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Garrison Anglican Church Precinct

Item details

Name of item: Garrison Anglican Church Precinct
Other name/s: Holy Trinity Anglican Church and Hall, Drill Hall, Garrison Church
Type of item: Complex / Group
Group/Collection: Religion
Category: Church
Location: Lat: -33.8581322103 Long: 151.2059148700
Primary address: Argyle Street, Millers Point, 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
LOT1-5 CP/SP53918
LOT1 DP595488
LOT2 DP595488
LOT3 DP595488
LOT4 DP595488
LOT1 DP758942
LOT2 DP758942
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Argyle StreetMillers PointSydneySt PhilipCumberlandPrimary Address
50, 52, 54, 56 Lower Fort StreetMillers PointSydney  Alternate Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Anglican Church Property TrustReligious Organisation 

Statement of significance:

Holy Trinity Anglican Church is a unique complex of church and former school hall in Sydney which is rare in New South Wales in regard to its age, architecture, and historic associations. The construction of the church and adjoining school was initiated by the Church Act of 1836; the church being completed in stages between 1840 and 1878 to designs prepared by Henry Ginn and Edmund T. Blacket in the archaeologically correct Gothic Revival style, and the school between 1846 and ca.1860. The church is one of the earliest extant ecclesiastical structures in the state, while the former school hall is a unique rare survivor of the era. Consciously sited against the rock scarp and fronting the public reserve of Argyle Place, the mid-nineteenth century setting of the church is unique. The church and its contents demonstrate the nineteenth century commercial importance of the harbourside suburb, and the political and social status of the parish. The strong support for the establishment of the church by Bishop Broughton was sustained by prominent local families. Parishioner's endowments have included the unique east window (1861) imported from the workshop of Charles Clutterbuck of London, and the locally produced Lyon and Cottier windows (1878). the former school exhibits similar associations with the nineteenth century history of this city suburb. The comparatively recent military associations of the church are of considerable social significance, while the importance of the church to the broader community of the state is demonstrated through ongoing material support by institutions such as the National Trust. More importantly the church continues to serve members of the Anglican Church. (Abbreviated from Davies 2004:89)
Date significance updated: 17 Jul 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.


Designer/Maker: Henry Ginn (1st stage) Edmund Blacket (2nd stage)
Builder/Maker: Edward Flood & George Patton
Construction years: 1840-1846
Physical description: Location:
Garrison Anglican Church is located at the intersection of Argyle Street and Lower Fort Street, Millers Point. The church is situated to the east of the Argyle Place public reserve and is north of the Observatory Hill public reserve.

The site includes the church, parish hall and is defined by the 'village square' of Argyle Place public reserve that encompasses; historic residences to the north, mid-nineteenth and early twentieth century residences in Lower Fort Street, including the rectory, commercial premises and the former Army Drill Hall.

50, 52, 54 and 56 Lower Fort Street are early twentieth century residences.


Commercial Premises:

Former Army Drill Hall:

The rear of Holy Trinity Anglican Church is defined by an irregularly formed public right of way known as Trinity Avenue. The church was constructed from locally quarried sandstone and contains a wide nave with aisles and chancel and vestry on the east end, which is the oldest portion of the church. Externally the nave comprises a series of buttresses and five windows with stone tracery, label moulds and carved foliage bosses on each of the south and north elevations. There exists a single large window on west elevation, one window on the southwest wall. The western and eastern buttresses are carried up in elegant carved stone pinnacles. The gable roof is clad in slate with six timber and iron ventilators. The west gable apex is surmounted by a stone carving of the holy cross and the east apex has a stone belfry. A panel of the west gable has been sheeted in timber to cover a bell system installed 1971. The eleven stained glass windows in the aisles primary from the late 1870s.

