Former Standard Telephones & Cables industrial building including interiors | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Former Standard Telephones & Cables industrial building including interiors

Item details

Name of item: Former Standard Telephones & Cables industrial building including interiors
Other name/s: STC, Alcatel Australia Ltd
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Manufacturing and Processing
Category: Factory/ Plant
Primary address: 1-3 Mandible Street, Alexandria, NSW 2015
Local govt. area: Sydney


As described in Sydney Local Environmental Plan
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
1-3 Mandible StreetAlexandriaSydney  Primary Address

Statement of significance:

Built in 1945 for communications manufacturers, Standard Telephone & Cables, this building represents the industrial development of Alexandria during the mid-twentieth century. It is historically significant for its connection to Australian manufacturing of radios, cables, and telephones. As the place where these products were made for Standard Telephone & Cables, this building provides evidence of major technological advancements in communications and the high demand for these products during the twentieth century.

The building represents the only remaining intact building erected for Standard Telephones & Cables Pty Ltd at Alexandria. Standard Telephones & Cables was a well-known technology company which provided communications equipment for World War II and became the backbone of Australia’s communications during peace-time. The building at 1-3 Mandible Street demonstrates the later expansion of this company likely as a result of the high demands of World War II.

Architecturally, the building represents a late example of an inter-war functionalist industrial building. It exhibits typical features of this architectural style including its simple geometric massing, polychromatic face brickwork, parapet wall, horizontally-proportioned multi-paned steel windows, chamfered corner, and continuous lintels, brickwork of the spandrel, piers and string courses expressing the horizontality of facades. The prominent corner site and robust building form give the building landmark qualities in the local neighbourhood, where it marks the junction of Wyndham and Mandible streets. The building makes an important contribution to the streetscapes of Wyndham and Mandible streets, and is visible from a number of near and distant vantage points. The tapered skylight roof form is relatively rare for the Sydney local government area.

As one of southern Sydney’s major employers of the time, which invested in the welfare and working conditions of its employees, the building is likely to have social significance to the former employees of Standard Telephones and Cables.

The site may also hold significance to the Australian community and former Australian military personnel for its connection to the radios, telephones and other communications technology manufactured at this site, which were found in many Australian households during the twentieth century and were used by the Australian Army, Navy and Air Force and the United States force in the Pacific during World War II. These devices represented major technological advancements of their time for Australian households and the war effort, as well as major social change through improved long-distance communications.

The former Standard Telephone & Cables building forms part of one of the largest known collections of industrial and warehouse buildings of its kind in Australia, which records City of Sydney’s past as one of only two historic industrial heartlands in Australia. This collection of buildings provides evidence of Australia’s twentieth century transformation through industrialisation when Sydney became one of the largest industrialised cities in the South Pacific.

The building is of local heritage significance in terms of its historical, associations, social, and representative value.
Date significance updated: 21 Jan 16
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: Likely to have been designed by Robertson & Marks
Construction years: 1945-1945
Physical description: The building was constructed in 1945 for Standard Telephones and Cables on the prominent corner site at the junction of Mandible and Wyndham Streets, along the south bank of the Shea's Creek stormwater channel. The building is two-storeys in height, constructed of face brick, with no setback from the two street frontages. The building is contained under seven joined sawtooth roofs of an unsual tapered form with south-facing lanterns. The sawtooth roofs are partly concealed by high parapet walls along all elevations.

The building represents a late example of an industrial building designed in the inter-war functionalist architectural style. It exhibits typical features of this architectural style including its simple geometric massing, polychromatic face brickwork, parapet wall, horizontally-proportioned multi-paned steel framed windows, chamfered corner, and continuous lintels, brickwork of the spandrel, piers and string courses expressing the horizontality of facades.

The main access is located on the chamferred corner, featuring a pair of decorative metal doors, polychromatic brick surrounds A stair tower is located along the northern side elevation, contained under a gabled roof. A small wing is located along the western elevation, setback from Mandible Street.

Internally, the roof, foundations and floor structures have not been inspected by the authors.

Category: Individual building. Style: Inter-war functionalist. Storeys: Two. Facade: Face brick. Windows: Rectangular steel framed. Roof: Saw-tooth with tapered skylights.
Further information: Heritage inventory sheets are often not comprehensive, and should be regarded as a general guide only. Inventory sheets are based on information available, and often do not include the social history of sites and buildings. Inventory sheets are constantly updated by the City as further information becomes available. An inventory sheet with little information may simply indicate that there has been no building work done to the item recently: it does not mean that items are not significant. Further research is always recommended as part of preparation of development proposals for heritage items, and is necessary in preparation of Heritage Impact Assessments and Conservation Management Plans, so that the significance of heritage items can be fully assessed prior to submitting development applications.
Current use: Commercial
Former use: Industrial / commercial


Historical notes: Early development of the locality:

This site forms part of the land of the Gadigal people, the traditional custodians of land within the City of Sydney council boundaries. For information about the Aboriginal history of the local area see the City’s Barani website:

The suburb of Alexandria was once part of a vast sand dune system covered by heath, low scrub, creeks and freshwater wetlands that dominated the landscape of the southern suburbs of Sydney. It provided a habitat for a range of fauna such as birds, fish and eels, and was a good food source for the Gadigal, the local Aboriginal people.

