Leichhardt Town Hall

Item details

Name of item: Leichhardt Town Hall
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Community Facilities
Category: Hall Town Hall
Primary address: 107 Norton Street, Leichhardt, NSW 2040
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Inner West
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
107 Norton StreetLeichhardtInner West CumberlandPrimary Address

Statement of significance:

The Leichhardt Town Hall at No. 107 Norton Street is of high local historic, aesthetic and social significance as a good and largely intact Victorian Free Classical style Town Hall and Council building constructed in 1888. The building significantly continues to operate as a focus of local administration and social functions. Despite some alterations and additions the building retains a sense of its original scale, form and details including rendered facades and details, roof form and chimneys, prominent tower and clock, various street entries, porches and balcony and associated elements including tessellated tiles, pattern of openings and original timber framed windows and doors and stone fence. The building is located on a prominent corner site and primary intersection and is a prominent landmark and townscape element in the area. It is part of fine architectural context and makes a high contribution to the Norton and Marion Street streetscapes and intersect.

Note: This inventory sheet is not intended to be a definitive study of the heritage item, therefore information may not be accurate and complete. The information should be regarded as a general guide. Further research is always recommended as part of the preparation of development proposals for heritage items.

Council's Library Service has identified photos and/or subdivision plans relating to this item which may be viewed online through the council website at http://www.leichhardt.nsw.gov.au/ Select Library & Local History to get to the Library online catalogue and keyword search the street name for results.
Date significance updated: 28 Nov 11
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the Department of Premier and Cabinet copyright and disclaimer.


Designer/Maker: Drake and Walcot
Builder/Maker: Tabrett and Draper
Physical description: One and two storey rendered and painted brick civic building with main hipped and parapeted roof forms clad in corrugated steel and highly decorative rendered chimneys. Located on the north eastern corner of Norton and Marion Streets, the building comprises of two main sections, with administration, offices, Council Chambers and meeting rooms located in the western section of the building addressing Norton Street and Hall and associated spaces located in eastern section of the building addressing Marion Street.
The main building generally features rendered classical details and mouldings, timber framed windows and doors and heavy cornice and parapet. Both sections of the building are dominated by the three storey clock tower and cupula which rises above the south western facade of the building. The tower has a banded base with arched openings to the tessellated tiled porch and entry on the ground floor. The upper levels also have classical rendered details to the window openings on the first floor, deep profiled cornice and banded detail at the base of the clock and high copper clad cupola.
A single storey projecting wing with entry porch is attached to the main, western façade of the building facing Norton Street. The porch also has arched openings with rendered mouldings and classical details with a tessellated tiled floor and heavy parapet/ balustrade to the balcony space over. The western façade also has banded and rendered pilasters and details at the corners, decorative classical details around the double hung windows and timber panelled doors. The façade is topped by a heavy cornice and parapet with central pediment with “Town Hall” in relief over the central porch.
The western section of the building is setback from the street frontages and is elevated above street level. Open grassed and paved area and some planting is located between the building and a low sandstone fence which curves around the corner. Stone piers are located at the corner and signify the main entries from Norton and Marion Street. The Marion Street entry has tessellated tiled landing and trachyte steps extending up to the porch. One and two storey additions have been added to the north, north western and southern facades of this section of the building. The building is setback from the development to the north including the former Post Office building (No. 109 Norton Street) with open, narrow laneway located between.
The Hall in the eastern section of the building also has a parapeted facade with rendered details and pediment setback from the Marion Street frontage. Single storey additions have been constructed to the south and eastern sides of the hall. The southern parapeted addition is constructed to the street alignment and has recessed double door entry with steps extending up from street level. The eastern façade has various timber framed windows and doors with the deep double hung windows of the hall setback from the car park which is located to the east of the building.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
In very good condition. Some soiling and staining from street pollution is evident.
Modifications and dates: Early 1900s: Single storey additions to the north western corner of the building.
1920s-1940s: Various additions to the north, east and south of the building.
1993: Internal alterations to first floor (BA/1993/990).
1993: Re-roofing of Town Hall (DA/373/1993).
1997: Installation of lift (DA/604/1997).
1998: Construction of access ramp (98/10).
1998: Credit Union alterations (BA/1998/61).
1998: Modification of existing car-park at Leichhardt Town Hall (D/1998/367).
2004: Internal alterations and additions to Leichhardt Town Hall to add a bathroom, bricking up existing doorway and new window on the Marion Street elevation (D/2004/725, CC/2005/17,M/2005/60).
2012 - Erection of photovoltaic solar roof panels to the northern roof areas of Leichhardt Town Hall (D/2011/666)
Further information: Various additions and alterations and infill to the building to the north western corner, northern, eastern and southern sides of the building are clear. The southern addition between the clock tower and hall has curved roof clad in corrugated steel with clerestory with multi-paned feature windows.
A concrete access ramp has been added to the southern, Marion Street entry. Air conditioning units and pigeon spikes have also been added to some locations.
The original palisade fence appears to have been removed, however the stone base (fence) and piers remain. Plaques have been fixed to the piers. The building also retains foundation stones.
Current use: Town Hall, adminstration offices, and chambers
Former use: Town Hall, adminstration offices, and chambers


