Former "New Hunter River Hotel" Including Interiors | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Former "New Hunter River Hotel" Including Interiors

Item details

Name of item: Former "New Hunter River Hotel" Including Interiors
Other name/s: Moreton's Hotel, Napoleon's Hotel, Big House Hotel, Bateson Hotel;
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Commercial
Category: Hotel
Location: Lat: -33.8667360126933 Long: 151.202273232467
Primary address: 20-26 Sussex Street, Sydney, NSW 2000
Local govt. area: Sydney
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
20-26 Sussex StreetSydneySydney  Primary Address

Statement of significance:

Moreton's Hotel is significant as a fine and largely intact example of the Federation Free Style used in a large corner hotel. The building has aesthetic significance for its prominent siting at the edge of the waterfront dockyards on Sussex Street as well as for the strong contribution it makes to the character of the immediate area. It has historic significance for the continuation of the hotel trade on or near the site since the area was reclaimed from Darling Harbour. The building is significant as the largest of the group of hotels constructed by the Sydney Harbour Trust to replace those demolished in the early years of the twentieth century following the 1900 plague. It is equally as significant as the Palisade Hotel, being one of the best external examples of the style used in eleven remaining city hotels. This group also includes the Australian (Cumberland and Gloucester Streets), the Hotel Sweeney's, the Observer, the Dumbarton Castle, the Sir John Young, the Royal George, the Captain Cook and the Evening Star Hotels.
Date significance updated: 12 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: (For the Sydney Harbour Trust)
Builder/Maker: Unknown
Construction years: 1915-1915
Physical description: Moreton's Hotel is an imposing four storey hotel located on the junction of Napoleon and Sussex Streets. The building features face brick walls with sandstone trim and typical Federation period detailing of prominent exaggerated classical motifs such as the window hoods. The Sussex Street facade is broken with two projecting bays which rise above the roofline, one terminating in a parapet detail, the other rising to form the wall of the roof apartment. The window openings are a mixture of square, segmental and semi circular heads and feature stone sills with some with keystones. The hotel faces two streets, one bar opening to Sussex Street, the other to Napoleon Street. Category:Individual building. Style:Federation Free Style. Storeys:4 + roof apartment + cellar. Facade:Loadbearing face brickwork. Side/Rear Walls:Loadbearing face brickwork. Internal Walls:Loadbearing brickwork. Roof Cladding:Reinf. conc. slab. Internal Structure:Loadbearing brickwork. Floor:Timber joists and boards. Roof:Reinf. conc. slab. Ceilings:Plaster on battens. Stairs:Timber stairs and posts. Sprinkler System:Yes. Lifts:No. AirConditioned:Yes
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The hotel has just been restored. All internal and external fabric is in good condition throughout. Intrusive Elements:Expressway column in southern end of building. Opening of bedroom walls on first floor, patching in ceramic tiling.
Date condition updated:12 Jan 06
Modifications and dates: c. 1915
Further information: High Significance:Form, scale and original fabric including external face brick and sandstone dressing, ceramic wall tiling original timber doors and small pane windows, original interior layout and planning, original ceilings, joinery, timber staircase and fireplaces. Medium Significance:Original timber flooring, remnants of original kitchen. Low Significance:Modern bathrooms and toilets, plasterboard ceilings, modern bar fittings, modern kitchens.

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: Hotel
Former use: Hotel


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 )

Moreton's Hotel, formerly Big House Hotel, was built for the Sydney Harbour Trust c. 1915, after demolition of many of the Millers Point pubs around 1900. The area bounded by the Harbour, and Lower Fort, Windmill and Kent Streets was resumed by the Government in 1900 to combat the plague. A map prepared by the Surveyor General's office indicates that the land on which the hotel was to be built was still to be reclaimed from Darling Harbour in 1837. The land was originally granted to Mary Grand in 1840. Sussex Street, named after the Duke of Sussex, was not extended north of Margaret Street until the early part of the twentieth century. By the mid 1840s a hotel known as the Hunter River Inn was located at the northern extremity of Sussex Street. The Inn was listed in 'Low's City of Sydney Directory' for 1844-5 and the licencee was Edward Thomas McDonald. The Hunter River Inn was located at the corner formed by Sussex, Margaret and Napoleon Streets and the Dove Map of 1880 shows the hotel as 'Bateson Hotel'. In 1901 the Sydney Harbour Trust was set up to administer the port's shipping and bring it in line with major ports around the world. the Trust also resumed properties in the area and in 1915, erected a large number of buildings including the present hotel. The realignment of Sussex and Napoleon Streets saw the demolition and rebuilding of the New Hunter River Inn in 1915. J. Howey remained the licensee until 1920 and Tooth & Co held the lease from the Trust from 1915 to 1950. Tooth & Co. relinquished this as a result of tenders called by the owners, the Maritime Services Board in 1950. Phillip Tahmindjis was the successful tenderer. The patronage consisted mainly of wharf labourers and seamen but this declined with changes in the waterfront system and closure of adjacent wharves. The name the Big House Hotel was taken up in the 1970s.

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]
Moreton's Hotel is significant for the continuation of the hotel trade on or near the site since the land was reclaimed from Darling Harbour. It is significant as part of the group of hotels constructed by the Sydney Harbour Trust to replace those hotels demolished in the early years of the twentieth century following the plague of 1900 and the Liquor Trades Act. Has historic significance locally.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Has aesthetic significance locally. Cultural:It is significant as a fine and largely intact external example of the style used in a corner hotel. The building is significant for its strong contribution to the character of the immediate area. The building is significant for its interior which is largely intact on the upper floors with much of the original fabric such as walls, ceilings, joinery, stairs still in place.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The building has significance as part of the network of small purpose built hotels providing a social / recreational venue and budget accommodation located within the immediate waterfront area. It reflects the economic and social character of the area during the early years of the 20th century. Has social significance locally.It is significant as a fine and largely intact external example of the style used in a corner hotel. The building is significant for its strong contribution to the character of the immediate area. The building is significant for its interior which is largely intact on the upper floors with much of the original fabric such as walls, ceilings, joinery, stairs still in place.
SHR Criteria g)
Moreton's Hotel is representative of the style used in a prominent waterfront corner hotel which provided a social / recreational venue and budget accommodation.
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 form and scale of the building should be retained. As the building remains largely intact externally and internally, and is such a prominent landmark in the area, there should no alterations which break through the skyline or rise above the parapet limits. All original external fabric such as face brick, sandstone and ceramic tiling which was originally unpainted should remain unpainted, while those materials which originally had a paint finish could be repainted in appropriate colours. Window and door openings should not be enlarged or filled in and any replacements should be in similar materials and styles. Exterior: All original fabric, such as ceramic tiles, face brick and sandstone detailing, timber windows and doors should be retained. Patching in ceramic tiling should be removed and restored using more compatible tiles. Interior: As the hotel is largely intact internally any future work to the interior should retain the layout and planning of the earlier bar areas as well as retaining all original fabric such as the ceramic tiling, fireplaces, timber staircase and joinery. Any future fitouts of the upper floors should retain all original significant fabric such as fireplaces and original joinery. 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 2012I195314 Dec 12   
Heritage study     

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written  Sydney City Council DAs & BAs.
Written  Sands Directory 1886-
Written  Lands Title search.
WrittenAnita Heiss Aboriginal People and Place, Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City
WrittenRod Howard heritage Conservation Pty. Ltd.1995Napoleon's Hotel, 20 Sussex Street, Sydney : conservation analysis report

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: 2423849

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