SydneyTownHall

DISCOVER & LEARN

Council Chambers

Sydney Town Hall is the official ‘home’ of the Council of the City of Sydney, the local government authority responsible for administering the affairs of the city of Sydney. Since 1884, the Council has met in the historic Council Chamber.

Civic History

The Council of the City of Sydney was created in 1842, fifty-four years after the first Europeans arrived in Sydney and fourteen years before responsible government allowed the people of NSW to elect their own Parliament. The establishment of a council to administer the affairs of the town was an attempt to impose a sense of order on the chaos which had ensued from a penal settlement under English rule. The Council (then known as a Corporation) administered law and order, managed utilities including water, sewerage, roads and lighting and regulated trading practices and public health. This municipal government was administered by aldermen and councillors who elected one of their own as mayor, a tradition which continues to this day.

History

The first council had met in the old city markets (now the site of the Queen Victoria Building), then in rented premises in public houses until the Town Hall was completed. It wasn’t until 1884 that a dedicated meeting room and debating chamber inside the Town Hall was completed and available specifically for meetings of Council. These meetings were open to the public, who could view proceedings from a public gallery, thus keeping the process of municipal government open and transparent.

Design

Assistant city architect John Hennessey designed a chamber and a suite of appropriate furniture using the Aesthetic Movement influences he had learnt during his studies in England. The room retains Hennessey’s design and features a tiered public gallery on the eastern wall, alternating paired Doric columns and entablatures between the arch-headed windows, and the striking contrast between subdued painted plaster and the rich patina of Australian red cedar joinery.

Refurbishment

In 2003, the original furniture was removed from the chamber and new furniture, capable of meeting the multi-media requirements of modern council meetings manufactured. Recycled ironbark timber was used to create new furniture and a large floor rug with references to contemporary Australian Aboriginal art was designed by artist Imants Tillers. A redesigned coat of arms, which simplifies the original heraldic imagery and is more respectful to Sydney’s traditional landowners, was also installed as part of these works.

New Use

The original suite of cedar furniture, designed by John Hennessey and built by William Coleman and Sons specifically for the Council Chamber is highly valued for its heritage significance and its associations with the Council Chamber and the Town Hall. has been relocated to the Lower Town Hall to create a unique meeting space.

Local Government Today

Australia is administered by three tiers of elected government at local, state and federal levels. The City of Sydney is the oldest of the 152 local councils in New South Wales and administers an area of 27 square kilometres and a population of almost 170,000 people. The powers and responsibilities vested in Council derive from the framework set out by the NSW State Government in the Local Government Act 1993.

Elected Representatives

The Council of the City of Sydney consists of democratically elected councillors who serve a popularly elected lord mayor. The current Council comprises the Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore and seven councillors. The elected council determine the strategic direction and policies for their municipality and appoint a chief executive officer who in turn appoints staff to implement council policies and administer and manage services.

Visiting

Members of the public are welcome to attend Council meetings which are held in the Council Chamber in Sydney Town Hall on every third Monday at 5.00pm. Visit the Council’s meeting calendar for more information.

Guided tours of the Town Hall, which include a visit to the Council Chamber are available by appointment.

DID YOU KNOW?

Sydney Town Hall is built on the site of Sydney's first official European cemetery.

Sydney Town Hall is built on the site of Sydney's first official European cemetery.

read more

DID YOU KNOW?

The Vestibule chandelier is lit with has over 170 lamps and is lowered twice a year for maintenance and cleaning.

The Vestibule chandelier is lit with over 170 lamps and is lowered twice a year for maintenance and cleaning.

read more

DID YOU KNOW?

For its time, Sydney's Grand Organ was considered by Westminster Abbey's organist as the 'finest organ ever built by an English organ builder'.

For its time, Sydney's Grand Organ was considered by Westminster Abbey's organist as the 'finest organ ever built by an English organ builder'.

read more

DID YOU KNOW?

The City's first Royal visitor, HRH Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, laid the foundation stone for Sydney Town Hall on 4 April 1868.

The City's first Royal visitor, HRH Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, laid the foundation stone for Sydney Town Hall on 4 April 1868.

read more

DID YOU KNOW?

Four huge bronze bells play the Westminster chimes on the quarter hour and chime the number of the hour, on the hour.

Four huge bronze bells play the Westminster chimes on the quarter hour and chime the number of the hour, on the hour.

read more

DID YOU KNOW?

The electric passenger lift in Town Hall, installed in 1906, is the oldest working lift in continuous use in Australia.

The electric passenger lift in Town Hall, installed in 1906, is the oldest working lift in continuous use in Australia.

read more

DID YOU KNOW?

The citizens of Sydney were granted a public holiday on the day Sydney Town Hall opened on 27 November 1889.

The citizens of Sydney were granted a public holiday on the day Sydney Town Hall opened on 27 November 1889.

read more

DID YOU KNOW?

The ceiling in Centennial Hall is made of Wunderlich pressed metal panels. In 1888, it was claimed that it could withstand the playing of the highest organ note.

The ceiling in Centennial Hall is made of Wunderlich pressed metal panels. In 1888, it was claimed that it could withstand the playing of the highest organ note.

read more

DID YOU KNOW?

There was no one single architect for Sydney Town Hall. At least eight men contributed to its final design over a period of 21 years.

There was no one single architect for Sydney Town Hall. At least eight men contributed to its final design over a period of 21 years.

read more

DID YOU KNOW?

The first meeting of the Municipal Council of Sydney was held in November 1842.

The first meeting of the Municipal Council of Sydney was held in November 1842.

read more