Little Riley Street Heritage Conservation Area | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

Culture and heritage


Little Riley Street Heritage Conservation Area

Item details

Name of item: Little Riley Street Heritage Conservation Area
Type of item: Complex / Group
Group/Collection: Residential buildings (private)
Category: Terrace
Primary address: , Surry Hills, NSW 2010
Local govt. area: Sydney
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
 Surry HillsSydney  Primary Address

Statement of significance:

The area represents several key historical period layers for the development of Surry Hills as a direct result of the subdivision of the Riley Estate. It contains good examples of late Victorian terraces, twentieth century commercial buildings and hotels which make a positive contribution to the streetscape.
Date significance updated: 09 Oct 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: Various
Builder/Maker: Various
Construction years: 1860-
Physical description: The area generally has a varied mid to late Victorian streetscape character, with the predominant building form being Victorian terrace housing of various styles (Victorian Georgian and Victorian Filigree generally), interspersed with later layers (Federation, inter war & post war) of significant (eg. heritage listed Reader's Digest building) and non-significant development (eg. Mid 20th multistorey office buildings) of greater scale as a result of rezonings, site consolidation and redevelopment from the early 20th century to the 1970s.

Buildings are generally are set to the street alignment or with verandahs/balconies to the street alignment. Buildings, including terraces, are rare in this area. The street and laneway pattern is complex and includes laneway-width streets, sometimes with fine rows or groups of early terraces fronting them (eg. Goodmans Terrace and Adelaide Place). Grand 3 storey terraces in Riley Street point to its late 19th century high street role. Building development within the area is dense and fine-grained. The street trees enhance the amenity of the area.

Southwest section of Conservation Area: south of Cooper St, north of Devonshire, west of Little Riley Street to western boundary of Conservation Area:

- steep topography
- narrow, interesting laneways
- large-scale 20th century intrusions (mostly multistorey late 20th century office buildings)
- established street tree plantings
- terraces often step down slopes
- predominant traditional materials: rendered brick,sometimes sandstone walls, corrugated iron roofs or roofs hidden by parapets
- corners distinguished by buildings with no setbacks to either street alignment, often with cantilevered balconies over footpaths.
- Dense development pattern dominated by traditional 2 storey Victorian terraces or 2 storey shop/residences.
- Several contributory layers: Victorian era and early 20th century industrial/commercial

East Section of Conservation Area - east of Little Riley Street - Riley Street Heritage Streetscape, wide Victorian high street, predominantly intact Victorian character dominated by 3 storey heritage listed grand Victorian Filigree terraces (see Riley Street Heritage Streetscape Heritage Inventory Assessment report). Small scale infill development, predominantly in Griffin Street due to subdivision of rear of properties fronting Norton Street.

North Section of Conservation Area - north of Foveaux Street, west and east of Little Riley Street –fine grained 2 storey Victorian terrace housing generally built to street alignment or with verandahs/balconies to street alignment.

Street Ratings

Adelaide Place: long L shaped laneway width street which crosses Adelaide Street. Impacted by modern detracting development, however also includes group of early Victorian terraces (some heritage listed at southern end, on the eastern side. Street Rating: A on the eastern side; Street Rating: C on the western side south of Adelaide Street. Street Rating B north of Adelaide Street.

Adelaide Street: predominantly 2 storey Victorian terraces at the eastern end, multi-storey office buildings at the western end, including the heritage listed Reader’s Digest building. Street Rating: B
Arthur St: patchy street planting of disparate species, wide street. Characterised by heritage listed Victorian era terraces with one modern detracting development. Street Rating: B.

Collins Street: wide street, London Plane tree plantings, and mixed street planting, cut off at Crown St with a pocket park. Characterised by 2 storey heritage listed Victorian terraces. Street Rating: A
Corbden Street: retains Victorian terraces, however streetscape significantly impacted by later detracting development. Street Rating: C

Cooper Lane: narrow Victorian service lane, significantly impacted by modern detracting development. Street rating: C

Cooper Street: predominantly terrace development at western and eastern ends, with the central section dominated by multi-storey 20th century office buildings, including the heritage listed Reader’s Digest building on the southern side. Street Rating: B

Devonshire Street: north side only character: late Victorian era predominantly rendered brick 2 storey terraces and shop/residences, interspersed with corner pubs. Small or no setbacks from the street, some cantilevered balconies over the street footpaths. Materials: rendered brick walls, corrugated iron roofs. Street planting: mature London Plane trees. Predominantly intact with few intrusions. Street Rating: A

Fitzroy Street: Western End from Riley StreetRetains Victorian terrace character Street Rating: B. Eastern end: dominated by detracting development. Street Rating: C

