Statement of SignificanceReynolds' Cottages, 28-30 Harrington Street, The Rocks, are of State heritage significance for their historical and aesthetic value alone. The buildings' rarity and the sites' ability to yield information about the previous occupation and development of the land further contribute to the State significance of the items.Reynolds' Cottages are among the oldest domestic buildings remaining in Sydney, possessing an aesthetic quality which is representative of Colonial architecture. They are extremely intact and rare examples of the very small number of extant Sydney houses from the 1820s and 1830s. The buildings have historic associations with a number of early Sydney individuals of interest for their prominence in local dealings in the first decades of the 19th century, as well as to the 20th century social activism in The Rocks through the tenancy of Abraham Mott and family (1934-71) and the advocacy of the Green Bans movement.The site is of technical and research significance, as remains of a previous generation of structures are retained both below ground as an archaeological resource and above ground, with items such as the well, which predates the construction of 28-30 Harrington Street and the fabric of the cottage itself.
Shop and café
Shop and residence
Residential buildings (private)
Construction Years: 1830 - 1830
Physical Description: The facade of Nos.28-30 Harrington Street typifies the symmetry and order of the Colonial Georgian Style. The gabled roof, covered by galvanised iron sheeting and a shared brick chimney stack, centres the cottages. The wall of comprised of coarse sandstone rubble with raised pointing to simulate ashlar. There is clear evidence that these two cottages were built in separate stages due to the way the stone has been toothed at the party wall. Each cottage has a centrally placed entrance door of a simple, four panelled design with a brass door knob. It is flanked on either side by one six panel sash window with shutters, surmounted by a flat stone lintel. There are identical windows on the first floor above.Style: Simple Georgian; Storeys: 2; Facade: Dressed sandstone; Internal Walls: Brick; Roof Cladding: Shingled (original) Corrugated iron (present); Floor Frame: TimberThe Well is in the rear yard of 30 Harrington St. The top of the well has been restored in original stone, with the introduced brick courses placed around the well at a later date in a funnel shape leading to the original top of the well. Half this structure lays under the rear wall of 30 Harrington St and it is enclosed by an iron railing fence for its and the public's protection. The top of the well is sealed.
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Historic Notes and Themes
Historical notes: To the Gadigal people of Sydney the western shoreline of Sydney Cove (known to them as Warrane) was called Tallawolladah. The Gadigal traditional lands ranged from Darling Harbour in the west to the Heads in the east and included Manly. No evidence of Indigenous occupation is evident in the immediate vicinity due to the extensive nature of subsequent building activity. The block bounded by George, Argyle, Harrington and Suez Canal (formerly Harrington Lane) was part of the hospital precinct from 1788. The structure on this block was a house for the Assistant Surgeons'. It was run up in a hurry when the First Fleet disembarked, probably built with logs and plastered. The footprint of the building was large and it was sometimes referred to a barrack. By June 1796 Collins recorded that many of the earliest buildings were already falling into decay, and that extra work gangs were being organised to remedy the shortfall. He included the observation that houses were to be built for the assistant surgeons, 'those which had been erected soon after our arrival being now no longer tenable'. At least three Assistant Surgeons lived here, William Balmain, D'Arcy Wentworth and William Redfern, there may have been others, and this requires further research.When the hospital moved to Macquarie St the site and residence was occupied by Francis Greenway as part of his salary as colonial architect under Governor Macquarie. When he was dismissed in 1822 he claimed that the residence and land had been promised to him by Macquarie. Even though the Government tried to repossess the site Greenway remained there until c1834.It is believed that the cottages were built between 1823 and 1829 for Thomas Ryan. Originally one room deep, they were purchased by William Reynolds in 1830. The dwellings were constructed as simple working class buildings, however, due to the abundance of local sandstone, most of the housing for the working classes was built in stone.William Reynolds of Harrington Street is listed as a ship smith in the 1836-1840 Magistrates Returns. Due to housing shortages, Reynolds built a number of small, poor standard houses in the vicinity including five in the courtyard behind the cottages between 1839 and 1841 (subsequently demolished in the 1880s). This area gained a reputation in the 1850s - 90s as the haunt of criminals and prostitutes. During the 1891 Royal Commission into Chinese Gambling, Immorality and Police Corrurption, it was noted that an opium den existed in one of the dwellings in the courtyard. The rear brick addition to No 30 was added in the 1850s, the east wall constructed over an earlier well.Sydney Council's first rate assessment in 1845 indicates that Reynolds' children retained ownership of the property and others in the area and rented out the five houses hereon. No. 28 and No. 30 were described at this time as two, two storey stone and shingled houses, each with four rooms and the necessary