Historical notes: Leichhardt was originally made up of eleven land grants of various sizes from 16 to 270 acres per grant, handed out between 1794 and 1821. The two largest estates were given to brothers Hugh and John Piper, both Captains in the NSW Corps, in 1811. John named his estate “Piperston” whilst Hugh acknowledged his good fortune by naming his “Macquarie Gift”. Ownership of several of the large land holdings changed during the fluctuating economic conditions of the 1830s. However, by 1844 fourteen substantial buildings had been constructed on the Leichhardt estates.
The site is located on Hugh Piper’s grant. Hugh left the Colony in 1812 and it would appear gave power of attorney over his 270 acres to his brother John.
The repayment of debts caused John Piper to sell part of his estates to James Foster in 1828. This estate was known as the “Elswick Estate”. Foster began work on Elswick House in 1832, but due to financial difficulties sold the house and estate to his employer James Norton in 1834. Norton owned a successful legal practice in Sydney and was one of the colony’s early politicians. The Elswick Estate embodied the perfect gentleman’s semi rural estate with a number of buildings including coach house, convict barracks, kitchen, servants quarters and stables surrounding the main two storey stone house. Norton lived in Elswick House until his death in 1862.
By the 1840s the Elswick Estate was bounded by present day Flood Street, William Street, Derbyshire, Balmain and Parramatta Roads. The estate was subdivided by Norton’s family between 1868 and 1874. The subdivision created two long streets, Elswick and Norton Streets also crossing streets Allen (named after Norton’s son) and Marion Streets (named after his second wife).
The subject site is part of over eight acres of Section 3 purchased by David Ramsay junior in 1868. The land with acreage to its north was purchased by John Wetherill in 1875 and subdivided as the Wetherill Estate with two new streets, Allen and Wetherill Streets were introduced at this time.
The Leichhardt Town Hall was constructed on Lots 7, 8 and 9 of the estate in 1888. The Centennial Year of Sydney saw a number of town halls completed during this year and a public holiday was proclaimed in 29 September 1888 when the Governor, Lord Carrington and 5000 others witnessed the official opening of the one at Leichhardt. Alderman BR Moore was Mayor when the foundation stone was laid and Alderman Sydney Smith was Mayor at the time of completion. The building was completed for a cost of £6,000. Messrs Drake and Walcott were the architects and Messrs Tabrett and Draper were the builders.
The two storey brick and rendered building was constructed in the Victorian Free Classical style which was the result of a competition with the winning design being one of thirty one entries. The winning architects, Drake and Walcot, had trained in the offices of two of Sydney’s leading architects, Drake with Benjamin Backhouse and Walcot with Thomas Power. The building as commissioned by Mayor, Benjamin J Moore featured a 90 foot tower.
Zinc tiles were used to roof the tower which remained incomplete at the opening of the building. The clock was a later addition and was installed in 1897 to commemorate the 60 years of Queen Victoria’s reign.
A Sydney Water plan dated 1889 (Leichhardt Sheet 44) shows the large L shaped building occupying the corner site. Setback from the street frontages, the western wing has a small projection with pathway extending to the Norton Street frontage. Another projection, on the south eastern extends to the Marion Street frontage. Open area is shown to the immediate east of the building, which is now part of car park.
At the time of opening, the main hall was described as being large and well ventilated, compete with stage accessories, good acoustics and ample exits. The Council room was lofty and spacious along with several other rooms. The connecting stair was beautifully carved cedar with cast iron railing.
The Australian Joint Stock Bank operated in the north western section of the building from 1888 until late 1895 from which time a library was established in the building with separate entry from Marion Street. The library has also since been relocated.
