Sydney Supreme Court House (Old Court House) | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

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Sydney Supreme Court House (Old Court House)

Item details

Name of item: Sydney Supreme Court House (Old Court House)
Other name/s: Old Court House
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Law Enforcement
Category: Courthouse
Location: Lat: -33.8697692041 Long: 151.2106299230
Primary address: King Street, Sydney, NSW 2000
Local govt. area: Sydney
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Metropolitan

Boundary:

VG No.65700 area 36sqm*64.66sqm (non rateable, no parcel details)
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
King StreetSydneySydney  Primary Address
Elizabeth StreetSydneySydney  Alternate Address

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Department of Justice and Attorney GeneralState Government 

Statement of significance:

The Old Supreme Court building located at the corner of Elizabeth and King Streets has historic significance as one of the three remaining Greenway designed buildings in the immediate area, the others are the Hyde Park Barracks and St James Church. The building has aesthetic significance as a design of Australia's first trained architect, Francis Greenway, and as a fine rare and largely intact, if modified, example of the Old Colonial Georgian style as used in a judicial building. The building as historic and social significance as part of the early colonial legal system and as part of Macquarie's vision for Sydney. The site is significant as the location chosen for Macquarie's first Georgian public School which was apparently modified during construction to accommodate the Supreme Court. Representative of the style as used in a courthouse building and representative of the importance given to judicial buildings in the early days of the colony. (Peddle Thorp and Walker Pty Ltd, 1998)

There are substantial later additions by James Barnet. It is prominently sited and forms a major part of the Court group in Queens square and part of the earliest civic group with the Hyde Park Barracks and St James' Church.
Date significance updated: 30 Jun 11
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: F Greenway, J Barnet
Construction years: 1820-1828
Physical description: The Old Supreme Court building is a two storey rectangular building which consists of the original Georgian building with an additional loggia and cornice added in 1868 which gives the building a Victorian Italianate appearance evident in the arched colonnade and raised parapet concealing the roof. Original Greenway elements include windows, fine detail, recessed wall panels, arches, cedar joinery, staircase & cupola. This building along with the Old Registry and Banco Rd Court from the Supreme Court Group.
Other accommodation include Sheriffs office, Legal rooms, Judges chambers, Library/Conference rooms, Chief executive offices, Toilets.
The Old Supreme Court is construced in face sandstock brick with rendered moulded details and slate roofing.
Exterior: Brick, Render, Slate
Interior: Cedar joinery
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Good condition
Modifications and dates: Major additions designed by Barnet include the loggia, later timber additions
Current use: Courthouse(s)
Former use: Aboriginal land, town lot

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 ).

Old Supreme Court House:
The original Old Supreme Court House was designed by the colonial Architect Francis Greenway under Governor Macquarie. Designed in 1819 and building began in 1820, Greenway was dismissed before the building was completed in 1828. The building was occupied by the Supreme Court in 1827. Additions were designed by James Barnet in the 1860s. This building forms part of the centre axial group designed by Greenway with the Hyde Park Barracks and St James Church.
Historical Period: 1801 - 1826, 1851 - 1875

James Johnstone Barnet (1827-1904) was made acting Colonial Architect in 1862 and appointed Colonial Architect from 1865-90. He was born in Scotland and studied in London under Charles Richardson, RIBA and William Dyce, Professor of Fine Arts at King's College, London. He was strongly influenced by Charles Robert Cockerell, leading classical theorist at the time and by the fine arts, particularly works of painters Claude Lorrain and JRM Turner. He arrived in Sydney in 1854 and worked as a self-employed builder. He served as Edmund Blacket's clerk of works on the foundations of the Randwick (Destitute Childrens') Asylum. Blacket then appointed Barnet as clerk-of-works on the Great Hall at Sydney University. By 1859 he was appointed second clerk of works at the Colonial Architect's Office and in 1861 was Acting Colonial Architect. Thus began a long career. He dominated public architecture in NSW, as the longest-serving Colonial Architect in Australian history. Until he resigned in 1890 his office undertook some 12,000 works, Barnet himself designing almost 1000. They included those edifices so vital to promoting communication, the law and safe sea arrivals in colonial Australia. Altogether there were 169 post and telegraph offices, 130 courthouses, 155 police buildings, 110 lockups and 20 lighthouses, including the present Macquarie Lighthouse on South Head, which replaced the earlier one designed by Francis Greenway. Barnet's vision for Sydney is most clearly seen in the Customs House at Circular Quay, the General Post Office in Martin Place and the Lands Department and Colonial Secretary's Office in Bridge Street. There he applied the classicism he had absorbed in London, with a theatricality which came from his knowledge of art (Le Sueur, 2016, 6).

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. Gardens-
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-
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Convict-Activities relating to incarceration, transport, reform, accommodation and working during the convict period in NSW (1788-1850) - does not include activities associated with the conviction of persons in NSW that are unrelated to the imperial 'convict system': use the theme of Law & Order for such activities Convict labour-
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Convict-Activities relating to incarceration, transport, reform, accommodation and working during the convict period in NSW (1788-1850) - does not include activities associated with the conviction of persons in NSW that are unrelated to the imperial 'convict system': use the theme of Law & Order for such activities Demonstrating convicts' experiences and activities-
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 institutions - productive and ornamental-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Events-Activities and processes that mark the consequences of natural and cultural occurences Developing local landmarks-
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 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. Victorian era offices-
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 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 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 Demonstrating Governor Macquarie's town and landscape planning-
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 Townships-
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 Developing government towns-
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 Suburban Consolidation-
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 Planning relationships between key structures and town plans-
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 Beautifying towns and villages-
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-
7. Governing-Governing Law and order-Activities associated with maintaining, promoting and implementing criminal and civil law and legal processes Prison colony-
7. Governing-Governing Law and order-Activities associated with maintaining, promoting and implementing criminal and civil law and legal processes Administration of justice-
7. Governing-Governing Law and order-Activities associated with maintaining, promoting and implementing criminal and civil law and legal processes court house-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Governor (later Maj-Gen.) Lachlan Macquarie, 1810-1821-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Aaron Muron Bolot, architect-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Francis Greenway, emancipist architect-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with James Barnet, Colonial (Government) Architect 1862-90-

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
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 0080002 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register 1610H   
Register of the National Estate  21 Mar 78   

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenLe Sueur, Angela2016Government Architects - part 2
WrittenMusecape NSW Supreme Court Interpretation Plan
WrittenPeddle Thorp & Walker Pty Ltd1998King Street Courts Complex Sydney - Outline Conservation Plan
WrittenPTW Architects2009King Street Courts stage 7. Conservation and upgrading of mezzanine floor chambers of St James Road wing : a photographic record of existing conditions and spaces

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: 5045639
File number: S95/00338/1


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