The Colonnade, Bridge-street

Just inside Bridge Street from George Street, Sydney, on the north side of the street, between George and Pitt, was a building containing a series of dwellings of uniform appearance and having at the front a roofed colonnade ‘which answers the double purpose of verandah and balcony.’ The dwellings were mostly used as workplaces and shops. The name was apparently not worked into the building, for otherwise the spelling might have been as uniform as the architecture. One finds either Colonnade or Colonade. The address is usually given as Colonnade (or Colonade) rather than ‘the’ Colonnade or Colonade.  The history of the location offers examples in miniature of many of the interests and pretensions of early colonial Sydney society.

In 1834 we find among the tenants, at No. 1, Colonnade, Bridge-street, the new Commercial Banking Company of Sydney, which was finalising its Deed of Settlement and initial distribution of shares. Joseph Pritchard at No. 2 sold an assortment of goods. At No. 3 was H.J. Sloman’s Boot and Shoe Depot. In England Mr. Sloman had been ‘Bootmaker to His Majesty.’ Also at No. 3 we find the Spyer Brothers, who sold goods including salt, sugar, tea, tobacco, and ‘velvet corks’. In the latter part of the year Mr. Grace, a solicitor, formerly of King-street East, moved into No. 3. Perhaps at No. 4 was Mrs. Metcalfe, who advertised for sale ‘an elegant Assortment of Leghorn, Tuscan, and Straw Bonnets of the newest Fashion and Shapes, which she has brought with her from England.’ She also announced, ‘Two Apprentices to the Straw Business wanted.’ At No. 6 was Mrs. Boatright’s School for Young Ladies. She gives the address as ‘6, Colonnade, Bridge-street (Leading to Government House)’, as if intimating that her pupils could be expected to rise in society and go in the same direction. Mr. G.W. Evans, bookseller, was at No. 7. In March Mr [Ralph] Mansfield, of Hart’s Buildings, announced that he was retiring from bookselling and had transferred to Mr. Evans his stock of publications from the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, including a large supply of the Penny Magazine, ‘commencing with the First Number.’ At the same time Mr Evans placed an advertisement listing the range of titles which he had available. These included various books, the Penny Cyclopedia and the Ladies’ Magazine.

Publications available from Mr. Evans range from Insect Transformation to The Architecture of Birds, and from Paris, and its Historical Scenes to The New Zealanders. One could also purchase The Pursuit of Knowledge under Difficulties, illustrated by Anecdotes, or (under the heading of The Working Man’s Companion) On the Results of Machinery. Under the same heading one finds Cottage Evenings, which seems reminiscent of Vergil’s Georgics, but also The Cholera, striking a rather sinister note, from which one might hardly be relieved by perusing Criminal Trials. There is, however, hope of escapism not only in Vegetable Substances Used for the Food of Man but in Pompeii and Its Antiquities or The Domestic Habits of Birds. Perhaps on the whole the Penny Magazine and the Ladies’ Magazine were safe choices.

Quotation describing the Colonnade: Australian 8/1/1836, p. 1. No. 1: Sydney Herald 20/11/1834, p. 1. No. 2: Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 29/11/1834, p. 1. No. 3: Sydney Monitor 17/12/1834, p. 4. No. 4, Mr. Grace: Sydney Monitor 13/12/1834, p. 4. Mrs. Metcalfe: Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 26/8/1834, p. 1 (Colonnade number not given; no. 4 let to Mr. Metcalfe according to Australian 8/1/1836, p. 1, but this is not decisive). No. 6: e.g. Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 16/12/1834, p. 1 (frequent advertisements). No. 7: Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 4/3/1834, p. 1.

8 Responses to The Colonnade, Bridge-street

  1. christine macdonald

    A relative of mine in Sept 1846 posted an advertisement in the Newspaper advertising no. 17 Colonnade, Bridge St Sydney, known as the Dolphin Hotel. It was used as a printing Office, comprising of a large sized pressroom with 3 rooms the same.
    The house contains 9 rooms, comprising a billiard room or club room fitted up with gas and a dome light, kitchen, cellars and a pump on the premises.
    The fellow advertising this was a William Jones printer.