The main hall, Council Chambers, stair and various meeting rooms and offices remain primary features of the building, however, some changes have been undertaken to the building including the single storey office accommodation at the north western corner of the building in the early 1900s; addition of various rooms and infill to the eastern façade and alteration of the hall entrance from Marion Street and addition of male and female toilets, possibly c. 1920s. Also works to the former library windows and additions to the south facade.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages (none)-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-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. (none)-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Social institutions-Activities and organisational arrangements for the provision of social activities (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The site and building are of historic significance as part of the late Victorian subdivision and development of the local area constructed in 1888. The building significantly continues to accommodate local administrative and social functions.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The site is associated with a number of local land owners and speculators including John Wetherill. The building is associated with Leichhardt Council and its various representatives, Aldermen and Mayors and architects Drake and Walcot.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The building is of aesthetic significance as a good and largely intact example of a town hall building constructed in the Victorian Free Classical style. Despite some alterations and additions the building retains a sense of its original scale, form and details including rendered facades and associated classical details, roof form and chimneys, prominent tower and clock, various street entries, porches and balcony and associated elements including tessellated tiles, pattern of openings and original timber framed windows and doors also the stone fence.
The building is located on a busy corner and intersection and elevated site and is a prominent feature and landmark and townscape element in the area. The building is enhanced by open curtilage and setback from the street frontages and makes a high contribution to the Norton and Marion Street streetscapes and intersection. It is part of fine architectural context including All Souls Church (1883) designed by Blacket and Son and located on the opposite corner of Norton Street, the Leichhardt Public School (1891) designed by WE Kemp located on the opposite corner of Marion Street, the former Leichhardt Post Office at No. 109 Norton Street (1888) designed by James Barnett and the Leichhardt Fire Station at No. 1 Marion Street (1905) designed by WL Vernon and makes a high contribution to the Marion and Norton Street streetscapes.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The building is of high local social significance as a focus of the local administration and social functions that has continued to operate since its construction in 1888.
SHR Criteria f)
The building was the result of an architectural competition which is not common in the local area.
SHR Criteria g)
The building is a good and mostly intact representative example of a Victorian Free Classical style Town Hall and Council building, however, other Town Halls and Council Chambers in Annandale and Balmain have been adapted for other uses.
Integrity/Intactness: High
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Recommended management:

It is recommended that: - the overall two scale, form, character and details of the building including tower and clock, rendered classical details of the building facades, parapets, pediments, roof form and chimneys, various entries and pattern of openings and stone fence and piers be retained and conserved; - the existing uses of the building and associated spaces including Council Chambers and main Hall and their spatial qualities and decorative details be retained and conserved; - the building continue to be regularly maintained by Leichhardt Council; - the open curtilage including grassed frontages to Norton and Marion Streets and open area and car park to the east and north be retained and conserved and free of any built elements; - any future works to the building be in accordance with a current Conservation Management Plan on the building.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanLeichhardt Local Environmental Plan 2013I67723 Dec 13   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Leichhardt Municipality Heritage Study1990 McDonald McPhee Pty Ltd (Craig Burton, Wendy Thorp)  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenMax Solling and Peter Reynolds1997Leichhardt: On the Margins of the City

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Local Government
Database number: 1940707

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