Windsor Court House | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Windsor Court House

Item details

Name of item: Windsor Court House
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Law Enforcement
Category: Courthouse
Location: Lat: -33.6054573856 Long: 150.8260911190
Primary address: Court and Pitt Streets, Windsor, NSW 2756
Parish: St Matthew
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Hawkesbury
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Deerubbin
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT7018 DP1060980
LOT16 DP759096
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Court and Pitt StreetsWindsorHawkesburySt MatthewCumberlandPrimary Address
Court StreetWindsorHawkesbury  Alternate Address
North StreetWindsorHawkesbury  Alternate Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Attorney General's DepartmentState Government28 Jan 99

Statement of significance:

The Windsor Court House, a rare surviving Colonial Georgian public building that originally dates from the early 19th century. The building has a fine and impressive form which uses an adapted Palladian plan to suit the Australian climate. It is of considerable historical, social and aesthetic significance, as one of the earliest surviving Court House buildings in Australia.

The Court House now [1967] ranks as Greenway's best preserved building. The Building and Maintenance Branch of the NSW Department of Public Works carried out restoration work in 1961 to remove unsympathetic rendering of the external brickwork which was an attempt to reduce the problem of damp. The building now stands in its original and unspoiled form in Windsor, the most prosperous and successful of the towns then being founded by Governor Macquarie.

The court house was insisted upon by Governor Macquarie, designed by Francis Greenway (himself originally a convict) and built by William Cox using convict labour. It is a combination and the result of all the forces directly at play during the Australia's early development. (Ellis, 1973; Pike, 1966)
Date significance updated: 24 Mar 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: F Greenway, J Barnet
Builder/Maker: William Cox
Construction years: 1821-1822
Physical description: The Windsor Court House is one of the earliest surviving Court House buildings in Australia. Designed in the Colonial Georgian style, it uses an adapted Palladian form with an enclosing front verandah entrance, a climatic adaptation. Classically inspired details include multi-panelled windows with flat sandstone lintels over.

Other accommodation includes Sheriff's Office, CLC Office, Chamber, interview room, Legal room, Legal profession room, Magistrate's room.

The Court House is constructed in face brick, with a sandstone base course and window headers. The roofs are clad in corrugated iron. The verandah is supported on timber posts. Interiors feature intact timber joinery and furniture.

Architectural Style: Old Colonial Georgian
Exterior: Brick, Sandstone, Corrugated iron
Interior: Timber Joinery

The building consists of one courtroom with front and back verandahs, ancillary rooms at each corner of the building and a late 19th century extension by Colonial Architect, James Barnet, in a garden setting.

The Courthouse also houses an impressive collection of moveable heritage, including furniture and fittings, ledgers and a rare celebrated portrait of Governor Macquarie commissioned on his departure from the colony in 1822 for seven guineas by grateful local residents in appreciation of his efforts for the area: in gratitude for his 'wisdom and indefatigable perseverance, not only in the convenience and comfort derived from the construction of Roads - but for the great deal manifested in correcting vice and encouraging virtue, your own conduct having exhibited a pattern worthy of imitation'. He now watches over proceedings from the safety of the balustrade. According to local reports, the portrait used to hang above the magistrate's chair, but was moved after a direct hit from an egg thrown by a spectator. The National Portrait Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh have identified the artist of the portrait as most likely to have been Scottish artist, Colvin Smith, who also painted Scottish novelist and poet Walter Scott. The portrait has been recently restored in time for Macquarie's bicentenary (of the date of his arrival in the colony)(Attorney-General's Department Press Release, 1/2/2010).

Prior to 2000, Windsor Court sat just 3 days per week. In 2007, the court sits 5 days per week with a 13 week waiting list (Attorney-General's Department brochure, undated (2/2010).
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Good Condition
Date condition updated:01 Nov 00
Modifications and dates: Repairs carried out in the 1840s and 50s included the re-shingling of the roof and other building works. Alterations made by Barnet in 1870s and 1882. Last recorded additions in 1890. In 1961 restoration, renovation and alterations were made plus new toilet accommodation.

