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1885, Newtown Courthouse - Unfit For Publication
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The Sydney Morning Herald, Tue 17 Aug 1880 1


    A deputation from Newtown, consisting of Mr SC Brown, MP, Aldermen Boots, Melville, JF Smith, JH Smith, Tye, and Mr Vivian (Town Clerk of Newtown), waited on the Minister of Justice (Sir George Innes) on Friday, to urge on the Government the necessity of at once procuring a central site and proceeding with the erection of a new courthouse with as little delay as possible.

    MR BROWN, having introduced the deputation, explained that as the Government had been memorialised by the magistrates, setting forth the inconvenience and many disadvantages under which they and all others interested in the affairs of the court suffered through the extremely limited accommodation afforded them in the present temporary quarters, and requesting that a suitable building be erected for the conduct of business, the deputation desired to endorse such memorial, and point out the fact that the accommodation which, at the time of the establishment of the court was considered sufficient, is now, by reason of the increase of business, totally inadequate to the requirements of the district.

    MR JF SMITH further explained the inconvenience under which both the Court and Council laboured under present arrangements, instancing as a case the late elections.

    SIR GEORGE INNES said that he felt sure, from representations already made on the subject, the object sought by the deputation was certainly a very desirable one; but he might at once inform them that there is at present no money available for such a purpose. The site of the future building will be the first to be considered. No doubt the present position is most central, although he desired to look 10 years ahead and make provision for the increasing population in the direction of Stanmore and other outlying parts of the district.

    MR TYE suggested that as all the roads centred on the Railway Bridge it would be inadvisable to go beyond 200 yards from it, and he felt sure that there would be no difficulty in procuring a site.

    MR MELVILLE said that the deputation would not have secured their object by obtaining consent to a Stanmore site; there are several eligible sites in Australia-street, where the old omnibus stables stood, and also on the opposite side of the street at the rear of the bank.

    MR JH SMITH said that there were several pieces of land available for the purpose apart from those already mentioned, instancing the neighbourhood of the railway station and also near the Public school.

    MR JF SMITH hoped that although they had been informed that the Government had no money for the building at present the importance of at once securing a building site would not be overlooked.

    SIR GEORGE INNES, in reply said: So far as I am in a position to judge, your views and wishes appear reasonable. At present I cannot positively promise you anything beyond this—that I will bring the matter under the notice of my colleagues, and will hasten on the object you desire as expeditiously as possible.

    The deputation thanked the Minister for his promises, and withdrew.

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The Sydney Morning Herald, Thu 16 Jun 1881 2


    We understand that a site has been determined upon and purchased for the new Court-house at Newtown. It has a frontage of 176 feet to Australia-street, by a depth of 82 feet 6 inches, with a rear frontage to Eliza-street.

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The Sydney Morning Herald, Wed 2 Jul 1884 3


    The business of the Newtown Police Court was conducted for the first time on Tuesday in the new temporary courthouse, late the Temperance Hall. 4 Mr G O’Malley Clarke presided.

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The Sydney Morning Herald, Fri 15 May 1885 5


Newtown courthouse under construction during 1880s. Photo ID: SRNSW 4481_a026_000509.jpg
Newtown courthouse under construction during 1880s.
Photo ID: SRNSW 4481_a026_000509.jpg