outhouses. No. 32 differed, as it was constructed in timber.It would appear that the building continued to be tenanted, however, in July 1850, the Reynolds' mortgaged the Harrington Street premises to John Brown Esquire. This was subsequently surrendered and a second mortgage registered. In an indenture dated 12 November 1857, made between Maurice and Margaret Reynolds and Charles E Langley and George Stabler, the mortgage was discharged.On his death in 1860, the Harrington Street premises formed part of the insolvent estate of Maurice Reynolds of Burwood. The property included a house and adjoining land facing George Street and various small brick and stone houses in Reynolds Lane (now the Suez Canal). In 1863 the latter were described as unoccupied and according to the 1863 Assessment Book, 'much out of repair'.Land title documents indicate that Margaret Reynolds retained ownership of the property at this time, however re-mortgaged to Langley and Stabler following the death of her brother in 1861, and to John Blaxland and George Stabler on the death of Charles Langley in 1864. In an indenture dated 28 November 1870, Margaret finally conveyed her interest in the property, Allotment 2 of Section 84 with all buildings thereon, to John Blaxland and George Stabler and their heirs. Further confusion arose, as according to the Assessment Books, William Scoles was recorded as the owner of No. 28-32 Harrington Street in 1867, however all the land title records up to this time give no mention of a William Scoles. The three properties were in turn passed to Elizabeth E Stabler and John Blaxland following the death of George Stabler in 1873.From the 1860s, the Sands Directory indicates that the houses were occupied by several long term tenants. John Scoles (assume also Skulls in 1866 listing), noted as being a labourer, carter and a porter, is listed at No. 4 (No. 28) from 1866 to until 1875, when a Joseph Day is listed at No. 4. Day, a mariner, had resided at No. 6 (No. 30) since 1866 and remained at No. 28 until 1879 at which time his wife Mary Ann is recorded as laundress and lessee. Mrs Day remained at No. 28 until 1882, when an Edward Day is listed, staying until 1895. No. 8 (No.32) appears to have been operated continuously as grocery until 1880, when a bookbinder took up residence.In 1877 the properties were once again transferred, to George Rattray and William Henry Mackenzie as tenants in common. They retained ownership until 1884, when a Patrick Fahey purchased the properties. According to the Sands, Fahey, a grocer, had occupied No. 32 since 1882. He reinstated the grocery store and is listed at No. 32 until 1907 and continued to lease No. 28 and No. 30 to various tenants.At the turn of the century the plague hit Sydney and resulted in widespread cleansing and demolition in the older, more established parts of the city such as The Rocks. Fahey retained ownership of the properties until 1900, when notification of resumption was served. In 1901 the Sydney Harbour Trust was established to maintain and manage the area resumed by the Government. The Sands Directory indicates that the buildings remained continuously tenanted, with only short periods of vacancy. The area had long been associated with the lower classes and by this time had been transformed from industrial middle class occupancy to an area which had a reputation for crime and poor living conditions.In 1909 a Royal Commission for the Improvement of the City of Sydney recommended that Harrington Street, among others in The Rocks, be widened and straightened. It is not clear when, however, the level of Harrington Street was raised. This in turn necessitated the addition of two (descending) steps in the entrance of No. 30.In the early 1930s, the Maritime Services Board replaced the Sydney Harbour Trust as the landlords of The Rocks. Tenancy cards, dating from 1927, show that the buildings continued to be maintained and occupied by various tenants. The Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority (SCRA) was established in 1970, took responsibility and leased the buildings. The buildings continued to provide residential accommodation, however a shift away from residential use, to commercial use occurred during the next decade. In 1976 a shop selling old wares commenced operation in No. 28, with an associated tea room following in 1978. The Gumnut Tea Garden, began operation in No. 28 in c. 1982. Nos. 30 and 32 retained residential tenants until 1984, and have subsequently been occupied by retail shops.The WellIt is unclear when the well was dug. Originally the land was part of the gardens behind the Assistant Surgeons House (incorrectly referred to as Assistant Surveyor on Meehan's survey of 1807). No wells are recorded on that plan, or on any other in the vicinity of the subject site. Wells were usually not recorded on maps and plans, so this is not an indication that it was not built at the time of Meehan's survey in 1807. There is no record of a structure on the subject site until c 1830 when Reynolds built the one room cottages, possibly between 1823 and 1829. It is very likely that the well was dug during this period.Archaeological evidence suggests that the well was built in the first half of the nineteenth century. It contained artefacts that date before 1850 when the cottages were extended. Rooms were added to the back of the cottages at this time and two toilets erected over the well.The well was excavated by archaeologists in 1987 and in 1989-90 the rear yard and the subfloor of No 30 as part of works to provide sub-floor ventilation and services for the site unearthed possible evidence of cock fighting and dog baiting - the latter using live cats.
