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Customs House (former)

Item details

Name of item: Customs House (former)
Other name/s: Site of former Customs House
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Government and Administration
Category: Office building
Location: Lat: -33.8622072535 Long: 151.2108572230
Primary address: 45 Alfred Street, Sydney, NSW 2000
Parish: St James
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Sydney
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Metropolitan
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT23103DP984172
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
45 Alfred StreetSydneySydneySt JamesCumberlandPrimary Address
Young StreetSydneySydneySt JamesCumberlandAlternate Address
Loftus StreetSydneySydneySt JamesCumberlandAlternate Address

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
City of Sydney CouncilLocal Government 

Statement of significance:

The Sydney Customs House occupies a unique symbolic and physical position on the site of the First Fleet Landing. Its location is a physical reminder of the importance of Circular Quay as the original maritime centre for the colony.

The Customs House contains parts of the oldest surviving building of its type in Australia, used continuously for 145 years. It is a physical record of the history of the Customs Service and its importance in the history of Australia.

The Customs House embodies the work of three successive and individually distinguished government architects: Mortimer Lewis, James Barnet and Walter Liberty Vernon.

Because of the scarcity of documentary evidence about the early stages of construction, the surviving building fabric from these stages constitutes the principal source of additional evidence about the early history of the building and its occupants. (Phillips 1993: 5-6)
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.

Description

Designer/Maker: Mortimer Lewis; Walter Liberty Vernon (additions)
Builder/Maker: Government under Sir George Gipps
Construction years: 1845-1845
Physical description: The building is a composite load-bearing and framed structure.The external masonry walls range from 680mm to 750mm thick, with internal walls about 200mm. Internal beams vary in fabric from wood to steel. The load-bearing masonry on the perimeter of the building and the steel-framed structure in the core are fairly readily separable in the upper reaches of the building, though the edges of concrete floors do bear on the earlier masonry at the perimeter of the framed structure of the core. The panel walls contained in the 1917 frame are of brick. Floors in the perimeter building are generally suspended timber, joisted with added steel beams, while the framed core has reinforced concrete two-way slabs. Lift shafts exist on the central axis of the building.

The roof is a pitched roof on king-post trusses finished with Marseilles tiles of Australian make. Extensive box-gutters run around the perimeter of the 1903 roofs.

Internal walls are finished with lime plaster, repaired with cement render. Some areas have significant plaster mouldings. Ceiling types are mixed. Window joinery, doors and architraves are generally french polished or varnished. Windows are timber, of french door and vertical sliding sash types, where overlooking the street. (Hansford and Maclaren 1991: 51-62)
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Recent conservation measures have returned the building to excellent physical condition.
Archaeological potential is medium.
Modifications and dates: 1885-1887: James Barnet architect. Original building partially dismantled and rebuilt to three storeys with side wings, to form a U-shape in plan.
1896-1903: W.L. Vernon architect. Two phases of alterations resulting in the addition of two new floors and a wing in the rear courtyard, forming a E-shape in plan.
19151-17: George Oakeshott architect. All building enclosed by the former U-shape was replaced by a framed structure. This opened the ground floor as a large space with a lightwell. A sixth storey comprising caetakers quarters was added.
1925-1990: various additions by the Commonwealth Department of Works.
1996-7: Conservation and Refurbishment Project - due to open June 1997.
Current use: Commercial, performance, tourism and museum spaces, public library, restaurants, bars
Former use: Aboriginal land, point of colonisation, Government House grounds, Australian Customs Service Headquarters

History

Historical notes: ABORIGINAL OCCUPATION
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 (Anita Heiss, "Aboriginal People and Place", Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/barani).

Prior to European settlement the Millers Point area was part of the wider Cadigal territory, in which the clan fished, hunted and gathered shellfish from the nearby mudflats. Shellfish residue was deposited in middens, in the area known to the early Europeans as Cockle Bay; the middens were later utilised by the Europeans in lime kilns for building purposes. The Millers Point area was known to the Cadigal as Coodye, and Dawes Point as Tar-ra/Tarra (Sydney City Council, 2019).

