Searching For Sydney’s Oldest Building?

Searching For Sydney's Oldest Building?

Australia, which was only colonized less than 300 years ago is one of the youngest so called ‘Western’ nations in the world. This has left the country with a short history when compared with other countries who can look back on historic buildings that are in some cases nearly 2 millennia old. For instance Westminster Hall in London was built in 1097. However when it comes to historic buildings Australia, because of its relative youth does have an advantage. Click here to learn also about oldest buildings in Australia.

Many of the country’s oldest buildings which were built in the earliest days of settlement have survived relatively intact (in some cases in a pristine condition). This allows those who are resident in the country and visitors to get a real feeling for waht life was like in the early days of Australia.

Take for instance Cadmans Cottage which can be found on the Circular Quay in Sydney. This two story Georgian house was built in 1816 and was the result of a request by the New South Wales Governor at that time – Lachlan Macquarie. As was common in those days – when it came to government buildings and public works the cottage was built using convict labor. It was an integral apart of what was then the government dockyard. The picturesque setting of the cottage no doubt appealed to the governor as it was located on a rocky shore with easy access to a small beach.

Searching For Sydney's Oldest Building?

The style of the cottage was distinctively English. It was based on patterns that had been developed by a British architect named Francis Greenway – who (unfortunately for him but luckily for the governor) had been transported to Australia after being found guilty of fraud and forgery. Learn more about Francis Greenway.

The building itself is utilitarian in structure and function. The simplicity was due in part to the fairly humble nature of those who would take up residence. The cottage was used as accommodation for Government Coxswains and their families. The duties of the Government Coxswain was to act as The Chief Petty Officer in charge of the government ships that docked at Sydney.The duties of this functionary were to oversee repairs to the ships, ensure that the compliment of seaman was adequate and to make sure that the Naval officer’s boat was in good repair and could be used at all times, as well as act as Captain of the Governor’s Barge. The cottage served as residence for these functionary’s until the mid 1840’s. .

Searching For Sydney's Oldest Building?

The function of the cottage had changed by 1846 when it became the base for the Sydney Water police and additional buildings were added including offices and cells. By 1864 the cottage had again been re-purposed. It now (with further additions) became central to the efforts of the Sydney Sailors’ Home Trust which saw to the care and housing of ‘vagabond’ sailors and so called ‘wanderers’. To discover about heritage listing; visit:

By 1972 the building had been named as a heritage site under the auspices of the National Parks and Wildlife Act. It was at this time that restoration efforts first began.

The cottage is a fascinating link to the past of Sydney and well worth a visit.