Parish Hall:
Modifications and dates: A panel of the west gable has been sheeted in timber to cover a bell system installed 1971.
Current use: Church
Former use: Aboriginal land, town lot


Prior to European settlement the Millers Point area was part of the wider Cadigal territory, in which the clan fished, hunted and gathered shellfish from the nearby mudflats. Shellfish residue was deposited in middens, in the area known to the early Europeans as Cockle Bay; the middens were later utilised by the Europeans in lime kilns for building purposes. The Millers Point area was known to the Cadigal as Coodye, and Dawes Point as Tar-ra/Tarra.

In the years following European colonisation of the eastern coast of Australia, the Cadigal population, as among the wider indigenous community, was devastated by the introduction of diseases such as smallpox. Remnants of the original Port Jackson clans eventually banded together for survival purposes, but the population continued to decline, exacerbated by alienation from their land and food sources, and by acts of aggression and retaliation, caused partly through cultural misunderstanding and partly through eighteenth-century European mindsets and perceptions about the colonisation process.

The Aboriginal name for Dawes Point is Tar-ra (Sydney City Council, 2019).

The first settlers at Sydney Cove in 1788 were hampered from thorough exploration of the Millers Point area by reasons of topography: to reach this western ridged area involved either trekking around the foreshore via Dawes Point, or by scaling the steep and rocky inclines of the Rocks. Priority was given to establishing the colony's first structures, and the settlers' interests were initially geared more towards temporary housing and a ready supply of fresh water (via the Tank Stream) than in conquering challenging topography. In July 1788 the high ground to the west of Sydney Cove saw the erection of a flagstaff, giving rise to its early name of Flagstaff Hill, later Observatory Hill.

The earliest buildings in the Millers Point area were intended to serve specific purposes, either for strategic military or agricultural needs. The first government windmill was built on the site in February 1797, supplying the origin of the third name of Windmill Hill. Subsequent windmills were established in 1812 by Nathaniel Lucas at Dawes Point, and a further three windmills operated by Jack 'the Miller' Leighton were situated in Millers Point, near the sites of present-day Bettington and Merriman Streets. Throughout this early period Jack the Miller became increasingly associated with the area, ultimately contributing to its name.

For military purposes, Governor King authorised the construction of Fort Phillip in 1804, a short-lived structure with hexagonal foundations that were eventually re-used in 1858 for the footprint of the extant Observatory. Fort Phillip had been designed for both internal and external defence mechanisms as it boasted both landward and seaward views. In 1815, a military hospital designed by Lieutenant John Watts was constructed in close proximity to Flagstaff Hill and Fort Phillip. Catering for both military and scientific demands was the Point Maskelyne observatory, built by William Dawes at the end of the point: immediately adjacent to his beloved observatory was the Dawes Battery, initially set up in 1788 and upgraded in 1791 whilst under Dawes' administration.

These initial structures were rapidly supplemented by dwellings and early industries. One profitable industry that exploited local resources was the production of stone for the construction of housing and services in early Sydney: sections of Millers Point were known as 'The Quarries', near Kent and the western end of Windmill Streets. Quarrying was an established industry by the mid 1820s, and this process of systematically altering the landscape continued as a pattern throughout the century, ultimately shaping the emerging village and directing the development of the local streetscape and housing pattern. A second local industry was lime production, used in building construction and carried out just below Fort Phillip using shells acquired from local aboriginal middens. As this supply diminished, shellfish was brought from the wider Sydney area to be burnt at Millers Point.

The location of Millers Point, with its relationship to the waterfront, was ideally suited for shipping purposes, and merchants tapped in to its potential by erecting private jetties, wharves and storage for goods. The village of Millers Point became a definitive one in the early 1830s, as maritime and other related enterprises began to radiate outwards from Sydney Cove, bringing with it residential and commercial facilities. Access to Millers Point was gained through a set of rough-cut steps leading through from the Rocks. Those who chose to live in the area comprised both the successful wharf-owners and employees, labourers and artisans. Ownership of Millers Point land was by haphazard means; while some was documented as granted land, other parcels appeared to have been simply 'occupied' and by the mid 1830s administration, ownership and transfer of land was problematic and from the late 1830s a Commissioner of Claims was responsible for issuing land grants for most of Millers Point.