Subject Site:
The site of the Customs House is the presumed spot of the landing and official flag-raising on the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788. This event marked the foundation of the colony of New South Wales. The site has been occupied by buildings since 1843 (Hansford and McLaren 1993: 5-20).

The site at Circular Quay was chosen in 1843 to house the Customs Service for the rapidly growing colony. They were responsible for all imports and exports, exise on locally manufactured goods, immigration control, control of narcotic substances and morally corrupt goods such as books and films. During the war years this included items of enemy origin, or having socialistic or communistic tendancies (Phillips 1993: x - xiii). Accordingly, areas for storage, administration and public business were included in the original design of the building. As trade increased, so did pressures on space within the Customs House and two new wings were constructed between 1883 and 1889. These wings provided accomodation for the Shipping Office and Maritime Board (Hansford and McLaren 1993: 5-20).

These demands increased again with the approach of Federation. Customs roles of immigration control and administration of trariffs were major reasons for Federation. They became, at this time, the major revenue raiser for the Commonwealth Government. Extensions were timed to co-incide with the change in government . More floors were added to cope with new and expanding duties brought about by the massive political change (Phillips, 1993, v-vii).

Walter Liberty Vernon (1846-1914) was both architect and soldier. Born in England, he ran successful practices in Hastings and London and had estimable connections in artistic and architectural circles. In 1883 he had a recurrence of bronchitic asthma and was advised to leave the damp of England. He and his wife sailed to New South Wales. Before leaving, he gained a commission to build new premesis for Merrrs David Jones and Co., in Sydney's George Street. In 1890 he was appointed Government Architect - the first to hold that title - in the newly reorganised branch of the Public Works Department. He saw his role as building 'monuments to art'. His major buildings, such as the Art Gallery of New South Wales (1904-6) are large in scale, finely wrought in sandstone, and maintaining the classical tradition. Among others are the Mitchell Wing of the State Library, Fisher Library at the University of Sydney and Central Railway Station. He also added to a number of buildings designed by his predecessors, including Customs House, the GPO and Chief Secretary's Building - with changes which did not meet with the approval of his immediate precedessor, James Barnet who, nine years after his resignation, denounced Vernon's additions in an essay and documentation of his own works. In England, Vernon had delighted his clients with buildings in the fashionable Queen Anne style. In NSW, a number of British trained architects whow were proponents of hte Arts and Crafts style joined his office and under their influence, Vernon changed his approach to suburban projects. Buildings such as the Darlinghurst First Station (Federation Free style, 1910) took on the sacale and character of their surroundings. Under Vernon's leadership, an impressive array of buildings was produced which were distinguished by interesting brickwork and careful climatic considerations, by shady verandahs, sheltered courtyards and provision for cross-flow ventilation. Examples are courthouses in Parkes (1904), Wellington (1912) and Bourke, Lands Offices in Dubbo (1897) and Orange (1904) and the Post Office in Wellington (1904)(Le Sueur, 2016, 7).

More revisions were made between 1915 and 1917 to further accomodate these changes and pressures brought about by the war. (Phillips 1993: v-vii).

Few major structural changes have occured between 1917 and 1995. This reflects the movement of international shipping away from Circular Quay to other areas of the City and the State.

In June 1990 operations of the Customs Service were relocated. Sydney City Council has leased the Customs House since 1994 and transferred its City Library from Town Hall House to the Customs House.

The site underwent refurbishment and reopened in June 1997 as a combined commercial, performance, tourism and museum space. The Australian Museum opened a Pacific collection gallery on an upper floor. This in time was discontinued.

The building has hosted Olympic Live (viewing) sites and ViVID light festival displays and become a popular meeting place (Lord Mayor Clover Moore, quoted in Saulwick, SMH, 2/4/2019) .