In 2000, Attorney-Generals' Department restored the fabric of the building, reversing earlier restoration work. The Courthouse had originally been cement rendered, but this had been removed in 1960, a move not beneficial to the building.
Current use: Court House
Former use: Court House


The lower Hawkesbury was home to the Dharug people. The proximity to the Nepean River and South Creek qualifies it as a key area for food resources for indigenous groups (Proudfoot, 1987).
The Dharug and Darkinjung people called the river Deerubbin and it was a vital source of food and transport (Nichols, 2010).

Governor Arthur Phillip explored the local area in search of suitable agricultural land in 1789 and discovered and named the Hawkesbury River after Baron Hawkesbury. This region played a significant role in the early development of the colony with European settlers established here by 1794. Situated on fertile floodplains and well known for its abundant agriculture, Green Hills (as it was originally called) supported the colony through desperate times. However, frequent flooding meant that the farmers along the riverbanks were often ruined.

1794: The study area covering allotments at 23 through to 39 North Street, Windsor, is located on land first alienated for European purposes in a grant made by Francis Grose of thirty acres to Samuel Wilcox, who named it Wilcox Farm. It is likely that land clearance and agricultural activities as well as some building works took place during this period and during the subsequent of occupation;

early 19th century: Former Wilcox Farm was incorporated into a larger holding of 1500 acres known as Peninsula Farm.

Governor Lachlan Macquarie replaced Governor Bligh, taking up duty on 1/1/1810. Under his influence the colony propsered. His vision was for a free community, working in conjunction with the penal colony. He implemented an unrivalled public works program, completing 265 public buildings, establishing new public amenities and improving existing services such as roads. Under his leadership Hawkesbury district thrived. He visited the district on his first tour and recorded in his journal on 6/12/1810: 'After dinner I chrestened the new townships...I gave the name of Windsor to the town intended to be erected in the district of the Green Hills...the township in the Richmond district I have named Richmond...' the district reminded Macquarie of those towns in England, whilst Castlereagh, Pitt Town and Wilberforce were named after English statesmen. These are often referred to as Macquarie's Five Towns. Their localities, chiefly Windsor and Richmond, became more permanent with streets, town square and public buildings.

Macquarie also appointed local men in positions of authority. In 1810 a group of settlers sent a letter to him congratulating him on his leadership and improvements. It was published in the Sydney Gazette with his reply. He was 'much pleased with the sentiments' of the letter and assured them that the Haweksbury would 'always be an object of the greatest interest' to him (Nichols, 2010).

In marking out the towns of Windsor and Richmond in 1810, Macquarie was acting on instructions from London. All of the Governors who held office between 1789 and 1822, from Phillip to Brisbane, recieved the same Letter of Instruction regarding the disposal of the 'waste lands of the Crown' that Britain claimed as her own. This included directives for the formation of towns and thus the extension of British civilisation to its Antipodean outpost (Proudfoot 1987, 7-9).

The Windsor Court House was designed by the Colonial Architect Francis Greenway in 1821, in response to Governor Macquarie's request. It was intended to replace an original timber court house, and despite economic restrictions, Governor Macquarie had no intention to settle for a weatherboard structure. Instead he called upon Greenway to submit designs for a small but substantial brick building.

The contract for its construction was awarded to William Cox in October of 1821 for the sum of 1800 pounds, on the condition that the building be completed within fifteen months of the award of the contract. The court house was completed within the time specified using convict labour. Historical Period: 1801 - 1825, 1875 - 1900 (Bridges, 1986).

Macquarie's leadership was investigated by an enquiry into the colony's affairs and the Bigge Report concluded that a free and penal society could co-exist but with tighter controls on convict management. Governor Macquarie resigned and returned to England in 1822. Prior to departing the colony he visited the Hawkesbury with his successor Sir Thomas Brisbane. They inspected Francis Greenway's new St.Matthew's Church as well as other public buildings in Windsor. The Hawkesbury inhabitants presented Macquarie with a public address which commended him on his administration. The residents requestd Macquarie sit for a portrait and flattered by the request, he agreed. The painting was completed in England and returned to Windsor and has hung in the Windsor Court House since the 1820s, in the district where he was so highly esteemed (Nichols, 2010).

