Bourke Street Congregational Church & School (Former) | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

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Bourke Street Congregational Church & School (Former)

Item details

Name of item: Bourke Street Congregational Church & School (Former)
Other name/s: Former St Sophia & Her Three Daughters Congregational Church
Type of item: Complex / Group
Group/Collection: Religion
Category: Church
Location: Lat: -33.8819211067 Long: 151.2162196990
Primary address: 411A Bourke Street, Surry Hills, 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 DP770316
LOT2 DP770316
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
411A Bourke StreetSurry HillsSydneyAlexandriaCumberlandPrimary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Greek Orthodox ArchdiocesePrivate30 Mar 99


Designer/Maker: Church: William Bowles
Builder/Maker: Hall: Joseph Slade & John Fowler.
Construction years: 1878-1880
Physical description: The site contains two buildings of significance: the Greek Orthodox Church fronting onto Bourke street and the adjacent School House fronting onto Little Bourke Street.

Victorian Gothic style Church with ashlar render faade constructed between 1878-1880. It consists of a central portion with a high lancet and rose window flanked by two pedimented sections. It has an very intact interior. Decorative cast iron columns support a sloping gallery which surrounds the body of the building on 3 sides. There are ornamental column capitals and iron railings to the gallery. The walls and ceiling are plaster and feature decorative plaster bosses adjoining window openings. The church also features a barrel vaulted ceiling, intact timber pews, a carved pulpit, and a large arched recess with elaborate paint and stencil ornamentation (National Trust of Australia (NSW), 1983).

School Hall:
This 2 storey Victorian Georgian style school hall is located on the western side of the site fronting little Bourke Street and dates from 1862-1863. It features simple fenestration with a central date plaque. The lower storey consists of a schoolroom with a boarded ceiling and cast iron ceiling roses and structural cast iron columns supporting the upper floor. The upper storey contains a large hall with a lofty gabled roof framed with a slender timber and iron trusses. In the south-end, a timber partition forms a small library which contains built-in cabinets (National Trust of Australia (NSW), 1983).
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The Church façade has been restored and rendered (LEP, 2012).
Date condition updated:31 Aug 20
Modifications and dates: The Church façade has been restored and rendered (LEP, 2012).
Further information: Pipe organ now located at Dural Uniting Church, School Road, Galston: see separate entry.
Current use: Church
Former use: Aboriginal land, farm estate, town lot, Church and School


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 (Heiss, see below).

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 (Source: Anita Heiss, "Aboriginal People and Place", Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City

Surry Hills:
Governor Phillip established the boundary of the Sydney Cove settlement in 1792 when he drew a line from the head of Cockle Bay to the head of Woolloomooloo Bay. East of that line was reserved for the town and west of the line, which included present-day Surry Hills was considered suitable for farming and was granted to military officers and free settlers.

The first land grants in the Surry Hills area were made in the 1790s. Captain Joseph Foveaux received 105 acres and Commissary John Palmer received 70 acrres in April and another adjoining 20 acres soon after. He called the property George Farm and in 1800 Palmer also bought Faveaux's farm. Palmer supported Governor Bligh during the Rum Rebellion and returned to England to give evidence. On his return, his reduced financial circumstances forced the sale of his land. The sale of Palmer's estate in 1814 was the first subdivision in Surry Hills.

Site history:
The site was originally part of a land grant of 70 acres to John Palmer dating from April 1st 1794, which was then named 'George Farm' . Later it became part of the Riley Estate (Block A8) (Kass, 1984).

The church replaced a former cast iron or tin church that occupied the site. It was called the 'Independent Church' in 1858/9, then later called a Congregational Church, and rebuilt (LEP, 2012).

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Ethnic influences-Activities associated with common cultural traditions and peoples of shared descent, and with exchanges between such traditions and peoples. Greek migrants-
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
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
6. Educating-Educating Education-Activities associated with teaching and learning by children and adults, formally and informally. Private education-
6. Educating-Educating Education-Activities associated with teaching and learning by children and adults, formally and informally. Private (religious) schooling-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Religion-Activities associated with particular systems of faith and worship Religious worship-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Religion-Activities associated with particular systems of faith and worship Practising Methodism-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Religion-Activities associated with particular systems of faith and worship Church-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Religion-Activities associated with particular systems of faith and worship Practising Congregationalism-

Recommended management:

The building should be retained and conserved. A Heritage Assessment and Heritage Impact Statement, or a Conservation Management Plan, should be prepared for the building prior to any major works being undertaken. There shall be no vertical additions to the building and no alterations to the faade of the building other than to reinstate original features. The principal room layout and planning configuration as well as significant internal original features including ceilings, cornices, joinery, flooring and fireplaces should be retained and conserved. Any additions and alterations should be confined to the rear in areas of less significance, should not be visibly prominent and shall be in accordance with the relevant planning controls (LEP, 2012).


Management CategoryDescriptionDate Updated
Recommended ManagementProduce 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
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 0038202 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - Permanent Conservation Order - former 0038212 Jul 85 1033473
Local Environmental PlanFormer St Sophia & Her Three Daughters CongregatioI144314 Dec 12   

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
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.

(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: 5045577
File number: S90/04505 & HC 32985

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