British Seamens Hotel (former)
Statement of SignificanceThe former British Seamen's Hotel is of aesthetic, historical, and social significance as one of The Rocks' prominent corner hotels with a long history of hotel use dating back to the early phase of development in the Colony. An earlier 1820s building on the site operated as a hotel from the early 1830s, a use which continued until the 1920s.The British Seamen's Hotel demonstrates a very early use of many design details and decorative motifs of the Queen Anne Revival style which later went on to become part of the standard palette of Federation architecture. Although stylistically rare for its date, the former British Seamen's Hotel is a good representative of the small number of later 19th century hotels in The Rocks and demonstrates the function of such places in its plan form which expresses the historic use of individual spaces.The site of the former British Seamen's Hotel is of high research potential as evidenced in the results of previous archaeological investigations, in particular for its ability to provide more information about the Assistant Surgeon's garden and the former structures on the site. The building's significant contribution to the historic streetscape of Harrington and Argyle Streets is reinforced by its corner location, the splayed entrance, its height and scale, and its architectural detailing including Queen Anne Revival style features such as the large semi-circular arched multicasement windows, the broken scrolled pediments, exaggerated keystones, banded plasterwork and brickwork, sunrise and vegetation decorative motifs.The plan form and intact original and early internal features such as the timber joinery, plastered walls and ceilings, fireplaces, and remnant original wallpaper, which have been retained for interpretation, clearly demonstrate the historic use of the property, in particular the tastes and decorative styling of Victorian era hotels in Colonial Sydney. The interior of the building also demonstrates high quality conservation and restoration works dating from the late 1990s which have been publically acknowledged by the wider heritage community via a National Trust of Australia (NSW) award.
Café, Art Gallery & Art Supplies, Hotel, Residential Hotel
Builder/Maker: Built for J. Gill
Construction Years: 1886 - 1886
Physical Description: The north elevation faces Argyle Street and has been designed in the Federation Free Classical Style. The elevations are highly decorative with rendered horizontal banding, stone detailing, arched windows with leadlight panels and parapet wall. The western elevation faces Harrington Street and is similar but narrower to the north elevation. The eastern elevation adjoins 45 Argyle Street (c 1840s) and the southern elevation adjoins 30 Harrington Street (c 1830s); both are in painted face brick. The building is divided into two distinct parts. One is a single storey retail outlet on the ground floor and the other, the former hotel, is on two levels. The hotel consisted of 13 rooms, two WCs, a basement which is accessed from the ground floor street corner room and serviced from Argyle Street and a private rear courtyard. The interiors of the former hotel are highly ornate. (Tropman 1992: 24-26; SCA Annual Report 1996: 26)Style: Federation Free Classical Style; Storeys: 2 + basement; Side Rear Walls: Painted face brick; Roof Cladding: Corrugated Iron; Floor Frame: Timber
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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. However by 1823 the corner of Harrington and Argyle Sts, the subject site, was occupied by someone other than Greenway and another round of claims began that lasted until at least 1837. This may have been James Rampling or William Hawkins who had built a house and bakehouse on the land in the 1820s. See the Conservation Management Plan for more information on the dispute. By 1830 Fredrick Unwin leased the building that occupied it, a stone tenement and boarding house to Caleb Slater, it is unclear at this date who was the real owner of the site. Unwin was Rosetta Terry's lawyer. Slater received a licence to operate the 'King's Head' in 1830. and ran it until at least 1837. By 1834 Salter had acquired the freehold of the property and plans indicate it had been extended to the east, attaining a ground plan similar to the current structure.Continuing the tradition of contesting the ownership of the site, in 1841 it was awarded to Rosetta Terry, and it continued to be known as the 'King's Head'. In 1845 the Sydney Municipal Rate Books record the property being owned by Rosetta Terry and Matthew Brown as the tenant. The premises are recorded as a house, but a map of 1844 indicates the building was an inn called the 'Kings Head Inn'. The place is described as two storey with seven rooms, built from stone with a shingle roof. From 1845 until at least 1861 it was called the 'Rose and Crown'.The Rate Book of 1856 indicates that the single storey shops to 41 & 43 Argyle Street were built during this year. The shops were constructed of stone, brick and wooden walls with a timber shingled roof. The shop at No 41 was place