Commercial Building Facades and External Walls Only | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

Culture and heritage


Commercial Building Facades and External Walls Only

Item details

Name of item: Commercial Building Facades and External Walls Only
Other name/s: Gowings Shop, Bank of New South Wales,
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Commercial
Category: Bank
Location: Lat: -33.8679966332004 Long: 151.205898384207
Primary address: 319-321 George Street, Sydney, NSW 2000
Local govt. area: Sydney
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
319-321 George StreetSydneySydney  Primary Address

Statement of significance:

319-321 George Street is of historic, aesthetic, social and scientific significance as a rare early Victorian commercial facade of modest scale and restrained detail that typified the scale, form and pattern of developments of the 1850 period and which continue to demonstrate those attributes. The facade also demonstrates the quality of design from that period and is a strong contributor to the varied streetscape of this section of George Street.
Date significance updated: 31 Jan 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: Unknown
Builder/Maker: Unknown
Construction years: 1858-1858
Physical description: The facade at 319-321 George Street Sydney is a three storey mid 19th century Victorian Classical structure. From the street, and above awning level, it retains its early form. Thought to have been originally a component of a terrace of five buildings, the surviving fabric is now surrounded and incorporated in redevelopment from the 1960's and large scale commercial building from the 1970's. It remains as the only surviving fragment from the mid Victorian period in George Street, north from Martin Place. The detailing and scale of the building was once the dominant style in this central thoroughfare. The original building underwent extensive and relatively frequent changes, both externally and internally culminating in redevelopment of the site. Category:Individual Building. Style:Victorian Classical. Storeys:3. Facade:Sandstone & stucco detailing. Side/Rear Walls:Rendered masonry. Internal Walls:Plastered brick, plasterbd. & stud (1995). Roof Cladding:Corrugated steel sheeting (1995). Internal Structure:Reinf. conc. column & beam (1995). Floor:Reinf. conc. slab (1995). Roof:Steel framing (1995). Ceilings:Decorative timber (1995). Stairs:Timber stairs (1995). Fire Stairs:(1995). Sprinkler System:Yes. Lifts:1 (1995). AirConditioned:Yes
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The facade is a symmetrical well ordered design with restrained classical detailing, articulated quoins, moulded window surrounds, bracketed pediments and a fine corbelled cornice. Only the facade and external walls remain from the original building. The interior was replaced with a new reinf. conc. structure and new finishes in 1995.
Date condition updated:31 Jan 06
Modifications and dates: c. 1858
Further information: High Significance:Masonry facade elements above awning level. Low Significance:Introduced windows to fa├žade. Comments:Was heritage item in 1989, listing revoked under Central Sydney H-LEP 1998. Now listed in Sydney LEP 2005 under Schedule 8: Central Sydney Heritage Items, Part 2: Building Elements.

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: Incorporated into New Commercial Development
Former use: Bank Offices, Retail


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 )

The Land on the western side of George Street between what are now Wynyard and Margaret Streets, was occupied by the military barracks from the early years of the colony. Subdivision of the former barracks site commenced almost as soon as the military vacated the site. The site at 319-321 was included in the 1851 grant to Robert Campbell, a prominent Sydney merchant. New buildings on the site were first recorded in the City of Sydney Rates Book in 1858-1859 and were described as being three storey, constructed of brick and stone. The buildings occupied only the front portion of their lot and were part of a group of five buildings. There was a service court or area in the centre of the property and a secondary building, perhaps a shed or store, against the rear lane. The Sands Directories for the period record that John Jolly occupied No. 319 in 1858-1859 and William Tyler, Contractor, No. 321 in the same period. The buildings were occupied throughout the latter half of the 19th century by small businesses and specialist manufacturing that characterised northern George Street in the period. By 1880 No.319 had been extended so that a three storey building now occupied the full depth of the site. Changes to the buildings are believed to have taken place prior to 1926 which included changes to fenestration and the inclusion of the quoins to the facade. A building application was submitted in 1928 for alterations to the building which included a new suspended awning and changes to shopfronts. Changes of tenancy resulted in numerous alterations between 1928 and 1959. In 1959 the buildings were purchased by the Bank of NSW (Westpac). Extensive alterations were made at this time which marked the first of many changes made internally and at shopfront level by the Bank over the years. In 1993 the building was sold to Gowings Bros. Ltd who have redeveloped the site, retaining the facade as part of the new work. Demolition took place in 1995 with the new work completed in 1996

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Commerce-Activities relating to buying, selling and exchanging goods and services (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
319-321 George Street is significant for its continued retail/commercial use since 1858 as part of the retail development of the city and for its ability to demonstrate mid Victorian design and building practice. Has historic significance locally.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
319-321 George Street has scientific significance for its ability to demonstrate early Victorian design and building practice. Has aesthetic significance locally. Cultural:319-321 George Street is significant for its facade and design and detailing which are modest and restrained. It is also significant for its strong street architectural contribution to George Street and for its scale in this section of George Street.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
319-321 George Street is significant for its ability to demonstrate retail and commercial practice in the city. It is also significant as a reminder of the earlier development of the centre of Sydney and as an important element in maintaining the varied scale of the city. Has social significance locally.319-321 George Street is significant for its facade and design and detailing which are modest and restrained. It is also significant for its strong street architectural contribution to George Street and for its scale in this section of George Street.
SHR Criteria f)
319-321 George Street has rare significance as a rare surviving early Victorian commercial building of small and modest scale and design in the CBD.
SHR Criteria g)
319-321 George Street is representative of Victorian commercial street architecture.
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: The surviving material from the pre 1995-96 construction should be retained in any future work. Future alterations to the building behind the facade should be set back from the facade so that it does not visually dominate the scale of the existing facade. Exterior: Retain and conserve the above awning facade including the masonry fabric and detailing, quoins, parapet and window surrounds. Reinstate the earlier form of the ground floor tenancy if the opportunity arises. The building should retain a suitable colour scheme for its Victorian style.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanSydney LEP 2012I176714 Dec 12   
Heritage study     

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written  Sands Directory
Written  Rate Books;
Written   Land Titles Office
WrittenAnita Heiss Aboriginal People and Place, Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City
WrittenGazzard & Partners1984Martin Place Civic Design Study
WrittenSchwager Brooks & Partners1994319-321 George Street Sydney : conservation plan

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: 2423766

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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