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Land Titles Office

Item details

Name of item: Land Titles Office
Other name/s: Registrar General's Department Building
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Government and Administration
Category: Administration Office
Location: Lat: -33.8699106915 Long: 151.2132561990
Primary address: Prince Albert Road, 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
LOT1863 DP1000001
LOT1864 DP1000002
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Prince Albert RoadSydneySydneySt JamesCumberlandPrimary Address
Queen's SquareSydneySydneySt JamesCumberlandAlternate Address

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Department of Planning and InfrastructureState Government 

Statement of significance:

A well scaled civic building sensitively detailed to complement the adjoining older buildings such as St. Mary's Cathedral. Its carefully composed sandstone facade contributes to the streetscape and satisfactorily terminates the northern end of College Street. It provides a sympathetic component in the progression of civic historical buildings along College Street to Queen's Square. The building has long association with the registration of birth, death and marraiges, as well as trade marks, bills of sale, business agents etc. The building stores valuable old registers and other land title documents. (DLWC S170 Register)
Date significance updated: 06 Dec 00
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: Walter Liberty Vernon, E. H. Farmer (North Wing)
Builder/Maker: Loveridge & Hudson; Herbert Charles Hudson; Colin Hudson (masons)
Construction years: 1912-1913
Physical description: Site and Setting:
Set on a prominent corner overlooking St. Mary's Cathedral and Hyde Park North. Its eastern facade overlooks the Domain.

Building:
A three-storey Neo-Gothic sandstone-faced office building with attic storey and basement, of steel-framed construction with reinforced concrete floor and slate covered steel framed roof. The facades contain some elaborate gothic detailing to windows and good carving work to gables and over entrances. The three large gables facing Prince Albert Road are flanked by castellated corner turrets, whilst the facade to Queen's Square has a similar small gable flanked by two turrets on each side. The initials CH (Colin Hudson, stonemason), are carved into one of the string course bosses at about second-floor level on the western side return wall of the main entrance facing St. Mary's. Nearby on a small octagonal turret are the initials of his father HCH (Herbert Charles Hudson). On the eastern side of the main entrance on the east and west elevations, with initials of the architects and clerks of works. On the keystone of the arch over the main entrance are the entwined numbers 1912. (DLWC S170 Register).

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 (SLEP2012).
Modifications and dates: Originally U-shaped, the north side was closed off by an addition in the 1930's and further extended in the 1960's. (DLWC S170 Register)
Current use: Government Office
Former use: Aboriginal land, Government Domain, Land Titles Office

History

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

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

Registrar General's Department building:
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 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 (SLEP2012).

The building contractors and stonework contractors were Loveridge and Hudson (DLWC S170 Register).

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).

In 2020 Lucy Turnbull proposed the former Land Titles Building be adaptively reused as a museum of decorative arts (Price, 2020, 19).

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. Changing the environment-
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 Environment - cultural landscape-Activities associated with the interactions between humans, human societies and the shaping of their physical surroundings Landscapes of urban amenity-
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 Landscapes of institutions - productive and ornamental-
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 Landscapes and parklands of distinctive styles-
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 Creating environments evocative of the 'old country'-
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 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 Expressing lines of early grant allotments-
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 Selecting land for pastoral or agricultural purposes-
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 Demonstrating Governor Macquarie's town and landscape planning-
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 Selecting land under Robertson's Land Act 1861-
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 Selecting land under Robertson's Land Act 1861-
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 marketing and selling land by auction-
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 Squatting, i.e. Occupying Aboriginal land seeking tenure-
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 Changing land uses - from suburban to urban-
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 living in the city-
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 Macquarie's town layout-
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 suburban developments-
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 20th century Suburban Developments-
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 Suburban Consolidation-
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 main 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 Urban landscapes inspiring creative responses-
5. Working-Working Labour-Activities associated with work practises and organised and unorganised labour Working in offices-
5. Working-Working Labour-Activities associated with work practises and organised and unorganised labour Working on public infrastructure projects-
5. Working-Working Labour-Activities associated with work practises and organised and unorganised labour Working in the public service-
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. 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. 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. 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. Grants of land for agriculture-
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. Surveying of land-
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 - administration of land-
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. 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 - 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. Providing public offices and buildings-
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-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Loveridge and Hudson, stone merchants-

Recommended management:

Conserve and maintain in accordance with the Burra Charter. Maintain the original plan configuration and retain all original fabric and detailing if possible. Preparation of a Conservation Plan is highly recommmended. (DLWC S170 Register)

Recommendations

Management CategoryDescriptionDate Updated
Recommended ManagementReview a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) 
Recommended ManagementCarry out an Archaeological Assessment 
Recommended ManagementPrepare a maintenance schedule or guidelines 
Recommended ManagementCarry out interpretation, promotion and/or education 

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
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
21(1)(b)Conservation Plan submitted for endorsementFormer Registrar General's Building - CMP submitted for endorsement by Urbis - 2018. Jul 26 2019

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0096202 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register LTO90000101 Sep 95   
Local Environmental PlanCSH Local Environmental Plan 4 07 Apr 00   
Local Environmental PlanSydney City Local Environmental Plan 2012I194614 Dec 12   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Land & Water Conservation Section 170 Register1995LTO900001Heritage Group: State Projects  No

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenCrundwell, Robert1995From Parchment to passwords, A History of the Land Titles office of New South Wales'
WrittenHeiss, Anita Aboriginal People and Place, Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City View detail
WrittenLe Sueur, Angela2016Government Architects - part 2
WrittenNoel Bell, Ridley Smith & Partners1996The New South Wales Lands Department Building : conservation management plan, Vols 1, 2, and 3
WrittenPrice, Jenna2020'It's the best place I've ever been and Sydney could do even better'

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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(Click on thumbnail for full size image and image details)

Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5045050
File number: S90/07488; S95/00332 [S170]


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