St James Road Banco Court is significant not just as a piece of early-20th-century architecture in the Supreme Court district, but also as one that marks a turning point for the colony.
Designed by Government Architect Walter Liberty Vernon, and still largely intact, it is the only Sydney court in the early-20th-century Federation Free Style. Its red face brick construction has contrasting sandstone trim, and a small garden on its eastern side is enclosed by an iron palisade fence.
The court’s small-town scale helps it blend with older buildings in the King Street Court Complex, although its design and construction are far superior. Its Baroque influence is evident in details such as the intricately carved sandstone outside and the interior’s elaborate plasterwork and cedar joinery.
St James Road Banco Court occupies a site initially chosen by Governor Macquarie for his first Georgian public school, which was modified during construction to accommodate an earlier building for the Supreme Court. It signalled a tumultuous time when Commissioner Bigge, newly arrived from London, interfered in both Civil Architect Francis Greenway’s original design of the courthouse and Governor Macquarie’s civic agenda. Such was the fiasco that Macquarie left the colony soon after, in 1821.
The first Supreme Court was shoddily completed in 1827. After decades of reactive repairs and alterations, in December 1895, foundations were finally laid for Vernon’s Banco Court on the St James Road frontage. Unlike its predecessor, the two-storey courthouse was well designed, and constructed in record time.
Housing a courtroom, chambers and consulting rooms on the ground floor, with additional chambers above, it opened in February 1896, for the start of the new legal year, and was described as ‘bright and pleasant, quiet and comfortable’ – everything the original courthouse was not.
As the 20th century dawned, Vernon had found a way to re-establish order in the colony’s building program. He would go on to deliver dozens of similarly crafted public buildings around Sydney and regional towns, in his tenure as Government Architect from 1890 to 1911.
St James Road Banco Courtroom.
Talks, tours & more
There are a number of stairs.
The King Street Court Complex is open with the approval and support of the Chief Justice of New South Wales.