pulled down and new ones erected by 1877. By 1865 in the Sands Directory the place is called the Argyle Hotel and in 1868 the name British Seamen's Hotel appears with Mary Wormleighten manageress. The proprietor William Reilly, owned the property until c.1885 when he sold it to graziers John and William Gill. The new proprietors were responsible in 1886 for constructing the existing building. Interestingly the floor plans of the old hotel and the new building closely correspond. The new building included two shops built to the east along the Argyle St frontage, this formalised an earlier arrangement of two timber shops previously constructed on the property in this area, and let.In 1899 the name of the Hotel was changed from British Seamen's Hotel to Hughes's Family Hotel, and was also known as McCarthy's Hotel in the 1920s. The property was released to the Crown in 1903. The former Hotel was used as a public house/hotel up until around 1925-7, and in 1928 the building was changed to a residential use, a boarding house. There appears to have been few changes to the building during this time. The former Hotel's use remained residential up to 1955 when it was converted into an office with staff amenities for Thomas Playfair Pty Ltd, a major meat export company at the time. In 1970, the control of the property passed to the Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority. The property continued to be let for various uses until major conservation work was undertaken of the exterior and interior of the building in 1995. It has had a range of tenants since then and currently houses a boutique wine bar.
Historical significance: The site of 39-43 Argyle Street, known as the former British Seamen's Hotel, has important associations 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 may 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 important as part of the earliest European settlement, with specific importance in the establishment of medical practice. Early residential patterns suggest that the land at 39-43 Argyle Street was not securely part of the hospital site. The Assistant Surgeons' barracks stood to the immediate east of the site, facing George Street, until the mid-1830s, resulting in the majority of the block which is bounded by Harrington Street on the west remaining undeveloped, but when the long term incumbent of the Assistant Surgeons' house, the architect Francis Greenway, attempted to claim this property forhimself, 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 form the earliest years of settlement, and as early as the 1800s the eastern side of Harrington Street, which includes the site of 39-43 Argyle Street, was possibly built on. In 1822 according to his own account, William Hawkins built a two storey house here with the assistance of his relation James Rampling. This house was being used as a public house licensed to Caleb Slater by 1830 under the sign of the Kings Head. It seems likely that Salter believed he owned the property at this time. The ownership of the land was contested in 1841 and awarded to Rosette Terry, while its use continued uninterrupted as a hotel. From 1843 it traded as the Rose & Crown, then briefly in the 1860s as the Argyle, a name that celebrated the increased importance of Argyle Street now that the Cut was open to traffic. This presumably made the public house a busier place. From 1868 until 1899 it was known as The British Seamen's Hotel.In 1886 the old 1822 Hawkins building was demolished and the present structure was built in what is sometimes referred to as Federation Free Classical style. The two storey building had two single storey shops attached at the rear and integrated into the building style of the hotel. These replaced earlier buildings that had been there at least from the time when Caleb Salter took over the Kings Head in the 1830s.Trading as the Hughes Family Hotel from c. 1899 until 1916, and then as McCarthy's Civic Hotel, this building became part of the depressed, government owned Rocks district. By the mid 1920s when there was a general reduction in the number of licenses made available in Sydney, the building became a boarding house, although it had clearly performed this function in earlier decades as well, with overflow residents located at various times in one or both of the adjoining Reynolds' Cottages on Harrington Street. From the mid-fifties the building was tenanted by Thomas Playfair Pty Ltd, by now a major meat exporting company, as an overflow administrative building.Various alterations to the building were undertaken under this tenancy. When Playfair's vacated the building at the end of 1971 various retailing businesses occupied it, heralding the shift towards the creation of a tourist precinct.39-43 Argyle Street meets this criterion at a STATE level.The historical significance of 39-43 Argyle Street is demonstrated by:· The site's association with early building on The Rocks.· Association with the history of confusion and criminality involved in the early granting ofCrown land to private individuals.· The role of public houses in the social life of the port area of Sydney Cove.· Its position on Argyle Street.
