Property Details

Property ID: 46


Address and Location
Street Address:
160 St. John's Road (View Details)
Suburb/Postcode: Glebe  2037
City: Sydney
State: NSW
Country: Australia

Council/LGA and Zoning
Council/LGA: City of Sydney
3(b) (View Details)

Property Details
Category: Town Hall
Built: c. 1879 ~ 1880
Ambrose Thornley Junior
Sanbrook and Sons
Architectual Type: Victorian
Demolished: No 

- State Heritage Item

An elegant and commodious structure, prominently situated on elevated land at the intersection of St. John's Road, Mount Vernon and Lodge Streets, the Glebe Town Hall building is comprised of the main town hall, council chambers and 'The Lodge', formerly the residence of the town/council clerk.

The building is an excellent example of Victorian Free Classical architecture and it's design takes full advantage afforded by it's frontages to three streets. The former council clerk's residence is a two-storey Victorian terrace connected to the Town Hall fronting Lodge Street (hence named 'The Lodge'). A side entrance to the Town Hall is located at it's Mount Vernon Street frontage, allowing quick access to the council chambers room and concert hall upstairs. The front entrance, located on St. John's Road is approached with a large set of steps leading to a bold portico entrance and a large set of double doors with attractively detailed lead-light with the name of the building "TOWN HALL THE GLEBE". The building features large sets of casement and double-hung windows with rounded heads and the corners of the building are quoined. Capping off the building is a highly-detailed surmounted, corniced, bracketted and perforated parapet at the center of which (on the main St. John's street frontage) is an attractive clock, which was apparently presented to the Glebe borough by Sir. George Wigram Allen.[16] Enclosing most of the Town Hall is a dwarf wall and iron palisanding fence, typical of the Victorian era.


The Town Hall features many attractive interior features. The entry hall and reception rooms downstairs are lofty in nature with highly ornate plaster and timber panelled ceilings at heights of about 14ft, including an enormous concert hall upstairs with soaring ceilings. Other features include cedar timber joinery throughout including two richly detailed staircases with carved, turned and curled balusters and newels, large panelled doors with top-lights and decorative lead-light windows and fireplaces with marble mantels and tiled hearths. The south entry of the Town Hall, enclosed with glass, features an elevator with timber panelled walls, ceilings and a restored balcony.

Historical Notes

The Glebe Town Hall was built from 1879 to 1880 to the designs of the prominent Sydney architect Ambrose Thornley Jnr [1844-1911],[1] who designed many fine buildings throughout the city. Ambrose Thornley Jnr, like his father, Ambrose Thornley Snr [1820-1884][2] was a long-time resident of Glebe. Ambrose Thornley Snr was a builder who served as an Alderman of the Glebe Council for several terms in a period spanning from the late 1850's to early 1880's.[3] From 1890 to 1891, Ambrose Thornley Jnr would be called upon once again to design the alterations and additions that would be made to the building during this time.

Construction (1879 - 1880)

Construction of the Glebe Town Hall would commence during the second quarter of 1879. Starting from March 1, 1879, Ambrose Thornley Jnr released tenders for the construction of building, "TO BUILDERS - TENDERS required, for the Erection of a Town Hall, at the Glebe, as under:- 1st. Excavation, masonry, and brickwork, in one sum. 2nd. Carpenters', joiners', and finishing trades, in one sum. 3rd. The whole, in one sum".[4] The tenders closed on March 20, 1879 and the successful tenderers were the contractors Sanbrook and Sons.[5] Prior to accepting the Glebe Town Hall contact, Sanbrook and Sons were responsible for building the Marrickville Council Chambers, which were officially opened on June 5, 1879.[6]

From late April to early May 1879, Sanbrook and Sons released tenders for the brickwork of the Town Hall, "TENDERS for Brickwork, Glebe Town Hall. J. SANBROOK and SONS" and construction would likely begin in earnest sometime in May.[7] Further tenders were released for joinery work in July 1879 "GOOD JOINERS wanted. J. Sanbrook and Sons"[8] and October 1879 "FIRST-CLASS JOINERS wanted. J. Sanbrook and Sons".[9] It's not specified whether these tenders were related to work on the Town Hall, but given the timeframe when they were released, there's a good chance they were related to the construction of the building.

