Sydney Architecture Images- Central Business District

St. Andrews Anglican Cathedral


James Hume, Bishop Broughton, Edmund Blacket Cyril Blacket (Chapter House - 1885)


1440 George Street


1837 - 1868


Victorian Academic Gothic


St Andrew's Cathedral is one of the major Gothic buildings of Sydney and even though small in comparison to many Cathedrals is well executed showing the hand of architect Blacket. It is a pleasant Gothic Revival Cathedral in Sydney freestone of the late Colonial and Early Victorian periods. The exterior has weathered to a mellow warm brown colour which adds to the rich texture created by delicate Gothic windows, well proportioned towers and buttressing and multiplicity of decorated pinnacles. The main roof is slate.
The Cathedral has a largely tessellated tile floor with raised timber sections under most pews. The ceilings in the main space of the Cathedral are stained and painted timber.
The windows fall into three classes, stained glass with their protective glazing, leaded light windows and plain windows or other miscellaneous windows. The building contains many fine stained glass windows by local stained glass artists including Ashwin and Falconer and Norman Carter.
The Cathedral houses a collection of furniture, fixtures and fittings that date from the time of construction, the temporary Cathedral and various significant changes. It also houses a large collection of memorials both as furnishings and fittings and in the form of plaques.




Designed by Edmund Blacket, Sydney’s Anglican Cathedral is a fine pocket-handkerchief-sized version of older European relations. Notice that the building stands with its back to the street with its main door and dominant spires fronting onto Sydney Square. There was supposed to be a street here too but by the time this building was finished in the 1860s it had disappeared. Plans for a Cathedral and a grand square in this spot went back to the early years of the nineteenth century, but at that time it was too far from the centre of town for the idea to be taken seriously. With the old disused burial ground to its north, and brickfields and markets nearby, it was an isolated place until the second half of the nineteenth century.
  Temporary- St Andrews [1867-68]
St Andrew's Cathedral is one of the finest Gothic-revival church buildings in New South Wales and is the pre-eminent church building within the Sydney Anglican Diocese. The building represents the aspirations of the Colony and was the focus of much of Sydney life both during and after its construction. The completion of the Cathedral building was a major achievement for both the church and the City of Sydney. The building has high spiritual significance for both Anglicans and the wider community. It has been the 'State' church for many major events. The building group has high aesthetic significance as a finely crafted and detailed group of structures. The Cathedral interior has high aesthetic value, even in its altered form, containing much of the original furniture and fittings including the Hill organ. The Cathedral contains a very fine and significant set of stained glass windows that predominantly date from the time of construction. The Cathedral has historic significance as it has reflected the growth of the Anglican Church and changes in Anglicanism and for its associations with prominent church and civic persons. (Davies, 1999)

Early Construction 1811-c.1874
The Cathedral was planned by Governor Macquarie to be an impressive Gothic building in the centre of Sydney within a large square which would contain major civic buildings. While the foundation stone was laid in 1819 it was later moved to accommodate development under Governor Bourke to make George Street straight rather than interrupted by a large square. Macquarie's plans were abandoned with the appointment of Commissioner Bigge to the colony and St James was constructed in place of St Andrew's as a church for Sydney.

Macquarie's vision has since been realised with the construction of the cathedral and later the Town Hall. The plan for the square could not be a reality as the land was allocated to other purposes, including the resiting of the Cathedral.

It is clear that Macquarie intended the building to be a cathedral and for it to be located in the centre of Sydney. No early plans have survived but it appears that Francis Greenway was the architect.

Early planning and construction was haphazard. With the arrival of Archdeacon Broughton in 1829 an attempt was made at reviving the project. On his return in 1836 as Bishop he re-sited the building and appointed James Hume architect, actively participating in the design.

Revival of interest was partly due to the Church Act of 1836 which provided Government subsidies for new church construction. In this case, 1,000 pounds and finances for a Dean was provided. The Cathedral was the most prominent of the eight churches commenced under this scheme and the major church building designed by Hume. It was also the first attempt in the colony to produce accurate details from medieval sources. The Conrad Martens lithograph influenced much of the church design that followed.

Work on the building again ceased in 1842 due to the combined effects of drought and economic depression in the colony.

In 1846 Broughton, not satisfied with Hume, appointed the more competent architect Edmund Blacket to complete the works. Blacket enlarged the building by two bays in length and added the central tower. He also proceeded to change the overall form and detailing of the building.

In October 1850 six bishops of Australasia met in Sydney for a conference. Someone suggested that as there were six pillars in the nave of the cathedral each should bear the name of one of the Bishops. William Grant Broughton, Bishop of Sydney and Metropolitan; George Augustus Selwyn, Bishop of New Zealand; Francis Russell Nixon, Bishop of Tasmania; Augustus Short, Bishop of Adelaide; Charles Perry, Bishop of Melbourne and William Tyrell, Bishop of Newcastle. The pillars were so named. In 1868 the Duke of Edinburgh attended St Andrew's for an organ recital.