Historical association: As part of a group of buildings occupying the land between George, Argyle, and Harrington Streets and Suez Canal, the site of 39-43 Argyle Street is associated with the site of the 1788 Assistant Surgeon's residence, later occupied by the first colonial architect, Francis Greenway. The place is associated with some of the early pardoned convict builders active in The Rocks in the early Colonial period, including William Hawkins, whose shop on this corner was an early example of a purpose built shop or public house,8 and Caleb Salter who is the first recorded innkeeper on the site (known at the time as The King's Head). Over time, the place has been associated with a number of former owners and occupants.39-43 Argyle Street meets this criterion on a LOCAL level.The associational significance of 39-43 Argyle Street is demonstrated by:· Association with William Hawkins who built a two storey house on the site which was licensed for use as a public house by to Caleb Salter by 1830.· Later occupation and use of the building by Thomas Playfair Pty Ltd.
Aesthetic significance: Located on a prominent street corner, 39-43 Argyle Street is a strongly stated architectural composition which is an interesting, early example of the Queen Anne Revival style of architecture. Its large semi-circular arched multi-casement windows, highly decorative façade with alternating bands of rendered decoration and brickwork, scrolled broken pediments, exaggerated keystones, dentil courses and decorative sunrise and scrolled vegetation motifs are very early (1886) examples of details which became more frequently used after Federation (1901) in hotel architecture as well as domestic, commercial and public architecture. The composition of the street façades of the building is a lavish architectural statement designed to attract custom and set the hotel apart from the many others vying for trade in the local area.The splayed corner expressed in the plan form of 39-43 Argyle Street highlights the building's important position at the intersection of Argyle and Harrington Streets. Though constructed later, the height and scale of 39-43 Argyle Street enable the building to successfully link the early Colonial buildings on either side of it (the 1840s Gannon's House & Shop at 45-47 Argyle Street and the 1820s Reynolds' Cottages at 28-30 Harrington Street) to create a streetscape of strong architectural identity and character.The building demonstrates an approach to conservation, restoration and adaptation works that are of a high quality and were the recipient of the National Trust of Australia (NSW) award for Interior Conservation in the late 1990s.39-43 Argyle Street meets this criterion at a STATE level.The aesthetic significance of 39-43 Argyle Street is demonstrated by:· Architectural detailing typical of the Queen Anne Revival style including: semi-circular arched multi-casement windows, bands of rendered decoration and brickwork, scrolled broken pediments, exaggerated keystones, dentil courses, sunrise motifs, scrolled vegetation motifs.· Streetscape contributions including scale, splayed corner and height.· The sympathetic adaptation and restoration works to the interior of the building.
Social significance: As part of The Rocks precinct, 39-43 Argyle Street is socially significant for its long history and for its contribution to The Rocks area, Australia's premier heritage precinct, as evidenced by its inclusion on a number of lists of buildings of heritage significance formulated by community groups such as the National Trust of Australia (NSW) and representative bodies such as the City of Sydney Council and the Heritage Council of NSW.The item meets this criterion at a LOCAL level.The social significance of 39-43 Argyle Street is demonstrated by:· The inclusion of the place on several lists of buildings of heritage or historical importance.