On June 2, 1879 an ordinary meeting of the Glebe council was held where letters were read from Ambrose Thornley Jnr in reference to the works on the Town Hall. A report from the Committee of Finance recommending a 5000 pound outlay on the new Town Hall was also read and adopted by the council.[10]

By February 1880, construction of the Glebe Town Hall would be more or less complete. An ordinary meeting of the Glebe council was held on February 2, 1880 where a financial report was presented for the finance of the 8th and 22nd of January recommending a payment of 500 pounds to the contractors Sanbrook and Sons, on account of building the Town Hall. The report was adopted on the motions of Aldermen Graham and Wearne.[11] By the end of March 1880, the newly completed Glebe Town Hall would be host to meetings by the Glebe Council and various local associations including the Glebe Cricket Association, which held it's general meeting at the Town Hall on March 24, 1880.[12] During an April 1880 meeting by the Glebe Council, Alderman Wells put forth a motion to instruct the Improvement Committee to "report on the necessity of directing the architect to prepare plans and specifications for a dwarf wall and iron pallisading for the purpose of enclosing the Town Hall". Alderman Lucas put forth a motion "that in the opinion of this Council it is desirable, in the interests of the borough, to borrow the sum of 5000 pounds upon the security of the Town Hall".[13] Both motions were carried by council and by the end of the month Ambrose Thornley Jnr. released tenders for the construction the fence, "TO IRONFOUNDERS, &c. - TENDERS required for Dwarf Wall and Palisanding, at the Town Hall, Glebe".[14] The tenders closed on May 1, 1880.[15]

Official Opening of Glebe Town Hall in June 1880

The official opening of the Glebe Town Hall was celebrated with a luncheon on the afternoon of Thursday, June 24, 1880 in the public and reading rooms. About 170 people attended the opening, including the Mayor of Glebe, Mr. Dunn and alderman (who greeted visitors at the entrance shortly after 2 pm), the Hon. Saul Samuel, CMG, MLC, Postmaster-general and the Mayor of Sydney, Mr. Robert Fowler. Later at night, the opening was celebrated with a grand concert, including performances and music by Hugo Alpen (conductor) and singers from the Glebe Musical Society.[16] The total cost of the new Town Hall would be in the area of about 5000 pounds and as per the April 1880 council meeting, the council released a tender for a loan, dated June 17, 1880, to borrow a sum of 5000 pounds in relation to the costs of building the Town Hall.[17]

Opening the Glebe Free Library in October 1880

On October 26, 1880, the free library and reading rooms in connection with the Glebe Municipality were opened at the Glebe Town Hall by the speaker of the Legislative Assembly and representative of the Glebe electorate in Parliament, Sir George Wigram Allen, an ex-Mayor and prominent member of the Glebe Municipality. During the opening, Sir Wigram Allen congratulated the Mayor, Aldermen and residents of the Glebe municipality on having acquired such a handsome new Town Hall.[18]

Additions and Alterations to Glebe Town Hall (1889 - 1891)

Initial discussions and plans for alterations to the Town Hall occured during a June 3, 1889 Glebe Council meeting. During the meeting a motion was proposed "That in consequence of the present inconvenient entrance to the main hall of the Town Hall, the council think it expedient to adapt some means to remedy the evil, and that the Mayor be empowered to employ an architect to prepare plans, &c., to be submitted to the works committee". Alderman Burcher moved as an amendment that the general purpose committee be tasked to report on the necessity and costs involved of increasing the accommodation of the Town Hall. The chairman of the meeting, Alderman Chapman, deprecated these actions believing that the existing accommodation afforded by the Town Hall was sufficient.[19]

During a December 2, 1889 council meeting, the special committee appointed to consider alterations to the Town Hall presented a report which recommended improvements including:- entrances to the main hall, an assembly room, a new council chamber and Mayor's room. The report was adopted by the council and the costs of these improvements were in the vicinity of 1500 pounds.[20] During the following council meeting on January 6, 1890, minutes from the previous month's meeting were read, which included the proposed improvements to the Town Hall. Alderman Yeates raised his objection to the improvements stating that they were unnecessary and that "the Town Hall met all the requirements of the ratepayers" and the money could be better spent elsewhere. He further stated that the only changes required to accommodate for a fire escape was an additional staircase, which could be erected for a far smaller sum of about 25 pounds. Yeates moved "that the minutes be confirmed with the exception of the part relating to the erection of additions to the Town Hall". His movement was seconded and then a division was called. The motion lost 7 votes to 3, with council voting in favour for the more extensive additions to the Town Hall.[21] The original architect of the Town hall, Ambrose Thornley Jnr, was commissioned to carry out designs for the additions to the building.

