In the early years of the Colony, The Rocks were a natural barrier that separated Millers Point from the settlement that had grown up around the Tank Stream. This isolation was reduced somewhat when the Argyle Cut opened in 1859, but Millers Point residents have continued to think of themselves as separated from the rest of the city.
In the 1836 map above, there are buildings along the alignment of Windmill Street, and more buildings between Windmill Street and Argyle Place (not named on map and Argyle Street had not yet extended through the Argyle Cut). The houses and shops owned by John Hughes on the corner of Argyle and Kent Streets survived until demolished by the NSW Government in the 1970s. Two surviving houses, Grimes Cottage and the house next door now at 46–48 Argyle Place were built in the 1830s and 1820s respectively. Both had a basement level below the street level, and together they set the alignment for Argyle Place.
The Cut during construction – 1855
Looking west and east along Argyle Street after the Cut was opened.
By the time Freeman’s Panorama was taken in 1864, the Argyle Cut allowed Argyle Street to extend across to Kent Street, and the space between Argyle Place and Argyle Street was about to become what is now known as the Village Green. Stone quarried from the Argyle Cut was used to construct the Church of the Holy Trinity, known better as the Garrison Church.
Detail of Freeman’s Panorama Looking North from Observatory Hill, 1864. State Library of NSW Digital Order No. a260002.
Summary of building dates (existing and demolished),
Argyle Place, Millers Point
(The following summary was prepared by M B Reymond as appendices to his ‘Brief History of 44 Argyle Place, Millers Point’ which is reproduced on this site. More images, maps and plans will be added to this summary and the article.)
Argyle Place from Kent Street to Lower Fort Street (numbers 16–64, as seen in Freeman’s Panorama)
16-20 Argyle Place (demolished) – date c1830-31
22 Argyle Place (demolished) – date c.1832-33
24-34 Argyle Place, date c.1846-47
36-44 Argyle Place, date 1886
46-48 Argyle Place, date 1825-26
50 Argyle Place, date c.1832-33
52, 54, 56 Argyle Place, date c.1841-42
58, 60 Argyle Place, date c.1845-47
62, 64 Argyle Place, date c.1866
Dating of the buildings (existing and demolished) on allotment 18 section 94,
City of Sydney, Argyle Place, Millers Point, NSW
Nos. 16-20, Argyle Place
These buildings, along with that known as no. 22 Argyle Place, were demolished in the 1970s and replaced with the present group of two-storey cement-rendered brick terraces. Nos. 16-20 stand on allotment 17 of section 94 (area 19½ perches) originally granted to John Terry Hughes by Crown Grant dated 1 July 1839. Prior to the grant Thomas Newman and Thomas Place, his son-in-law, were the owners of this land and, in January 1831, they sold it to Hughes for £100. He was in the course of constructing these buildings when in February 1831 he received a letter from the town surveyor giving him notice to remove “the south and west walls” which were encroaching on Kent Street, which suggests he had likely commenced construction in late 1830. These buildings were subsequently shown later on various plans, ie City Details Sheets, Plan B, section no. 1, 1855 and photos taken from Observatory Hill looking over Argyle Place as well as in various paintings. These buildings are referred to as “… the New Buildings of Mr John Terry Hughes” in a deed dated 2 February 1833; the description in this deed clearly indicates that these “New Buildings” adjoined allotment 18 of section 94.
No. 22, original building demolished
This building, along with the buildings known as 16-20 Argyle Place, were demolished in the 1970s and all of them were replaced with a group of two-storey cement-rendered brick terraces.
Prior to demolition, no. 22 was a single storey stone cottage pre-dating William Coles’ ownership. It was built for Thomas Place in 1832/33. This date can be determined from the description in a deed dated 2 February 1833, where it is referred to as “… cottage … now built or erecting … situate in Argyle Street … Sydney …”, the description in the deed clearly indicating the cottage’s position as adjoining allotment 17 of section 94. Further, the cottage’s position can be seen on Plan “D”.
Nos. 24-34, c1845-47
A group of six two-storey townhouses built for William Cole; for their position see Plans “D”, “E”, “F” and “G”, completed between 1846 and early 1847, attributed to the architect John Stafford. The date is determined from Sydney City Council Rate Assessments Books for 1845 and 1848 where William Cole is listed in 1848 as the owner of seven stone houses (including no. 22) in Argyle Street (Place), whereas in 1845 he is recorded as the owner of a stone (no. 22) and wood building, and advertisement by Cole in Sydney Morning Herald 29 March 1847.
Nos. 36-44, 1886
A group of five three-storey terraces built in 1886 for Ann Merriman wife of James Merriman, see her probated will dated 28 June 1886 which refers to these terraces in the course of construction as at the date of her will. The site of these terraces is edged green on Plan “K”.
Nos. 46-48, 1825-1826
A free-standing two-storey house originally built as a single dwelling and subsequently converted/divided into 2 separate dwellings post-1900.
