Statement of SignificanceBethel Steps at No. 100A George Street, The Rocks, is of State heritage significance for its historic, aesthetic, social and scientific cultural values.Its historical values are demonstrated by its association with the early 20th century development of The Rocks which is significant in its own right as the earliest area of Sydney to be developed and association with the convict settlement of Australia.Constructed in c. 1907 Bethel Steps replaced Bethel Street an early access and connection between George Street and Circular Quay West which also originated from what is thought to be the first landing place of Europeans in Sydney Cove. The development of the street and construction of Bethel Steps represents the changing character of the area and shift from the convict penal colony to a busy mercantile and shipping port to major commercial and tourist area.Bethel Steps is a representative example of an early 20th century period stair that is one of a number of steps and stairs that were constructed or developed in The Rocks during this period, however, is distinct for its Federation red, face brick retaining walls and continuing relationship with the two neighbouring buildings, the former Coroners Court (Nos. 102-104 George Street) and Mariners Church (Nos. 98-100 George Street).Despite some changes, Bethel Steps its early form, fabric and details which are not unique or rare in the wider context, however, retain evidence of the changes in the immediate area. The Steps continue to interpret the change of levels and rocky nature of the western shores of Sydney Cove and demonstrate the 20th century architectural responses and development of the surrounding sites.Bethel Steps are of some aesthetic significance for their visual contribution to Circular Quay West and as part of a group of nineteenth, early and late 20th century buildings of George Street North and western side of the Quay.Bethel Steps are of some social value for their long-term use as an open, public "right-of-way" that recall the early "go-down" to the western shores of Sydney Cove and development of Bethel Street.Bethel Steps are of high research value as part of a reference site with the neighbouring buildings they retain evidence and demonstrate a response to the topography of the area and demonstrate the development of the period from the 1840s to the early decades of the 20th century.
Access to Circular Quay
Road to Circular Quay
Transport - Land
Construction Years: 1907 - 0
Physical Description: Bethel Steps comprise of three flights of stone steps with asphalted ramps and landings located between. The steps are bounded by the stone and face brick façade of the former Coroners Court building which is located to the south and face brick and rendered facades of the Mariners Church to its north. A face brick retaining wall with timber posts and pipe steel rail balustrade also bounds the south eastern section of the steps.The name of the steps recall an early street (Bethel Street) which partially remains buried beneath the Chapel addition to the Mariners Church located to the immediate north.
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Historic Notes and Themes
Historical notes: The land the steps are constructed on was at the northern end of the Government Dockyard site. It was part of the land set aside in 1797 for the residence of the Master Boat Builder, Thomas Moore, which was later converted to the Naval Office, the headquarters for the imposition of Customs. This use was transferred to the new Customs House (now the east store of the Argyle Stores) in 1827. By 1832, the land had been divided into two by a path descending to the water, which later became Bethel Street and the Naval Office was demolished in 1833. By 1854, a Dead House or Morgue was built on the site, at the request of the then City Coroner, John Brenan. In c1863, Bethel Street was built as a response to the proposed building of the Sailors Home.Construction of the Coroners Court and new Morgue followed in 1907-8. Construction of the two buildings involved the loss of Bethel Street, which was closed in 1906 and was reduced to a narrow lane running along the wall of the Mariners' Church. (PWD 1991:5-6 & 11-26; Blackmore 1986) It is assumed that the Bethel Steps were built at the same time as the Coroners Court and Morgue. This assumption was supported by the discovery of the intact Bethel St beneath the chapel at the rear of the Mariner's Church, the chapel was constructed at around the same time as the Coroner's Court.
Historical significance: The historical significance of Bethel Steps is demonstrated by:ª the evidence of the place as part of the early 20th century development of The Rocks which is significant in its own right due to its association with the convict settlement of Australia as the earliest area of Sydney to be developed;ª its association with the location of possibly what was the first landing place of Europeans and which interprets and continues to provide a pedestrian link between the waterfront and ridge on which the main street (George Street) developed;ª its association with the development of Bethel Street and western side of Circular Quay. The Steps recall the Bethel Union one of several 19th century benevolent groups who were active in this area and who sought to improve the condition of mariners. Their activities and development of the neighbouring Mariners Church and former Sailors' Home represents the shift away from the convict settlement and development of the waterfront to cater for the mercantile and shipping activities of the Colony;ª its continuous use from its construction in 1907 to the present. The various changes to the steps represents the shift of the use and evolution of the area and particularly changes to the purpose built neighbouring buildings and their adaption to suit an increasingly commercial zone and a focus of Sydney tourism activities;ª as an integral component of the former Coroners Court building and former Morgue that emerged from an early Dead House and Morgue that have association with the early Hospital and Water Police operations in the immediate and wider area.Bethel Steps replaced Bethel Street and is also of high historical significance due to its association with this early access between the Quay and George Street. The Steps now significantly retain a viewing window that overlooks part of the buried street kerb that was revealed in the lower levels of the Mariners Church in c. 2008 and interpretive panel.Bethel Steps meet this criterion on a STATE level.