    The new courthouse and police station which has been in course of erection at Newtown for some considerable time past, has now arrived at completion, and will be handed over to the Government about the middle of next week. The building, which was designed by the Colonial Architect some two years ago, is of a very commodious and complete character. It is situated in Australia-street, to which it has an extensive frontage, and a massive main entrance to the court-room. The chief entrance—with the exception of the van track—to the police quarters and station cells is from Eliza-street. The construction covers an area of 175 feet by 77 feet and has been erected at a cost of £16,000. It presents a very substantial appearance, and has been built of brick, with cement facings, upon stone foundations. The pillars of the main entrance and the gates are of stone. The main front of the building possesses several architectural features, much attention and skill having evidently been devoted to the work with the view of giving it an attractive appearance. The main entrance is guarded by massive piers and folding gates, the latter being of wrought iron and of an ornamental character. The head of her Majesty the Queen is carved in stone and forms the keystone of the central arch, and the coat of arms of Great Britain surmounts the building. The vestibule is reached by a flight of steps, with thick glass divisions, introduced for the purpose of lighting the apartments at the base of the building. The vestibule is 30 feet square, being completely open to Australia-street, the inner wall being decorated with three circular stained glass sunlights and other masonry enrichments. The floor is laid with tessellated [sic] pavement on marble and Italian tiles a foot square, with border and mats to match. On each side of the vestibule are doors leading to the court-rooms and galleries. A large hall, 30 feet by 25 feet, is entered from the vestibule by three large cedar doors, and from the hall entrance is gained to the court-room, of which there are two—one on each side of the hall. The dimensions of these rooms are 42 feet by 30 feet, and, like the hall, they are ornamented and lighted by a lantern roof constructed of thick glass, and having space for air. The court-room on the right-hand side of the entrance has been completed, and is well furnished throughout. The fittings are of an excellent description, red and white cedar being freely used. A considerable amount of skill and trouble has been expended in executing the fittings of the bench, and a good deal of artistic effect has been produced in connection with the frame work of the canopy and dais. A small dock—no doubt sufficient for the requirements of the place—has been erected in the centre of the room, and will be entered by prisoners by a flight of stone steps leading from the cells at the basement. The dock is constructed of iron, and surmounted by a highly frenchpolished rail. A gallery has been erected at one end of the room and may be entered by means of a light ornamental iron balcony, which is connected with the vestibule of the main entrance, and has an open front to Australia-street. Adjoining each court-room is a small compartment, fitted up for the convenience of magistrates, and having a door leading to the bench. Each court is supplied with all necessary conveniences, such as fireplaces, reporters’ desk, witness-box, and desks for the deposition clerk and police officials. The canopy will be surmounted with a coat-of-arms. The rooms are also lighted by three windows over the bench, which, when necessary for purposes of ventilation, may be opened simultaneously. The police quarters, as already stated are at the base of the building, and consist of a charge room, six cells for prisoners, two yards for male and female prisoners, and eight rooms for officials. The chief entrance to these compartments is from Eliza-street through a heavy iron gate, over which is placed the head of a lion with a baton in its mouth. The figure has been cut out of stone. A recess has been left over the entrance for a clock, which is to be erected at some future time. The magistrates’ rooms referred to above are situated on each side of this entrance, and overlook the whole thoroughfare. Adjoining these rooms are also small rooms for lawyers and a large centrally situated room for the use of clerks. The prison yards are asphalted, and are enclosed with lofty walls.

Newtown courthouse under construction during 1880s. Photo ID: SRNSW 4481_a026_000510.jpg
Newtown courthouse, opened 9 Jun 1885.
Photo ID: SRNSW 4481_ a026_000510.jpg

    The yard for the use of male prisoners is covered in with iron girders and wire to prevent any chance of escape. The building is supplied with a complete system of drainage. This had been effected by means of perforated pipes covered with broken stone. To ensure perfect dryness the concrete floors have been covered with wood. The floors of the cells are laid with tarred metal and Sysels’ English asphalt. A course of slates bedded in cement has been placed at the back of the wall, also with the view of ensuring dryness. The building has been well supplied with gas fittings, a complete system of ventilation has been adopted throughout, and provision has been made for a full supply of water. The whole of the work has been executed in an excellent manner; but it is questionable whether a better system might not have been adopted with regard to the elevation of the structure, and more particularly with regard to the arrangements of the police cells, as the latter are—especially at this time of the year—extremely cold, and will certainly require warming by some artificial means. This will be better understood when it is stated that between 3000 and 4000 feet of excavation was taken out before building operations were commenced. The architectural character of the edifice is designed afer the Italian mode of treating the Ionic order, which is carried out to the Australia-street façade. The Eliza-street façade is varied by the introduction of the Venetian domestic character in the two arcades, which, although contrasting, is in pleasing harmony with the rest of the building. The building is certainly an ornament to the suburb, and will supply a long-felt want. The whole of the work has been carried out under the immediate supervision of Mr Spencer, and Mr James Farr, of the Colonial Architect’s department. Mr Charles Francis, late foreman at Callan Park Hospital, was manager of works, and Mr Andrew H Scouller was the contractor. The iron work was supplied by Mr Charles Lewis, Pyrmont Foundry.

