Forbes Lecture 2006

A setting for justice: building for the Supreme Court of New South Wales

The 2006 Forbes lecture delivered by Rosemary Annable on 9 November 2006 in the Common Room of the New South Wales Bar Association.  

In October 1819 Governor Macquarie laid the foundation stone for ‘the new Courthouse in Hyde Park’, the first permanent, purpose-built home for the Colony’s law courts.  Intended as a handsome ornament to the town of Sydney, it was to be designed by the emancipist architect, Francis Greenway. Eight years later when the building was finally completed, it was on another site, to a different design and was already too small for its important purpose. In 1833 its judicial occupants thought it ‘inconvenient, inadequate and comfortless’. A hundred years later the complaint was just the same.

When it finally vacated the site in 1977, after one hundred and fifty years of use, to move into a new building on Queen’s Square, it seemed as if the Supreme Court’s continuing association with its first court house would be only token. But twenty years later the Supreme Court moved back and as work began to conserve and enhance these much complained of buildings, some of their history began to be revealed.

Where did it all go wrong? Whose design was it? And why could no-one put it right?

About the lecturer

Rosemary Annable is a consultant historian who has worked for over twenty years in the field of heritage studies, researching buildings and sites for conservation projects. She is a Fellow, and past President, of the Royal Australian Historical Society; a Fellow of the Federation of Australian Historical Societies; and the Honorary Archivist of St James’ Anglican Church, the Supreme Court’s closest and oldest neighbour. She is currently a member of the Heritage Council of New South Wales and the Chair of its History Panel. Rosemary’s research on the King Street Courts was undertaken for the firm of PTW Architects, on behalf of the Attorney-General’s Department, as part of the extensive programme of restoration and refurbishment undertaken on the King Street Courts site since 1997.

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