Historical significance: The site of Reynolds' Cottages at 28-30 Harrington Street has an important association with the historical development of Sydney, and the metropolitan area, since European settlement in 1788, and earlier with the Gadigal people of Sydney Harbour. To the Gadigal the site formed part of a strip of land along the western shore of Warrane (Sydney Cove) which they called "Tallawolladah". The fact that this area was named denotes it as a special or particular place for the indigenous peoples of Sydney Harbour before the coming of the Europeans.This land is thought to have been part of the site of the assistant surgeons' house and associated garden within the first hospital compound established in 1788, which would make it therefore important as part of the earliest European settled part of Australia, with specific importance in the establishment of medical practice.Early residential patterns suggest however that the land along Harrington Street was not securely part of the hospital site. To the immediate east of the site, facing George Street, the Assistant Surgeons' barracks stood until the mid-1830s, resulting in the majority of the block which is bounded by Harrington Street on the west remaining undeveloped. When the long term incumbent of the Assistant Surgeons' house, the architect Francis Greenway, attempted to claim this property for himself, he usually did not include in his claims the back portion of the block fronting Harrington Street. The land on the western side of Harrington Street and up onto the high levels of The Rocks was liberally dotted with cottages of convicts and a few free settlers from the earliest years of settlement. As early as the 1800s the eastern side of Harrington Street, which includes the site of 28 -30 Harrington Street, was possibly built on. By the time the site was formally granted to William Gleeson in 1826 (grant made retrospective to 1823) it contained Hawkins' house on the Argyle Street corner and at least one other dwelling, probably the house and bakehouse of James Rampling. This was ordered to be demolished and in c.1829 Thomas Ryan built the two cottages that stand on the site today.These early incursions onto the land and the uncertain status of ownership of the land are illustrative of the early land tenure patterns in NSW and in Sydney. The cottages reflect the utilitarian nature of the early dwellings in area and are rare examples of small scale domestic architecture, being two of the oldest domestic houses remaining in The Rocks, with only Cadman's cottage being older.The site retains evidence of earlier occupation predating 1826 including the remains of a well and a possible bakehouse, while later 19th century additions to the cottages illustrate changing domestic patterns of living.The cottages were purchased by William Reynolds in 1830 and during the 1830s he built a series of small tenements in the land behind his cottages and a run of houses along Harrington Lane (Suez Canal). Most of these were demolished in the 1880s but their presence made an important contribution to the rapid decline in the social status of the area, with parts of the block being considered as a no-go zone during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. William Reynolds was a convict and a contemporary and familiar of Michael Gannon, another convict. Following the sale of the old Assistant Surgeons' land, which was the majority of the block bounded by Harrington, Argyle, George and Harington Lane (Suez Canal), to FW Unwin in 1838, it was immediately leased to Reynolds and Gannon who proceeded to rapidly cover it with domestic and commercial buildings typical of the small scale of building in the Rocks at the mid-19th century. The shift away from residential to commercial use in the late 1970s records the changing social and economic values of this area.The item meets this criterion at a STATE level.The historical significance of 28-30 Harrington Street is demonstrated by:· These two cottages are some of the oldest buildings in Australia.· They form part of a coherent group of early colonial buildings on the site bounded by Harrington, Argyle, George Streets and Suez Canal.· Their ability to assist in understanding the earliest domestic architecture in Australia through the archaeological remains on the site.· The retention of much of its original fabric, especially at No 28.
