Royal Naval House | NSW Environment & Heritage

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Heritage

Royal Naval House

Item details

Name of item: Royal Naval House
Other name/s: currently Futures Exchange
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Defence
Category: Defence Base Naval
Location: Lat: -33.8631832426 Long: 151.2068603360
Primary address: 32-34 Grosvenor Street, The Rocks, 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
PART LOT1 DP771884
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
32-34 Grosvenor StreetThe RocksSydneySt PhilipCumberlandPrimary Address

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Sydney Harbour Foreshore AuthorityState Government 

Statement of significance:

Royal Naval House and site are of State heritage significance for their historical and scientific cultural values. The site and building are also of State heritage significance for their contribution to The Rocks area which is of State Heritage significance in its own right.

Royal Naval House has associations with William Davis, who once owned the land. Commodore Goodenough the Commander of the Royal Navy's Australian Station in the late 19th Century and John Shearston who were insturmental in establishing practical welfare for sailors when ashore. Shearston was the first superintendant of Royal Naval House and it was nicknamed 'Johnnies' by sailors after him. Royal Naval House has social signficance for thousands of Australian and British seamen who have lodged there in its more than 80 years of existance.

As a group, the buildings (Federation Hall, Royal Naval House, Johnson's Building, 231 George Street & Brooklyn Hotel) have considerable significance. All facades contribute to the overall richness of the group, with Royal Naval House the focal point and the Johnson's Building leading nicely around the corner to a 'coda' of two small but heavily textured facades which seem to be a logical end to the whole. The trees, which are deciduous, give an added quality to the richness of the facades and have considerable significance. The facades as a group have important landmark qualities with their location on the north-west corner of a major intersection, providing an entry point to The Rocks.

Royal Naval House: The original façade is a well-designed, rich and vigorous piece of architecture of the period, and the 1907 extension is well integrated with the original. A stucco facade of this richness is fairly rare in Sydney. The Stair Hall is distinguished more for its scale and boldness than its elegance, but nevertheless, it is well done and appropriate to the rest of the building. The other interior spaces are designed either as reading rooms or dormitories. As such, they are large open spaces with simple detailing, and therein is their virtue. The Courtyard in the original form is a unique, appealing and intriguing space. It is almost as though Varney Parkes had designed a four-storey building with a verandah on the back, accessed by French doors, and then had been told to add a Dining Hall etc. on an awkward site. The solution admits lots of sunlight to the main building (considering the height) and soaks up the odd shape on the North-West corner.
(SCRA 1982: 99-100, 103-104)

High Significance Fabric: The Grosvenor Street facade and a considerable part of the return along Milson Lane, at least as far as the south wall of the Courtyard. The interior spaces of the 1890 building (stair hall, full height). Courtyard including surrounding walls and verandahs. The roofscape. Medium Significance Fabric: Other rooms off Stair Hall on ground, first and second floors. Low Significance Fabric: Managers Quarters.
Date significance updated: 31 Mar 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: Varney Parkes/G.W. Landers
Construction years: 1890-1907
Physical description: Style: Federation Free Classical; Storeys: Lower ground floor, three floors, plus attic
Modifications and dates: 1939; 1945; 1952-1970
Royal Naval House was built in 1889/90, designed by architect Varney Parkes, and added to by the Government Architect W L Vernon in 1907. Other interior modifications were carried out over the years, mainly post-1939.
In 1987 -88 the reconstruction and renovation of this building and Federation Hall was undertaken for the Sydney Futures Exchange, involving the reinstatement of the original verandah and courtyard in a new location within the building and the restoration of the street facades.
(SCRA 1987 Annual Report: 22)
Current use: Commercial Building
Former use: Royal Australian Navy - accommodation and amenities for naval personnel

History

Historical notes: The land that Royal Naval house stands on was once part of the western limit of the first Parade Ground of the Colony. The Street was originally called Charlotte Place, named after Charlotte Sophia the wife of King George III. In 1897 the name of the street was changed to Grosvenor, the renaming was very unpopular at the time.