The cathedral was opened and consecrated on St Andrew's Day, 30 November 1868. Seven out of nine Australian bishops were present at the opening. By 1874 the cathedral was substantially complete, including the western towers. The external form of the building had been finished, the building was furnished and changes had already commenced to the interior. Problems were detected due to water and ventilation which Blacket attended to with varying degrees of success.

Development of the Cathedral 1874-1968
Minor work was still taking place to the cathedral building from 1874. Fifteen years after opening, large scale cleaning and maintenance of the fabric and furnishings was required, to which Blacket responded.

Within 10 years of the 1874 completion the question of size was raised. Attendances at services had grown and on special occasions hundreds were turned away. In 1886 Bishop Barry said enlarging the cathedral was a question to face. He suggested the possibility of doubling its size. During 1883 proposals were made for a suitable memorial to Bishop Barker the second Bishop of Sydney. The Chapter House was decided on, to be also used as a Synod Hall. This suggestion was aligned with Barker's advocacy of synodical government. The building was designed by the Blacket Brothers and was opened by Lord Carrington and used for the first time at the General Synod in October 1886. In the meantime, St Andrew's Cathedral School was established in 1885 to provide choristers to sing at daily services, a strong tradition that has continued.

During 1884 J Pearson was commissioned to prepare designs for the reredos. Work was finally completed in November 1888 following delays with approval of design, carving and erection of the reredos.

In 1898 a meeting was held at Government House and a committee formed to clear off a debt of 7 200 pounds on cathedral property . Further changes to the cathedral proceeded up to 1900. Ongoing problems were encountered with the stonework and water damage. 1903 saw the relocation of the choir stalls to Blacket's original plan. It seems constant maintenance and deterioration of the building reached a point of frustration for Blacket who provided a detailed explanation of how the building weathered and suggested remedies. A maintenance person was not engaged.

A number of minor works were undertaken over almost 10 years then in 1916, the next major change took place. The Chapter House and new vestries were completed. From 1924 to 1941 works continued when proposals to relocate or enlarge the building were mooted. A series of actual and proposed land resumptions by the Sydney City Council and NSW Government Railways took place in the 1920s and 1930s and discussions took place as to whether the cathedral should be moved to another area of the city. In 1935 the St Andrew's Cathedral Site Act fixed the cathedral site to the land between Kent, George and Bathurst Streets and the Town Hall, providing security of tenure. The St Andrew's place subcommittee was formed to recommend treatment of the newly acquired space. In 1937 a competition was launched for proposals to increase the size of the cathedral to seat 2000-3000 people. Thirty designs were entered and first place was awarded to R A P Pickney and A F E Gott of London. Much discussion and negotiation took place and some endorsements were made in principal by the St Andrew's building committee. In 1940 the decision was made not to reappoint the building committee and vest its powers in the standing committee. This committee appointed a sub-committee to report on the issue. In the meantime war had broken out and extensions to the cathedral were abandoned as were plans for redevelopment of the site. There was some discussion as to rearranging the interior of the cathedral. The most likely explanation for this change was the geographic changes. When the cathedral was built it was central to its population and had its main entrance in "a street of churches". By the 1930s there were fewer living west of Kent Street and the convenient approach for most people was probably the east. In 1941 the Cathedral was reoriented. Between 1942 and 1960 emphasis shifted to work on the exterior of the building taking precedence over any other. During World War Two the cathedral was involved with major activities such as the CENEF huts and has had on ongoing social program operating since.

Restoration of the Cathedral 1968-present
By 1970 a more comprehensive plan addressing maintenance was required as problems had accelerated. Anchor Murray and Woolley, architects, were engaged to prepare a report which was presented to Chapter in February 1972.

A synopsis of the report sets the basis for the work that took place over 15 years. The report addressed the structure, fabric, fixed furnishings and interior elements. Ancher Mortlock and Woolley reported again in 1979. All work was carried out in conjunction with the National Trust and the government architect.

Expenditure on restoration totalled approximately 1.2 million dollars. No further work took place until 1990 when a detailed maintenance study was prepared by Partridge and Davies, architects. This study detailed a long term maintenance program addressing small scale works on a long term basis rather than large scale projects. Work has since been carried out by craftsmen and tradespeople on the basis of funds available. It is hoped a long term stonework program be developed over the next year which is urgently required.

In 1999 work to the building reversed the orientation and reinstated the surviving Edmund Blacket fitout and removed all of the twentieth century fitout.

The cathedral continues to play a significant role in the community and maintain a role in the ceremonial life of the people of the NSW, one of the most recent being the state funeral of Charles Perkins, Aboriginal politician and activist and each year several thousand tourists visit. Numerous volunteers offer assistance for activities and administration, including guides who give tours of the cathedral. Increasingly St Andrew's draws its members from the wider metropolitan area. The principal use of the church continues to be for church services - ordinary and special services for the community and organisations and "occasional" services - baptisms, weddings and funerals. It is important to note that the cathedral and chapter house hold a collection of furniture, fixtures, artefacts and memorials that reflect the history of the building and the personalities and some items from churches throughout the world. (Davies 1999)

CHAPTER HOUSE: The erection of a Chapter House was first mooted in 1883 to provide a synod hall in memory of Bishop Barker. Its construction was approved unanimously by Chapter and Synod. Cyril Blacket, Edmund Blacket's son was appointed architect. The foundation stone was laid on 30 November 1885 and construction completed in 1886. The choice of site was limited, the south west corner of the site being the only vaguely suitable one. Even this was restricted. In 1916 additions enlarging the Chapter House were completed by Wiltshire and Day. Calls for further enlargement continued but nothing was done due to the difficulty of the task.

