Big House Hotel | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

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Big House Hotel

Item details

Name of item: Big House Hotel
Other name/s: New Hunter River Hotel; Napoleon Hotel; Moreton's Hotel
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Commercial
Category: Hotel
Location: Lat: -33.8651915416 Long: 151.2034424520
Primary address: 20 Sussex Street, Sydney, NSW 2000
Parish: St Philip
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Sydney
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Metropolitan
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT1 DP1033719
PART LOT2 DP1033719
LOT8 DP1033719
LOT5 DP1054157
PART LOT3-4 DP1074069
LOTS11-15 DP1085323
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
20 Sussex StreetSydneySydneySt PhilipCumberlandPrimary Address
20-26 Sussex StreetSydneySydneySt PhilipCumberlandAlternate Address

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Big House HotelPrivate 

Statement of significance:

It has strong historical associations with the waterside workers and dockyard industries. (Shields-Brown 1982) It is linked with early development in the area and is associated with the activities of the Sydney Harbour Trust both as builders and determinants in the planning and layout of streets in this part of Sydney. It has continuously traded as a hotel since completion and the transfer of licence connects the Hotel to the early days of this part of Sydney. (Howard 1995: 38) It is an example of an Edwardian public house demonstrating a range of materials, details and form exploited by the Sydney Harbour Trust. The scale of the building is unusually large for the time. (Howard 1995: 38) One of a small group of surviving hotels in the central city which together form an interesting collection reflecting an aspect of the social and recreational history of Sydney. (Schwager Brooks 1988)
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

Construction years: 1913-1915
Physical description: A four storey building of brown and purple brick with stone trims: quoins, string courses, door and window surrounds and simple parapets. Some wide arched Edwardian style windows. Ground floor facade faced with brown glazed tiles imitating brick to 3m height, with original doors and windows and awning supported on cantilevered steel open trusses. Interior has original tile-clad columns with art nouveau motifs. Arcaded verandahs to 3rd and 4th floors on eastern side. (Shields-Brown 1982)
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Physical condition is good. Archaeological potential is low.
Date condition updated:29 Sep 97
Modifications and dates: 1913 - contruction started
1915 - construction completed
1924 - whole of the interior renovated and repairs undertaken to various items
1927 - size of the serving area and bar reduced in size

1928 - Third Floor Sitting Room was subdivided to provide two additional bedrooms
1939 - a new stair at the northern end of the building connecting the Napoleon Street level to the room and necessary modification of bedrooms on the Bedroom floor level and the former Commercial Room on the Napoleon Street level. Other improvements are likely to have included refitting of lavatories, bathrooms and kitchens, new fittings to bathrooms and refurbishment of bar areas.
1960s - Physical upgarading to the hotel
Current use: Public Bar
Former use: Aboriginal land, hotel, Public Bar

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.

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

Hunter River Inn:
Early records indicate that a hotel known as the Hunter River Inn was situated at the northern end of Sussex Street, as it then existed, by the mid-1840s. The Hunter River Inn appears to have been the only building on the eastern side of Sussex Street between Margaret Place and the start of the street itself. It seems likely that the Inn's close proximity to the Hunter River Wharf may have given rise to its name.

In 1901 the Sydney Harbour Trust was set up by the State Government, which resumed the privately owned and municipal wharves from Circular Quay around to Darling Harbour, as well as stores and dwellings within the vicinity. The Trust was given full power of administration over the Harbour and also resumed properties. It subsequently set about demolishing and reconstructing wharf areas in an endeavour to bring the Port of Sydney up to world standards. In 1903 the Trust took over resumed properties formerly under the jurisdiction of other bodies and began, in piecemeal fashion, construction of buildings (other than port facilities). Between 1908 and 1915 the Trust erected a large number of buildings. One of these was the New Hunter River Hotel, now known as Napoleon's Hotel.

There were many hotels in the vicinity of the Hunter River Inn when the resumptions occurred, many of which dated well back into the nineteenth century. A large number appear to have been demolished to make way for port construction, but may also have been removed as a result of the Liquor (Amendment) Act of 1905, which assisted in the reduction of the number of hotels within New South Wales in the years that followed.

Although the Hunter River Inn was one of the buildings to be demolished, a new building on part of the sites of 22-28 Sussex Street and over part of Margaret Street was proposed and the licence of the old hotel transferred. Another reason for the demolition of the Hunter River Inn was the realignment of Sussex and Napoleon Streets. Plans of the new hotel were prepared by the Sydney Harbour Trust in the middle of 1913, and submitted to the Licensing Court on 30 March 1915. According to the Sands Directory, the properties on the site of the new building were vacated between 1913 and 1914 and the Hunter River Inn continued trading until the completion of the New Hunter River Inn, which was recorded in the Directory for 1916 at 20-24 Sussex Street, with J. Howey as licensee. Howey remained the licensee until 1920, while Tooth and Co. held the leasehold from the Trust from 1915 until 1950. A survey completed on 18 June, 1915 indicated that the building was completed by then. The building as described on the Sydney Harbour Trust drawings consisted of a four storey building with a public bar on both the Napoleon Street and Sussex Street levels, necessitated by a discrepancy in levels between the two streets. A mezzanine level (the First Floor) between the street levels contained the cellar, 3 bedrooms, kitchen and scullery, whilst the Sussex Street level (the Second Floor) in addition to the Public Bar, contained a Commercial Room, Private Bar and Parlour, a Dining Room, Servery and Scullery and an Office. The Third Floor contained a Sitting Room, 11 Bedrooms and Bathrooms. The roof level was partially covered in a flat trafficable material and at the southern end included an enclosed structure which housed a Laundry and fuel store, 3 Bedrooms and a small Bathroom.

