St James Church Including Interior, Courtyards, Perimeter Walls and Fences | NSW Environment & Heritage

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St James Church Including Interior, Courtyards, Perimeter Walls and Fences

Item details

Name of item: St James Church Including Interior, Courtyards, Perimeter Walls and Fences
Other name/s: St James' Courthouse
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Religion
Category: Church
Location: Lat: -33.871045163463 Long: 151.210040676225
Primary address: 173 King Street, Sydney, NSW 2000
Local govt. area: Sydney
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
173 King StreetSydneySydney  Primary Address

Statement of significance:

St James' Church is historically significant as the oldest surviving church in central Sydney, having served as a church since 1822. It represents the development of the Church of England in Australia, and the close links between Church and State in the early years of the colony of New South Wales. The church is associated with the development of early Sydney, in particular the town planning visions of Governor Lachlan Macquarie and Colonial Architect Francis Greenway. It is also associated with a number of other prominent people in the history of Australia, including the Reverend Samuel Marsden and Commissioner Bigge who was sent from England to investigate the administration of Lachlan Macquarie. The church has aesthetic significance as one of the finest Georgian churches in Australia, which occupies a prominent position in the townscape of Queen's Square, at the end of Hyde Park and opposite the Hyde Park Barracks. It is socially significant as the centre of an Anglican community which has played a prominent part in the life of Sydney for over 170 years, and has scientific significance as an example of early Australian building construction and decoration.
Date significance updated: 05 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: Francis Greenway ; John Verge ; Varney Parkes ; J H Buckeridge; Woodhouse & Danks
Builder/Maker: Unknown; J.M. Pringle (1894 & c1904)
Construction years: 1819-1826
Physical description: St James' Church is a simple colonial building in the Regency style designed by Francis Greenway. The building is a simple rectangular shape of sandstock brick with multiple gauged arches, built on sandstone foundation walls (containing a crypt) and with sandstone trim, and a tower housing the main entrance surmounted by a copper clad spire. The interior configuration dates from c1901, and comprises a rectangular hall with timber galleries, and a chancel located at the eastern wall.
"...the extreme length of the church is 169 feet 6 inches, the width, 52 feet and the walls are 3 feet 8 inches thick. The tower is about 24 feet square, but is not a perfect square, the sides varying in length. The height is 92 feet, and the spire 73 feet to the top of the cross, a total of 165 feet..." Category:Individual Building. Style:Old Colonial Regency. Storeys:2 + gallery. Facade:Face brick & sandstone. Side/Rear Walls:Face brick & sandstone. Internal Walls:Plastered brick. Roof Cladding:Slate tile; copper sheeting. Internal Structure:Loadbearing walls & timber beams. Floor:Stone vaults ; marble ; mosaic. Roof:Timber framing. Ceilings:Plaster. Stairs:Timber; brick. Lifts:Nil.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The church is generally in a sound condition, although damp continues to be a problem in basement areas..
Date condition updated:05 Jan 06
Modifications and dates: 1819-1824(Greenway);1832(Verge);1894(Parkes);c. 1901-1904(Buckeridge;Clamp);1978 (Woodhouse & Danks)
Further information: High Significance:Building fabric including joinery, metalwork, stained glass, brickwork, sandstone, memorial plaques, paintings, the Children's Chapel, mosaic floors. Medium Significance:Fabric dating from Parkes building phase. Recent stained glass (c1985). Low Significance:King Street fence; timber door and two glazed openings in basement level of eastern elevation. Was a heritage item in 1989 and has remained so since. Listed on the State Heritage Register 3 September 2004 in Government Gazette No. 142.

