Shop and Residence - Ariel Bookshop
Statement of Significance103 George Street, The Rocks is of historical, associational, social, scientific, archaeological and aesthetic significance to the history of The Rocks and of NSW generally.The place has historical significance on a State level for having been continuously occupied for small-scale commercial use from the 1850s to the present day. As such, it offers a valuable glimpse into the nature of business in the area across a 160-year period, as well as the commercial and maritime development of George Street, Sydneys first street and the centre of colonial activity for the greater part of the 19th century. It also has historical significance for its association to Thomas Playfair, a former mayor of Sydney whose shipping butcher business operated there for 20 years.The place has aesthetic significance as it contains high-quality, well-preserved examples of a purpose-built 1850s shop-cum-residence and a purpose-built 1890s warehouse. The 1850s building to George Street is notable for its unusually architectural front façade and its sandstone construction, while the rear building is of aesthetic and technical significance for its comparatively small scale and the vestiges of fabric that give evidence of its past use, such as the catshead joist and second-floor fireplace. The complex makes an important contribution to the historical aesthetic character of the precinct: the front building to George Street is an important component of the mid-19th century streetscape, while the rear building is one of a row of 5 small rear warehouse buildings that contribute to the 19th and early 20th century aesthetic character of Nurses Walk.As much of the original building plan is still evident in the building fabric of the front and rear buildings, the complex has aesthetic and archaeological significance as a material and visual resource for investigating and understanding the past. The fabric illustrates the layout, design and methods of construction typical of commercial and residential accommodation of the period, while the complex as a whole demonstrates aspects of 1840s town planning as its boundaries define the allotment created in Elizabeth Broughtons 1841 subdivision.The building is socially significant for its contribution to the historic character of The Rocks, a well-loved heritage tourism precinct that is widely appreciated for its history.
Shop and residence
Shop and residence
Retail and Wholesale
Construction Years: 1856 - 1856
Physical Description: No 103 George Street is a fine three storey building in the Victorian Regency style. Its proportions are pleasing with a formal symmetry in line with that of the Victorian Regency architecture in Britain which was transported to Australia and adapted by the early European settlers. It was built in 1856 of stuccoed brick with articulated quoins and finely detailed stone architraves and cornices to first and second floors. The window openings are larger than those provided in facades of similar contemporary buildings, eg 105 George Street. The use of decoratively moulded string courses with supporting scrolled brackets adds a touch of lightness and relief to the façade. The distinctive embellished parapet top to the front of the building is a detail that has become relatively rare. The shopfront is not original. (Riggs 1998: 59; National Trust 1977)Style: Victorian Regency; Storeys: 3; Facade: Stone facade and boundary walls; Side Rear Walls: Rendered brickwork; Roof Cladding: Corrugated Iron; Floor Frame: Concrete
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Historic Notes and Themes
Historical notes: The first building - with its associated garden - to be constructed on the western side of the cove in the vicinity of the present 103 George St site was the hospital. Although the hospital was originally situated just north of the future Argyle St, it was moved within a year to an area just south of where Argyle St would develop. The site, now referred to as 103 George St, occupies part of that land occupied by the original military hospital. These early medical facilities were replaced in 1790 by a portable hospital which was brought out to the colony with the Second Fleet. On the corner of George and Argyle St, stood a building that was occupied by the Assistant Surgeon until 1814 and later, from 1814 until 1836, by Francis Greenway. "Like so many other aspects of his life, Francis Greenway's occupancy of this house was contentious. Greenway claimed that the land had been given to him by Governor Macquarie, but no real proof could be found in government records. A document produced by Greenway may have been a forgery. He had been tempted to such a crime once before when hard pressed in his business affairs. This led to his transportation. Greenway was evicted, but was then allowed to stay on in the building, to become more and more of an embarrassment to government. Eventually he left to join his family in the Hunter Valley, where he died."