Research significance: Archaeological remains may be present on site relating to the 1788 hospital precinct and its garden. The garden was original established soon after settlement in 1788 and extended north to Argyle Street and west to Harrington Street. While the site has been disturbed through later construction phases, remains from this period, including deep features such as wells and other smaller structures, may be present in the archaeological record.Archaeological remains are expected to be present on site relating to the two story house built c.1822. Historical records remain inconclusive as to the ownership of the property between c.1822 and 1830 and the existence of a second bake house behind 30-32 Harrington Street. 39-43 Argyle Street has the potential to further our understanding of the earlier phases of construction, including the cellars, and ownership of the site. In addition, the site has further research potential in understanding the use of the yards surrounding the house.While partly excavated in 1997, sub-floor and inter-floor deposits have the potential to yield further archaeological evidence about the site's use and inhabitants from both phases of occupation, particularly from 1886 onwards.While partly disturbed, the site area of 39-43 Argyle Street has the potential to yield evidence of indigenous and contact archaeology within its former rear yard area.The research significance of 39-43 Argyle Street is demonstrated by:· Potential evidence of the original hospital gardens· Potential for the site to contain evidence of the Assistant Surgeon's House grounds· Archaeological potential of earlier phases of the original c.1822 house· Archaeological potential of the rear yard area to contain remains of former structures and services· Evidence of sub-floor, inter-floor and wall cavity depositsThe item meets this criterion at a STATE level.The archaeological significance of 39-43 Argyle Street is demonstrated by:· Potential remains of the original hospital gardens;· Archaeological evidence of the former two storey house built c.1822· Potential deposits beneath the two retail shops.
Rare assessment: The 1886 building at 39-43 Argyle Street is rare as a very early example of the Queen Anne Revival style of architecture demonstrated through the use of several design motifs, which became commonplace in Australian architecture in the early 20th century.39-43 Argyle Street meets this criterion at a LOCAL level.The aesthetic significance of 39-43 Argyle Street is demonstrated by:· Architectural detailing typical of the Queen Anne Revival style dating from 1886.
Representative assessment: The building at 39-43 Argyle Street is representative of the small collection of hotels and former hotels in The Rocks which have their genesis in 1830s or 1840s hotels and inns, and which have been stylishly rebuilt in the latter half of the 19th century. The plan form of the building clearly demonstrates the various functions of different spaces within the building, e.g., the bar, the parlour, bedrooms and lavatories.39-43 Argyle Street meets this criterion at a LOCAL level.The representativeness of 39-43 Argyle Street is demonstrated by:· The building's corner location (Argyle and Harrington Street)· Plan form throughout including front bar
Intact assessment: Archaeology partly disturbed. Archaeological resource on footpath to Argyle Street disturbed to 550mm below footpath surface. Archaeological monitoring program Nov 07. Limited archaeological excavation in kitchen of No. 28 in Jan/Feb 2012. Evidence of earlier building
Physical condition: Extensive conservation work was undertaken on the building in 1995-96, and its condition is excellent.Archaeology Assessment Condition: Partly disturbed. Assessment Basis: Basement to part of premises, otherwise floors at or above street level. The 1995-6 excavations demonstrated the high archaeological potential of the site. Few artefacts were retrieved, and samples of garden soil were collected from apparently undisturbed pre-1823 profiles. Investigation: Watching Brief
|Australian Theme||NSW Theme||Local Theme|
|Developing local, regional and national economies||Activities relating to buying, selling and exchanging goods and services.|
|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.|
|Building settlements, towns and cities||Activities and processes for identifying forms of ownership and occupancy of land and water, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal.|
|Developing cultural institutions and ways of life||Activities associated with recreation and relaxation.|
|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.|
|Developing cultural institutions and ways of life||Activities associated with creating, maintaining, living in and working around houses and institutions.|
|Marking the phases of life||Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups.|
|Heritage Listing||Listing Title||Listing Number||Gazette Date||Gazette Number||Gazette Page|
|Register of the National Estate||1/12/036/0433||Parker Galleries,||21/10/1978||2324|
|Register of the National Estate||1/12/036/0433||Harrington Argyle Precinct||21/02/1989||2317|
|Local Environmental Plan|
|National Trust of Australia Register||9232||27/02/1978|
|Heritage Act - State Heritage Register||01532||British Seamens' Hotel (former)||10/05/2002||2867||85|
|Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register||Place Management NSW|
|Within a National Trust conservation area||10499|