The land that today incorporates the areas of Alexandria, Waterloo, Zetland and Rosebery was originally one large estate. Originally granted to former convict and public servant William Hutchinson in 1823, the estate, its buildings and water mill, were then sold to Daniel Cooper and Solomon Levy in 1825 before Cooper became its sole owner in 1833.

For a large part of the nineteenth century, the area was semi-rural low-lying land with swamps. The principal activities were market gardening, dairying and wool-washing. A number of dams were built in this area, including the Little Waterloo Dam, the Big Waterloo Dam and the Upper Dam, as shown on 1885-1890 Higinbotham and Robinson maps of Alexandria and Waterloo.

Waterloo Council was formed in 1860. The municipality of Alexandria was separated from Waterloo and became the Borough of Alexandria in 1868. The area was connected to the city through a network of trams extending along Botany Road and Elizabeth Street.

The land of the Cooper Estate was progressively subdivided into small acreages and sold for residential purposes in 1872 and 1884 with the final sale taking place in 1914. The release of the Cooper Estate opened up large tracts of land for industrial uses at a time when surrounding areas had become more densely populated. This resulted in the relocation of many industrial establishments from Redfern and Surry Hills to the Alexandria and Waterloo area.

This intensive period of industrial development increased land value in the area and forced out all but a few of the remaining market gardeners. Fellmongering, tanning and wool-washing industries were typical of Alexandria. The wetlands of the area offered ideal features for these industries which needed to be located close to a plentiful water supply.

By 1943 an Alexandria Council celebratory publication claimed that Alexandria was the largest industrial municipality in Australia, proudly proclaiming that ‘an area of 1,024 acres has been crowded not less than 550 factories’ (Alexandria Municipal Council 1943, p78). Secondary industries declined in the area from the 1970s as industry expanded to the outer suburbs.

Industrial history:

As one of only two major centres for historic Australian industry during the period when industry was centred in cities, City of Sydney’s industrial development is part of the national history of industrialisation. Australia’s industrialisation formed part of the ‘second industrial revolution’ which began during the mid-nineteenth century. This second revolution was driven by major technological innovations including the invention of the internal combustion engine and the assembly line, development of electricity, the construction of canals, railways and electric-power lines.

Sydney's twentieth century industrial development records when and how Sydney became one of the largest industrialised cities in the South Pacific and the diversification of Australia's economy beyond primary industry. Together with Melbourne, Sydney’s twentieth century industrial boom expanded Australia’s economy from the ‘sheep’s back’ to the ‘industry stack’ or from primary production to manufacturing. By 1947 more Australians were working in city industries than in farms or mines.

Sydney’s industrial development not only impacted on the national economy. Twentieth-century industry in Sydney also played a major role in developing Australia’s self-sufficiency, growth, urbanisation, society and its contribution to the war effort for World War II. Sydney’s industrial development has affected the lives of many Australians directly and indirectly, whether through the number of workers employed, goods and technology produced, the prosperity it engendered, or the social change and urban environments it generated.

Site history:

This building was constructed by Standard Telephones and Cables Pty Ltd (STC) in 1945 as part of the World War II period of expansion when its major factory complex site on Botany Road, on the opposite side of Wyndham Street, reached capacity.

Standard Telephones & Cables Pty Ltd was a well-known communications technology company that provided communication equipment during war-time and subsequently became the backbone of Australia’s communications during peace-time.

The company was established in Australia in the 1920s as an independent subsidiary of the British Standard Cables and Telephones to manufacture radio receivers, transmitters and telephone equipment. The Australian subsidiary of this company was established by engineer Sandy McPhee who set up a new factory in Chippendale in the early 1920s. Radios from 1923 to 1926 were imported from Britain under the brand "Western Electric". From 1926 the company brand became known as "STC". Radio transmission equipment was sold to 2FC and 2BL in Sydney and 2CY in Canberra, amongst other regional and interstate radio stations.

The business later expanded to manufacture valves (tubes) and military equipment. The Standard Telephones & Cables contributed to the World War II effort through the production of radio and communication apparatus. As well as manufacturing communications equipment for the Australian Army, Navy and Air Force in World War II, the company supplied communications equipment to the United States forces in the Pacific under the Lend-Lease agreement (STC, 50 years, 1895-1945).