( Ellis (1953, revised edition), p. 35.) The subject site was adjacent to the residence and site to which Francis Greenway laid claim. On the site now known as 103 George St, there appears, at that time to be three structures. By the time the site was subdivided by Elizabeth Broughton (1841), only one of the buildings remained, or at least only one was shown on the subdivision plan. Elizabeth (or Eliza), or her husband William Broughton, had, prior to the official register of the grant, built a shop there between 1831 and 1832, this shop was called McHealy's China Shop. Broughton?s claim to the land is noted on Robert Russell's survey map of 1834 and Elizabeth Charlotte Broughton was legally confirmed as owner of the site on 30th April, 1840, by Town Grant 235.John Richards, a draper in the Town of Sydney, purchased the property in November of 1842. Maurice Reynolds (aka Morris) is recorded as the owner between 1849 and 1852. The 1851 Municipal Rate Books for Gipps ward indicated that the one-storey timber building was being used as a smiths shop. Richards sold the property to James O'Neill, who erected the three-storey structure between 1855 and 1856. In 1871, Thomas Playfair was using the new premises at 103 George St, constructed circa 1856, as a butcher's shop. He became the legal owner in 1882. On his death in 1893, the property passed to Thomas' son, Edmund Playfair. Edmund remained the property's owner until 1902, when it was resumed by the New South Wales Government.Thomas Playfair joined the British Royal Navy at the age of 12 in 1845, and served on a number of ships including Hecla, Tyne, Rattler, Hecate, Asia, Swift, Brisk, and Pelorus, on which ship he travelled to Melbourne as Wardroom Steward, arriving on 30th September, 1859. Here he was voluntarily discharged, and almost immediately made his way to Sydney, arriving there on SS London on 7th October, 1859.In 1860, Thomas formed a partnership with Edmund John Bailey, a carcass butcher, trading as Bailey and Co. In the same year, he married Ellen Matheson, a younger sister of Bailey's wife Margaret. In 1860, the partnership purchased the Shipping Butcher business from George Read at 107 George St, Sydney and traded as Bailey and Playfair. After Bailey's death in 1862, it appears that his wife Margaret sold his interests in this business and the shops at South Head Road and Crown St to Thomas Playfair. After the death of Ellen Matheson, Thomas married her half sister, Georgina, in 1867.The property was originally leased to Thomas, but at sometime prior to 1882, he purchased it and the business remained there until the early 1900s except for a period from c1879, when he leased it to other interests while he rented 101 George St, across the Suez Canal, to carry on his business until he returned to 103 in 1885.The names Bailey and Playfair continued to be linked in the business until c1885. Thomas must have had great respect for Bailey, as he named his second son Edmund John Bailey Playfair. In 1875, Thomas was elected as an Alderman for the Sydney City Council for Gipps Ward, one of the eight wards into which Sydney was divided at the time, and which included the George St North and The Rocks area. He served continuously for 18 years until his death in 1893. He was elected Mayor of Sydney in 1885. Thomas Playfair was also responsible for the establishment of the Homebush saleyards.After Playfair's death in 1893, his son, Edmund, continued to run the family business at least until 1907. Following this period, there was a succession of tenants using the building for a variety of retail purposes until the occupation by F R Edwards. Records found on the premises indicated that the Edwards family had been long term tenants, manufacturing and selling shoes and clothing. Their business was called "Edwards Bespoke Shoemakers, Late of London" at the time of establishment in 1938. The name was changed during the 1950s to "Edwards Outfitters", then, during the 1970s to "Edwards Suit, Shoe and Trouser Cave", and finally, to "Edwards Rocks Rig". The current tenants (2005) are Ariel Bookshop (103 George Street, and 1st and 2nd Levels, rear building on Harrington Street); Australian World Trading Pty Ltd., on Levels 1 and 2 above 103 George Street, and Sydney Cove Jewellery on the Ground Floor Level of the rear building fronting Harrington Street. (Graham Brooks and Associates Pty Ltd, 2005)
Historical significance: The site of 103 George Street, The Rocks is historically significance as a site continuously occupied since the earliest European occupation of Australia. The site has important associations with the earliest developments of the colony, as it formed part of Sydneys first convict hospital and gardens before it was granted to landholder Elizabeth Broughton in the 1830s.As a well-known commercial building in a busy section of George Street, The Rocks, the subject property is historically significant in the development of Sydneys foremost retail, commercial and maritime district from the 19th century to the present.It is also significant for having been continuously occupied for similar kinds of retail commercial purposes since its construction. The history of occupancy of the subject site offers insight into the nature of business in this precinct from the 1850s to the present, and as such the site is significant in providing evidence of change and continuity in retail and commerce over the past 150 years.A notable theme in the commercial history of the place is its use for wholesale and manufacturing purposes in addition to retail use, commencing with the Playfair butchers shop in the 1880s-1900s and continued by Allan Fergusons shipping grocer, J Kandilas confectioners shop and factory briefly in the 1930s, a smallgoods factory in the 1950s, Renault & Co.s liquor wholesaling in the 1950s-1960s, and FR Edwards & Co.s menswear manufacture in the 1970s-1990s.Further, the history of the conservation of 103 George Street, The Rocks from the 1980s to the present is significant in providing evidence of conservation philosophies and the priorities of the government agencies who have owned it since that time.103 George Street meets this criterion on a State and local level.
