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NSW Club House Building

Item details

Name of item: NSW Club House Building
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Community Facilities
Category: Community Club/ Clubhouse
Location: Lat: -33.8656278454 Long: 151.2100622160
Primary address: 31 Bligh 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 DP587198
PART LOT2 DP587198
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
31 Bligh StreetSydneySydneySt JamesCumberlandPrimary Address

Statement of significance:

The remnant building is of significance as the sole surviving example of a nineteenth century Sydney gentlemen's club, then an important and influential institution in Victorian colonial society in Australia.

The remnent building is of significance as on of surviving, albeit altered, examples of the works of the Victorian-era architect, William Wilkinson Wardell. The restrained classical elegance of its original Bligh Street facade is influenced by Italian Renasissance palazza. Behind the facade are spacious Victorian-era and Federation-era rooms, all with high ceilings and tall windows overlooking Bligh Street. These rooms contain elaborate joinery and marble chimney pieces, and a rich, masculine, painted and stencilled decorative scheme on the walls and ceilings, with remnants of embossed wallpaper of importance.

The remnant building is also of significance because it demonstrates, by means of its surviving form, fabric and finishes the evolution of building conservation during the 1970's. (Jackson Teece, 2005, p.31)
Date significance updated: 20 Mar 07
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: William Wilkinson Wardell
Builder/Maker: John Try
Construction years: 1886-1887
Physical description: The New South Wales Club House Building is of the Italian palazzo style and is said to have been modelled on London's Traveller Club (McKenzie, 2004, p. 12). For the NSW Club, Wardell designed a main three-story block extending across the full width of the Bligh Street frontage, with two wings at the rear of this central block which were demolished in the 1970's (McKenzie, 2004, p.5). The western ends of these wings were joined by a single storey block topped with a decorative sky lighted roof. At the northern and southern ends, extending towards O' Connell Street was, featuring a small fountain, the grassed courtyard (McKenzie, 2004, p. 5).

The principal entrance to the club-house is from Bligh Street, the frontage of which is constructed in Pyrmont stone. The entrance is approached by a flight of stairs and lined with cast-iron lamp standards, leading to a spacious hall on the ground floor (McKenzie, 2004, p. 12). The NSW Club building is marked by high ceilings and tall windows; the windows being semi circular headed on this floor (McKenzie, 2004, p.5). The ground floor's entrance hall and original dining room contain elaborate joinery and marble chimney pieces and is further distinguished by its richly painted and stencilled decorative scheme on its walls and ceilings (McKenzie, 2004, p.14). This latter finding was through restoration efforts of the 1970s which found stencilled decoration on the main ground floor with bands at several levels along with gilded cornices and ceiling roses (McKenzie, 2004, p.12). In Wardell's original dining room, the walls were a combination of greens, creams and terra cotta in six individual friezes above a brown dado, with sill level emphasized by linking stripes (McKenzie, 2004, p.14). The entrance hall and the grand dining room had ceilings hand painted in gold, red and brown ochres and spatially the dining room dominated the floor with a comfortable 46 feet by 24 feet in length (McKenzie, 2004, pp.6-13). The entrance hall had a porter's station, and retains its marble floor edging and a multicoloured arched screen and apart from the hall and dining room the ground floor also included two billiard rooms and a smoking room which opened through a veranda into the courtyard (McKenzie, 2003, p.14).

The entrance hall of the ground floor led through a wide cedar staircase to the first floor which mainly consisted of a large reading room, a card room and a private dining room (McKenzie, 2004, p.13). This floor, while being less elaborate than the ground floor contains remnants of embossed wallpaper of importance and has triangular pedimented windows (McKenzie, 2004, p.29). The windows on the second floor are smaller than the first floor windows and are arched headed (McKenzie, 2004, p.5) Because of the demolition of the rear wings the bedrooms on the upper floors of the servants no longer exist and it is the ground floor which has remained the most intact out of all the floors.
Modifications and dates: c1900 construction of Mansard Roof addition, in same style as original building.

1916 Roof Gable addition.
Current use: Club; Offices
Former use: Aboriginal land, town lot, Gentleman's Club

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

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

The NSW Club:
The New South Wales Club was conceived on 16th March 1883 and for its premises a block of land measuring 67 feet was bought with frontages on both O'Connell and Bligh Streets (McKenzie, 2003, p.3). At the club's first general meeting on 1st October 1883, the NSW club appointed the architect William Wilkinson Wardell to design the building (McKenzie, 2003, p.12). The purchase of the land had cost the club 18,000 pounds wit the tender to John Try costing 15,800 pounds and to allay these costs, the O'Connell street frontage was sold for 15,000 pounds (McKenzie, 2003, p.3).