The village quickly became an integral part in coastal and international trade and shipping, shipbuilding and similar related activities. The incorporation of such commercial and mercantilist elements was both indicative of, and contributory to the public perception and nature of Millers Point, with a roll-on effect throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Growing colonial interest in whaling and maritime enterprises fostered local prosperity during the 1830s and 1840s. From this period Millers Point became irrevocably associated with maritime industries and activities, with merchants, sailors and craftsmen putting a distinctive stamp on the area. The success of such mercantilist ventures and associated industries became evident in both commercial and residential architecture, constructed for merchants such as Robert Towns and Robert Campbell. Sections of Millers Point became regarded as affluent enclaves, with Argyle and Lower Fort Streets known as 'Quality Row.'

The close association with shipping and related patterns of activity and industry was derived from the labourers' need to be at hand upon arrival of vessels. Valuable goods such as wool had to be loaded and unloaded at a rapid rate of turnover, with labourers required to be on call and, as such, in the nearby vicinity to respond to erratic shipping arrivals and departures. An important outcome of this trade activity was the generation of a community that was overwhelmingly mobile, maintaining relatively loose family networks and containing a high transient population. These key characteristics of Millers Point distinguished it from other areas, and its unusual composition was reflected by the high level of rental housing, which in most other suburbs was an indicator of poverty and unskilled workforces. In this instance, however, the rental rates were generated by the need for flexibility and seasonal job availability on the part of workers.

Despite high mobility on the part of the population, Millers Point was able to act as a self-contained village from the 1840s; this characteristic was enhanced by its continuing topographical isolation from the town of Sydney. It was an early multicultural community with sailors and merchants from all parts of the world. Local amenities catered for shopping, work and socialising as well as the provision of churches, schools and other essential services. The Catholic St Brigid's Church and school in Kent Street was completed in 1835, with the foundation stone of the Anglican Holy Trinity, or Garrison Church, laid in 1840 at the corner of Argyle and Lower Fort Streets. The latter became particularly associated with the Dawes Battery military garrison but also served as a base for school and moral education and a forum for community gatherings in accordance with the accepted role of churches in the colony. Other centres equally if not more popular for social gatherings were the host of hotels and licensed premises that catered for a range of clientele. Some, such as the Lord Nelson and the Hero of Waterloo, became local institutions and remained active in the community to the present day. A myriad of hotels, often sporting similar or frequently-changing names, provided local colour and an insight into current affairs and fads but inevitably adding to the confusion. Many of these early hotel buildings are extant, such as the Whalers Arms (former Young Princess), on Lower Fort and Windmill Streets, and such structures stand as testimony to the fact that by the mid-century the Millers Point hotels were an integral part of both the social and economic roles of the area.

The sense of segregation and self-sufficiency began to be eroded through proposals to incorporate Millers Point with the rest of Sydney. Plans to facilitate greater access to the Millers Point area dated from 1832, with the first suggestion of cutting through the 'precipice of considerable height' on Argyle Street. To that point, rough steps had originally been cut into the rock, to allow passage between the Rocks and Millers Point. The Argyle Cut project commenced in 1843 using convict labour initially, and was completed through the resources of the newly formed City Council from about 1845. The sandstone itself was used in the construction of local buildings, as was the case with the Hero of Waterloo Hotel. In spite of this increased accessibility, the unique character of Millers Point was undiminished. Certainly by the mid-point of the nineteenth century a gradual overlaying of cultural features had evolved into a flourishing and distinct community, with various church denominations, a wide range of commercial and social services, and in 1850, the Fort Street Model School was opened, having been the original military hospital constructed in 1815 and renovated to architect Mortimer Lewis' design in 1849. This clearly earmarked Millers Point as a prosperous area, and presaged the modern practice of adapting old buildings in the area to accommodate new uses.

