Darlinghurst Court House and Residence | NSW Environment & Heritage

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Darlinghurst Court House and Residence

Item details

Name of item: Darlinghurst Court House and Residence
Other name/s: NSW Supreme Court
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Law Enforcement
Category: Courthouse
Location: Lat: -33.8803743182 Long: 151.2178697170
Primary address: Taylor Square, Darlinghurst, NSW 2010
Parish: Alexandria
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Sydney
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Metropolitan
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT1 DP809761
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Taylor SquareDarlinghurstSydneyAlexandriaCumberlandPrimary Address
Oxford StreetEast SydneySydneyAlexandriaCumberlandAlternate Address
Forbes StreetEast SydneySydneyAlexandriaCumberlandAlternate Address

Owner/s

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

Statement of significance:

The Darlinghurst Court House and residence is the finest, and only erudite Old Colonial Grecian public building complex surviving in Australia. Commenced in the 1830s, it has a long and continual association with the provision of law and order along with the neighbouring Darlinghurst Gaol complex. The building is prominently sited at Taylor Square.

The Court House, designed by colonial architect Mortimer Lewis and built between 1837 and 1844, is the first purpose designed court house to be built in NSW. The pavilions on either side were designed by James Barnet around 1886. The extension facing Victoria Street was designed by the Government Architect's Office and completed c.1963. (Lumby, 2006)
Date significance updated: 30 Jan 06
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: M Lewis, J Barnet
Construction years: 1826-
Physical description: The Darlinghurst Court House and Residence is a massive, heavily designed old colonial Grecian /Greek revival style public building. It communicates its civic presence through its form. The symmetrical building uses elements of the Greek temple form, having a fluted stone Doric columned portico supporting a pedimented gable entrance to the central court, flanked by colonnaded wings which stand forward of the robust front elevations.
The Darlinghurst Court House and Residence is constructed in smooth dressed sandstone with a slate roof, timber floors and joinery and a marble tiled vestibule.

Exterior: Sandstone, Slate
Interior: Joinery, Marble

c1963 extension facing Victoria Street: sandstone facing, dark toned bronze clad fenestration panels, modernist style
Modifications and dates: Alterations and flanking court additions by J Barnet in 1884 - 88. High Court added in 1922.
Current use: court house
Former use: court house & jail

History

Historical notes: Darlinghurst:
With its elevated position over the city, the area has been called Woolloomooloo Heights, Eastern Hill and Henrietta Town. In the 1820s, Governor Ralph Darling renamed the suburb in honour of his wife, Eliza Darling (Crosson, 2013).

By 1800 several large windmills were situated on the heights of this area, using its stiff breezes to grind much-needed flour from grain. The area began its suburban life under the name 'Henrietta Town', being called after Mrs Macquarie, whose second name was Henrietta. At that time it was an Aboriginal reserve. Loyalties changed with Governors when Darling took office, changing its name to Darlinghurst in honour of his popular wife. 'Hurst' is an old English word for a wooded hill.

Darlinghurst was once quite a fashionable suburb and it housed some famous people. One of the grandest houses was the mansion Craigend, built by NSW Surveyor-General Sir Thomas Mitchell, in 1828-31. It stood on nearly 4 hectares now bordered by Kings Cross Road, Surrey Street and Victoria Road. David Scott Mitchell (1836-1706), the wealthy bachelor who endowed the Mitchell Library with 70,000 pounds and his valuable book and document collection relating to Australi and the Pacific region, was a longer-term resident, moving from the family home in Cumberland Street in the Rocks in 1871. He then lived unostentatiously at 17 Darlinghurst Road until his death in 1907.

