of the Conservation Area. - Adjust Conservation Area boundary to include areas which contribute to an understanding of the significance of the Conservation Area. Hailstorm Note Reinstate appropriate period roofing materials lost as a result of the 1999 Sydney hailstorm and reinistate original separate verandah/balcony roofs to original profiles and materials.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanSydney LEP 2012C5614 Dec 12   
Local Environmental Plan - LapsedAmendment No 3 SSLEP1998CA4228 Jul 00   
Heritage study     

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
South Sydney Conservation Areas2003 Architectural Projects P/L  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.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Local Government
Database number: 2421496

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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