Kempsey Courthouse | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

Culture and heritage


Kempsey Courthouse

Item details

Name of item: Kempsey Courthouse
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Law Enforcement
Category: Courthouse
Primary address: Sea Street, Kempsey, NSW 2440
Local govt. area: Kempsey
Hectares (approx): 0.08
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Sea StreetKempseyKempsey  Primary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Department of Justice and Attorney GeneralState Government 

Statement of significance:

Kempsey Courthouse is a good, representative example of a courthouse constructed during the second half of the nineteenth century and demonstrates the work of both two Colonial/Government Architects: Barnet and Vernon. The courthouse is a landmark building in Kempsey and has been associated with the provision of justice in the town for over 130 years.
Date significance updated: 25 Oct 10
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: J Barnet; WL Vernon (additions)
Construction years: 1876-1876
Physical description: Kempsey Courthouse is a symmetrically-planned courthouse designed in the Victorian Free Classical style. The typical courthouse floor plan is used with a central courtroom flanked on either side with single-storey wings. The building features highly decorated rendered detailing to the front elevation including parapeted gables adorning the wings and an arched colonnaded entrance and balustraded first floor balcony over to the central building. (Schwager Brooks 1993)
Other accomodation: Magistrate's room, lunch room, general office, interview rooms, Domestic Violence room, records, CLC office, reception.
Construction: Kempsey Courthouse is constructed in rendered brick with hipped roof clad in corrugated iron.
Interior materials: Timber joinery
Exterior materials: Rendered brick and corrugated iron
Date condition updated:12 Oct 10
Modifications and dates: Major additions designed by WL Vernon. (1897)
Current use: Courthouse
Former use: Courthouse


Historical notes: The first courthouse at Kempsey was a wooden structure that had previously been the Commissioner’s Station at Belgrave Falls. The structure was moved from there to Kempsey in 1859.

The current Kempsey Courthouse was designed by Colonial Architect James Barnet in 1876. Major additions and improvements designed by Government Architect Walter Liberty Vernon were made to the building in 1897. These designs were primarily concerned with the street frontage. A verandah was also added.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
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 -
7. Governing-Governing Law and order-Activities associated with maintaining, promoting and implementing criminal and civil law and legal processes Administration of justice-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups -

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Kempsey Courthouse has been associated with the provision of law and justice in the town since 1876 and was the second courthouse built in the town. The courthouse dates from a key period of expansion of a major public works program in New South Wales during the last three decades of the nineteenth century.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
Kempsey Courthouse is associated with James Barnet, Colonial Architect of New South Wales from 1862-1890, and Walter Liberty Vernon, Government Architect of New South Wales from 1890-1911. The building demonstrates aspects of both architect's preferred building styles.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Kempsey Courthouse is a good example of victorian Free Classical style architecture, with later alterations in an Arts and Crafts influenced style. The building has some fine features, including highly decorated rendered detailing to the front elevation, parapeted gables adorning the wings and an arched colonnaded entrance. The courthouse is a landmark building in Kempsey.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
Kempsey Courthouse is likely to have significance for the local community as a long-standing civic institution of the town.
SHR Criteria g)
Kempsey Courthouse is a good, representative example of courthouses constructed during the second half of the nineteenth century and displays the principal characteristics of the standard courthouse plan, with a grand double-height central court room and single-storey wings on either side.
Integrity/Intactness: Highly intact externally with a highly intact courtroom. Moderately intact internally and maintains a high level of integrity overall.
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.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register     

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written 1993Heritage and Conservation Register
Written 1985 Macleay River Historical Society Journal, Kempsey Courthouse, No. 11. Nov 1985
WrittenSchwager Brooks and Partners Pty Ltd1993Department of Courts Administration: Preliminary Heritage and Conservation Register

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: State Government
Database number: 3080074

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