Foveaux Street: wide, heavily trafficked street largely affected by c. 1970s redevelopment on a larger scale, but still retaining buildings (including heritage items), mostly commercial/industrial from Victorian and Federation periods. Street tree plantings London planes. Street Rating: C

Gladstone Street: Victorian terrace service lane. Street Rating: B

Griffin Street: narrow Victorian lane redeveloped as a new streetscape due to subdivsion of the rear of lots fronting Norton St. New residential development predominantly small scale and sympathetic to the conservation area (neutral). Street Rating: B

Hart Street - east side only - predominantly Victorian terrace character with some modern detracting and neutral development. Street Rating B

Hercules Street - east side only - dominated by modern detracting development. Street Rating: C

Jesson Lane: narrow Victorian dead-end service lane. Street Rating: A

Jesson Street: narrow Victorian service lane, no properties fronting the lane, no street plantings. Street Rating: A.

Kippax Street: dominated by large scale c. 1970s commercial development. Street Rating: C

Lacey Street: narrow street, mixed development. Street Rating: B

Little Collins Street: Victorian service lane character. Street rating: B

Little Norton Street: service lane character, now surrounded by modern detracting development. Street Rating: C

Little Riley Street: essentially a long narrow laneway with few buildings fronting it. Interrupted by park. Street Rating: B

Norton Street: Wide street, predominantly Victorian terrace housing character. Substantial street trees. Street Rating: A

Riley Street: Wide street with London plane tree street tree plantings, street slopes downwards to the north from Devonshire Street. Predominantly intact with few intrusions. This is a Heritage Streetscape (see Riley Street Heritage Streetscape Heritage Inventory Assessment form).

Sophia Lane: narrow Victorian service lane L shaped, impacted by some modern detracting development. Street Rating: B

Sophia Street: West end: the western end from Waterloo street has become a service lane to large scale commercial/industrial buildings. The street is narrow with no street tree plantings. Street rating: C. Eastern end from Waterloo Street: still retains Victorian terrace housing character, but with significant intrusions of modern detracting development. Street Rating: B

Steel Lane: narrow Victorian lane. Street Rating: A

Steel Street: late Victorian era 1 and 2 storey terraces with small or no setbacks to the street, traditional corner buildings built to both street alignments with cantilevered balconies extending over the street footpath. Street planting of paperbarks. Predominantly intact with few intrusions. Street Rating: B

Tudor St: London Plane tree street planting, wide street, cut off with a pocket park at Crown Street. All terraces on the southern side of Tudor Street have verandahs/balconies set back from the street, and small front gardens. Terraces on the northern side have verandahs/balconies to the street alignment. Street Rating: A

Uther Street: significantly impacted by modern detracting development. Street Rating: C

Waterloo Street character: West side late Victorian era terraces and terrace corner shops with small setbacks and small front gardens. Eastern side: extensively redeveloped during the 20th century with large-scale multi-storey commercial office buildings. Street Rating: B

Withers Lane: No street tree planting, narrow Victorian Service lane character. Street Rating: A
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Varying extents of additions and alterations and redevelopment throughout the area which generally still allows the original scale and building forms to be interpreted
Date condition updated:09 Oct 12
Modifications and dates: This conservation area was part of Foveaux St conservation area.The Selected Heritage Conservation Areas Study 2006 has recommended a boundary adjustment to CA 23 Foveaux St conservation area to delete sections which have a high proportion of detracting buildings, and then seperating the conservation area into two new conservation areas: Little Riley Street and the Albion Estate.
Further information: This area was affected by the 1999 Sydney hailstorm, resulting in extensive replacement of roofing materials. Hasty reroofing following the hailstorm has resulted in many cases in the installation of inappropriate roofing materials, inconsistent roofing materials within terrace rows, the removal of separate front verandah and/or balcony roofs, and the removal of stucco detailing at the top of fin walls between terraces.
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.


