Wales House | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

Culture and heritage


Wales House

Item details

Name of item: Wales House
Other name/s: Bank of NSW Building
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Commercial
Category: Commercial Office/Building
Location: Lat: -33.8653377979 Long: 151.2090169170
Primary address: 64-66 Pitt 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
LOT1 DP108276
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
64-66 Pitt StreetSydneySydneySt JamesCumberlandPrimary Address
38 O'Connell StreetSydneySydney  Alternate Address
38 Hunter StreetSydneySydneySt JamesCumberlandAlternate Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Wales House Nominees Pty LtdPrivate03 May 99

Statement of significance:

The site of the building has a 99 year association from 1856 to 1955 with the publication of Australia's oldest surviving newspaper, the Sydney Morning Herald. The building itself was designed for this purpose which it fulfilled for 28 years from 1927 to 1955.

The building, with its rounded corner treatment on the prominent narrow-vee site provides a good and clearly visible element in the townscape. The building is a large and powerful reminder both of the success and prosperity of the publisher-owners, John Fairfax & Sons, and of the dominant role of newspapers in society at that time, before the advent of the electronic media.

The exterior treatment of the building is a fine example, in good condition, of the Interwar Commercial Renaissance Palazzo style, then popular for office buildings of this type. It reflects an image consistent with the perceived role of the Sydney Morning Herald - conservative, substantial, influential and responsible.

The only substantial and clearly visible surviving remnants of the original office layout are the Manager's Room with its adjacent Elevator Vestibule, portion of the adjoining Assistant Manager's Room, and the Board Room, all on the First Floor. Though now mostly incomplete, they serve as reminders of the quality of original finishes employed for these most important rooms. They are notable for their conservative and solid design and the emphasis placed on usage of Australian joinery timbers.

(The Wales House Conservation Plan, Jackson Teece Chesterman Willis Consultants Pty Limited, 2000)
Date significance updated: 20 May 09
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: Manson & Pickering
Builder/Maker: Stuart Bros.
Construction years: 1922-1929
Physical description: Description of Original Building

External: Newspaper publication Phase
Style: - Modern Renaissance Style noted in the Building Magazine 'to be the largest building in the Southern Hemisphere'.

'Wales House' consisted of twelve floors including the basement at Pitt Street Entrance plus sub-basement. The materials used included reinforced concrete for the structural frame, floors, stairs, roof and awning roof. The street faade was fashionable - conservative 'Modern Renaissance' or 'Italian Renaissance Palazzo' modelled on Florentine and Roman Palaces of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The basement and ground floors were clad in Bowral Trachyte. Sydney Sandstone was used on all floors. The windows were zinc sprayed steel framed.

The main entrance was situated on the Hunter Street Corner on the ground floor. Pitt Street contained two entrances for lessees at the Basement Floor whilst O'Connell Street contained one entrance for the 'Sydney Morning Herald' staff and two loading docs. The basement, ground and first floors were heavily rusticated, also the projecting bays which terminated the Pitt and O'Connell Street, facades. The first floor's rectangular windows were arranged in triplets and surmounted by arched hoods linked by a continuous string course. Above the first floor plain ashlar walling was punctuated by plain triplet windows with a prominent continuous sill course (Jackson p.10).

Balconies were provided on the first floor over Pitt and Hunter Street entrances and in protecting bays; and on the sixth floor between the bays. A range of attached Tuscan columns extended from the balconies to the ninth floor supporting a deep entablature extending around the entire perimeter of the street frontages. Bay windows were placed between the columns. The entablature consisted of an architrave 'frieze and cornice projecting 1.2 metres and supported by a massive reinforced concrete cantilever. Above the cornice was the attic storey at which the projecting bays were terminated by decorated semi-circular windows, while between were single, hooded window in plain ashlar walling. Each facade was surmounted by a simple string course and parapet' (Jackson p.11).

A reinforced concrete awning roof was constructed above the roof level, on which were located left motor rooms and ventilation plant rooms. The Hunter Street main entrance consisted of an almost semi-circular portico; Polished Tuscan order columns; the sandstone head of Caxton, which had originally adorned the keystone of the entrance arch of the 1856 building was incorporated into the second floor window heads above the entrance. The curved junction of the Pitt and O'Connell Street facades was surmounted by an ornate circular tower, raising three storeys above roof level, topped by a copper clad dome and lantern with flagpole.

A central light court was incorporated within the base of the triangular site resulting in a distinct, narr-v-shape plan arrangement. The court provided natural light and ventilation for the full height of the interior of the building down to the basement lettable offices. The walls were plain cement rendered, with steel framed windows at each floor (Jackson p.11).

Changes over time to the buildings exterior:
a.1928: New Roof outdoor gymnasium enclosed by chain wire fence with new dressing room at Pitt Street South.
b.1934: new 'Sydney Morning Herald' Art Gallery on fourth floor consisted of gallery, entrance vestibule and annex, reception room. Designed by architect J.L. Stephen Mansfield ARIBA. The Art gallery was later relocated with new entrance and Wunderlich awning at Pitt Street.
c.1930: New Loading Dock at Pitt Street north.
d.1941: Wartime office accommodation for the ministry of munitions on roof beneath awning roof.
e.1946: New kitchen and dining room in earlier office accommodation on roof.
f.1946: Loading dock on O'Connell Street formed by enlargement of window in end projecting bay.
g.1950: New stair at O'Connell Street entrance.
h.1951: Second opening to sub basement, northern end of Pitt Street, faade. Existing awning extended one bay over new opening.
(Jackson et al. pp. 6-7).