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Convict-Activities relating to incarceration, transport, reform, accommodation and working during the convict period in NSW (1788-1850) - does not include activities associated with the conviction of persons in NSW that are unrelated to the imperial 'convict system': use the theme of Law & Order for such activities Working for the Crown-
7. Governing-Governing Law and order-Activities associated with maintaining, promoting and implementing criminal and civil law and legal processes (none)-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Aaron Muron Bolot, architect-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Francis Greenway, emancipist architect-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Windsor was the most prosperous and successful of the towns founded by Governor Macquarie.
The Windsor Court House was commissioned in 1821 by Governor Macquarie to replace its, by then, dilapidated timber predecessor.
In 1821 William Cox signed the contract, and agreed to build the court house within fifteen months from October of that year of a sum of 1,800 pounds under Greenway's supervision and using convict labour.
In addition to its association with its designer, Francis Greenway, and its builder, William Cox, the court house represents the first steps in the prosperous growth and development of Windsor and the Hawkesbury region, and the efforts of Governor Macquarie to obtain the establishment of a modest but substantial brick court house despite the pressure to reduce government spending.
(Bridges, 1986; Baker, 1967)
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The Court House was commissioned by Governor Macquarie in 1821.
It was designed by Francis Greenway, Colonial Architect, and appointed Civil Architect in 1816.
Greenway also designed such buildings as the Hyde Park Barracks, Macquarie Lighthouse, the Women's Factory at Parramatta, St Matthew's Church in Windsor, St Luke's Church in Liverpool, and St James's Church and the Supreme Court in King Street Sydney.
(Pike, Ed., 1966)

The Court House is also associated with William Cox, its builder, who was an energetic and self improving colonist and contributed much to the development of the settlement. He arrived in 1800 as an officer of the New South Wales Corps, took up farming and in 1810 was appointed a magistrate in the Hawkesbury district. He employed about 50 convicts in agricultural and manufacturing activities on his property near Windsor. He also undertook building contracts for the government and in 1814 supervised the construction of the first road across the Blue Mountains.
(Bridges, 1986)
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Windsor Court House is built in a simple Georgian style. The main room, the Court Room, is flanked front and back by stone flagged verandahs which form an essential part of the building's plain rectangular structure, and provide access to the ancillary rooms.
The simplicity of the design is enhanced by the quality of the materials used - hand made sandstock bricks on a sandstone foundation. The windows and doorways have incised stone lintels and stone sills and recessed panels in the brickwork and the stone foundation.
The interior is also simple with white walls and cedar panelling. The panelling behind the Magistrate's chair is embellished by a gilded coat of arms. The room is illuminated by light through high clerestory windows.
Despite its simplicity in design, the most significant feature of this building is the adaptation by Greenway of his architectural skills and principles to suit the demands of an Australian climate.
Greenway realised that architectural conditions in Australia, such as climate, building materials, and the lack of skilled professional labour and craftsmanship, were different from those in England and so he rearranged his design and thinking accordingly.
With the exception of his Gothic designs, there is little or no decoration or ornament added to Greenway's designs. Everything in the design is a necessary part of the building.

(Ellis, 1973; Baker, 1967)
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
First commissioned in 1821 and completed within fifteen months, the Windsor Court House was built during politically and economically trying times (with pressure from England to reduce government spending) and amidst the turbulence of colonisation, the establishment of new settlements, a lack of skilled labour and other resources, and the unfamiliarity of a new and rather harsh climate.
As such, the Windsor Court House is a symbol of the growth and successful development of Windsor as the most prosperous town established by Governor Macquarie and of the social, cultural and political forces of the early 1800's.
Integrity/Intactness: The Windsor Court House now (1967) remains as the best preserved examples of Greenway's work. Following the removal by The Department of Public Works in 1961 of the previously applied cement rendering to the exterior of the building, the court house now stands in its original form, unspoiled both internally and externally by unsympathetic alterations.
(Baker, 1967)
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
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 0080402 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register     
Local Environmental Plan 198918 Dec 89   
Cumberland County Council list of Historic Buildings 1961-67     
National Trust of Australia register      
Register of the National Estate 198921 Mar 78   

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Tourism 2007Windsor Heritage Walk View detail
TourismAttraction Homepage2007Windsor Heritage Walk View detail
WrittenNichols, Michelle (Local Studies Librrian)2010Macquarie and the Hawkesbury District

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

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: 5045175
File number: EF14/4735; H99/211/1

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.