    • unhurriedtraveller

      Thank you for your comment and for reviving interest in this topic. It would be good to have a clearer picture of the history of the Colonnade and of its owners and occupants. On a brief check of newspaper references via the National Library of Australia’s Trove search service, I see that William Jones placed a number of advertisements for the premises at this time. There is also an advertisement by a William Walker, Sydney Morning Herald 5/8/1846, p. 1, as a new occupant; I wonder how that fits into the story. It would be interesting to collate the information and trace the course of events. The Sydney Herald of 29/7/1833, p. 2, records the arrival from London of William Jones, printer, with Mrs. Mary Jones and Lucilla Jones.

  2. Christine Macdonald

    I do know that William Jones in about 1848 moved to Goulburn where he first started the Goulburn Herald which he ran and owned until 1858, at which point he sold and I think came back to Sydney. William Jones remarried in 1839 as I think his wife and child died. He married a Jane Elizabeth Jilks, daughter of a George Jilks who was a senior constable.

    • unhurriedtraveller

      I have collected a few pieces of information. I am thinking it might be best to arrange the details in a separate entry on William Jones. I hope to do that in the next day or two.

  3. I’m also interested in the Colonnade. I’m an academic researching the life of one of its tenants, Thomas Revel Johnson, who operated the newspaper Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle from No. 17, in the 1840s. He launched the newspaper in 1845 and was listed as editor, printer and publisher. William Jones may have been a partner of Johnson. I am keen to get some photos of the building back then. Does it still stand?

    • unhurriedtraveller

      Thank you for commenting and for adding interesting details. My impression is that the building has been replaced, but I am not familiar with the sequence of land use. It may be most efficient to contact library and heritage personnel and for example people associated with the Dictionary of Sydney for information on records and streetscape research. Quite a few people look at this website without commenting, so if you can enlighten us further I am sure that would be appreciated. The Colonnade seems an ideal focus for deepening our understanding of social history in that period. It would be good to be able to establish a chronology for the Colonnade and its owners and tenants.

  4. Maureen Fletcher

    I researched the Colonnade in 1995, as an ancestor had purchased House No.1 in 1836.

    John Edye Manning, Esquire of Sydney, owner of a parcel of land in Bridge Street, Sydney, purchased an adjoining piece of land from Thomas Collins in August 1833 and commissioned the architect, John Verge to design a terrace of seven houses and shops known as the Colonnade on his property.

    John Verge (1782-1861) born in Hampshire, Eng arrived in Australia in 1828 to farm, but soon reverted to his profession, Architecture, continuing until 1837. In the 1830′s he produced elegant designs for commercial undertakings, including the Pulteney Hotel and Assembly Room (1832-1834) for John Edye Manning at Bent and O’Connell Streets, some small churches and his ‘old colonial’ Georgian houses.

    An article in the Sydney Gazette, 7 Oct 1834 states – The Colonnade shops in Bridge Street, though situated in a fashionable part of the town, have not been all let. As improvements proceed on the Domain side of Sydney, this will become a stirring neighbourhood. Among the principal shops under the Colonnade are Mrs Bostwright’s seminary for young ladies, Mr Metcalfe and others.

    The Sydney Gazette, dated 9 Jan 1836 advertised the Valuable Town Property comprising the Colonnade, Bridge Street for sale by Mr. Samuel Lyons on Wednesday, 20th instant at 1 o’clock precisely. Mr. Lyons had positive instructions from the Proprietor to sell the whole of those desirable premises.

    Lot 1 – Now in the occupation of Mr. Riley, adjoining Messrs. J & T Brown – containing a shop and parlour with four rooms above (two on the first and two on the second floor) Kitchen in the rear and cellar below, with an excellent well of water and a yard at the back. Let for 115 pounds per annum.
    The sale of House No.1, the Colonnade to Mr. A. O’Reilly for seven hundred and eighty pounds was listed in the Australian newspaper on Fri. 22 Jan 1836.
    Anthony O’Reilly, currier, probably the Mr Riley already in occupation at No.1, established a Leather and Grindery Warehouse at the Colonnade.

    House No.2 to Mr Joseph Pritchard for 785 pounds
    House No.3 to Messrs Spyer Brothers for 770
    House No.4 to Mr W Moffitt for 790
    House No.5 to Mr W Jones for 760
    The Colonnade was demolished but some drawings do exist.

    • unhurriedtraveller

      Thank you for commenting and for the many helpful details. I have posted a new entry, ‘The Colonnade, Bridge Street: a chronology’, in the hope that this will help to co-ordinate the accumulating information. If any of the drawings, or references to them, are accessible on the Internet, links could be inserted. It seems evident that the Colonnade was a well-designed and attractive building; I wonder why it was demolished, apparently within a few decades of its construction.

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