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Colonial (Government) Architect

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This database is designed to assist users who are researching the history of public buildings. Although most records that are more than 30 years old are open to public access, those that relate to current security buildings such as Court houses, police premises, corrective services and juvenile justice institutions, Parliament House and Government House are subject to a closed to public access direction, AD 28.

Administrative Background | About the Database | Photographic Albums, c. 1880-1950 | Feedback

Administrative Background

The Government (Colonial) Architect's Department was established in 1832 to be responsible for the planning and supervision of the construction and repair of public buildings. These functions had previously been performed in varying degrees by individuals, notably Francis Greenway and Standish Harris. In general the Colonial Architect's Department had charge of public buildings and their furniture, the duty of preparing plans and specifications for construction and repair and superintending all works executed by contract. On 1 April 1833 the Department became the Architectural Branch of the Department of the Surveyor General although the latter's control over the branch appeared to be only nominal and two years later the Colonial Architect's Department was again separately established.

In 1844 the duties of the Colonial Engineer of superintendence of roads, bridges, wharves and quays were added to those of the Colonial Architect and in October 1848 military buildings and works were placed under his charge. From 1856 the Colonial Architect's Department came under the control of the Secretary of Lands and Public Works and from 1860, with the separation of Public Works from Lands, under the Secretary for Public Works.

Although the Colonial Architect was responsible for public buildings in general, this did not include public school buildings as the Council of Education and the Department of Public Instruction which succeeded the Council were responsible for the establishment and maintenance of public schools. However, in 1896, as part of a general re-organisation of the Department of Public Instruction the design and supervision of the erection of large school buildings was transferred to the Government Architect's Branch.

On 1 August 1890 the Colonial Architect's Branch became the Government Architect's Branch of the Department of Public Works.

About the Database

How was the database compiled?

This database is an amalgamation of the series listed below, all of which were originally listed as the appendices in the hardcopy Guide 19 - Government (Colonial) Architect 1837-c.1970. The guide is available in our reading room.

The record series included in the database are:

NRS 4332, Correspondence - Files concerning erection, repair, additions and alterations to public bulidings c.1837-96 [2/572-650, 2/8151-65; ML Al 1/7; SR Plan Nos.2429, 2436, 2466, 2896-2901, 2903-04, 2942-44]. 78 boxes, 17 vols, 14 plans.
Letters, reports, memos, plans, specifications, printed reports and returns re courthouses, lock-ups, watch-houses, police stations and other public buildings, lighthouses, wharves, bridges etc. The records relate to the preparation of designs and plans, the selection of sites, the preparation of specifications and contracts, the advertising of tenders, the awarding of contracts, the inspection of construction work, the examination of accounts, the supply of equipment and furniture and building custody, repair and maintenance. Most of the records pertain to specific buildings. There are, however, a few records relating to internal administration and to general policy.
A number of plans have been extracted from the correspondence for preservation purposes and have been separately numbered as SR plans. A note has been left with the correspondence to indicate that this has been done. The plans which have been extracted relate to watch-houses at Balmain, North Shore Sydney, and the Weatherboard; gaols and courthouses at Grafton, Queanbeyan, Scone and Yass; and the bridge over Wallis Creek.

Previously listed as Appendix A in Guide 19 - Government (Colonial) Architect 1837-c.1970

NRS 4334, Designs of Public Building, 1837 [X693-4; reel 2660; aperture card negatives available for reproduction]. 2 vols.
Plans and elevations of public buildings made by Mortimer W. Lewis, Colonial Architect.

Previously listed as Appendix C in Guide 19 - Government (Colonial) Architect 1837-c.1970

NRS 4335, Plans of Public Buildings, 1834-c. 1970 [SR Plan Nos.634-1067, 1716-2024, 2170-81, 2216-18, 2257-2320, 2334-421, 2433-35, 2439-64, 2847]. c.951 plans.
These consist of plans, elevations, sections and details of public buildings such as police stations, court houses, gaols, government offices and schools. Aperture card copies of many of these are available.

Previously listed as Appendix B in Guide 19 - Government (Colonial) Architect 1837-c.1970

NRS 4338, Plans and specifications of schools and school residences, 1861-1910 [X14-18, 2/8153 part]. 4 vols, 1 box (part)
For each school there are memoranda of agreements signed by the parties to the contract with the general conditions to be observed in erecting the buildings and a copy of the bond entered into; elevations, sections and plans of the buildings; and specifications of works.

Previously listed as Appendix D in Guide 19 - Government (Colonial) Architect 1837-c.1970

NRS 18195 Photographs of sketch plans and elevations of War Memorials in New South Wales, 1920-26 [9/5878]
This series consists of a single volume containing photographs of sketches and actual War Memorials in New South Wales. There are memorials, proposed memorials, competition designs and blueprints. The memorials include the following: Soldiers memorials, memorial pavilions, War memorials, bronze panels, memorial fountains, war memorial gates, war memorial bandstands, and memorial clock towers.

Previously listed as Appendix F in Guide 19 - Government (Colonial) Architect 1837-c.1970

Photo Investigator Series

NRS 4346 - Lands Department Sydney NRS 4346, Photographs of public buildings c. 1880-1940, [9/5879]
Most of the photographs are not dated
The images in this series have been digitised and may be viewed in Photo Investigator.
This series consists of a single volume of photographs of public buildings in New South Wales. Subjects include but are not limited to the following: departmental buildings such as the Lands Office Sydney and Government House, court houses, general hospitals, post offices, post and telegraph offices, police stations, police barracks, psychiatric hospitals, mothers and babies welfare centres, State hospitals, convalescent hospitals, university buildings, some interior photos of buildings, and the Government shipbuilding yards at Newcastle.

Previously listed as Appendix E in Guide 19 - Government (Colonial) Architect 1837-c.1970

Further information

For further information relating to records of the Colonial (Government) Architect see:


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