Historical association: The buildings were constructed by Thomas Ryan following long and complicated land claims and counter claims over the area in the 1820s. In these machinations convict James Rampling, who worked as a baker on the site lost his claim over the land to convict William Gleeson who passed it on to Ryan. Remains of a bakehouse and remnant foundations behind No 28 may relate to Rampling's sojourn here.The buildings are associated with William Reynolds and his children and other local land owners such as Michael Gannon, who lived in Argyle Street and constructed several of the buildings in the same block as Reynolds, including Gannon House and a shop in Argyle Street. Reynolds also constructed 101 George Street, now Phillips Foote Restaurant. From 1934 until his death c.1958 Abraham Mott, who was active on behalf of the local community's needs, lived at No 28 Harrington Street with his family. His widow Mrs EM Mott continued to live there until 1971. The old Coal Lumpers Hall in Argyle Place, Millers Point, was named the Abraham Mott Hall in 1961.28-30 Harrington Street meets this criterion at a STATE level.The associational significance of 28-30 Harrington Street is demonstrated by:· The sites' association with early convict families who attempted unsuccessfully to acquire land there.· The confusion arising from the process of early land grants by the Crown to private individuals and associated criminality which arose over the following years.· Associations with early convict builders and developers.· The sites recognition as an example slum conditions in The Rocks in the second half of the 19th century.· Its association with convict builder William Reynolds, whose name is on the cottages.· It is associated with community activist Abraham Mott.
Aesthetic significance: Reynolds' Cottages, 28-30 Harrington Street is one of the most characterful buildings within the Rocks and is highly evocative of the aesthetic character of early Colonial Sydney. The building's low proportions, emphasised by the street level which has been raised, the simple roof form with eaves, face sandstone construction with dressed stone window and door heads and multi-pane window sashes all contribute to the building's aesthetic qualities and contribute a sense of authenticity to the streetscape and visual catchment at the corner of Harrington and Argyle Streets. This aesthetic quality is also perceived internally even to the non-specialist by virtue of its deep reveals indicating the solidity of the walls, the carved stone mantle shelf and chimney pieces, narrow stairs and level changes within the building.The building at 28-30 Harrington Street makes a positive contribution to a diverse streetscape which is characterised by later, larger, 19th and early 20th century buildings. Reynolds' Cottages, together with 32 Harrington Street form a group of early Colonial buildings being of a similar scale and proportion set close to the footpath. The item meets this criterion at a STATE level.The aesthetic significance of 28-30 Harrington Street is demonstrated by:· The extant architectural features of the cottages which embody the early Colonial character (low proportion, simple roof form with eaves, dressed stone windows and door heads, face stone construction, multi-pane windows, low ceilings, deep reveals) 28-30 Harrington Street is technically significant for demonstrating urban planning techniques of the Colonial period in Sydney. The site retains evidence of former properties within its rear yard which once formed part of a contained urban space, together with the remainder of the block bound by George, Argyle and Harrington Streets and Suez Canal. The buildings' relationship with Suez Canal remains unaltered since its construction c1823 demonstrating town planning significance through its architecture, design and construction.The item meets this criterion at a STATE level.The technical significance of 28-30 Harrington Street is demonstrated by:· A contributory element within a larger city block which demonstrates evidence of urban planning principles of the Colonial period· Archaeological evidence of former properties within the rear yards· The building's retention of its original design and fabric
Social significance: The building is associated with the heritage precinct of The Rocks and with the Green Bans movement of the 1970s. Along with 32 Harrington Street, built by William Reynolds in the 1830s, Reynolds' Cottages, built by Thomas Ryan are the only early colonial buildings remaining in Harrington Street. Reynolds' Cottages make a substantial contribution to the historic character of The Rocks area, as evidenced by its inclusion on a number of statutory and non-statutory registers of significant buildings.28-30 Harrington Street meets this criterion at a LOCAL level.The social significance of 28-30 Harrington Street is demonstrated by:· It is part of The Rocks precinct where the Green Bans resulted in altering the way that the NSW government, the people of Sydney and the wider Australian community understood and valued the history and heritage values of Sydney's first settlement.· The buildings' association with the internal courtyard area of the block bounded by Harrington, Argyle, George and Suez Canal, which has been an important meeting place for residents and visitors to The Rocks from the 1980s to the present.
