Justice and Police Museum

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Justice and Police Museum
Justice and Police Museum (Former Water Police Courts) - Sydney, NSW (7889996040).jpg
Phillip Street frontage of the museum
Justice and Police Museum is located in Sydney
Justice and Police Museum
Justice and Police Museum
Location in Greater Sydney
Former name
  • Water Police Court
  • Phillip Street Police Station
  • Water Police Station
  • Law Courts
  • Traffic Court
Location 4-8 Phillip Street, Sydney central business district, New South Wales, Australia
Coordinates 33°51′44″S 151°12′44″E / 33.8622360278°S 151.2123231830°E / -33.8622360278; 151.2123231830Coordinates: 33°51′44″S 151°12′44″E / 33.8622360278°S 151.2123231830°E / -33.8622360278; 151.2123231830
Type Living history museum
Public transit access
Website sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/justice-police-museum
Building details
General information
Architectural style Australian classic revival
Completed c. 1856
Owner Department of Justice
Landlord Sydney Living Museums
Technical details
Material Sydney sandstone
Design and construction
Type Built
Criteria a., c., d., e.
Designated 2 April 1999

The Justice and Police Museum is a justice and police museum located on the corner of Albert and Phillip Streets in the Sydney central business district, New South Wales, Australia.

On 2 April 1999 the museum was listed on the New South Wales State Heritage Register with the following statement of significance:[1]

The buildings symbolically represent power and privilege. Architecturally and culturally they evoke a system of social control and relate to a specific power relationship. The site's proximity to the waters of Sydney Cove; its close and long continuing association with the colony and its classical architectural syntax and indeed, endearingly human scale, provides an important foil to multistoreyed buildings and Circular Quay.

— Statement of significance, New South Wales State Heritage Register.

Museum collection[edit]

The collection is general and largely police-based in content. Its nucleus is formed from the 1910 Police Museum teaching collection of criminal implements. It contains few objects relating to the specific theme of the Water Police but covers a broader cross-section of policing activities and law related themes. The collection includes historical artefacts, photographs and documents. It is particularly strong in firearms of the colonial period and forensic evidence from famous crimes.[1][2]

Site history[edit]

The museum is located on a site occupied by two 19th century courthouses and a police station built on the corner of Phillip and Albert Streets at the eastern end of Circular Quay for use by the Sydney Water Police, the Water Police Magistrate and the metropolitan police. The buildings were developed in three stages:[1]

  • 1856 - Court House - 4 Phillip Street
  • 1858 - Police Station - 8 Phillip Street
  • 1886 - Court House - 6 Phillip Street

The site was developed in the 1850s initially as the offices for the Water Police, located Office on the eastern side of Circular Quay. The building, a single storey classic revival Sydney sandstone building with an arched colonnaded portico roofed with a Doric pediment, designed by Edmund Blacket, consisted of a main court and four adjoining offices. Occupied in April 1856 by the Water Police Magistrate and court staff consisting of a Clerk of Petty Sessions and a second clerk. Cases heard in the court related to the workings of the Harbour Regulations Act and the Act for Establishing a Water Police. The following month, the Steam Navigation and Pilot Boards took possession of one room.[1]

Colonial Architect Alexander Dawson designed a second building located in Phillip Street to the south of the Water Police Office. The building consisted of a ground floor with Charge Room, adjoining offices, cells to the rear, a kitchen, store room and exercise yard. Upstairs was a barracks providing accommodation for four water policemen and their families. It also contained a kitchen and wash house. The original police station design was based on stations at Darlinghurst, Newtown and Balmain. The building was intended to accommodate six cells and a lock-up keeper. However, due to financial constraints and delays caused by labour shortages during the Gold Rush period, the station was completed as a modest two storey building.[1]

The second court, designed by James Barnet, was completed during 1885-86. It consisted of a court room and two Magistrates Offices at the rear. While it functioned as a Summons Court hearing cases of petty crime, the Blacket Court became a Charge Court. From 1890 to 1910 there was a growth of police and court operations. The buildings were affected by a number of alterations and additions caused by changes to the nature of the courts and the business they attracted.[1]

In 1913 the Water Police who lived at the station were removed to their new accommodation on the north-western side of the Quay at Dawes Point, providing two locations for their activities. The station became known as the Phillip Street Police Station from this time although it was still often referred to as the Water Police Station. The activities of the station were incorporated more fully into the Metropolitan Policing District, becoming the head station for Number 4 Division by 1933. It seems that the Water Police held the two locations at least until this time, when the split between the metropolitan (essentially foot) duties associated with the Station and the Water Patrol had become more definite. However, the adjacent court continued to be referred to as the Water Bench until late 1940.[1]

In 1917 the Police Traffic Branch moved into offices at the Water Police Court and remained there until 1924. In 1918 the Water Police Court closed for alterations and was reopened in 1924. By 1924 special arrangements had been made for hearing traffic offences in the Water Police Court in addition to those concerning shipping, military trainees and children. From 1926 the courts became known as Traffic Courts 1 and 2 for hearing all traffic and parking offences in the Sydney district. They also continued to hear cases relevant to shipping and cases arising from Water Police activity. The courts were vacated by court staff, providing valuable space for the police in the adjoining station in late 1979.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Justice and Police Museum". New South Wales State Heritage Register. Office of Environment and Heritage. Retrieved 8 October 2017. 
  2. ^ "Justice and Police Museum". Sydney Living Museums. Retrieved 10 October 2017. 


CC-BY-icon-80x15.png This Wikipedia article was originally based on the "New South Wales State Heritage Register" published by the Government of New South Wales under CC-BY 3.0 AU licence (accessed on 8 October 2017).

External links[edit]