Local prosperity was briefly thrown into a trough following the allure of the Californian gold fields, with employers hard-pressed to find enough experienced workers at the right price. This trend, however, was abruptly reversed within a short space of time. Indeed, the pace of the Millers Point community accelerated rapidly in the 1850s to accommodate the frenzy generated by the discovery of gold at Bathurst and the consequent flood of immigrants into New South Wales. This coincided with an increase in large-scale exports, particularly wool, to diverse international markets. By the 1860s the earlier mix of worker and merchant/gentry housing began to be overtaken by commercial needs and by the creation of new residential streetscapes such as Argyle Place and Kent Street, with a distinct change in the size of residential buildings and an increasing use of materials such as slate. The mercantilist face of Millers Point also changed, with the construction and extension of larger jetties and warehouses for imported goods as well as staples such as wool, coal and flour. Gradually this period of upgrading saw the small scale industries and structures superseded by the encroaching larger-scale warehouses, responding to the demand created by larger vessels. A corresponding shift in the population showed that the artisans and merchant gentry were moving elsewhere, and that Millers Point was overwhelmingly oriented towards booming export industries, with a workforce and resident population of unskilled and semi-skilled labourers catering for specific tasks.

Argyle Place, a primitive version of a London Square, was commenced by Govenor Macquarie but not fully formed until after quarrying of the adjacent rock face had ceased in about 1865. This row of terraces appears much as it did in the mid C19th.

Despite the proximity of Miller's Point to The Rocks and the initial settlement of Sydney, the Points inaccessibility meant it was not settled until 1810s. Industry began in the 1820s with windmills on the high ground and then extended into commercial maritime facilities, which took advantage of the deep foreshore. From the 1830s onwards the commercial activities lead to the development of residences for middle-class merchants and professionals (Davies 2004:11-12).

The first church in Miller's Point was St Philip Anglican Church, established in 1797 and completed in 1810, before the large-scale commercial development of the area. The maritime activities bought an influx of parishioners that the church could not physically contain. A solution was the establishment of the parish of Holy Trinity. An initial community meeting was held on 23 December 1839 and a resolution passed to petition Governor Sir George Gibbs for the establishment of the parish. This was granted in January 1840 and Henry Ginn was immediately engaged to draw up plans for the new church.

The foundation stone was laid on 23 June 1840 by Bishop Broughton, but building continued slowly due to the depression of the 1840s. In 1844 Broughton gave Rev. John Couch Grylls a licence to conduct services in the partially completed building. It was hoped the arrangement would be short-lived and the Church could be consecrated, however this did not occur until 2000. Grylls died in 1854 and the parishioners began looking at completing the building works to the Church. A building committee was established in 1855 and engaged Edmund Blacket to prepare plans, which included a tower and spire. Blacket's plans were adopted on a reduced scale, but work was not completed until 1878.

The demographic of the area, containing mainly middle-class merchants and professionals, made Holy Trinity a wealthy parish and on the completion of the building works, the parish remained stable until 1890s. The depression of the 1890s together with the rise of territorial gangs in the area and the bubonic plague had a negative impact on the parish and it went into decline. By the 1930s the Government resumptions, World War I and the Great Depression had changed the demographic to a poorer, working-class neighbourhood with fewer Anglicans. There was no resident minister, but the Church continued with services, Sunday School and a Mothers' Union. In 1938 the Church decided not to continue with the dream of completing the tower and spire, instead turning the fund over to fixing the church and hall. During World War II the hall was used as a Church of England National Emergency Fund hostel for servicemen, a function that continued into the 1950s.