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Evening News, Sat 16 May 1885 6


    New courthouse at Newtown to be opened next week; comfortable quarters for the gentlemen of the long robe.

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The Sydney Morning Herald, Sat 16 May 1885 7


    The work of paving the Newtown-road with wooden blocks is likely to be completed by Monday next. The undertaking was commenced some seven months ago, the sum of £20,000 being voted for the work, viz, £4000 by the Newtown Municipal Council and £16,000 y the Government. The contract comprised some 888,000 blocks the work commenced at the Newtown Bridge and terminating at Bligh-street. The whole of this work, with the exception of a few yards approaching Bligh-street, and on which the men are at present engaged, has been completed, and the greater portion of it has been opened for traffic for some weeks past. The portion just being completed will not be thrown open for traffic for a fortnight. Much difficulty has been experienced in connection with the work of paving in consequence of the tramline, and a different class of block has been used for the purpose of securing a firm and substantial borders to the sleepers. 

    A large terrace of shops is at present in course of erection, operations in connection with the building of an hotel at the corner of Eliza and King streets have been commenced, and a large fashionable draper’s shop is also being built, so that with the new court-house and police-station—already described in our columns—new terraces of shops and other buildings, Newtown will very soon wear a different aspect.


    IN the description of the Newtown courthouse given in the Herald yesterday, the contractor’s name should have appeared as Mr Alexander H Scouller.

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The Sydney Morning Herald, Wed 10 Jun 1885 8


    AT THE NEWTOWN POLICE COURT, on Tuesday, Mr Abbott, SM, presided. The new courthouse was opened, and the list was rather heavy. Messrs Fall, Fitzgerald, Gannon, and W Roberts, sen, in turn congratulated the Newtown public on the excellent premises which the Government provided for the administration of justice, and complimented his Worship on the honour of first presiding in the new courthouse. Mr Abbott, in an appropriate and terse reply, expressed the hope that the profession and municipal authorities would urge upon the department the necessity for at once furnishing the building in a suitable manner.

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Evening News, Fri 31 Jul 1885 9


    Attention was directed in the EVENING NEWS recently to the fact that the private entrance to the new courthouse was kept sacred even from professional footsteps. On Thursday Mr Buchanan, SM, remarked that he thought the professional gentlemen should be allowed ingress and egress by the Eliza-street entrance if they felt “so disposed,” and Mr R Hastings (bailiff of the court) assured his Worship that the necessary arrangements had been made and the private entrance opened. There is a room set apart for solicitors in this paragon of a courthouse which chamber is neatly yet economically furnished with four bare walls, a fireplace, a window, and a not over well scrubbed floor.


1  The Sydney Morning Herald, Tue 17 Aug 1880, p. 3.

2  The Sydney Morning Herald, Thu 16 Jun 1881, p. 5.

3  The Sydney Morning Herald, Wed 2 Jul 1884, p. 5.

4  See: The Sydney Morning Herald, Thu 29 Jun 1871, p. 5, “Laying the Foundation-stone of the Newtown Temperance Hall.”

5  The Sydney Morning Herald, Fri 15 May 1885, p. 4. Some difficulties were experienced in obtaining this article. Firstly, the online National Library of Australia Herald article, on page four, has right-hand marginal text missing due to very tight binding. Secondly, the microfilmed copy of the same Herald article, held at the NSW State Library, has pages four and five missing. Fortunately, the hard copy of this issue, held at the Michel Library, contains these pages.

6  Evening News, (Sydney, NSW), Sat 16 May 1885, p. 5.

7  The Sydney Morning Herald, Sat 16 May 1885, pp. 8, 11. Emphasis added.

8  The Sydney Morning Herald, Wed 10 Jun 1885, p. 7.

9  Evening News, (Sydney, NSW), Fri 31 Jul 1885, p. 7.