In 2019 Sydney City Council bought the Customs House from the federal Department of Finance with the intention of ensuring it remains a valuable community asset for generations to come (Saulwick, SMH, 2/4/2019).

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
1. Environment-Tracing the evolution of a continent's special environments Environment - naturally evolved-Activities associated with the physical surroundings that support human life and influence or shape human cultures. Other open space-
1. Environment-Tracing the evolution of a continent's special environments Environment - naturally evolved-Activities associated with the physical surroundings that support human life and influence or shape human cultures. Cultural - Coasts and coastal features supporting human activities-
1. Environment-Tracing the evolution of a continent's special environments Environment - naturally evolved-Activities associated with the physical surroundings that support human life and influence or shape human cultures. Changing the environment-
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Migration-Activities and processes associated with the resettling of people from one place to another (international, interstate, intrastate) and the impacts of such movements Implementing the White Australia Policy-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Commerce-Activities relating to buying, selling and exchanging goods and services Global economies-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Commerce-Activities relating to buying, selling and exchanging goods and services Developing Commercial Enterprise-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Commerce-Activities relating to buying, selling and exchanging goods and services Maritime industry shipyards timber yards-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Commerce-Activities relating to buying, selling and exchanging goods and services Storing goods for bond and customs duties-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Commerce-Activities relating to buying, selling and exchanging goods and services Trading between NSW and New Zealand-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Commerce-Activities relating to buying, selling and exchanging goods and services Trading between Australia and other countries-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Commerce-Activities relating to buying, selling and exchanging goods and services Trading amongst the Australian colonies-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Commerce-Activities relating to buying, selling and exchanging goods and services Trading along the NSW coast-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Commerce-Activities relating to buying, selling and exchanging goods and services Office use-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Environment - cultural landscape-Activities associated with the interactions between humans, human societies and the shaping of their physical surroundings Significant Places How are significant places marked in the landscape by, or for, different groups-Monuments and Sites
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Environment - cultural landscape-Activities associated with the interactions between humans, human societies and the shaping of their physical surroundings Developing local, regional and national economies-National Theme 3
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Events-Activities and processes that mark the consequences of natural and cultural occurences Providing a venue for significant events-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Events-Activities and processes that mark the consequences of natural and cultural occurences Developing local landmarks-
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. Building settlements, towns and cities-National Theme 4
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. Adapted heritage building or structure-
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 Early land grants-
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 Administering and alienating Crown lands-
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 Resuming private lands for public purposes-
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-
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 Subdivision of urban estates-
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 Developing ports-
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 Shaping coastal settlement-
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 19th Century Infrastructure-
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 Role of transport in settlement-
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 Creating landmark structures and places in urban settings-
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 Beautifying towns and villages-
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 Planning relationships between key structures and town plans-
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 Developing towns in response to topography-
5. Working-Working Labour-Activities associated with work practises and organised and unorganised labour Working as a manager or executive officer-
5. Working-Working Labour-Activities associated with work practises and organised and unorganised labour Working in the public service-
5. Working-Working Labour-Activities associated with work practises and organised and unorganised labour Working on the waterfront-
5. Working-Working Labour-Activities associated with work practises and organised and unorganised labour Wharfside and Port Work Culture-
5. Working-Working Labour-Activities associated with work practises and organised and unorganised labour Working in offices-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. 19th century government - a regional centre-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Colonial government-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Sydney's colonial settlement; Shipping-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. State government-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Local government-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Federal Government-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Developing roles for government - customs-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Public works-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Developing roles for government - providing community facilities-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Developing roles for government - providing community facilities-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Creating and displaying Coats of Arms and official emblems and symbols-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Developing roles for government - conserving cultural and natural heritage-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Providing public offices and buildings-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Developing roles for government - building and operating public infrastructure-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Administrative Centre, 1839-62-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Developing roles for government - collecting taxes and fees-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Developing roles for government - administering migration programs-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Developing roles for government - controlling drug use-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Developing roles for government - public land administration-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Developing roles for government - providing museums-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Administering ports and shipping facilities-Includes maladministration.
