Former Church Including Interior and Front Fence | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Former Church Including Interior and Front Fence

Item details

Name of item: Former Church Including Interior and Front Fence
Other name/s: St John The Evangelist Roman Catholic Church
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Religion
Category: Church
Location: Lat: -33.8737026506931 Long: 151.204063159493
Primary address: 420 Kent Street, Sydney, NSW 2000
Local govt. area: Sydney
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
420 Kent StreetSydneySydney  Primary Address

Statement of significance:

The Genesian Theatre building has historical significance through association with aspects of the Catholic Church for over a century. Its aesthetic significance derives from the series of early Australian stained glass panels executed by John Falconer. The former church school has social significance arising from its associations with the charitable work of the St Vincent de Paul Society (it was the first Matthew Talbot Hostel) and the Genesians, the Catholic Theatre founded in Sydney in 1944.
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: William Munro
Builder/Maker: Unknown
Construction years: 1868-1868
Physical description: The Genesian Theatre is a small rectangular church of face brick with sandstone details, designed in a simplified Victorian Free Gothic style. The western facade is a simple parapeted gable wall with brick buttresses, three windows, a rose window and a centrally located main entrance. The building is built on a sandstone plinth, with sandstone also used for the coping, around windows and as tracery. The building contains a series of early Australian stained glass panels in the eastern wall by John Falconer. They show images of the crucifixion with Mary Magdelene at the foot of the cross, the Virgin Mary and St John. Category:Individual Building. Style:Victorian Free Gothic. Storeys:One. Facade:Face brick & sandstone. Side/Rear Walls:Face brick & sandstone. Internal Walls:Painted brick. Roof Cladding:Slate tile. Internal Structure:Loadbearing walls & timber beams. Floor:Timber. Roof:Timber trusses. Ceilings:Timber boards. Stairs:Timber. Lifts:None.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The interior of the building has been extensively altered in the past to suit changing uses.
Date condition updated:05 Jan 06
Modifications and dates: 1868
Further information: High Significance:Original fabric including all stained glass, brickwork, stonework, plaster, metalwork. Medium Significance:Rooflights. Low Significance:External illuminated sign. Later fabric including stage, change rooms, toilets.
Was a heritage item in 1989, and has remained so since that time.

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: Theatre
Former use: Church; school; other


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 which the Genesian Theatre stands was acquired in 1856 by the Rev. Ven. John McEncroe and held in trust for the Roman Catholic Church until February 1868 when it was conveyed to the Trustees as the site of a new church. The church was designed by William Munro and opened on 4 October 1868 at a cost of 900 pounds. It served as a church school between 1868 and 1883, and as a poor school from c1905 to 1927. Between 1932 and 1938 it housed the Kursaal Theatre directed by Scott Alexander. The St Vincent de Paul Society then used the building as a refuge for destitute men (the first Matthew Talbot Hostel) until 1952. At that time it became the Genesian Theatre. Extensive alterations were carried out to create a stage, dressing rooms and additional access to the gallery.

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The Genesian Theatre is associated with the education activities of the early Roman Catholic Church in Sydney. Has historic significance locally.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Cultural:The building contains three rare, early Australian stained glass windows dating from 1868 by John Falconer. They show the crucifixion with Mary Magdalene at the foot of the cross, the Virgin Mary and St John.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
This building has been a centre for the charitable work carried out by the St Vincent de Paul Society, and more recently for the Genesians (the Catholic theatre group founded in Sydney in 1944).The building contains three rare, early Australian stained glass windows dating from 1868 by John Falconer. They show the crucifixion with Mary Magdalene at the foot of the cross, the Virgin Mary and St John.
SHR Criteria f)
The Genesian Threatre contains three rare examples of stained glass windows by John Falconer. The building is the site of the first Matthew Talbot Hostel, an institution which has been responsible for the care of destitute men since the 1930s.
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 Genesian should be conserved largely in its existing form and scale, and should continue to be associated with the Roman Catholic church. 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 such as stucco and timber which were originally painted should continue to be painted in appropriate colours. A conservation and management plan should be prepared for all stained glass in the building. Exterior: The exterior scale and form of the building should be preserved and no further loss of significant fabric should occur. The setting of the building has been compromised by taller development on either side. Interior: The interiors have been severely compromised by past modifications. Future modifications should preserve all remaining surviving significant fabric, particularly the stained glass windows. Future adaptations could occur to non-significant fabric. All stained glass should be 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 façade 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 2012I182914 Dec 12   
Heritage study     

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written  National Trust Listing NSW Govt. 1907. Cyclopaedia of New South Wales.
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: 2424027

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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