Former "Speedwell House" including interiors | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Former "Speedwell House" including interiors

Item details

Name of item: Former "Speedwell House" including interiors
Other name/s: Bennett & Wood Building, International House
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Commercial
Category: Commercial Office/Building
Location: Lat: -33.8759146714854 Long: 151.207191479677
Primary address: 284-292 Pitt Street, Sydney, NSW 2000
Local govt. area: Sydney
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
284-292 Pitt StreetSydneySydney  Primary Address

Statement of significance:

Former 'Speedwell House' has historical significance as the home for over 50 years of Bennett and Wood, a well-known Sydney supplier of motor cycles and parts which is still in business today. It has aesthetic significance as a good and restrained example of the Federation warehouse style, largely intact externally, which achieves prominence because of its corner location, and exhibits the typical curved corner with timber windows curved in plan. Although the curved corner element including its timber windows is intact (unlike other city buildings such as the former Danchen House, Inventory No 2424121), International House is overall less significant than other similar examples such as the Farmers and Graziers Woolstores (Inventory No 6518).
Date significance updated: 03 Aug 12
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: Henry A Wiltshire
Builder/Maker: Martin and Yates
Construction years: 1907-1907
Physical description: International House comprises a 7 storey loadbearing brick former warehouse linked to a later steel framed brick commercial building. The original building has a traditional timber post and beam structure above the ground floor, with a concrete encased steel structure on the basement and ground floors. One ground floor shop ceiling and the awning soffit are of decorative pressed metal. The end and corner bays of the facade have pairs of timber framed windows with stone sills and brick arched heads; the walls between have double timber framed windows with stone sills and concrete lintels in recessed brick panels. The top storey has shorter 'attic' windows below the parapet (which has been painted), and the storey beneath has arched windows beneath a stone cornice. The corner of the building is curved, with timber windows also curved in plan, and the awning has a decorative arched corner fascia. The entrance to the building is now in Bathurst Street, and has terrazzo flooring with the letters B & W set into it. Internally the building is divided into several offices on each floor by plasterboard partitions with reeded glass highlights.

Category:Individual Building. Style:Federation Warehouse. Storeys:7 + basement. Facade:Face brick & sandstone, timber framed windows. Side/Rear Walls:Face brick, timber framed windows. Internal Walls:Plastered brick, plasterbd & stud. Roof Cladding:Waterproof membrane. Internal Structure:Timber post & beam, conc. encased steel frame (basement & ground floor). Floor:Timber joists & boards, carpet, parquetry (basement & one ground floor shop). Roof:Reinf. conc. slab. Ceilings:Pressed metal (part ground floor & awning), fibrous plaster (part ground floor & upper floors). Stairs:Ref. fire stairs. A door in the side wall leads to another stair in the Lincoln Building. Fire Stairs:Conc., steel pipe handrail. Sprinkler System:Yes. Lifts:2, probably dating from 1950s.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The building is in fair condition internally. Most of the partitioning, shopfronts and services appear to date from the 1950s or earlier..Intrusive Elements:Window air conditioners.
Date condition updated:10 Jan 06
Modifications and dates: c. 1907
Further information: High Significance:Face brick and stone façade, timber framed windows and early glass (especially on curved corner), awning including soffit and fascia, pressed metal decoration to shop on Pitt Street, Bennett & Wood logo in terrazzo floor to Bathurst Street. Entrance. Medium Significance:Timber internal structure, fibrous plaster ceilings, conc. encased steel frame to basement & ground floor. Low Significance:Later shopfronts and internal partitioning. OtherLists:NT listing applies only to 'Lincoln Building' section.

