Site for a Town Hall, Sydney, 1843-1868
From very early in its existence, the Council began trying to solicit a land grant from the Colonial Government for a Town Hall.
It received in principle support from the Governor for a land grant at the Old Burial Ground bounded by George, Kent and Druitt Streets and next to St Andrews Cathedral. A design competition was held in 1843.
The Governor began to have doubts about use of the site. Others were vying for the land for different uses, the Council's grand plans were at odds with a more modest building proposed by the Colonial Government, removing the remains were not popular with the public, and there were doubts if was even legal for the Governor to grant the land given its public and sacred use.
By 1848 the Colonial Government was advocating for land on a site bounded by Bridge, Phillip, Bent and Elizabeth Streets. The Council accepted and a grant was given in 1851. The grant lapsed and a further grant was allocated in 1857 for the same site.
By this time Council was clearly unhappy with the site at Bridge Street which did not meet its needs. Under the Town Hall Site Exchange Act 1862 Council was given the power to sell or swap the land in Bridge Street and they sold it.
The search for a site continued and various locations were proposed. The Council strongly lobbied for the Police Office (on part of the site where the Queen Victoria Building now stands) but the Colonial Government was strongly opposed. FInally in 1864 they offered the Council the Old Burial Ground site once more.
Another competition was held in 1868 for a design. The design known as 'City' by JH Wilson was considered to be the one that could be adapted for a Town Hall. It was significantly modified by a number of architects.
Prince Alfred laid the foundation stone for the Town Hall in April 1868. The Cathedral Close Act of 1869 gave the Colonial Government the power to transfer half and acre of land from the Old Burial Ground to the City.CollectionSydney Town Hall