St Philip's Church of England Including Interior and Grounds | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

Culture and heritage


St Philip's Church of England Including Interior and Grounds

Item details

Name of item: St Philip's Church of England Including Interior and Grounds
Other name/s: St Phillip's Church
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Religion
Category: Church
Location: Lat: -33.8656268574809 Long: 151.203921121433
Primary address: 3 York Street, Sydney, NSW 2000
Local govt. area: Sydney
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
3 York StreetSydneySydney  Primary Address

Statement of significance:

St Philip's Church is historically and socially significant as the church of the oldest parish in Australia, which was named in honour of the first Governor, Arthur Phillip. It is built on the site of the first church constructed in Australia in 1793, and represents the early spiritual development of the colony of New South Wales and the formal recognition of the Church of England as the accepted State religion. The existing St Philip's Anglican Church has aesthetic significance as a fine example of the ecclesiastical work of Edmund Blacket, being designed in the Victorian Gothic style with English Perpendicular detailing. The site is of scientific significance having potential to reveal archaeological evidence from the earliest years of the colony.
Date significance updated: 13 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: Edmund Blacket
Builder/Maker: Unknown
Construction years: 1848-1858
Physical description: The present St Philip's is the third church to be located on Church Hill. The current church is a sandstone building designed in the Victorian Academic Gothic style by Edmund Blacket. The building is cruciform in plan consisting of a nave separated on either side from the arcades by 6 arches. Above these arches are 12 clerestory windows with a chancel, vestry, organ chamber, two porches and a bell tower (over 31 metres high) at the west end. The finishes inside the building include encaustic floor tiles, cedar joinery and a painted boarded ceiling. The slate roof and sandstone walls of the church are currently undergoing repair, and the clock, parapet wall and pinnacles on the western tower have been replaced. The altar rail and lectern are of brass, and the pulpit and prayer desk are intricately carved out of white stone. Also on the site is a modern parish house, located to the south of the church. Category:Individual Building. Style:Victorian Academic Gothic. Storeys:1. Facade:Sandstone. Side/Rear Walls:Sandstone. Internal Walls:Sandstone. Roof Cladding:Slate tile. Internal Structure:Loadbearing walls & timber beams. Floor:Ceramic tile (encaustic tile). Roof:Timber trusses. Ceilings:Timber boards (with painted decoration). Stairs:Timber ; stone. Lifts:Nil.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Stone stairs appear to be original, while timber stairs are clearly of later construction. The stone and iron palisade fence appears to have been relocated in part, notably at the eastern end as a result of road widening..
Date condition updated:13 Jan 06
Modifications and dates: 1848-1858
Further information: High Significance:All fabric dating from the construction phase by Edmund Blacket, the organ and organ case (c1873), stained glass, all decorative finishes, bells, clock, plaques and memorials contained within the church and its grounds. Medium Significance:The memorial located in Lang Park commemorating the previous church known as St Phillip's Church.

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.

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.

This church is built on the site of Australia's first church (1793), which burnt down in 1798. The first two churches were named for Sir Arthur Phillip, but the current church was named in honour of St Philip the Evangelist. The foundation stone for this building (the third St Philip's) was laid on 1 May 1848, that being the feast day of St Philip and St James. On 31January 1855 the Illustrated Sydney News reported that the church was fast approaching completion, although it was not finally completed until 1858. The church was designed by Edmund Blacket and built in a number of stages, costing 16,000 pounds in total. The organ and transept were added in 1872. The lobby of the western tower contains an old memorial stone from an earlier church dating from 1810.

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The current church houses Australia's oldest parish. St Philip's Church has associations with the spiritual development of the colony of NSW and with a number of prominent people including Governor Arthur Phillip, the Reverend Richard Johnson, Governor Hunter and Edmund Blacket.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Archaeological deposits on the site may reveal information about the early inhabitants of Sydney. Cultural:St Philip's Church is considered to be a fine example of the Victorian Academic Gothic style in Australia, drawing on the details of English Perpendicular.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
St Philip's is the oldest parish in Sydney, and represents the early days of the colony when the Church of England was the State religion.St Philip's Church is considered to be a fine example of the Victorian Academic Gothic style in Australia, drawing on the details of English Perpendicular.
SHR Criteria f)
St Philip's Anglican Church is the centre of worship of the oldest parish in Australia, and is built on the site of the first church constructed in Australia.
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 Philip's Anglican 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 major changes to the place, apart from general maintenance. Features of high significance, especially those dating from before 1875 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 sandstone should remain unpainted, while surfaces which were originally painted such as the original timber ceiling, 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 is entailed. The area around the church should remain landscaped, and any future new building works should be restricted to the south eastern corner of the site. They should be of a scale and appearance that does not detract from the church. Parking should continue to be located in the underground area or off site. Sections of fence which have previously been relocated could be moved again elsewhere on the site. Interior: The interiors could be subject to some alteration in the future to assist the continuing use of the place for its original purpose, provided that surviving significant fabric is preserved. In particular, the original painted timber ceiling should be retained and preserved.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanSydney LEP 2012I1972*14 Dec 12   
Heritage study     

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written  National Trust Listing
WrittenAnita Heiss Aboriginal People and Place, Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City
WrittenHerman, Morton1964The architecture of Victorian Sydney
WrittenHerman, Morton.1977The Blackets : an era of Australian architecture
WrittenWatson, J.H1906"Historical sketches of early churches in New South Wales." RAHSJ. Vol.2 Part.2, pp.25-34.

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: 2423855

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