The clubhouse was opened in 1886 though construction concluded a year later and at the inaugural dinner on 20th January 1886, the club crest appeared for the first time: an oval girdle enclosing the cross, lions and stars with the motto 'Sic Fortis Etruria Crevit' translated as 'Thus Etruria grew strong'(McKenzie, 2003, p.4).The club served elaborate dinners and with Lord Carrington, the Governor of the Colony and the Patron of the club dining there on the 14th of October, 1890 (McKenzie, 2003, p.4). Other well-known members of the NSW Club have included Sydney Burdekin, Richard Teece, Sir Samuel Hordern, Sir Marcus Clarke and Sir William Spooner (McKenzie, 2003, p.5).

The club's history reflects the changing demands of time though it appears that the club changed only when it had to. The former is reflected when, in 1943, during the Second World War, the staff no longer dressed in livery due to the rationing of clothes and the latter the basement was converted into a Ladies' Annexe room in 1965 for female members, their entrance was below the ground and separate from the main entrance (McKenzie, 2003, pp.5-6). Most of the changes to the building till the late 1960s were internal with the exception of the 1916 addition of an extra mansard- roofed floor to create more space and later housing billiard and card rooms and additional bedrooms (McKenzie, 2003, p.6).

The NSW Club was affiliated with other existing clubs of the time. For example, in 1922 it provided honorary membership to members of the Union Club during alterations to its building and in early 1969 the NSW Club announced its amalgamating with the Australian club (McKenzie, 2003, pp.4-7). The Bligh Street building was then sold for $3.7 million to Capital and Counties (Aust) Pty Ltd and a year later, in 1971, the building was classified 'A' by the National Trust with the preservation of the front portion of the building deemed 'most desirable' (McKenzie, 2003, p.7).

By late 1972, an arrangement was made between Capital and Counties, the National Trust and Barton on behalf of IPEC Investment's whereby Capital and Counties would lease the front of the Club building to the National Trust which would then lease it to IPEC Investments (McKenzie, 2003, p.7).Capital and Counties nominally leased the Trust at one dollar per year whereas the Sydney Council offered Capital and Counties an incentive by giving a bonus plot ratio which allowed additional floors for its intended office block site as compensation for the additional cost of preserving the original club building (McKenzie, 2003, pp.9-13). The demolished wings and rear would be used by Capital and Counties as high-rise offices and in its deal with IPEC, the Savoy Theatre became available for demolition to give the new offices street access (McKenzie, 2003, p.13). Under the agreement the National Trust leased the front portion of the Club to IPEC for a period of 80 years with one of the conditions being that internal and external alterations acquire the Trust's approval (McKenzie, 2003, p. 7).

In early 1973 demolition of the rear portion of the club building commenced to make way for the new 25 Bligh Street (McKenzie, 2003, p. 13).Ipec-Tjuringa engaged McConnel Smith and Johnson as architects to the site to restore the remaining front portion of the building and by 1978 the restoration had been completed (McKenzie, 2003, p.7)

The saving of the club building was a first of the National Trust's efforts in negotiation with property owners to preserve important historic buildings under the procedures set out in the City of Sydney Strategic Plan (McKenzie, 2003, p. 9). The President of the Trust at the time, Wyatt said that he hoped that the arrangements negotiated for the NSW building would serve as a model for the future (McKenzie, 2003, p. 9).

Barton had intended the building to be used as offices which he did but as the Sydney Morning Herald noted, the former Club building had been vacant for some years before the former Prime Minister Paul Keating occupied its offices in 1996 (McKenzie, 2003, p. 24).