In January 1890, Ambrose Thornley Jnr released tenders for the additions to be made to the Town Hall, "TO BUILDERS - TENDERS required for the erection of Additions to the Town Hall, Glebe".[22] Tenders closed on February 3, 1890 and the successful tenderer was Mr. C. Robinson, a contractor.[23] Tenders released by Robinson relating to the construction of the additions to the Town Hall were found in July 1890 "TENDERS wanted for Painting Additions Town Hall, Glebe. Apply on job. C. Robinson"[24] and September 1890 "TENDERS wanted for Stairs, labour only. Apply C. Robinson, Glebe Town Hall".[25] Construction of these additions would carry through to end of 1890 or early 1891, although it appears that construction didn't go entirely smoothly. Robinson posted a notice in the Sydney Morning Herald dated May 12, 1890 in regards to an apparent stoppage of work on the Town Hall, "NOTICE. - If WILLIAM BINGLEY does not proceed with his CONTRACT at the Glebe Town Hall, within 48 hours from THIS DATE, I will finish it at his risk and expense".[26] Robinson posted another almost identical notice in the August 20, 1890 issue of the newspaper, this time directed at Messrs. Hand and Broadbent.[27]

Further tenders were released by Ambrose Thornley Jnr in May 1891 for additions to the Town Hall, "TENDERS are invited up to June 4 for Alterations and Additions to Glebe Town Hall".[28] Any and all construction work related to the additions to the Town Hall was likely to have been completed by the end of the year.

Restoration and Opening of Town Hall (2011 - 2013)

In 2011, the City of Sydney Council would begin major restoration and renovations of the Glebe Town Hall, which included reviving the various heritage features of the building, restoring the clock tower to working order and replacing roof tiles to match the originals. Various modifications were also made to improve accessibility to the building including the addition of an elevator to the south entry.[29][30]

On Saturday, March 2, 2013 the City of Sydney Council held an official opening at Glebe Town Hall to celebrate the completion of the renovations made to the building. The event was held from 10am to 1pm and the persistent rain and poor weather did not stop large crowds of people from attending and enjoying the event. The Lord Mayor Clover Moore welcomed visitors to the event, who then made their way throughout the building admiring the various renovations and historical features. The celebrations included a traditional Aboriginal cleansing ceremony and musical performances by bands in the main concert hall and and chambers hall.

  1. (Aug 5, 1911). "Family Notices". Sydney Morning Herald
  2. (Mar 6, 1884). "Family Notices". Sydney Morning Herald
  3. (Feb 5, 1874). "Advertising". Sydney Morning Herald
  4. (Mar 1, 1879). "Advertising". Sydney Morning Herald
  5. (Mar 20, 1879). "Advertising". Sydney Morning Herald
  6. (June 6, 1879). "Marrickville Municipal Chambers". Sydney Morning Herald
  7. (Apr 28, 1879). "Advertising". Sydney Morning Herald
  8. (July 15, 1879). "Advertising". Sydney Morning Herald
  9. (Oct 22, 1879). "Advertising". Sydney Morning Herald
  10. (June 16, 1879). "Borough Council". Sydney Morning Herald
  11. (Feb 12, 1880). "Borough Councils". Sydney Morning Herald
  12. (Mar 24, 1880). "Advertising". Sydney Morning Herald
  13. (Apr 17, 1880). "Borough Councils". Sydney Morning Herald
  14. (Apr 22, 1880). "Advertising". Sydney Morning Herald
  15. (May 1, 1880). "Advertising". Sydney Morning Herald
  16. (June 25, 1880). "The New Town Hall at the Glebe". Sydney Morning Herald
  17. (June 17, 1880). "Advertising". Sydney Morning Herald
  18. (Oct 27, 1880). "The Glebe Free Library". Sydney Morning Herald
  19. (June 13, 1889). "Municipal Councils. Glebe". Sydney Morning Herald
  20. (Dec 9, 1889). "Municipal Councils. Glebe". Sydney Morning Herald
  21. (Jan 9, 1890). "Glebe". Sydney Morning Herald
  22. (Jan 18, 1890). "Advertising". Sydney Morning Herald
  23. (Feb 1, 1880). "Advertising". Sydney Morning Herald
  24. (July 23, 1890). "Advertising". Sydney Morning Herald
  25. (Sep 9, 1890). "Advertising". Sydney Morning Herald
  26. (May 13, 1890). "Advertising". Sydney Morning Herald
  27. (Aug 20, 1890). "Advertising". Sydney Morning Herald
  28. (May 29, 1891). "Advertising". Sydney Morning Herald
  29. (Feb 28, 2013). "Glebe Town Hall reopens"
  30. Murada, Lauren (Feb 24, 2013). "Upgrade unearths treasures of Glebe Town Hall's 132-year history". Inner West Courier

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Copyright © 2012 Mark Babij