Bushells Warehouse (former) and Bushells Place
Statement of SignificanceThe Bushells Warehouse (former), Bushells Place and the site have heritage significance for historic, aesthetic and social values. The site and buildings are contributing components of The Rocks area which is of State significance in its own right.From 1904-1924, the site was used and occupied by one of the most well-known Australian food manufacturers, the Bushells Tea Company. The place retains its historic association with the Bushells Company, including through the creation and naming of Bushells Place. The warehouse at 88 George Street (1886) and the interconnected warehouse at 86 George Street (1912) are closely associated with the mercantile activities of The Rocks.The use of structural steel frame in 1912 presents a relatively early use of this construction technique in NSW. The steel for the 1912 builidng was supplied by Dorman Long and Co., the later builiders of Sydney Harbour Bridge.88 George Street is a representative, but altered, example of the late Victorian Free Classical style. 86 George Street, designed by the NSW Government Architect, Walter Liberty Vernon, is a representative example of the Federation Warehouse style. Vernon designed an additional floor and remodelled the eastern façade of 88 George Street to harmonise with his design at 86 George Street.The two prominent warehouses, located at the junction of George Street and Hickson Road, have an important landmark and streetscape quality, particularly when approached from the south along George Street. The massive scale of the Bushells Warehouse (former) compared to its neighbours makes the building distinctive in its setting, and in the townscape image of The Rocks. 86-88 George Street is visible from many vantage points in the vicinity.Undoubtedly, the place had landmark status as one of the most prominent commercial institutions of The Rocks and Bushells enjoyed community and employee regard as a benevolent employer.The buildings have social significance for the esteem that they are held in by the wider community. The inclusion of the buildings on the registers of the National Trust and National Estate is indicative of this significance.
Offices / Shops / Gallery / Storage
Health Commission Building, Bushells factory
Manufacturing and Processing
Other - Manufacturing & Processing
Construction Years: 1886 - 1912
Physical Description: No. 88 is in the Victorian Free Classical style with a decorative plaster painted finish. No. 86 is in the Federation Warehouse style, with traditional face brickwork, stone lintels and string courses. Vernon remodelled the eastern façade of No.88 to aesthetically harmonise with the new building at No.86 No. 86 was designed to be used by Bushells in conjunction with the earlier building (No.88). Floor levels were common between ground and third floors with load bearing brick external structure on sandstone bedrock. The internal structure was generally of heavy timber floors (with some concrete in service areas) on various combinations of steel I-beams, large hardwood beams and steel, cast iron and hardwood storey post columns. The additional floors gave a strong visual link between the buildings through the use of matching brickwork, and the continuation of the piers, parapet and window treatment to No 86. (SCRA Annual Report 1985: 18-21) The building was one of the earliest in Sydney to employ a steel frame, the steel being supplied by Dorman Long & Co of Britain who would later build the Sydney Harbour Bridge.Style: No.86: Federation Warehouse No.88: Late Victorian Free Classical; Storeys: No.86: 7 floors No.88: 5 floors; Roof Cladding: pitched / flat roof; Internal Structure: heavy timber floors on various combination of beams and steel, cast iron.
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Historic Notes and Themes
Historical notes: The site is located to the east of the track which in 1788 led to William Dawes' Observatory, later the Dawes Point Battery. It forms part of the parcel of land originally leased to Captain Henry Waterhouse. In 1800, Robert Campbell took over Captain Waterhouse's lease. The leased land was granted to Robert Campbell in June 1814 by Governor Lachlan Macquarie. The wall of Wharf House lay beyond the site. In 1877, the site was still a garden, level with George Street and was separated from 'Campbell's Stores' by a quarried rock face. In 1877, Robert Campbell sold the land to Australasian Steam Navigation Company. The Australasian Steam Navigation Company also began selling off undeveloped land fronting George Street North on the east. The 1884 Percy Dove Map shows the area as vacant.Built in 1886, 88 George Street was originally three floors and basement. The building is a fine example of the late Victorian Free Classic style. The offices and warehouses of the merchants and importers, Virgoe Son & Chapman, appeared at 88 George Street by 1887. Beyond 88 George Street, the line of the old Campbell's wall was still intact at least until 1901, where it is visible on the map. This map notes the site 86-88 George Street as occupied by Stanford Chapman. The remaining area is shown as vacant land in the name of Robert Reid under Mortgage to the Union Bank of Australia Ltd.In 1904, Bushells Ltd., Tea Merchants, leased the building. In 1912 a taller brick building of 6 floors and basement was completed on the adjacent northern site. The new warehouse (86 George Street) was designed by Walter Liberty Vernon, the Government Architect, in the Federation Warehouse style, and built by the Public Works Department. Concurrently, the building at 88 George Street, was reduced in depth by 10 metres to make way for the construction of Hickson Road, and an extra floor was added. Vernon designed the reconstructed eastern façade (88 George Street) to harmonise