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: Commercial Office, Retail (ground floor)
Former use: Warehouse


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 at the corner of Pitt and Bathurst Streets was occupied by a number of separate single storey buildings in the 1880s, and evidence from Sands' Directories indicates that these remained until 1907 when Bennett and Wood Limited bough the site from Mary Elizabeth Hardie, Anna Marie Leslie and William Charles Leslie. Bennett and Wood had begun business in Sydney in 1882 specialising in penny-farthing cycles. On 5 July 1907 a building application was lodged for the Bennett & Wood Building. The Sands' entry for the following year includes Bennett & Wood Limited, bicycle and motor importers and manufacturers, at 284-292, suggesting that the building was constructed in 1907 or 1908. a building which had been previously built for the company on the corner of Bathurst and Pitt Streets. The architect and builder are unknown. By 1908 the company had become renowned for its "Speedwell" bicycle and business had grown to such an extent that Bennett & Wood built a new head office on the corner of Pitt and Bathurst Streets at a cost of £12,000. The building was called Speedwell House and the six upper floors were used for workshops and a general factory. In 1898 Bennett & Wood had imported the first motorcycle into Australia and as the company moved further into the motorcycle and motorcar age, the accommodation provided by Speedwell House became inadequate. In 1942, Bennett & Wood extended their building along Pitt and Bathurst Streets, the architects being Spain and Cosh who made further alterations to the building in the 1940s. These alterations included an additional three floors to the Pitt Street wing of the extension, new fire stairs, and an explosives store on the roof. The building was sold by Bennett and Wood in the 1960s, and subdivided into its present configuration as two buildings, with the Bathurst Street wing of the 1924 extension being joined to the 1907 building and now known as International House, and the remainder of the 1924 building fronting Pitt Street being known currently as the Lincoln Building (refer Inventory No 4156).

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]
The home for over 50 years of Bennett and Wood Limited, a well-known Sydney supplier of motor cycles and parts. Has historic significance locally.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Has aesthetic significance locally. Cultural:A restrained example of the Federation Warehouse style, largely intact externally, which achieves prominence because of its corner location
SHR Criteria g)
A good example of the Federation Warehouse style, with a typical curved corner element which has survived with its original timber framed windows and curved glass.
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: International House should be conserved largely in its existing form and scale, with no additions that would compromise the appearance of the facade when viewed from Bathurst and Pitt Streets. Intrusive elements such as window air conditioners should be removed. Surfaces never intended for painting, mainly face brick and sandstone, should remain unpainted, and where they have been painted (such as the parapet) should be cleaned or have appropriate signage restored. Surfaces such as render, timber and pressed metal should continue to be painted in appropriate colours. If the original part of the building again becomes separate from the adjoining 'Lincoln Building' section, the street entrance, lift and stairs should preferably be reinstated in their original locations. Exterior: Minor modifications to the building could be contemplated, especially at roof level, provided that the parapet remains intact and that new works are concealed behind it. The ground floor could continue to be refurbished to suit changing retail needs provided that the basic appearance of the masonry remains unimpaired. Repairs should be carried out to rendered concrete lintels. The materials and proportions of the facade and awning should be preserved. As the shopfronts have been altered several times, they could continue to be renewed as required, provided that the materials and configuration are generally sympathetic to the original structure. Interior: The original timber post and beam structure and floors, and pressed metal ceilings should be retained. Partitions and finishes could be subject to further alteration to assist the continuing use of the place, 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 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 2012I193914 Dec 12   
Heritage study     

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written  Land Titles Search:Land Titles Office,
Written  Council rate books, Council BA records, Sands' Directories
WrittenAnita Heiss Aboriginal People and Place, Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City
WrittenArchitectural Projects1999Conservation plan for International House, 284-292 Pitt Street, Sydney , 1998, updated 1999
WrittenArchitectural Projects Pty Ltd.2002 International House, 284-292 Pitt Street, Sydney : conservation management plan : heritage transfer
WrittenJill Sheppard Heritage Consultants2000International House, DA D/98/00065a, 284-292 Pitt Street, Sydney : heritage impact statement
WrittenPerumal Murphy1990Heritage assessment of sites affected by proposed redevelopment scheme : Pitt, Bathurst and Castlereagh Streets, Sydney
WrittenPerumal Murphy Pty Ltd,1990Conservation Plan for Lincoln House
WrittenSydney Morning Herald1908Buildings and Works, 1 September 1908, p10 View detail

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: 2424185

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