For further detailed information on Chapter House, External Works and Structures, Additions to the Cathedral Exterior, Internal Layout, 1941 Re-orientation, Ventilation, Organs, Bells, Architects and Furniture, please refer to St Andrew's Cathedral Conservation Plan 1999 by Paul Davies.

Special thanks to

The Architecture of St Andrew's

The early Governor of New South Wales, Lachlan Macquarie, had grand plans for the city of Sydney. He foresaw that Sydney would grow into a large city requiring a large cathedral. With the architect Francis Greenway, who had been transported to Sydney for forgery, The Governor planned a church 200 feet square and probably with the seating and galleries facing inward from three sides. But this was never brought to fruition. Only a few foundations were laid before the plan was abandoned. Macquarie was severely criticised for planning beyond the colony's means.

The Bishop William Grant Broughton, consecrated in 1836, had a new foundation stone laid in 1837. The plans, prepared by the architect James Hume, were of much more modest proportions and were for a traditional cruciform church in the Gothic style. The designs, dating from the early phase of Gothic Revival architecture, did not show a great expertise in the handling of the particular architectural vocabulary. Only one notable section was completed, the facade of the South Transept. However, the foundations were laid and some of the walls were constructed up to a height of about 15 feet.

In 1842 there arrived in Sydney a young man called Edmund Thomas Blacket. He presented himself to the Bishop with a letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury. Blacket, as it turned out, had enormous talent as an architect and could work with equal facility in both the Classical and the Gothic style. He was eventually to become known as the Wren of Sydney, having designed two universities, three cathedrals and fifty or more parish churches as well as banks, offices bridges, mansions and countless shops, cottages and terraced houses. Blacket became the official Colonial Architect 1849-1854.

Blacket was an enormously inventive and stylish Gothic Architect who based his forms and designs on English prototypes meticulously drawn and reproduced in the books of his architectural library. But Blacket didn't need to copy. He could design a Flowing Decorated window drafted from 150 centre points with all the skill of a fourteenth century architect. This was just as well, because the task that he inherited from James Hume was not an easy one. It took some convincing to get the Bishop to accept his deviations from the orginal. The problem was, how to make a truly splendid and imposing cathedral on foundations which were only the size of a large English parish church? Taking into account what Hume had done and the fact that some of Hume's rather ameteurish window tracery was already in place, Blacket designed the cathedral in the style known as Perpendicular Gothic, used extensively at the cathedrals of Canterbury, Winchester and York.

With the repetition of forms, the strongly vertical lines and the harmonious proportions, Blacket succeeded in creating a building which, despite its small size, is most undoubtedly a cathedral. The beautiful West front with its layered decoration, strongly projecting buttresses and lofty pinnacles is a majestic and exquisite composition, based loosely of that of York Minster. The architectural historian is delighted by the way that the buttresses sweep into the octagonally sectioned pinnacles and by the complexity of molding around the portals, casting rich and varied shadows in the bright Australian sunlight.

The stone used throughout is Sydney sandstone. The East end has an extensive, newly restored floor of Cosmati-style tiles by an English firm, perhaps Minton. The lower stained glass windows are a real treat, being one of the earliest complete cycles of glass by Hardman of Birmingham. They represent the Life and the Parables of Jesus. The impressive East Window shows scenes at which the Apostle Andrew was present, such as the Feeding of the Five Thousand. The West window has tiers of Apostles.

Sadly, Bishop Broughton did not live to consecrate St Andrew's. He died while on a trip to England in 1853 and is buried at Canterbury Cathedral. The second Bishop of Sydney, Frederick Barker consecrated the completed building on St Andrew's Day, November 30th, 1868.

The Cathedral is built in the shape of a cross (cruciform), the symbol of the Christian faith. The main body of the church is called the nave, which is crossed by an aisle called the transept that separates the nave from the chancel where the choir and clergy sit. There are two sides of the choir: cantoris, the side of the Precentor, as cantor means singer, and decani, the side of the Dean who is the senior clerical appointee within the Cathedral. For more information see Cathedral architecture and Cathedral diagram.

Between 1999 and 2000 major conservation and restoration work was undertaken to restore Blacket's original internal layout whereby the communion table and sanctuary were re-established at the Cathedral's Eastern end. During World War 2 these elements had been moved to the Cathedral's western window. Dean Jenson has also made the communion table portable so that it can be removed from the sanctuary when not in use for Communion services and to prevent any misapprehension that it can in any way be confused with an "altar."

Since 1885, St Andrew's Cathedral School provide choristers for St Andrew's Cathedral