Sydney Architecture Images- Central Business District

Pitt Street Uniting (formerly Congregational) Church


John Bibb (1810-1862)


264 Pitt Street


1846, enlarged between 1857 and 1867




sandstone, fluted iron columns within


  Image from the book "Sydney in 1848"
Statement of Significance:
A fine Neo Classic dissenting Chapel of monumental design, one of the best of its kind in Australia. Memorials in the Church include those of prominent shopkeepers, including David Jones and James Fairfax, proprietor of the Sydney Morning Herald.

Exterior is fine example of late Georgian Classical design, facade to Pitt Street of sandstone, symmetrical with monumental Ionic columns rising through two storey, supporting cornice and ballustraded parapet. Columns flank pedimented windows on ground floor and central door with windows lighting the galleries above. Remaining walls of brick, extremely fine interior with galleries (1857 by Bibb) around the sides supported on cast iron fluted columns. Fine central pulpit and platform.
The mother church of Congregationalism in Australia, the foundation stone of the Pitt Street church was laid in 1842 and the building opened for worship in 1846. It was designed by English-trained John Bibb (1810-1862) who in 1832 joined John Verge, one of the leading architects in Sydney, as an assistant. It was enlarged between 1857 and 1867, but the architect of this work is unknown. This included the internal galleries, resting on fluted iron columns cast by Dawson of Sydney, and the vestry to the rear.

The building is of particular note for its distinctive classical sandstone façade with massive Ionic columns, pedimented doorways and balustraded parapet. The spacious and uncluttered interior, with plaster ceiling, is of rectangular shape, the organ apse with rounded edges providing an ideal acoustical setting for the 1910 Hill & Son organ. The joinery is of cedar and includes a pulpit approached by a winding stair. Bibb's other work included the present Westpac Bank and Museum at The Rocks. [1]

It is believed that four pipe organs have stood in Pitt Street Church. The first, of two manuals and ten stops was built in Sydney by W.J. Johnson in 1845 and enlarged by him in 1850 and 1857. [2] The church’s next organ, by Gray & Davison of London (opus 10,043, 1856, 15 stops) was purchased second-hand in 1858 and survived until 1902 when a much larger instrument built by W.G. Rendall of three manuals and 37 stops was purchased second-hand. [3] Never fully completed nor considered satisfactory, it was one of the earliest examples of electro-pneumatic action in Australia. A remnant of this instrument is the small case in an alcove above the rear gallery, behind which a set of “gongs” (almost certainly a metallophone) was operated electrically. [4]

The present instrument, built in 1910 by Hill & Son, London, as job no. 2396, is one of the firm’s best-preserved later instruments and one of the few larger organs from the first two decades of the 20th century to survive in Australia with tubular-pneumatic action intact.

For over 50 years, Pitt Street’s famed organist, Miss Lilian Frost, delighted capacity audiences with her lunch-time recitals, which by 1945, had numbered over 1,000. Well-known for her preference for original works, including a substantial French repertoire, Lilian Frost was apparently well satisfied with the tonal and mechanical resources of the organ, the only addition being the Vox Humana and tremulant, almost certainly provided by Charles Richardson c. 1920. Later alterations included the provision of a concave/radiating pedalboard, the fitting of balanced swell pedals and the enclosure of the choir division.

During the 1960s the organ and church were allowed to fall into disrepair, but the loss of the building altogether was prevented by a ban imposed by the Builders’ Labourers’ Federation in 1973. Some basic work to bring the organ back into use was carried out in 1974 by Pitchford & Garside: in 1982 the firm commenced a staged restoration project with Kelvin Hastie as consultant and this was assisted by a NSW Heritage Grant. The prepared-for stops were added by the firm between 1987 and 1996 based upon Hill models, a generous donation by a member of the congregation enabling this to occur. The instrument today is remarkably intact, with the original mechanisms preserved in their entirety and the open metal chorus work retaining cone tuning throughout.

Thanks to


Pilgrim House
, 262 Pitt St, Sydney
List: Register of the National Estate

Statement of Significance:
Pilgrim House is a good example of 1920s Commercial Palazzo style architecture. It relates to the adjacent Pitt Street Congregational Church, with the use of a recessed upper floor to reduce the apparent differences in scale. It has a vigorous composition of Classical elements, culminating in the imposing arch at fourth floor level. The building is significant historically as the product of a period of revived parish activities and as an expression of an early attempt to introduce income earning space to support pastoral activities, within a total complex. In streetscape terms, Pilgrim House forms part of an interesting architectural group which includes the Criterion Hotel and the Congregational Church, spanning over one hundred years.

The building was constructed in 1928, during a Revival in the activities of the parish under the ministry of the Reverend T E Ruth. He promoted the idea that the parish should expand its role and its ability to earn income by the provision of both meeting rooms and rentable space. Pilgrim House is a seven storey building (ground plus six) of framed construction with rendered brick external walls. The Pitt Street facade is heavily modelled in a 1920s Classical Revival style. It comprises a recessed central bay emphasised by a projecting second floor balcony and large arched opening at fourth floor level giving on to a recessed balcony. The rendered side panels of the facade give the impression of coursed ashlar. There is a strong projecting cornice above the fifth floor which screens the upper attic floor from street view. The architectural design is quite consciously related to the Classical features of the adjacent Pitt Street Congregational Church. The building has a narrow frontage in relation to its depth, with two light wells to improve the amenity of internal spaces. The ground floor lobby, stair well and imposing main stair serving the upper meeting rooms are all reasonably intact. As originally designed, the building contained meeting rooms, with shops and office space available for lease. Much of the upper internal spaces appear to have been altered. There was a period of dereliction in the early 1970s, but the building is now used, largely, for low cost accommodation. The first floor auditorium is in generally intact condition, with good plaster decorations including floridly moulded proscenium arch, fluted pilasters and capitals around the walls and over the rear entrance; also decorative architraves to doors flanking the stage.

262 Pitt Street, Sydney.