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 European 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 conservation area is within part of the original grant to the first Surry Hills landowner - Captain Joseph Foveaux, who was assigned 105 acres in 1793 and subsequently increased his holdings to encompass most of Surry Hills. By 1800, John Palmer - farmer and grazier, had acquired more than 200 acres of Surry Hills and become Commissary General. However by 1814, Palmer had fallen into financial trouble and lost his position in the colony, resulting in his estate being divided and sold at public auction. Edwards Riley attempted to reassemble the Palmer Estate during the 1820s, although after his suicide in 1825 the holdings were once again subdivided according to Meehan’s original plan and sold to the public. The economic boom of the 1830s acted as the necessary catalyst for residential development in Surry Hills with the original allotments being initially subdivided into villa estates. With much of the Riley Estate still locked up in a legal battle, the early development in Surry Hills focused on the lands around Albion and Bourke Streets. It wasn’t until the gold rush boom of the 1850s that the Riley Estate finally became available, and provided substantial land for the development of workers housing locally employed by the breweries and other industries.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Industry-Activities associated with the manufacture, production and distribution of goods Factories-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Accommodation-Activities associated with the provision of accommodation, and particular types of accommodation – does not include architectural styles – use the theme of Creative Endeavour for such activities. Residential-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Land tenure-Activities and processes for identifying forms of ownership and occupancy of land and water, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal (none)-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Early Sydney Street-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The area has historic significance as it dates from the key period of development of Surry Hills and the subdivision of the Riley Estate
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The area is associated with Edward Riley and Captain Joseph Foveaux.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The area has prominent elements in the streetscapes and good examples of mid Victorian Filigree terraces (Riley & Collins Sts), Federation Warehouses, and post war commercial office buildings (Readers Digest)
SHR Criteria g)
The area is a representative example of Victorian subdivison found in Surry Hills and the inner suburbs of Sydney.
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:

POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS (Generic Conservation Area policies) 1.Protection of Significance (a) Subdivision -Retain Victorian subdivision pattern - Do not allow amalgamation of sites (b) Key Period Significant (Contributory) Development: - Retain one storey Victorian / Federation terraces - Retain two storey Victorian/Federation terraces - Retain Victorian / Federation Public Buildings - Retain Victorian / Federation retail/commercial buildings - Retain Interwar commercial development if significant - Retain Interwar residential development - Retain small scale of early development - Maintain building alignments - Retain form - Retain finishes and details - Reinstate verandahs, balconies, front cast iron palisade fences, lost detail - Protect intact rear lanes - Retain stable buildings, accessways and carriageways of moderate and high integrity - Additions to rear not to exceed ridge height and retain original roof form - Discourage front dormers except where already present in a terrace row - retain terrace steps in street footpath; - encourage restoration of enclosed first floor terrace house balconies - encourage restoration of altered front fences, altered façade windows and doors to terrace houses - retain slate roofs - encourage einstatement of appropriate roofing materials and restoration of separate front balcony roofs of appropriate profile to terraces, detail lost in 1999 Sydney hailstorm - encourage reinstatement of appropriate cast iron palisade front fences c) Retil/commercial Development: - Protect and reveal the ail/commercial history of the area - Maintain landscape components - Reveal original fabric. Remove non original features, particularly if they conceal original detail. - Restore detail to evidence - Relocate existing floor area that detracts to locations with less heritage impact - Reconstruct new shopfronts modeled on surviving original shopfronts in the street and derived from on-site evidence. In particular original splayed recessed entrances. - Retain shopfront prior to 19 (generally timber) incorporating splayed recessed entrances; shopfronts - Retain shopfronts c.1910-19 (generally incorporate use of tiles and metal shopfittings). - Coordinate signage - Discourage large retail chains - Encourage appropriate retail anchors - Coordinate and promote retail precincts - Avoid loss of original significant shopfront 2. Redevelopment of Non Contributing Sites - encourage interpretation of Victorian subdivision pattern - respect scale and form of contributory development - respect building line of contributory development - encourage rendered and painted finishes - encourage contemporary detail - provide landscape screening/softening - Recognise the collective precedent and impact of the proposal - Develop approach for sympathetic new development to enhance existing heritage character and level of detail - Respect scale and form of contributory development - Avoid flat reflective monotonous glazed façades - encourage rendering of detracting modern brick buildings which are in scale with the streetscape - Avoid visual tter: A/C, signs 3. Enhance Significance of conservation area - Maintain and enhance street planting to unify streetscape - Encourage redevelopment of detracting sites - Encourage render/paint finishes to detracting developments - Interpret Victorian street pattern and subdivision - Provide landscape screening/softening to detracting sites - Remove/Discourage reproduction of Victorian detail in contemporary development 4. Car Parking - do not allow carparking access from the street - Generally allow parking access from rear lanes. - Reduce impact of existing carparking access from street 5. Landscaping - Encourage trees at the end of streets to reinforce landscape vistas and frame views - Encourage trees to screen detracting development 6. View Protection - Reinforce street end vistas with street trees - Encourage and develop appropriate distant vistas 8. Heritage Items - Protect Heritage Items within the heritage conservation area.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanSydney LEP 2012C6514 Dec 12   
Local Environmental Plan - LapsedAmendment No 3 SSLEP1998CA2328 Jul 00   
Heritage study     

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
South Sydney Heritage Study1993 Tropman & Tropman Architects  Yes
Heritage Review of Selected Heritage Items and Potential Heritage Items2008 Weir Phillips, Architects and Heritage Consultants  No
South Sydney Conservation Areas2003 Architectural Projects P/L  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
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: 2435714

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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