Historical association: The associational significance of Bethel Steps is demonstrated by:ª the association with significant groups including the Government Architects Office Maritime Services Board, Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority and Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority. The buildings are now associated with Place Management NSW.The buildings meet this criterion on a LOCAL level.
Aesthetic significance: The aesthetic significance of Bethel Steps is demonstrated by:ª the style, form and detail as part of the early 20th century, Federation period of development of the area. The Steps were constructed as part of the former Coroners Court and associated Morgue (now demolished) building constructed in 1907-1908. Despite some modifications the Steps significantly remain as an open pedestrian "right-of-way and a strong sense of their early form, character and details including face brick retaining wall, stone steps and risers and asphalted ramps.ª its townscape qualities and contribution to the Circular Quay West streetscape. Whilst currently obscured by temporary fences and storage shed and services Cube, the Steps are a visible part of the street extending between the MCA, Overseas Passenger Terminal and Campbell's Cove; and byª their contribution to an aesthetically distinctive townscape and part of a group of nineteenth, early and late 20th century buildings of George Street North and western side of the Quay.The buildings meet this criterion on a LOCAL level.
Social significance: The social values of Bethel Steps are demonstrated by:ª its association with the development of the area by the Bethel Union and other religious groups and organisations who were active and sought to improve social conditions in this locality;ª its contribution as a historic feature in The Rocks which has high social value to residents and the wider community who campaigned against full scale redevelopment of the area in the 1960s and 1970s and continue to hold The Rocks in high regard for its historical, archaeological and architectural significance and research potential;ª its contribution to the community's sense of place as a reminder of the early "go-down" to the waterfront and part of a network of secondary streets, steps and walkways that continue to provide access between the main, primary streets and access to the waterfront.The buildings meet this criterion on a STATE and LOCAL level.
Research significance: The research value of Bethel Steps is demonstrated by:ª its potential to yield archaeological resources that pre-date the construction of the Steps including further evidence of Bethel Street and early development; andª as reference site with the neighbouring buildings they retain evidence and demonstrate the response to the stepped and rocky nature of the western shores of Sydney Cove and architecture of the early 20th century.The natural and cut rock base of the neighbouring former Coroners Court building is considered to be of exceptional significance.The fabric of the Steps represents the early 20th design philosophies and fabric and tell of some changes to the surrounding buildings, however, are not unique or rare.The buildings meet this criterion on a STATE and LOCAL level.
Rare assessment: The rarity of Bethel Steps is demonstrated by:ª the recognition of the early access in this section of George Street. Bethel Steps significantly replaced an early pathway and cross street that appears to have developed from an early landing place and wharf on the western shores of Sydney Cove; andThere are a number of stairs and steps that were constructed in the early 20th century in the area. Some, like Bethel Steps replaced early connections, however, other examples viewed generally feature a classical and traditional architectural language.Bethel Steps have stone steps but also feature the distinctive Federation red, face brick retaining wall and a simpler, asphalted finish with the stone steps which are not unusual or rare, however, are distinct from the other stairs in the area.The buildings meet this criterion on a STATE and LOCAL level.
Representative assessment: Bethel Steps is a representative example of an early 20th century passage and stair that:ª is one of a number of connecting steps and stairs in The Rocks; andª is one of a network of stairs and connections that were modified or developed in the 20th century along and in the vicinity of George Street that provide evidence of the early topography and character of the western shore of Circular Quay.The buildings meet this criterion on a LOCAL level.
Physical condition: Based on the assessment outlined in Section 3.5 the site and immediate surrounding area has high archaeological potential and may retain resources that pre-date the construction of the Bethel Steps.The fabric of the Bethel Steps also indicated the early topography of the area and provided evidence of changes the fabric of the steps and surrounding buildings.As a result, these are all considered areas of archaeological value and significance.
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|Building settlements, towns and cities||Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages.|
|Heritage Listing||Listing Title||Listing Number||Gazette Date||Gazette Number||Gazette Page|
|Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register||Bethel Steps|