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
Former use: Church


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 )

In 1814 Governor Macquarie invited the public to subscribe to the erection of a new courthouse on the site where St James' now stands. The foundation stone was laid 17/10/1819 but at Commissioner Bigge's suggestion Macquarie agreed the building should be erected as a church. The first service was conducted 5/1/1822 in the unfinished church, which was consecrated on 11/2/1826 by the Reverend Samuel Marsden.
In 1834 the eastern porticos, vestry and gallery were added, and in 1846 the northern gallery was enlarged. By 1893 the building was in a poor state of repair and in February 1894 the architect Varney Parkes was engaged to carry out extensive repairs and refurbishment. Works included a new drainage system, taking up the floors in the crypt, concreting and relaying floors, enlarging building areas and windows below ground level, erection of a new portico and entrance to tower, replacing stone stair to gallery with a new timber stair, replacement of the old dwarf wall and iron railing along King Street, replacement of defective stone and brickwork and reconstruction of steeple.
Between 1899 and 1901 the interior of the church was remodelled, with very little, save the western gallery and the marble memorial plaques, remaining from the nineteenth century. Buckeridge located the altar in a new apse built into the eastern wall, and provided a new marble platform. The galleries to the north and the east were demolished, the organ moved to its present location (leaving room for a small chapel in its former location), and a new brick stairway built in the tower allowing the base of the tower to become the baptistery.
In order to encourage children (and their parents) to St James' the Rev Philip Micklem devised a children's service based on the Eucharist, and set up a room in the crypt for its celebration. In 1929-1930 a group of artists, calling themselves the Turramurra Painters and led by Ethel Anderson, decorated this room, creating the Children's Chapel.

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
St James' Church is the earliest surviving church within the central business district of Sydney. It is associated with Governor Lachlan Macquarie and Francis Greenway, the Colonial Architect.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The building has scientific and research potential, and demonstrates construction and decoration techniques from the 1820s, such as stone vaulting and gauged brickwork. It also demonstrates architectural conservation techniques from the later part of the twentieth century. Cultural:The Church is a rare example of a finely proportioned Georgian church in Australia. The building occupies a prominent position at the eastern end of King Street, and is an important streetscape element visible from Macquarie Street, King Street, Phillip Street and Hyde Park.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
St James Church is associated with the formation and development of the Church of England in Australia, and has been the focus of an influential city congregation for more than 150 years.The Church is a rare example of a finely proportioned Georgian church in Australia. The building occupies a prominent position at the eastern end of King Street, and is an important streetscape element visible from Macquarie Street, King Street, Phillip Street and Hyde Park.
SHR Criteria f)
It is a rare, intact example of Georgian architecture in Australia, and the oldest surviving church building in central Sydney.
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: St James' Church should be conserved largely in its existing form and scale, and should continue in its existing use. A conservation plan should be prepared prior to any major changes to the place. Features of high significance should be conserved, and those which have been damaged or concealed by later work should be restored or reconstructed. Surfaces never intended for painting, notably face brickwork and sandstone should remain unpainted, while surfaces which were originally painted should continue to be painted in appropriate colours. Exterior: Minor modifications to the building could be contemplated provided that no further loss of original fabric occurs. The grassed area to the south and east-west axis to Hyde Park Barracks should be conserved. Interior: The interiors, which have been much altered since the 1820s, could be subject to some further alteration in the future to assist the continuing use of the place for its original purpose, provided that surviving significant fabric is preserved. 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 2012I184714 Dec 12   
Heritage study     

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenAnita Heiss Aboriginal People and Place, Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City
WrittenCable, K.1982 A short story of historic St. James', Sydney A short story of historic St. James', Sydney
WrittenCoppo-Jones, Letizia, Design 52003 The Parish Church of St James, King Street, Sydney : the Tower : addendum to conservation management plan (April 2001)
WrittenEllis, M.1953Francis Greenway: his life and times
WrittenK.J. Cable1999 St. James' 1824-1999 by Cable, K. J. (Kenneth John), 1929- Churchwardens of St. James' Church, 1999.
WrittenK.J. Cable1982 St. James' Church, Sydney : an illustrated history David Ell Press for the Churchwardens of St. James' Church, c1982.
WrittenNoel Bell Ridley Smith & Partners2001 Parish Church of St James Conservation Management Plan Parish Church of St James', King Street, Sydney : conservation management plan
WrittenPringle, J.1922"The facts concerning the renovation of St James' Church Sydney." Vol.8 Part 1

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: 2423799

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