Former Registrar General's Department Building Including Interior | NSW Environment & Heritage

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Former Registrar General's Department Building Including Interior

Item details

Name of item: Former Registrar General's Department Building Including Interior
Other name/s: Registrar General's Building, Land Titles Office, Land and Property Authority
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Government and Administration
Category: Office building
Location: Lat: -33.8714801364435 Long: 151.212129119001
Primary address: 1 Prince Albert Road, Sydney, NSW 2000
Local govt. area: Sydney
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
1 Prince Albert RoadSydneySydney  Primary Address

Statement of significance:

The Land Titles Office has aesthetic significance as an important element in the streetscape of the College Street precinct, and as a rare, fine and largely intact example of the Federation Gothic style used in an important government building in Sydney. It is significant as an important design of the Government Architect, Walter Liberty Vernon. The building is significant as part of the group of government buildings located in the immediate area and for its association with the provision of government services since its establishment. This building is significant as the finest of one of only two Government buildings in this style in the city; the other is the Old Registry Office in Elizabeth Street.
Date significance updated: 11 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: W. L. Vernon & E.H. Farmer
Builder/Maker: Loveridge and Hudson
Construction years: 1908-1913
Physical description: The Land Titles Office is a sandstone-faced building overlooking St Mary's Cathedral. The main roofs are high pitch and clad in grey slate. The main facade facing Prince Albert Road features parapeted gables joined by projecting pavilions with crenellated parapets and turrets. Smaller gables with similar detailing face Queen's Square and Art Gallery Road. Stone tracery to the windows is detailed in a Tudor Gothic style. The interior features doric columns in all main spaces and carved timber detailing to the lift surrounds. Attic level rooms are located within mansard style roof extensions clad in sheet copper. Basement rooms are located within the rusticated base course. Both entrances to the building have been modernised with a revolving door in the western facade. A six storey extension to the north is a steel frame structure with a concrete floor and steel framed roof. A later adjoining building is clad in clinker bricks with aluminium windows and timber spandrel panelling. Category:Individual Building. Style:Federation Gothic; Post War International; Late 20th Century Brutalist.. Storeys:3 + attic + basement. Facade:Sandstone, trachyte.. Side/Rear Walls:Sandstone, face brick.. Internal Walls:Plastered brick, plasterbd. & stud, pineboard & stud.. Roof Cladding:Slate tile, copper sheeting, steel sheeting.. Internal Structure:Steel column & beam, conc. encased steel frame.. Floor:Reinf. conc. slab. Roof:Steel framing. Ceilings:Plaster panels, Pressed metal, Susp. acoustic tiles, susp. plasterbd.. Stairs:Reinf. concrete stairs, timber frame stairs to attic.. Sprinkler System:Yes. Lifts:Original lift and modern goods lift. AirConditioned:Yes
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The building is undergoing some remedial work to the facades. It is generally in good condition internally, and has recently been restored. Intrusive Elements:Work station partitions, pineboard painted partitions, doors to south entry and internal door units to arched openings.
Date condition updated:11 Jan 06
Modifications and dates: 1908-1913; Alterations by E.H.Farmer, government architect in 1963.
Further information: High Significance:Exterior form, scale, original materials and detailing, stone tracery windows, stone decorative sculpture on facade, stone carving to gables and above entrances. Interior decorative detailing such as the columns, ceilings, entry detailing, carved timber elevator surrounds and detailing, the floors of all landings and marble staircase. Medium Significance:Form and materials of original windows. Low Significance:Modern lifts and stairs, interior fitouts.
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: Government Office
Former use: Government Office


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 Titles Office was originally built as the Registrar General's Department building, replacing the 1860 Registrar General's Office in Elizabeth Street. The new building was designed by W L Vernon in 1908, and was constructed in stages between 1909-10, 1910-11 (west wing), and 1912-13. The basement and ground floors of the western wing were occupied by the Births, Deaths and Marriages Branch, and the remaining two floors by Deeds. The central wing was occupied by administration from June 1913, and the eastern wing occupied by Lands Titles Office. The building was constructed in a proposed 'legal precinct' which included new law courts on the site of the Mint and a new road through the Hyde Park Barracks. In 1903-5 a plain, cheap rectangle which could easily be incorporated into a more ambitious building project, was constructed on the site. It consisted of a basement and two floors, which were to form the central block of Vernon's new fireproofed department. Vernon's plans included a northern wing but this was never constructed. The building was intended to be constructed in brick with stone dressing, but the politicians wanted more expensive 'stone elevations' which would blend in with the nearby cathedral and the proposed new 'Law Courts.' The building's interior was 'state-of-the-art' with fire risk minimised by the use of concrete floors and steel shelving. Electric lifts were installed and a 'special system of heating and cooling' which, judging by the initial complaints, did not work well in the beginning. The northern wing was completed in 1930.

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The building is significant as an important design of the Government Architect's Office in the early years of the twentieth century. The building has significance as a repository for public records, such as births, deaths, marriages, and land titles, since the early years of the twentieth century. It is significant as part of the proposed 'Local Government Precinct' on Macquarie Street. Has historic significance at a State level.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The building is significant as an important example of the work of Government Architect W L Vernon
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Has aesthetic significance at a State level. The Land Titles Building is significant as a fine and largely intact example of the Federation Gothic style used in an important government building that is an important element of the College Street Precinct.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
It is significant as a part of the group of government buildings located in the immediate area and for being associated with the provision of government services since its establishment. Has social significance at a State level
SHR Criteria f)
It is a fine and rare example of the Federation Gothic style being used in a government building in Sydney.
SHR Criteria g)
It is representative as an example of the Federation Gothic style used in a Government building.
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 existing conservation plan should be updated as required to guide the future works, use and maintenance of the place. The form and scale of the Vernon building should be retained. Any additions that would alter the facade or the skyline are unacceptable. Other uses may be acceptable provided significant and relatively intact internal fabric is not compromised. Surfaces never intended for painting such as the sandstone facades and timber detailing should remain unpainted, while surfaces such as render or timber which were originally painted should continue to be painted in appropriate colours. Exterior: Significant fabric such as the sandstone facade and detailing, stone tracery windows, stone decorative sculpture on the facade, and features of high or medium significance, should all be conserved. Significant fabric which has been damaged or concealed by later work should be restored. Window and door openings should not be enlarged or filled in, and any replacements should be similar to the original detail Interior: The building has undergone some internal modification and can continue to have further modification as long as this work does not adversely impact on significant fabric remains intact. Significant internal elements such as decorative ceilings, columns, carved timber detailing, staircases, entry detailing, carved timber elevator surrounds and detailing, the floors of all landings and marble staircase, should all be retained. Interior spaces such as the original open plan offices of the Land Titles Office, which remain relatively intact, and on many levels have been recently restored, should be conserved.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanSydney LEP 2012I194614 Dec 12   
Heritage study     

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written  Sydney City Council's Development Applications and Building Applications.
WrittenAnita Heiss Aboriginal People and Place, Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City
WrittenNoel Bell, Ridley Smith & Partners1996The New South Wales Lands Department Building : conservation management plan, Vols 1, 2, and 3
WrittenRobert Crundwell1995From Parchment to passwords, A History of the Land Titles office of New South Wales'

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: 2424050

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