with its new neighbour (86 George Street), while the western elevation of the extra storey retained the late Victorian style of its lower levels. The two buildings were interconnected to accommodate the Bushells Warehouse, the single occupant. The 1912 building presents a relatively early use of the structural steel frame, with elements provided by Dorman Long & Co. Bushells vacated the premises in 1924, but continued to use the building façade for signage. The buildings were used as stores for the Department of Education and Labour and Industry. Following renovation between 1948-1951, the premises were used as offices and laboratories by Government Departments, mainly by the Department of Public Health. The site (later to be named Bushells Place) at the corner of George Street and Hickson Road, was occupied by a shed and a wall to George Street. A new plaza, adjacent to the south façade of 88 George Street, was created at the corner of George Street and Hickson Road in 1976-77, with the help of a donation from the Bushells Group of Companies, in recognition of its long association with The Rocks. A commemorative plaque was unveiled on 26 January, 1977. The Health Commission of NSW vacated the building in 1980. In 1984-85, work was undertaken to adapt the building for commercial offices, with shops, café and gallery at ground level. Two additional floors were constructed on the upper levels of 88 George Street. Both buildings were structurally strengthened during the work and extensive fire upgrade occurred. The building was painted to the rear to conceal the additions. The café has outdoor seating on Bushells Place. Access to car parking for 86-88 George Street is under Bushells Place from Hickson Road. In 2007-2008, the buildings at 86-88 George Street were refurbished and the building services upgraded, for continuing commercial uses. The works included reconfiguration of some basement areas; reconfiguration of layout, entry foyer and retail areas on the ground floor (including removal of ground floor toilets from 88 George Street); refurbishment of toilets (except on third floor); lift upgrade; upgrade of fire stairs; rooftop works; new environmental control systems; redesign of Bushells Place; new external colour scheme; and implementation of some heritage interpretation strategies. The works, based on environmental efficiency principles, achieved a 5-Star Green Star Office Design rating (Green Building Council Australia) for 86-88 George Street, the first for a State heritage-listed office building in NSW.
Historical significance: The warehouse at 88 George Street (1886) and the interconnected warehouse at 86 (1912) are closely associated with the mercantile activities of The Rocks, and in particular Bushells Tea Company. 86 George Street was modified and 88 George Street was built and occupied by one of the most high-profile archetypally Australian food manufacturers, maker of some (certainly one) of the most popular and ubiquitous brand-name staple products in the nation. In addition to the associational value of that link, the building and evidence of former signage provide direct evidence to the operations of that Company. By extension, this provides evidence of the attitudes and approach of its principal figure, an eminent Australian of individual renown and historic interest for his contribution to both Australian society and commerce.It is not known who designed the warehouse building at 88 George Street. On first reading, the buildings characteristics and architectural vocabulary appear to be the work of the architect Edmund Thomas Blacket (1817-1883). While Blacket had already died by the time construction of 88 George Street began in 1886, it is possible that this buildings design was based on Blackets earlier architectural plans. Further research may be able to confirm or rule out this possibility.The buildings location and occupation in The Rocks provide further evidence of the historical development of the area, across the twentieth century. It provides clear evidence of its changing fabric, and its changes of function as a sub-part of the city. The building characterises the very special urban functions of The Rocks as a waterfront / manufacturing / processing area, which co-existed with its residential population.In particular, the site of 86-88 George Street was one of the named locations identified at the time of the plague outbreaks and imbued with notoriety by the public officials anxious to pursue a broader range of objectives than slum clearance and civic improvement. In the event, 88 George Street was not demolished; it was shown in the 1900 birdseye view of "Old Sydney" as the only building proposed for retention on this part of George Street. Today, the site contains two interconnected buildings from both the pre- and post-resumption era.Following the relocation of the Bushells Co. to its Harrington Street building in 1924, the buildings at 86-88 George Street were used and occupied by various government departments until the 1980s. This government use is consistent with the government ownership, which used many sites in The Rocks for administration, research, stores and public housing.
Historical association: The combined warehouse at 86-88 George Street and Bushells Place have association with the Bushells Tea Company. 86 and 88 George Street continued to retain the Bushells signage on their southern façades, providing an association with the building even after the Company moved to Harrington Street. The construction and naming of Bushells Place continued the places association with the Bushells Company.86 George Street, its third floor and the Hickson Road façade of 88 George Street, have association with the Government Architect, Walter Liberty Vernon, who was also on the advisory board for The Rocks replanning.