Earliest claimants to the site were William Davis and children of the late Robert and Anne Howe, grandchildren to George Howe - Government Printer and founder of Sydney's first newspaper, the Sydney Gazette. Fowles streetscapes from "Sydney in 1848" show substaintial two storey houses along the site, these remained essentially unaltered until their demolition for Royal Naval House in 1889 and the other in 1907 for the later wing. By 1845 the Howe portion of the site was owned by Flower, Salting & Co and by 1849 by John Cleeve. Cleeve also owned the adjacent eastern block and remained in possession until c1887. The 1890 section of Royal Naval House occupies the section of the site originally owned by William Davis, who was instrumental in helping the Catholic Church establish itself in NSW.

John Samuel Shearston (1853-1916) was instrumental in the establishment of the Church of England Mission to Seamen in 1881, and his home a 3 Princes St, Dawes Point was its headquarters. In 1885 he moved to larger premises at 9 Princes Street, renamed Trafalgar House, where they were also able to offer some residential accommodation. At the end of 1886, at its Committee's request, he agreed to also act as Superintendent of Goodenough Royal Naval House at 39 Princes Street, which he ran in conjunction with Trafalgar House. Despite this both places could not cope with the demand for accomodation and a public suscription was taken up to construct Royal Naval House in Grosvenor Street. Lord Carrington officially opened Royal Naval House in 1890. the land cost 9000pounds, the building 14000, which was later extended, and the furnishings 1200pounds.

Shearston resigned as Missioner to become Superintendent of Royal Naval House in September 1890. Mrs Shearston acted as housekeeper. The men, grateful for their warm welcome, soon referred to the premises as 'Johnny's', the name used by seamen until it closed in 1970. It was popular immediately and a newspaper report from the Sydney Mail, 21 August 1897 reported that in the last financial year the building had accomodated 25,789 men and in the seven years it had been opened 164,502 men had lodged there. Besides sleeping accomodation the building in 1897 also housed reading rooms dining rooms, billiard rooms and a gymnasium. By the end of the 19th Century it was obvious that the building was too small.

In 1904 the Government bought the adjacent site for the Trustees of Royal Naval House. The house illustrated in Fowles in 1848 remained essentially unchanged until demolition occurred for the erection of the 1907 wing of Royal Naval House. Evidence from Public Works Department indicates that the 1907 wing was built by the Government Architect's office.

The Evening News of May 1912 reported that Royal Naval House had lodged 67,408 men in the last year, prior to the erection of the 1907 wing. Another 12,000 men used the House annually since the new section opened, averaging 216 men a night. At its busiest during World War 2 (1939-1945) Royal Naval House was accomodating almost 1500 men a night, many in 'shakedowns' mattresses and bunks placed wherever there was room. In 1946 alone it lodged 307,000 sailors. Royal Naval House was used by naval personel and in the 1960s by their families for temporary accomodation until it closed in 1970 and the Sydney Cove Redevopment Authority took possession of the building in 1976.

From 1980 negotiations proceeded with the private sector on proposals for mixed development and recycling on the land bounded by George, Grosvenor, Harrington and Essex Streets, known as Sites D5, D6 and D11. The agreement was signed for the Grosvenor Place project in June, 1983 involving the renovation of Royal Naval House and four adjacent buildings. Work on Grosvenor Place commenced in 1984 and was completed in 1988. In 1987, work commenced on the $12.5m reconstruction and renovation of Royal Naval House and Federation Hall in Grosvenor Street to enable the buildings to house the Sydney Futures Exchange. The work involved the reinstatement of the original verandah and courtyard in a new location, and the restoration of the street facades. The reconstruction and renovation of the three remaining historic buildings on the site was carried out in 1989 for use as bars and restaurant. (SCRA Annual Reports 1980-89)

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Commerce-Activities relating to buying, selling and exchanging goods and services (none)-
7. Governing-Governing Defence-Activities associated with defending places from hostile takeover and occupation (none)-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Social institutions-Activities and organisational arrangements for the provision of social activities (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Royal Naval House and site are of State heritage significance for their historical and scientific cultural values. The site and building are also of State heritage significance for their contribution to The Rocks area which is of State Heritage significance in its own right (see item no. 4500458).

