Mortuary Railway Station and site | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Mortuary Railway Station and site

Item details

Name of item: Mortuary Railway Station and site
Other name/s: Mortuary Terminal
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Transport - Rail
Category: Railway Platform/ Station
Location: Lat: -33.8865464307 Long: 151.2023515980
Primary address: Regent Street, Chippendale, NSW 2008
Parish: St Lawrence
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Sydney
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Metropolitan
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Regent StreetChippendaleSydneySt LawrenceCumberlandPrimary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
RailCorpState Government03 May 99
RailCorpState Government20 Aug 97


Designer/Maker: James Barnet, Colonial Architect
Construction years: 1868-1869
Physical description: The station building is predominantly constructed from sandstone; two varieties of colour being used - brown for all columns, cornices, etc. and white for the plain surfaces. It consists of a long low-roofed pavilion of nine bays converting a single railway track that enters and leaves the building through a wide Gothic arch at either end. A second arch at either end provides access to the raised stone platform that occupies half the sheltered area.

An octagonal pavilion of open arches serves as a port cochere on the street side of the platform; its steeply pitched roof resolves into a delicate fleche, which rises above the rest of the building to give the station a landmark character. The outer wall of the platform pavilion (on the eastern side of the railway track) is composed of nine great arches on banded cylindrical columns with leafy capitals. The columns rise from square tapered bases, each a huge block as high as the human figure. At the corners of the pavilion, the arches rest on squared piers that are twice the bulk of the columns. The piers have enriched stringcourses with stiff-leaf detail like the column capitals. The spandrels between the arches contain circular medallions with carved centre.

Walls are of plain ashlar courses, rising to a highly ornamented corbel table Winds with a high-pitched roof rising into a square fleche set on the diagonal, which acts as a bell turret. The balance of the arches and strong cornice-line with the sweep of the roof makes for a great architecture. In the angles between the octagonal porch and the station pavilion are set the less formal structures of rest rooms and toilets; the chimneys of the rest room fireplaces accentuate the angled inner corners. These elements are bound into the tighter structure of the conjoined pavilions by stringcourse and cornice holding them like straps.
Current use: Disused Station
Former use: Mortuary Station


Historical notes: The Mortuary Station was built during the years 1868 and 1869, and was officially opened in June 1869. The firm of Stoddart & Medways used both white and biscuit-brown varieties of Pyrmont sandstone in the construction of station. The construction was completed on 22 March 1869. Contract documents indicate that a Thomas Duckett and a Henry Apperly were responsible for the sandstone carving of the building. Mortuary Station is amongst the most richly carved structures in Sydney and is typical of Barnet's approach to the embellishment of his building facades. Other of his works such as the General Post Office in Martin Place is indicative of this approach.

The building was used as the terminus for funeral trains until 1938. When the rail funeral business gave way to road corteges and motor hearses, rail services were restricted to weekends, and then finally curtailed. On April 3 1948, trains were withdrawn and the cemetery line closed. Trains left from the main terminus platforms over the final ten years of the funeral rail service. There being no call for the rail hearse, the Mortuary Station ceased to function in the capacity of its original purpose.

From 14 March 1938, Mortuary Station was used for the consignment of horses and dogs, and its name changed to Regent Street. From February 1950 it was used as a parcels dispatch, at which time catenary wires were placed inside the rail pavilion and (apparently at this same time) the easternmost arches at either end were removed of ornament on the inner face to allow for the passage of larger rail vehicles. The sight of an electric mail vehicle standing under the arches was common in the 1950s and 1960s.

In 1981 the State Rail Authority decided to restore the Mortuary Station by which time it had been classified by both the National Trust of Australia (NSW) and the Australian Heritage Commision. The Heritage Council of NSW had also placed it under a Permanent Conservation Order. Restoration was coordinated by the Way and Works Branch of State Rail, and Gledhill Constructions made repairs and renewals under the direction of Lester Firth and Associates as project architects. The Heritage Council played a consulting role and $600,000 was spent on the restoration work.

After a ceremonious reopening by the Premier, Neville Wran, a 15 year lease was granted for running the station as a pancake restaurant. For this purpose, two dining cars, an event car (for exhibitions and theatrical presentations) and a staff amenities car were located on the tracks alongside the platform. Associated crafts and gifts were sold from the ticket office and displays mounted on the platform areas. This venture lasted until early 1989, when the cars were removed.

Mortuary Station was later made available for hire for weddings and product launches (SRA used it to launch new rolling stock). With the construction of the SRA Bus terminus at the northern side of the property, about one third of the length of the platform has been lost by way of encroachment. The original platform was exactly the length of the covered portion.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Transport-Activities associated with the moving of people and goods from one place to another, and systems for the provision of such movements (none)-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Birth and Death-Activities associated with the initial stages of human life and the bearing of children, and with the final stages of human life and disposal of the dead. (none)-

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workHeritage Act Record converted from HIS events
Refer to standard exemptions gazetted 23 October 1998.

Order Under Section 57(2) to exempt the following activities from Section 57(1):
*change of use;
*strata subdivision
* maintenance of any item (building, works, relics or places) on the site, where maintenance means the continuous protective care of existing fabric.
*Minor repairs where minor repair means the repair of materials and includes replacement of minor components such as individual bricks, where these have been damaged beyond reasonable repair or are missing. Replacements should be of the same materials, colour, texture, form and design as the original it replaces.
*alterations to the interior of a building which are of a minor nature and will not adversely affect the significance of the building as an item of the environmental heritage.
Apr 6 1990
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 0015702 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - Permanent Conservation Order - former 0015702 Oct 81 1445177
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register     
Local Environmental PlanCSH LEP 4 07 Apr 00   
Register of the National Estate  21 Mar 78   

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenPaul Rappoport Architect Pty Ltd2000Conservation Management Plan of Mortuary Station

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: 5045142
File number: S90/07259 & HC 30323

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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