The company had outgrown its earlier site in Chippendale by the 1930s. By 1936 the business commissioned a new factory at Botany Road, designed by the prominent architects Robertson & Marks. This merged its Redfern and Chippendale factories together with the administration staff at the city office in a single location on a site dedicated to manufacturing telecommunications equipment and systems. Originally the factory extended over a large complex of 30,000 square feet (STC, 50 years, 1895-1945, p 9). By 1939, the factory floor had grown to 75,000 square feet. During the 1940s, the company continued enlarging. By 1943 it occupied a site of approximately 200,000 square feet.

The subject corner building at 1-3 Mandible is likely to have been designed by the prominent architectural firm, Robertson & Marks, due to design similarities with the rest of the industrial complex. The land for this building was purchased by Standard Telephones and Cables Pty Ltd on 26 September 1944 on the site located directly opposite the company’s main works on Botany Road (Old System Deed, No 261 Bk 1951). Records show that a brick factory was under construction in 1945 when this land was valued on 23 March 1945 (Valuer-General, Valuation Lists, Alexandria, SRNSW 19/8587, No 307).

STC was a major employer of the area, employing over 2,000 people. In 1943, the company's payroll is estimated to have reached over half a million pounds, indicating the scale of its workforce. They were also noted to have exceptional working conditions, with no expenses being spared for good working conditions and natural light.

In 1941, the size of the workforce, its mostly female demographic and the company patriotism during World War II was demonstrated in photos of the ceremony when STC workers, all in STC uniform, donated an ambulance to the war effort.

The buildings of Standard Telephones & Cables were designed with optimal natural lighting and highly efficient artificial lighting. They were recognised in the trade as one of the most outstanding examples of modern artificial lighting in Sydney.

The company history published in approximately 1945 included a retouched photo of these offices. The offices were then shown as a two-storey brick building with sawtooth roofs containing south-facing windows (STC, 50 years, 1895-1945, p 34-5).

By the end of the war, there was no further room to expand the factory at Botany Road. STC therefore expanded to land it purchased at Villawood (STC, 50 years, 1895-1945, p 9).

On 24 March 1950, Standard Telephones and Cables Pty Ltd applied to convert the Old System Title to Torrens Title (RPA 37355). The land remained in the ownership of Standard Telephones and Cables Pty Ltd until approximately 1970 (CT 6415 f 42).

In 1987 the company was purchased by Alcatel Australia Limited.

Recommended management:

The building should be retained and conserved. A Heritage Assessment and Heritage Impact Statement should be prepared for the building prior to any major works being undertaken. All conservation, adaptive reuse and future development should be undertaken in accordance with the Australia ICOMOS Charter for Places of Cultural Significance (The Burra Charter). Archival photographic recording, in accordance with Heritage Council guidelines, should be undertaken before major changes. Do not paint or render face brick finishes. Face brickwork, lintels and string courses, saw-tooth roofs, parapet wall, multi-paned steel-framed windows, chamfered corner, early signage, metal entrance doors, polychromatic brickwork surrounds to the main entrance and other original building features should be maintained and conserved. Consider new uses for the building that will re-use and expose its industrial features to retain the building's former industrial character as an integral part of the new use. Alterations for a new use, including changes for compliance with Australian building standards, should allow the essential form of the building to remain readily identifiable.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanSydney Local Environmental Plan 2012I223522 Jan 16   
Heritage studyCity of Sydney Industrial and Warehouse Buildings 01 Oct 14   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
City of Sydney Industrial and Warehouse Buildings2014 City Plan HeritageCity Plan Heritage and JCIS Consultants Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written 1907The Cyclopaedia of New South Wales, p416-417
WrittenAlexandria Municipal Council1943Alexandria, "the Birmingham of Australia" 75 years of progress, 1868-1943
GraphicCity of Sydney1949Aerial Survey of the City of Sydney
MapCity of Sydney/ City Building Surveyors Department1956City Building Surveyors Detail Sheets
WrittenDr Terry Kass2014Industrial and warehouse buildings research - site history
WrittenFrances Pollon1996The book of Sydney suburbs
WrittenHiginbotham & Robinson1890Alexandria / Waterloo, Sydney
WrittenLand Titles Office1825Book A No.49, 25 January 1825
PhotographRTA1943Aerial Photographs of Sydney May-June 1943 View detail
WrittenScott Cumming2004Chimneys and Change: Post European Environmental Impact in Green Square’, in G Karskens and M Rogowsky (eds.), Histories of Green Square, p.36-37
WrittenStandard Telephones and Cables Pty Ltd1945Standard Telephones and Cables Pty Ltd, 50 years, 1895-1945: being the establishment and development in Australia and New Zealand of Standard Telephones and Cables Pty Ltd

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: Local Government
Database number: 5062416

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