Original Interior:
Building designed to provide space for publishing operations of John Fairfax and Sons plus considerable leasing space for tenants.

Fairfax Space included the sub basement and ground floor facing Pitt and O'Connell Streets; entire first, second and third floors; part of O'Connell Street frontage (fourth - ninth floors); public entrance at Hunter Street corner with two lifts to serving administrative floors; one lift from sub-basement to third floor, the other from sub-basement to second floor; staff entrance at O'Connell Street, two cart docks adjacent to staff entrance; two goods lifts behind serving all floors. Two main full height stairs provided on O'Connell Street, served Fairfax operations, the other adjacent to Pitt Street entrance serviced the leased offices.

Minimal interior design remains; descriptions of the above were obtained from contemporary drawings, photographs, written descriptions and extant remnants. They show considerable effort was expanded to create interiors which expressed the modernity prosperity and optimism of 'John Fairfax and Sons'. The greatest effort centred on the basement, ground and first floor public areas, and to a lesser extent throughout the remainder floors. The interiors were treated in a conservative manner typical of similar offices of the period. The materials consisted of 'solid' and 'traditional' marble, timber and terrazzo flooring; marble and ceramic tiled walling, decorated plaster ceilings, polished timber joinery and brass fittings.

'Sydney Morning Herald' Articles describe the most memorable interior features which include 'a mounting curved step of the portico - its suspended trachyte ceiling (only one in Sydney), pendant lamps, antique in style-it hangs like a regal canopy' (date unknown).

'The marble decorations containing rich veins of copper and purple splashed vividly through the main substance of creamy limestone, typifying the beauty of our native marbles' (date unknown).

'The grand central staircase of marble, banistered with wrought metal, at the midway landing where the stairs divide and rise in two wings' (date unknown).
(Jackson pp. 12-13)

Changes to the Interior over time:
a.1934: Fourth floor - opening of the 'Sydney Morning Herald' Art Gallery. (Jackson et al. p.16).
b.1934: New offices for Ure Smith's 'Art in Australia' magazine on seventh floor, after purchasing the publication. (ditto p. 8)
c.1934: Former school room on first floor converted to offices. (ditto)
d.1934: Subdivision of ground and first floor, set back of ground floor counters - increased public spaces (ditto p.16).
e.1936: First floor partition alterations (ditto p. 8).
f.1936: Ground, first, second, third floor extensions into light court (ditto p.16).
g.1937: Basement relocation of Art Gallery to Pitt Street Entrance (ditto).
h.1941: Roof construction of wartime spaces (ditto).
i.1944: Excavation of sandstone ten metres (three new levels) below sub-basement along north wall for printing presses and reels (ditto p.8).
j.1946: Roof - Kitchen and dining area provided (ditto p.16).

Bank of New South Wales phase:
External renovations included major changes for the Bank of New South Wales, branch usage to incorporate in the basement: Savings Bank; Chambers, offices, safe deposit and Trading Bank strong rooms; access to new vestibule at Pitt Street entrance.
Ground floor: new Trading Bank chamber; Travel Department and offices (Jackson p.18).

a.1956: New entrance to O'Connell Street.
b.1957: New entrance to Pitt Street north to basement car park.
c.1959: Art Gallery awning cut back and lanterns removed.
d.1968: Major repairs to sandstone cladding by Loveridge & Houston (re-pointing, cornice and parapet stone replacement).
e.1955-1960: Partition alterations to most floors.
f.1956: Goods lifts at O'Connell Street replaced.
g.1956: Car park formed in sub-basement
h.1956: 'Wales Bank' occupying two floors - basement and ground
i.1961: Offices and false ceilings at first floor.
j.1964: Computer installation ninth floor.
k.1965: Air conditioning installation with window mounted fan coil units.
l.1966: Computer installation eighth floor with new roof mounted air conditioning plant.
m.1967: Computer installed seventh and eighth floors.
n.1968: Major refurbishing to most levels.
o.1981: Health centre on tenth floor.
p.Reinstatement of first floor board room after subdivision of previous refurbishments 1984 (Jackson pp. 8-9).
Current use: hotel
Former use: bank

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Communication-Activities relating to the creation and conveyance of information (none)-
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 - Interwar Classical-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Manson and Pickering, architects-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Stuart Bros., builders-

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workHeritage Act - Site Specific Exemptions Order Under Section 57(2) to exempt the following activities from Section 57(1):

a) The maintenance of any building or item on the site where maintenance means the continuous protective care of existing material; and

(b) Alterations to the interior of the building, except in so far as such works would affect the original Herald Board Suite on the first floor; the external appearance of the building
Oct 21 1988
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
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.

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


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0058602 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - Permanent Conservation Order - former 0058627 May 88 0912853
Local Environmental PlanCSH LEP 4 07 Apr 00   
Register of the National Estate  21 Mar 78   

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenJackson Teece Chesterman Willis Consultants Pty Ltd2000The Wales House Conservation Plan

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

rez rez rez rez rez rez
(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: 5045090
File number: S91/00290 & HC 88/1337

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.

All information and pictures on this page are the copyright of the Heritage Division or respective copyright owners.