Over the next fifteen years relatively few modifications to the fabric of the building were documented. In 1924 the whole of the interior of the Hotel was renovated under instructions issued by the Harbour Trust and repairs undertaken to various items. The extent and nature of this work has not been ascertained. Plans prepared by the Architects Office of the Kent Brewery, Sydney in 1927 indicate that the size of the serving area and bar was reduced in size, and that it was proposed to form a new Lounge in part of the existing cellar on the Mezzanine floor. (There is no physical evidence that this ever eventuated.) Plans prepared in 1928, again by the Architects Office of the Kent Brewery, indicate that modifications were carried out on the Third Floor - the Sitting Room was subdivided to provide two additional bedrooms.

In May 1939, the architect Sidney Warden prepared documents detailing further modifications. Warden was an architect who specialised in the design of hotels in the 1920s through to the 1950s. These modifications however, were not substantial: a new stair at the northern end of the building connecting the Napoleon Street level to the roof, and the necessary modification of bedrooms on the Bedroom floor level and the former Commercial Room on the Napoleon Street level. Other improvements are likely to have included refitting of lavatories, bathrooms and kitchens, new fittings to bathrooms and refurbishment of bar areas. Of the bar areas themselves, the Napoleon Street bar appears to have been the most important as it was close to the wharves - the Hotel relied for much of its trade on seamen and wharf labourers. The two bar areas were perceived as something of a handicap in the running of the premises due to their location on separate levels.

From 1915 until 1942 the hotel was located in a Metropolitan Licencing District, and from 1942 the District was reclassified as Industrial, thus entitling the hotel to increased beer supply. In 1950 Tooth and Co. relinquished their leasehold of the premises as a result of tenders called by the owners, the Maritime Services Board. Phillip Tahmindjis was the successful tenderer.

By 1961 the hotel appears to have been in a run down condition and in the need of upgrading to acceptable contemporary standards. Bathroom and toilet accommodation was considered inadequate and the provision of more public spaces to the Sussex Street Bar was considered desirable. At this time the trade of the hotel was mostly from the public bars, and consisted largely of wharf labourers and seamen, but was declining owing to changes in the pick up system for wharf labour and also closure and demolition of adjacent wharves. Physical investigation of the site suggests that upgrading to the hotel did take place in the years after 1961.

The hotel was known as the New Hunter River hotel until the 1970s but subsequently became known as the Big House Hotel. It has not been ascertained how this change of nomenclature came about. (Howard 1995: 5-10)

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. 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-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Commerce-Activities relating to buying, selling and exchanging goods and services Innkeeping-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Commerce-Activities relating to buying, selling and exchanging goods and services Developing discrete retail and commercial areas-
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 Industry-Activities associated with the manufacture, production and distribution of goods (none)-
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 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 rural to suburban-
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 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 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 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 (none)-
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-
5. Working-Working Labour-Activities associated with work practises and organised and unorganised labour (none)-
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. (none)-
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. Developing roles for government - administration of land-
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 Activities associated with relaxation and recreation-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Going to the pub-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
It has strong historical associations with the waterside workers and dockyard industries. (Shields-Brown 1982) It is linked with early development in the area and is associated with the activities of the Sydney Harbour Trust both as builders and determinants in the planning and layout of streets in this part of Sydney. It has continuously traded as a hotel since completion and the transfer of licence connects the Hotel to the early days of this part of Sydney. (Howard 38:1995)
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
It is an example of an Edwardian public house demonstrating a range of materials, details and form exploited by the Sydney Harbout Trust. The scale of the building is unusually large for the time. (Howard 38:1995)
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
One of a small group of surviving hotels in the central city which together form an interesting collection reflecting an aspect of the social and recreational history of Sydney. (Schwager Brooks 1988)
Integrity/Intactness: Excellent retention of original external detailing, including the joinery to the retail shopfront at 26 Sussex Street. The interiors have been altered in various stages but still include considerable evidence of original joinery. (Schwager Brooks 1985)
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 endorsementConservarion Plan CMP endorsed by Heritage Council 4 May 1995 for a period of five years, expires 4 May 2000. May 4 1995
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions ORDER UNDER SECTION 57(2) OF THE HERITAGE ACT 1977

Standard exemptions for engaging in or carrying out activities / works otherwise prohibited by section 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977.

I, Donald Harwin, the Special Minister of State 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, effective 1 December 2020:

1. revoke the order made on 11 July 2008 and published on pages 91177 to 9182 of Government Gazette Number 110 of 5 September 2008 and varied by notice published in the Government Gazette on 5 March 2015; and

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

Donald Harwin
Special Minister of State
Signed this 9th Day of November 2020.

To view the standard exemptions for engaging in or carrying out activities / works otherwise prohibited by section 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977 click on the link below.
Nov 13 2020

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0051302 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - Permanent Conservation Order - former 0051303 Apr 87 621788
Local Environmental PlanCSH Local Environmental Plan 4 07 Apr 00   
National Trust of Australia register   01 Nov 82   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Central Sydney Heritage Inventory19882152Schwager Brooks  No

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenI Shields-Brown1982National Trust Classification Card - The Big House
WrittenRod Howard1995Napoleon's Hotel - Conservation Analysis Report

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 NSW
Database number: 5045293
File number: S90/02133 & HC 86 2318


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