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Developing cultural institutions and ways of life-National Theme 8
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Monuments-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Interior design styles and periods - late 20th century contemporary-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Applying architectural design to utlilitarian structures-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Interior design styles and periods - Victorian-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Adaptation of overseas design for local use-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Creating an icon-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Architectural styles and periods - Victorian (mid)-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. work of stonemasons-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Designing making and using coats of arms and heraldry-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Designing structures to emphasise their important roles-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Designing in an exemplary architectural style-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation musical gatherings-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Tourism-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Outdoor concerts and performances-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Developing collections of items-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Activities associated with relaxation and recreation-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Gathering at landmark places to socialise-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Visiting heritage places-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Going to the library-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Going drinking in bars or clubs-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Going to a bar-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Going to an art gallery-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Going shopping downtown-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Going to a cafe-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Mortimer Lewis, Colonial Architect, 1796-1879-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Walter Liberty Vernon, Government Architect 1890-1911, private architect-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The Sydney Customs House occupies a unique symbolic and physical position on the site of the First Fleet landing. This historical event has enormous significance to the history of Australia. Its location is a physical reminder of the importance of Circular Quay as the original maritime centre for the colony and is a significant symbol of British imperial sovreignity and colonial commercial expansion. The Customs Service was the only revenue collector in an outpost of Empire struggling for economic survival. It later became a watchdog over ideas, people and goods coming into the country. The internal and external growth and change of the building reflect these changes in use.
(Phillips 1993: 5-6)
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The Custom's House embodies the work of three successive and individually distinguished official architects of New South Wales. Although Walter Liberty Vernon and James Barnet greatly altered the work of Mortimer Lewis, they did so using similar external materials and proportions so as to generate an overall unity of construction. (Phillips 1993: 6)
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The site has significance as the initial point of European invasion of the lands of Aboriginal people. (Phillips 1993: 5)
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
Because of the scarcity of documentary evidence about the early stages of construction, the surviving building fabric from these stages constitutes the principal source of additional evidence about the early history of the building and its occupants. (Phillips 1993: 6)
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
This site has been ranked as extremely significant in its unique refelction of the commercial expansion of the colony and the nationally significant role of the Customs Service. This is especially true for the early phases of the building's evolution.
Integrity/Intactness: Restoration and alteration works in progress.
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.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
21(1)(b)Conservation Plan submitted for endorsementConservation Plan CMP endorsed by Heritage Council 6 April 1995 for a period of five years, expires 6 April 2000. Apr 6 1995
21(1)(b)Conservation Plan submitted for endorsementCustoms House, Circular Quay, Sydney CMP CMP received for consideration 8 October 2003. Jun 21 2005
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
HERITAGE ACT 1977
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

FRANK SARTOR
Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0072702 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - Permanent Conservation Order - former 0072711 May 90 623828
Local Environmental PlanCSH Local Environmental Plan 4 07 Apr 00   
Register of the National Estate  21 Mar 78   

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
TourismAttraction Homepage2007Customs House View detail
WrittenAustralian Customs Service Customs House Sydney 1845 - 1990 : commemorating the final Customs activity in the Customs House, Circular Quay, Sydney on 15th June 1990
TourismCafé Sydney2007Café Sydney View detail
WrittenHansford, Brian and McLaren, Peter1991The Customs House Circular Quay: a Conservation Plan
WrittenLe Sueur, Angela2016Government Architects - part 2
WrittenPhillips, Peter and McCormack, Terri1993Conservation Report: Sydney Customs House
TourismTourism NSW2007Customs House 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: Heritage Office
Database number: 5044985
File number: S90/02762 & DHC 890138


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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