Sydney Architecture Images- Gone but not forgotten

Anthony Horderns Palace Warehouse




Haymarket, near today’s Central Station. an entire city block bounded by Pitt, Castlereagh and Moore Streets


Built- 1894   Demolished- destroyed by fire in 1901


Victorian Italianate


Rendered brick Stone


Summary Sydney's first bldg to reach 40m to roof was the 8 storey Hordern warehouse
built 1894. unfortunately it was also Sydney's first towering inferno! destroyed by fire in 1901. Many died due to poor safety conditions.
  See also
Anthony Hordern’s Palace Emporium
former Horderns Emporium/ Barlow st
The great fire, 1901.
Fire at Hordern's Palace Emporium 1901 - SLNSW
On 10 July 1901, a fire swept through the Horden’s Palace Emporium at Haymarket, near today’s Central Station. The building was reduced to cinders within two hours, leading to the loss of five lives and the destruction of more than half a million pounds worth of merchandise. This fire, at last, paved the way for better fire fighting services for Sydney and new regulations which ensured that new buildings in Sydney were fire proofed.

In 1856 the new three-storey Haymarket store was opened and Anthony jun. took his elder son Anthony III (1842–1886) into partnership as Anthony Hordern and Son. In 1869 Samuel (ca.1849–1909) was admitted to the partnership and the business was renamed Anthony Hordern and Sons. Anthony III and Samuel expanded the business vigorously. "The Warehouse" and the "Palace Emporium" were built and put into operation in remarkable time.

Anthony Hordern and Sons, Universal Providers, Palace Emporium, Haymarket

Samuel was born on 14 July 1849 at Sydney. Educated at Fort Street School and Camden College, he joined his father's firm at 17 and in 1886 paid £158,252 for Anthony's share, becoming sole proprietor of 'Anthony Hordern and Sons, Universal Providers, Palace Emporium, Haymarket [ONLY]', to distinguish it from five other competing Hordern shops in Sydney. On 10 July 1901 fire destroyed all the Haymarket complex but Samuel leased the Exhibition building and opened there next day. In 1905 he had new premises on Brickfield Hill. He was generous to his staff of over 4000 and provided a cafeteria and other amenities. City and suburban land speculation added to his wealth and his success brought comments on his 'glorified sockselling' and 'insolent monopoly'.

Eight years later, an entire city block bounded by Pitt, Castlereagh and Moore Streets was wiped out, when a huge fire swept through it.

The following appeared in yesterday's Third Edition

THE FIRE AT HORDERN'S A Tremendous Blaze.

Main Buildings Destroyed. Sensational Experiences.

Damage Estimated at £1,000,000.[BT TELEGRAPH.]SYDNEY,

Wednesday Afternoon,

The fire at Anthony Hordern and Sons, Haymarket, this morning, is described as one of the biggest in Australia. A strong and cold westerly wind was blowing early this morning. The crowds of business people coming into the city by train, tram, and foot, about 8.30 o'clock, suddenly observed flames emerge from Hordern's Palace Emporium, and in less time than it takes to describe the fire spread and the flames rose hundreds of feet high. The fire brigades were soon on the scene, and at once commenced the fiercest fire struggle known in Australia. The battle, however, had little result until practically the whole of the three main buildings of the company's premises were demolished.

The fire broke out in the toy department, on the basement, facing Gipps-street, in close proximity to the huge city gasometer. A few of the employees who commenced work at8 o'clock with difficulty escaped with their lives.

Thousands of people watched the work of the brigades with bated breath and in awestricken silence. Some of the employees escaped; but it is surmised that some were consumed with the flames. Time alone can tell, when the debris is searched, how many. The debris was carried by the wind a great distance around. It is reported that the stock was insured in London offices for £350,000.

Harry Clegg, 22, an unmarried man, who resided with his parents and who had been employed at Hordern's for some years, this morning was engaged in the blind department, packing, when the fire commenced. He was apparently forced by the rapid extension of the fire to rush to the highest storey, the eighth. On arriving there the flames sur-rounded him, and various attempts to seek shelter were unsuccessful. Then he emerged in the front of the building, and the crowds cheered him. The firemen adjusted their ladders, but found them of insufficient length. The position was most pathetic. Silent crowds, pierced by indescribable agony, watched the unfortunate young man as a tarpaulin was outstretched make a jump. It was a jump into eternity. He had to fall 100ft., and when he reached the tarpaulin he became a mass of pulp. His clothes and body had been previously burnt.C. Borthwicke, 46, another employee, had a sensational experience and a most miraculous escape. He succeeded in reaching terra firma with a broken leg.

The firemen, notwithstanding the intense heat, worked heroically. Words piled upon words cannot describe the scenes of the morning, especially among the employees, observable to the naked eye. No insurance, it is said, can cover the actual loss of stock and the unhinging of trade. Universal sympathy is expressed on behalf of the firm. The origin of the fire is at present unknown, but it is surmised that lit was caused by the fusing of an electric wire. Mr. John Bee (the Premier), with Mr.Critchett Walker, visited the scene during the morning and ordered the blocking of the George-street traffic until the walls had been pulled down. A few of the adjoining shops and many others in the vicinity were damaged by the blaze, but fortunately escaped serious damage.


The fire has now been subdued. Excepting for the bare walls the buildings in George and Gipps streets have all been destroyed. Cleggis now believed to be the only employee killed. Some of the female employees saved themselves by sliding down a rope. Had the fire occurred an hour later terrible loss of life must have resulted. The city gasometer was safely guarded and emptied quickly, so that no explosion occurred.

The firemen rescued two of the employees from the lift-well. Bitter complaints are made with regard to the police interference with the men holding the tarpaulin for rescue work. Clegg fell face downwards; his skin and flesh peeled off when water was applied to the body at the morgue.

The firm hopes to obtain premises to recommence business to-morrow. The firm's managers state that during the past few months the warehouses were stocked with goods valued at £300.000. The firm's morning post, containing orders from the country, was all saved.

An observer says that Clegg, before his death, stood out like a statue against the sky, waving his hands, and evidently calling for help. Suddenly he seemed to abandon hope ; then he knelt and prayed, and jumped down, head first. The chairman of the Fire Brigade Boardsays that the fire proves the want of more men, accommodation, and apparatus. It is estimated that £1,000,000 worth of damage was done by the fire. The police generally worked splendidly. They arrested one man for confiscating goods.

Source- Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW : 1888 - 1954)