Aesthetic significance: The warehouse at 88 George Street is a representative example of the late Victorian Free Classical style which has been externally and internally altered in two stages (1912 and 1984-85).86 George Street, designed by the Government Architect, Walter Liberty Vernon, is a representative example of Federation Warehouse style which has been internally modified and externally painted to Hickson Road. Vernon specifically designed the additional floor and remodelled the eastern façade of 88 George Street to harmonise with his design at 86 George Street.The two prominent warehouses, located at the junction of George Street and Hickson Road, have an important landmark and streetscape quality, particularly when approached from the south along George Street.Stylistically, the simple utilitarian nineteenth century factory/warehouse design has been dressed in Victorian classically-inspired formality. The façade at 86 George Street is reflective of the Federation style. The composition of the building remains classically inspired. The treatment of its principal facades is (and was) common to many Sydney inner city shops, warehouses, office buildings and even cinemas.Typologically, 86 George Street is similar to the many such "industrial" buildings erected in the inner city and nearby areas, including Surry Hills, Pyrmont and Ultimo. Many of these buildings have been lost to redevelopment, and although a survey was beyond the terms of this study, few remained in original condition. 86-88 George Street underwent significant modification due to its changes of use unlike the later Bushells Building in Harrington Street. This remained within original ownership, within original use, and with little alteration and adaptation until c.2000.In its construction, 86 George Street is an indication of the survival of the nineteenth century warehouse/factory construction techniques into the twentieth century, prior to the clear economic and technical superiority of steel-framed or reinforced concrete construction. After some concerns about fire protection, the clearer understanding of the abilities of heavy, timber-framed construction, championed by Professor W.H. Warren, John Sulman, James Nangle and others, saw a confident continuation of its use.The increasing complexity and stringency of fire regulations the scarcity and difficulties of handling large timber members, and the attractive economics of other construction systems were to see its use soon discontinued.Vernon brought a change in style within the Government Architects Branch with his Arts and Crafts architectural overtures to public works. Vernon saw major city public buildings as "monuments to Art36 - large in scale and finely wrought in masonry, for example, Central Railway Station, Mitchell wing of the State Library, Art Gallery of NSW. Suburban buildings on the other hand took on the scale and character of their surroundings. Vernon also expressed Arts and Crafts ideas of honesty of materials and directness of design to function in his design; this is still evident at 86-88 George Street, particularly the western and eastern facades.The use of structural steel frame in 1912 presents a relatively early use of this construction technique in NSW. Undoubtedly, the building had landmark status as one of the most prominent commercial institutions of The Rocks.The massive scale of 86-88 George Street compared to its neighbours makes the buildings distinctive in their setting, and in the townscape image of The Rocks, as clearly seen from various locations in the vicinity such as Campbells Cove and the Overseas Passenger Terminal. Further research into historic photographic collections will clarify the buildings changing prominence within its context.The building was the first heritage building in NSW to be awarded a 5-star Green Star rating, further to the most recent wave of alterations, completed in 2008.
Social significance: The inclusion of the buildings on the registers by the National Trust and National Estate demonstrate the esteem that they are held in by the wider community. Bushells enjoyed community and employee regard as a benevolent employer.In the preparation of this CMP, no social significance research was specifically carried out with respect to 86-88 George Street. However, given their history, location and urban form, it would be a reasonable assumption that the Bushells Warehouse (former) and Bushells Place are important contributors to the high community esteem of The Rocks as a whole, such as for their representation of important phases in the development of Sydney, their sense of continuity with the past, their architecture and building type, etc.37
Research significance: The research to date has not indicated any significance in this category.
Rare assessment: The buildings are not rare in the immediate vicinity and finer examples are numerous in the street.However, 86 George Street is one of only a few warehouse buildings known to have been designed by the Government Architect, W. L. Vernon. In addition to this, the use of structural steel frame in 1912 presents a relatively rare early use of this material in NSW.
Representative assessment: The warehouse at 88 George Street is an altered representative example of the late Victorian Free Classical style. 86 George Street, designed by the Government Architect, W. L. Vernon, is a representative example of the Federation Warehouse style.
Intact assessment: Archaeology destroyed
Physical condition: Archaeology Assessment Condition: Destroyed? Assessment Basis: Basements below George Street. Terraced into hill slope from Hickson Road.
|Australian Theme||NSW Theme||Local Theme|
|Developing local, regional and national economies||Activities relating to buying, selling and exchanging goods and services.|
|Governing||Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities.|
|Heritage Listing||Listing Title||Listing Number||Gazette Date||Gazette Number||Gazette Page|
|National Trust of Australia Register||7715||05/04/1976|
|Heritage Act - State Heritage Register||01535||Bushells Warehouse (former) and Bushells Place||10/05/2002||2868||85|
|Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register||Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority|
|Within a National Trust conservation area||10499|
|National Trust of Australia Register||8949||05/04/1976|
|Register of the National Estate||1/12/036/0324||New Metcalfe Bond / George Street Precinct||21/03/1978||2125|
|Register of the National Estate||1/12/036/0324||Health Commission Building (former),||21/03/1978||14261|
|National Trust of Australia Register||7883||05/04/1976|