Research significance: The site has the potential to yield archaeological evidence relating to successive periods of occupation and development.The site has associations with the hospital precinct and its garden established soon after settlement in 1788 which extended north to Argyle Street and west to Harrington Street. While the site has been disturbed through later construction phases, it is likely the remains from this period, including deeper features such as the existing well at the rear of 30 Harrington Street, may be present in the archaeological record. 28-30 Harrington Street also has the potential to yield information relating to the adjacent tenancy at 39-43 Argyle Street. Archaeological evidence suggests that a bake house constructed for the original house at 39-43 Argyle Street may have been located on this property. In addition, remains of former tenancies built to the rear by William Reynolds between 1839 and 1841 are likely to be present. Their existence has the potential to provide further research on living conditions and building standards of the mid-nineteenth century.While partly excavated in 1989, sub-floor and inter-floor deposits still have the potential to yield further archaeological evidence about the site's use and occupants from c.1823 onwards. While partly disturbed, the site area of 28-30 Harrington Street has the potential to yield evidence of indigenous and contact archaeology.The item meets this criterion at a STATE level.The research and archaeological significance of 28-30 Harrington Street is demonstrated by:· The archaeological potential relating to the hospital garden· Physical evidence of the sites' occupants, notably William Reynolds· Potential to yield further evidence of earlier construction phases including the rear properties built to the rear between 1839 and 1841 and of a bake house associated with 39-43 Argyle Street.· The archaeological potential for sub-floor, inter-floor and wall cavity deposits
Rare assessment: Reynolds' Cottages are a rare surviving example of Colonial architecture, significant for its level of intactness and urban context.The number of extant 1820s and 1830s cottages in NSW and Tasmania (the only two colonies which were populated at the time) is reasonably small, although there are several examples in Sydney as well as in early towns such as Richmond, Windsor, Parramatta, Bathurst, Goulburn, Maitland (see Comparative Analysis). Most of these examples are in a rural or regional context, highlighting the rarity of the Cottages' urban setting within The Rocks. The date of 1820s is sufficiently rare in an Australian context for anything of this date to be considered significant. As well, 28-30 Harrington Street are rare for their intactness.The item meets this criterion at a STATE level.The rarity of 28-30 Harrington Street is demonstrated by:· Features of the cottages which have their origin in the 1820s and 1830s early Colonial character (low proportion, simple roof form with eaves, dressed stone windows and door heads, face stone construction, multi-pane windows, chair rails, chimney pieces, boarded doors with hand forged T-hinges, low ceilings of lath and plaster, deep reveals;· Reynolds' Cottages feature in the publication Traditional Joinery Sydney Houses 1810-1915, Murray, W & Croker, A. as a rare surviving example of Colonial joinery.
Representative assessment: As discussed above, although rare for its date, 28-30 Harrington Street is a typical example of an early colonial cottage, possessing many intact features which render it an excellent representative of the range of 1820s and 1830s cottages which are extant today. The item meets this criterion at a STATE level.The representativeness 28-30 Harrington Street is demonstrated by:· The cottages' intact features, in particular the joinery
Intact assessment: The cottage at No 28 Harrington Street is particularly intact demonstrating its development from 1823 to 1860.Archaeology minor disturbance.
Physical condition: No 28 is in need of some conservation work.Archaeology Assessment Condition: Minor disturbance. Assessment Basis: Floors level with street. The demolition and reconstruction of the rear wall of this premises revealed a well over which had been constructed two toilets by the 1850s. Investigation: Excavation
|Australian Theme||NSW Theme||Local Theme|
|Building settlements, towns and cities||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.|
|Developing local, regional and national economies||Activities relating to buying, selling and exchanging goods and services.|
|Peopling the continent||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.|
|Heritage Listing||Listing Title||Listing Number||Gazette Date||Gazette Number||Gazette Page|
|Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register||Place Management NSW|
|Within a National Trust conservation area||10499|
|Register of the National Estate||1/12/036/0433||Reynolds's Cottages and shop||21/10/1980||2323|
|Register of the National Estate||1/12/036/0433||Harrington Argyle Precinct||21/10/1980||2317|
|National Trust of Australia Register||9497||27/02/1978|
|Heritage Act - State Heritage Register||01573||Reynolds's Cottages||10/05/2002||2868||85|