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 living in the city-
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 Macquarie's town layout-
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 Infrastructure-
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-
5. Working-Working Labour-Activities associated with work practises and organised and unorganised labour Working with hand tools and implements-
5. Working-Working Labour-Activities associated with work practises and organised and unorganised labour Working as a manager or executive officer-
5. Working-Working Labour-Activities associated with work practises and organised and unorganised labour Working as a manager or executive officer-
5. Working-Working Labour-Activities associated with work practises and organised and unorganised labour Working in offices-
5. Working-Working Labour-Activities associated with work practises and organised and unorganised labour Working in an Inn, Public House, Hotel etc.-
5. Working-Working Labour-Activities associated with work practises and organised and unorganised labour Servants quarters-
5. Working-Working Labour-Activities associated with work practises and organised and unorganised labour Working in hospitality industry-
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. Local 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-
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 - town and country planning-
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 - conserving cultural and natural heritage-
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. Monuments-
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. Interior design styles and periods - Victorian-
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. Designing in an exemplary architectural style-
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. Adaptation of overseas design for local use-
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 - Victorian Italianate-
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 - Victorian Italianate-
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. Designing structures to emphasise their important roles-
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 - Victorian (mid)-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Domestic life-Activities associated with creating, maintaining, living in and working around houses and institutions. Ways of life 1900-1950-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Domestic life-Activities associated with creating, maintaining, living in and working around houses and institutions. Ways of life 1950-2000-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Domestic life-Activities associated with creating, maintaining, living in and working around houses and institutions. Ways of life 1850-1900-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Domestic life-Activities associated with creating, maintaining, living in and working around houses and institutions. Wealthy pastoralists homes in the city-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Domestic life-Activities associated with creating, maintaining, living in and working around houses and institutions. Kitchens and servants-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation musical gatherings-
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 Developing collections of items-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Going to a Club-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Playing billiards-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Gathering at landmark places to socialise-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Visiting heritage places-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Going shopping downtown-
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 Playing cards-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Leisure-Includes tourism, resorts.
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Social institutions-Activities and organisational arrangements for the provision of social activities Developing clubs for social improvement-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Social institutions-Activities and organisational arrangements for the provision of social activities Developing exclusive clubs-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Social institutions-Activities and organisational arrangements for the provision of social activities Developing local clubs and meeting places-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Social institutions-Activities and organisational arrangements for the provision of social activities Places of informal community gatherings-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Social institutions-Activities and organisational arrangements for the provision of social activities Belonging to an institution for self improvement-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with William Wardell, architect-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with John Try, builder-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The NSW Club House Building is significant because of its eighty eight year long association with the NSW Club, commencing in the latter years of the 19th century. This exclusive club, one of a number of similar Gentlemen's Clubs in Sydney at the time, procured a purpose-designed building that was provided with a complete range of facilities for the enjoyment and comfort of its exlusively male members. The buildings presence in Bligh Street, now overwhelmed by late 20th century high rise buildings, is the only tangible reminder of this association. The changes to the building, firstly by the addition of the mansard-roofed top floor in the early 20th century, followed by the demolition of a substantial portion of the rear of the building in 1973 after it ceased to function as a club, demonstrate the changing needs placed on the building by the early growth and subsequent declining of the role of such exclusive clubs in an evolving Australian society. (McKenzie, 2004, p. 29).
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The NSW Club House Building has importance as one of the surviving, albeit considerably altered, examples of the work of the pre-eminent Victorian-era architect William Wilkinson Wardell (McKenzie, 2004, p. 29)
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The NSW Club House Building is significant because of its high aesthetic quality such as the use of sandstone on the Bligh Street faade and use on stencil decoration on the main ground floor. The building is also important in demonstrating the evolution of building conservation principles and practice within NSW. The work done on the building in the early years of the 1970's predated the existence of the Burra charter and the agreements negotiated to secure (partial) retention remain unique with this process contributed to the reconsideration by Sydney City Council of the importance of incentives for owners and developers in retaining heritage sites (McKenzie, 2004, p. 29,30).
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The materials of construction, finishes and decoration of the internal spaces demonstrate the quality of finihses that were a prerequisite of a Victorian-era Gentlemen's club. Whilst some of the fabric has suffered from disturbance, enough remains in original essentially undisturbed condition. (McKenzie, 2004, p. 30)
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
The NSW Club House Buidling is the sole surviving example of a Victorian-era Gentlemen's club in the Sydney Central Business District and one of such few buildings in Australia, an institution that was relatively common during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It would appear to be one of the few such buildings surviving in Australia. The building form has been substantially altered through the demolition in 1973 of the twin rear wings, a consequence of which is that not all of the Club's original functions are now able to be interpreted from the remnant building form and fabric. (McKenzie, 2004, p. 30).
SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
The building has little ability to interpet the characteristics of any of the kings Cross area's principal commerical activities. (McKenzie, 2004, p. 30)
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 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 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 0014502 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - Permanent Conservation Order - former 0014519 Feb 82 280717
Local Environmental PlanCSH Local Environmental Plan 4 07 Apr 00   
Register of the National Estate  21 Mar 78   

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
PhotographJackson Teece2004Archival [photographic] record for 31 Bligh Street Sydney
WrittenP. McKenzie, prepared by Jackson Teece2003Historical Outline and Statement of Heritage Significance for 31 Bligh Street

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 NSW
Database number: 5045367
File number: S90/5676; HC 32634


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