The first history of the Church was written in 1940 to commemorate the centenary of laying the foundation stone. Rev. Archibald W. Morton wrote the history and included a list of English regiments 'who worshiped here during the period the Church was used by the Garrison Forces' (Davies 2004:15). This was the first link between the Church and the Garrison and as a result, in 1952, the military insignia of the forces were dedicated in the nave and the Church renamed Holy Trinity Garrison Church. Holy Trinity, however, was not a place of worship for the Garrison - St Philip had been before the construction of Victoria Barracks. The Church did continue to minister to the troops at the Dawes Battery and other military associations included regular attendance by a squad from the Naval Volunteer Artillery at morning services. During the early 20th century Charles Rosenthal, a member of the parish, was a part-time commissioned officer serving with the Australian Garrison Artillery and seems to have established a connection between the two. The erection of a drill hall for the 30th Battalion, NSW Scottish Regiment in 1916 on Lower Fort Street led to an association with the Royal NSW Regiment.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
6. Educating-Educating Education-Activities associated with teaching and learning by children and adults, formally and informally. Private (religious) schooling-
7. Governing-Governing Defence-Activities associated with defending places from hostile takeover and occupation Involvement with the Second World War-
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 Gothic 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. Designing making and showing stained and coloured glass-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Religion-Activities associated with particular systems of faith and worship Practising Anglicanism-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Lyon, Wells and Cottier, stained glass makers and interior designs-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Bishop William Grant Broughton, Anglican bishop of Australia-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Garrison Anglican Chruch is of State significance in demonstrating a significant historical process. The construction of the church was initiated in 1840 shortly after the passing of the Church Act of 1836. the Act provided State aid to the major church denominations for the construction of new churches, employment of ministers, etc, as such placed for the first time in the history of New South Wales each of the religions on an equal footing. The church and adjoining school hall were built through funds secured by the Anglican church under the provisions of the Act (Davies 2004:92).
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
Garrison Anglican Church is of State significance for its associations with William Grant Broughton, Bishop of Australia. Broughton supported the establishment of the parish.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The Garrison Church is of State significance as an early example of the archaeologically correct Gothic Revival style in NSW.

The eastern stained glass window is of State significance as one of the earliest instances of stained glass in NSW (Davies 2004:93). This early window is complimented by a set of Lyon and Cottier windows from the second half of the 19th century.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The Garrison Church is of State significance as a place of commemoration of the nation's military past. This is borne out by the continuing tradition of placing memorials in the Church and the use of the hall for exhibits.

The Garrison Church is of local significance as a place of worship since the 1840s.
SHR Criteria f)
The Garrison church is of State significant rarity as one of five extant churches built after the passing of the Church Act of 1836 with money provided by the Government.

The Garrison parish hall is of State significance as a rare, possibly unique, extant example of a parochial school erected in the 1840s.

The Church and hall are of State significance as the only known ecclesiastical and educational work of architect Henry Ginn. It is one of only three examples of Ginn's work extant in NSW.

The stained class east window is of State significance as one of the earliest uses of stained glass in NSW (1861). Other elements of the church fittings are rare, for example the raised pulpit.
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.

Recommended management:


Management CategoryDescriptionDate Updated
Recommended ManagementReview a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) 
Recommended ManagementPrepare a maintenance schedule or guidelines 
Recommended ManagementCarry out interpretation, promotion and/or education 

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
21(1)(b)Conservation Plan submitted for endorsementHoly Trinity (Garrison) Church, Millers Point, CMP, prepared by Paul Davies Pty Ltd for the wardens of the church, dated August 2004 CMP submitted for consideration by Heritage Council 23 November 2004.  
57(2)Exemption to allow workHeritage Act See File For Schedule

Order Under Section 57(2) to exempt the following activities from Section 57(1):
(1) The maintenance of any building or item on the site where maintenance means the continuous protective care of existing material; and
(2) Garden maintenance including cultivation, pruning, weed control, the repair and maintenance of existing fences, gates and garden walls and tree surgery but not extensive lopping.
Sep 1 1989
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 0064402 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - Permanent Conservation Order - former 0064401 Sep 89 926481

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Tourism 2007Garrison Anglican Church Precinct View detail
TourismAttraction Homepage2007Garrison Anglican Church Precinct View detail
TourismCity of Sydney2007Colony Walking Tour View detail
WrittenPaul Davies Pty Ltd2004Holy Trinity (Garrison) Anglican Church, Millers Point - a conservation management plan

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: 5045505
File number: S90/03347 & HC 89/0766

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