The gilt went off the suburb when Darlinghurst Gaol, designed by Colonial Architect Mortimer Lewis was built in 1841. It was not its style, but the significance of its erection that was the reason for the decline in Darlinghurst's popularity. Governor Brisbane had reserved 3.5 acres on Sydney's outskirts for a new gaol to replace the earlier lock-up in George Street. In 1823 a stockade was erected. Convicts quarried the stone from nearby William Street and hauled it to the hill top, where other convict gangs shaped up the blocks by hand. The completed enclosure was known as Woolloomooloo Stockade. Construction commenced in 1836 and was complete by 1841. Prisoners from George Street prison were marched in chains to Darlinghurst to the jeers and catcalls of the watching crowd. The first public hanging took placed at the new gaol on 29/10/1841. The last public hanging in Sydney was in 1907.

The gaol was closed as a prison in June 1914 for German refugees during the First World War. In 1921 the building became the East Sydney Technical College.

The suburb's main thoroughfare, William Street, was named after King William IV, who reigned from 1830 to 1837 and was often scathingly referred to as Sailor Bill, or even Silly Billy (Pollen & Murphy, 1988, 77-79).

Court House & Residence:
The Darlinghurst Court House and Residence was originally designed by the Colonial Architect Mortimer Lewis. Building was commenced in 1835 and was not completed until 1844. Later Government Architect James Barnet designed major flanking court room pavilion additions 1884 - 88. This building was a milestone building, being specifically designed to suit its purpose and impart authority and the power of the law. The former Darlinghurst Gaol is sited adjoining this site.

Lewis held the post of Colonial Architect in NSW for 15 years and designed a suite of buildings required by a burgeoning colony. From his first work, Tarban Creek Lunatic Asylum (1835, now part of Gladesville Hospital), he went on to design courthouses at Darlinghurst, Hartley, Berrima and Parramatta (1837), gaols at Darlinghurst, Newcastle, East Maitland, Berrima and Parramatta, the King's School at Parramatta, customs houses at Circular Quay (1844, at the heart of the present structure) and Prt Phillip, the Legislative Council chambers at Parliament House, Sydney (altered), three watch houses, two police stations, 12 churches (the prime example being the Anglican Church of St. John the Evangelist, Camden, consecrated in 1839), the Australian Museum (1846-54) in College Street, Sydney and Gabo Island Light House (1845).

Lewis's association with the architectural and gardening writer John Claudius Loudon (1783-1843) is telling. Loudon was author of the 'Encyclopaedia of cottage, farm and villa architecture' (various editions, 1833-69) and journals used extensively as design sources in the Australian colonies. He advocated the use of particular styles according to context. Lewis' use of the Greek Revival style for public buildings (as appropritate to their civic nature) and the Gothic Revival style for ecclesiastical and domestic commissions (as embodying spiritual values) no doubt reflected Loudon's influence (Carlin, 2012).

Historical period: 1826 - 1850, 1876 - 1900, 1901 - 25

The high court was added in 1922.

The extension facing Victoria Street was designed by the office of the Government Architect and completed c.1963.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
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 Creating landmark structures and places in urban settings-
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 Institutions-
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 infrastructure-
5. Working-Working Labour-Activities associated with work practises and organised and unorganised labour Working in the Justice System-Includes work practices and organised labour.
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. Developing roles for government - administering the justice system-
7. Governing-Governing Law and order-Activities associated with maintaining, promoting and implementing criminal and civil law and legal processes (none)-
7. Governing-Governing Law and order-Activities associated with maintaining, promoting and implementing criminal and civil law and legal processes Incarcerating prisoners-
7. Governing-Governing Law and order-Activities associated with maintaining, promoting and implementing criminal and civil law and legal processes court house-
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 - Greek revival-
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 - Greek revival-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Mortimer Lewis, Colonial Architect, 1796-1879-

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

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0079202 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register     
Register of the National Estate  21 Mar 78   

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenCarlin, Scott2012'Lewis, Mortimer' entry, in Goad, P. & Willis, J., (ed.s), 'The Encyclopaedia of Australian Architecture'
WrittenLumby, Roy / 20th century heritage society2006Darlinghurst Court House, in 'Around about Taylor Square' - walking tour notes
WrittenPollen, F. & Healy, G. (ed.s)1988'Darlinghurst' in The Book of Sydney Suburbs

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

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5045340
File number: S95/00338/1


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