Sydney Trades Hall, Lorna Morrison room. Photo © Ken Leanfore / James Horan Pty Ltd for Sydney Living Museums

Sydney Trades Hall Focus Tour 2018

Focus Tour - Saturday 3 November





1888–95 John Smedley

Additional architects

1900–16 Spain, Cosh & Minnett

2004 Group CSA with OCP Architects as heritage architect – adaptation and conservation

Today located at the top of Sydney’s Chinatown, the Trades Hall & Literary Institute was built by union members in the late 19th century as a meeting place for trade unionists and to develop literacy and education for the workers of NSW. It was designed by one of Australia’s first locally born architects, John Smedley, and included union offices, meeting rooms and a wonderful library.

After opening in 1895, the Trades Hall was subsequently enlarged in stages (in 1900, 1912 and 1916) by Spain, Cosh & Minnett architects. It is a fine example of High Victorian architecture and remains a prominent figure in Haymarket, with its crafted brick and sandstone facade, and five-storey octagonal tower with copper roof and cupola.

A defining feature of the building was its series of light wells bringing daylight to the interiors. A 2004 adaptation and refurbishment of the Trades Hall extended this principle with a new glass-roofed atrium at the rear of the building.

Tour experience

Four expert-led tours will take visitors behind the scenes at the Trades Hall. On Saturday the public will have access to the Atrium, Auditorium, Library, Banner room, hallways, Executive Boardroom and ground floor exhibition space.

The significance of the building lies largely in its rarity of form, detail and internal planning that reflects a wide range of intended uses. Its heritage listing extends beyond the building fabric to the moveable collection of historic memorabilia, in particular the union banners, which are a testament to the banner maker’s craftsmanship.


Neale Towart, Trades Hall Heritage Officer and Librarian with many years of presenting and discussing labour history.

Bill Pirie, Marine engineer and stage manager with vast knowledge of the history of the world labour movement.

Carmel Delprat, Trades Hall information assistant, previously worked at Australia Council for the Arts.

Key information

Session duration

60 mins


This tour has a capacity of 20 people per session.

Visitor requirements

Please arrive 15 minutes before tour start time. The tour involves a couple of flights of stairs.

Please wear comfortable, enclosed shoes. Please bring only essential items with you – bag, phone, camera, drinking water, etc.

to know

  • Photography allowed

  • Toilets available

  • Pram friendly

  • Accessible