The Royal Naval House site has historical associations with William Davis, an Irish catholic transported for his part in the 1798 Rebellion, he was instrumental in helping the Catholic Church establish itself in Australia. Davis donated land for the first Catholic Church in Australia, St Patrick's in The Rocks, and also held services in his house, which was illegal.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
Royal Naval House is associated with Commodore James Goodenough, R.N., C.B., C.M.G. (1830-1875). Goodenough was commander in charge of the Royal Navy's Australian Station, he was well liked and had strong charitable interests, especially among seamen. After his death Goodenough House was established to provide accomodation for Royal Navy sailors whilst ashore, this establishment lead directly to the construction of Royal Naval House.

Royal Naval House is associated with John Samuel Shearston (1853-1916). Shearston was instrumental in the establishment of the Church of England Mission to Seamen in 1881, and his home a 3 Princes St, Dawes Point was its headquarters. In 1885 he moved to larger premises at 9 Princes Street, renamed Trafalgar House, where they were also able to offer some residential accommodation. At the end of 1886, at its Committee's request, he agreed to also act as Superintendent of Goodenough Royal Naval House at 39 Princes Street, which he ran in conjunction with Trafalgar House.
In 1889, Royal Naval House was erected and Shearston resigned as Missioner to become Superintendent of Royal Naval House in September 1890. Mrs Shearston acted as housekeeper. The men, grateful for their warm welcome, soon referred to the premises as 'Johnny's', by which they were known until closed in 1970.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
As a group, the buildings (Federation Hall, Royal Naval House, Johnson's Building, 231 George Street & Brooklyn Hotel) have considerable significance. All facades contribute to the overall richness of the group, with Royal Naval House the focal point and the Johnson's Building leading nicely around the corner to a 'coda' of two small but heavily textured facades which seem to be a logical end to the whole. The trees, which are deciduous, give an added quality to the richness of the facades and have considerable significance. The facades as a group have important landmark qualities with their location on the north-west corner of a major intersection, providing an entry point to The Rocks.

Royal Naval House: The original façade is a well-designed, rich and vigorous piece of architecture of the period, and the 1907 extension is well integrated with the original. A stucco facade of this richness is fairly rare in Sydney. The Stair Hall is distinguished more for its scale and boldness than its elegance, but nevertheless, it is well done and appropriate to the rest of the building. The other interior spaces are designed either as reading rooms or dormitories. As such, they are large open spaces with simple detailing, and therein is their virtue. The Courtyard in the original form, is a unique, appealing and intriguing space. It is almost as though Varney Parkes had designed a four-storey building with a verandah on the back, accessed by French doors, and then had been told to add a Dining Hall etc. on an awkward site. The solution admits lots of sunlight to the main building (considering the height) and soaks up the odd shape on the North-West corner.
(SCRA 1982: 99-100, 103-104)

High Significance Fabric: The Grosvenor Street facade and a considerable part of the return along Milson Lane, at least as far as the south wall of the Courtyard. The interior spaces of the 1890 building (stair hall, full height). Courtyard including surrounding walls and verandahs. The roofscape. Medium Significance Fabric: Other rooms off Stair Hall on ground, first and second floors. Low Significance Fabric: Managers Quarters.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
Royal Naval House has significant social value especially to the Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Navy. It provided accomodation and meals for thousands of seaman for 82 years, and was know an "Johnnies" after the first superintendant John Shearston. So well known was Royal Naval House that the term "hissing in the snakepit" entered Naval slang to refer to the wet canteen located in the quadrangle at the centre of the building. During World War 2 Royal Naval House was accomodating up to 1500 sailors a night from the Australian, British and other allied Navies. After WW2 the building was also used for overnight accommodatation for the familes of low ranking seamen who could not afford city hotel rates.

Its social importance is demonstrated by articles that are still written about 'Johnnies' in magazines and newspapers for those interested in nautical subjects such as 'Afloat'.
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:

The 1982 Conservation Plan for the group of five buildings was prepared prior to the major work undertaken to the buildings in the late 1980s. An updated conservation plan should be prepared prior to any further work being proposed for the buildings, addressing each building individually and the group as a whole. This should follow the requirements of the NSW Heritage Office's Heritage Manual.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
HERITAGE ACT 1977
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.

FRANK SARTOR
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

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0157410 May 02 852865

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
SCA Register 1979-19981998B083Sydney Cove Authority (SCA)  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenSCRA1982Building Data Sheet GE/05
WrittenSydney Cove Redevelopment Authority,1983Conservation Plan. Sites D5, D6 & D11

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: 5053190


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