Historical association: The site of 103 George Street, The Rocks is historically associated with several individuals of prominence in business and commercial circles of 19th century Sydney, most notably with Thomas Playfair, shipping butcher, landholder and mayor of Sydney in the second half of the 19th century.Playfairs business, run by his son and grandson after his death, operated from the subject property for around 20 years from c1886-c1906, having initially been established at the adjacent building to the north (today 101 George Street). The Playfairs were responsible for significant renovations and additions at the property, including the construction of the rear store to 2 Nurses Walk. The configuration of buildings - particularly the front shop - during Playfair period of occupation is commemorated in the 1990s conservation work undertaken by architects Kevin Riggs & Company.The site also has historical associations with others who were well-known in their time, such as original landowner Elizabeth Broughton and various long-term occupants including draper James ONeill (for whom the building was constructed), grocer Allan Ferguson, wine merchant Henry Renault and clothier FR Edwards & Co.103 George Street meets this criterion on a local level.
Aesthetic significance: As a fine, purpose-built 1850s shop and residence with a c1890s store at the rear, 103 George Street, The Rocks has aesthetic significance for the form and design detail of its buildings.The 1850s building to George Street is a very good example of a small city commercial building executed in stone in the Victorian Italianate style. Aesthetic features of note in this building including a very accomplished, architectural front façade that is fully parapeted and quoined, and is highly intact at the first and second-floor levels. The façade features some unusual detailing such as the continuous string course at the entablature between the first and second floors. Internal rooms are also aesthetically significant, being unusually generous, well-detailed and highly intact.The main front (George Street) building is largely intact to a period of its major tenant (Playfair) as a result of 1990s conservation work; this is demonstrated in the internal tiling to the ground floor shop, the first and second floor windows to the front elevation and the first floor living room.The rear (Nurses Walk) building is also aesthetically significant as the largest of one of five relatively small, purpose-built rear warehouses along the Nurses Walk lane. Like the front building, it is very intact, and possesses some distinctive original features that reflect its historic use, such as the catshead joist on the west elevation and the second-floor fireplace.The subject property also has streetscape significance for the aesthetic interest afforded by its architectural George Street façade. Additionally, the front (George Street) building on the subject property has a strong design relationship with the front buildings at Nos 107-109 George Street, which are built on Lots 1 & 2 of the same 1841 subdivision that produced the subject property.The property also has historic planning significance: the northern boundary line of the buildings on the site marks out the northern boundary of Elizabeth Broughtons 1841 subdivision, which was created when the government retained a narrow strip of land for a passage (now the Suez Canal).
Social significance: 103 George Street, The Rocks is socially significant for its long history and for its contribution to The Rocks area, Australias 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.As part of The Rocks area, the place is likely to be held in some esteem by individuals and groups with a particular interest in Sydneys history and heritage, and in colonial Australian architecture.103 George Street, as part of The Rocks precinct, meets this criterion on a State level.
Research significance: The site of 103 George Street, The Rocks is significant in its ability to provide material evidence of European settlement, including land tenure, subdivision, urban planning and land use in mid-19th century Sydney.Results of previous archaeological investigations of the site are documented and form a valuable resource for understanding early habits of life and work in The Rocks area. As the original design and planning of the main (front and rear) buildings on the site are relatively intact, these provide a resource for understand spatial planning and room layout, as well as building practices, materials and detailing in a 19th century commercial and residential building.Further historic research could, however, reveal more about the historic occupational relationship between the front (George Street) and rear (Nurses Walk) buildings.
Rare assessment: Although the front (George Street) building is of a type still reasonably common in the older commercial areas of Sydney (The Rocks, Darlinghurst, Glebe, Balmain), the building nonetheless possesses a degree of rarity for being built in Sydney sandstone, and for its unusually architectural front façade and high level of intactness.The rear (Nurses Walk) building, although also of a common type, is rare for its comparatively small size, and is particularly rare for being served by a lane; in the latter respect it may be the only such example in Sydney.
Representative assessment: The front and rear buildings at 103 George Street are both very good examples of their type. The front (George Street) building is a very good, intact example of a Victorian Italianate style 1850s shop-cum-residence which was once very common in The Rocks. In form, the rear (Nurses Walk) building is a well-preserved, typical example of an1890s store building, also executed in stone, although its small scale is not representative of its type.
Intact assessment: Archaeology partly disturbed.
Physical condition: Archaeology Assessment Condition: Partly disturbed. Assessment Basis: Floors level with George Street, and terraced up to level of Nurses Walk.
|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.|
|Heritage Listing||Listing Title||Listing Number||Gazette Date||Gazette Number||Gazette Page|
|Register of the National Estate||1/12/036/0382||Commercial Buildings||21/10/1980||2184|
|National Trust of Australia Register||7096||09/11/1981|
|Heritage Act - State Heritage Register||01587||10/05/2002||2868||85|
|Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register||Place Management NSW|
|Within a National Trust conservation area||10499|
|National Trust of Australia Register||7716||27/02/1978|
|Register of the National Estate||1/12/036/0380||George Street Business Precinct||21/10/1980||2182|