Date determined from:
- this house’s position as shown on Plan “K” (1855), to the immediate west of which on the same plan is a long building which building is shown within the area coloured red on Plan “A” (1823) from which it can be seen that to the immediate east of this long building the area was largely vacant land in 1823;
- the advertisement in the Sydney Gazette of 13 December 1826 page 1; the reference to “newly finished”, I suggest, means anything up to approximately twelve months before and hence the date 1825-1826;
- there is a tiny building shown on Plan “A” (1823) to the immediate east of the long building shown there; I suggest this was either demolished or incorporated into the present building known as 46-48 Argyle Street; and
- this house’s position is also shown on Ambrose Hallen’s survey drawing dated 11 August 1831.
Number 46–48 Argyle Place on the left and number 50 on the right.
50, 52-60 Argyle Place, Millers Point
50 Argyle Place
Originally known as “Grimes Cottage”, this single-storey dwelling was built for George Grimes, a seafaring captain between 1832-33.
It stands on allotment 19 of section 94 in the City of Sydney (31 perches) granted to George Grimes by a Crown Grant dated 10 November 1835. This grant was recommended to be made by the Commissioners appointed to hear all land claims in the City of Sydney following Governor Sir Ralph Darlings proclamation of 8 June 1829, following their report upon Grimes’s memorials of 672 and 936, which he made in December 1834. At the same time, Grimes also sought grants for allotments 20 and 21 of section 94, which were subsequently granted to him by separate Crown Grants both dated 10 November 1835. (For all 3 memorials for these 3 grants see Reel 1206 State Records under Case nos. 671, 680 and 936.)
In these memorials, Grimes describes himself as “Commander of the Barque “Woodlark” of the Port of Sydney, now at sea”. He stated he had purchased allotment 19 from William Davis in 1830 and had also purchased the other allotments. I suggest that all of these purchases are likely to have taken place in 1830. Details of these allotments are illustrated on a “Plan of Allotment of Land in the Town of Sydney in the possession of Capt. George Grimes” prepared by J Armstrong and dated 25 April 1834. This plan was probably used by Grimes for the purpose of his application to the Commissioners. The details on this plan vary slightly from those illustrated on the section 94 plan dealing with these 3 allotments. Armstrong’s plan shows the dwelling now known as 50 Argyle Street together with its kitchen and a garden, suggesting the building was well established by the date of his plan. It also refers to Grimes’ adjoining land as “Paddock”.
Earlier Grimes gave notice in February 1831 to the town surveyor of his intention to build here (Town Surveyors Notice Book for Town Allotments, 9/2700, State Records). A later plan by Ambrose Hallen dated 11 August 1831 shows no building on the site of no. 50 Argyle Place. (this plan in case 637, Reel 1215.) This suggests Grimes built no. 50 sometime between August 1831 and the date of Armstrong’s plan of April 1834; I suggest the most likely date for its construction is 1832/33. A later more detailed plan shows no garden area as illustrated on the Armstrong plan but does show other details including the cottage’s name, “Grimes Cottage” and “Grimes Buildings” (plan in Book No…..)
Grimes Cottage along with Thomas Newman’s house (46-48 Argyle Place) are both illustrated in a pencil sketch by Samuel Elyard, n.d. (source ML.SPF) and partly in Martin’s pencil sketch of “Fort Street Feb 8th 1843” (M.L.) and subsequently in FC Terry’s watercolour “Argyle Place and the Garrison Church from Observatory Hill” signed and dated 1850 (M.L.). The latter watercolour is illustrated in colour on page 35 Historic Sydney as seen by its Early Artists, by Susanna de Vries-Evans, Angus & Robinson, 1987. The house also appears in various area photographs.
George Grimes was the son of Charles Grimes (1772-1858) who served as Surveyor General of New South Wales and in other capacities as set out in his biography in Australian Dictionary of Biography vol. 1 pages 487-88 and in an article by B T Dowd in the Royal Australian Historical Society Journal, vol. 22 (1936). Charles Grimes had 2 sons, John who apparently died in about 1828 and George (1799-1854), who died on 23 September 1854 in his 55th year, at his residence no. 2 Argyle Street (probably the present no. 58), Sydney, intestate, leaving surviving him his wife Mary and a son George Underwood Grimes.
52-60, Argyle Place
George Grimes built this group of terraces originally known as Grimes Buildings, and after his death as “Trinity Place” and later as “Undercliff Terrace” (see SMH under Grimes Buildings, Deed Book 51, no. 495 and Dove’s Plans of Sydney).
Nos. 52, 54 and 56 appear in Martin’s drawing of February 8, 1843; this drawing suggests these terraces had been in existence for some time; if this is correct, I suggest a date of c1841-42. Two of these terraces were leased for 3 years from 8 November 1842 (Book 2, no. 427). Nos. 58 and 60 were built later. In the 1845 City of Sydney Rate Assessment Book only 3 terraces are shown, namely nos. 52, 54 and 56. By 1848, there are 5, suggesting nos. 58 and 60 were built during this 3-year period, probably between 1845-47.
Notes and references
 Hughes’ biography can be found in Samuel Terry The Botany Bay Rothschild, Gwymth M Dow, Sydney University Press, 1974.
 Grants Register serial 48, p173, LPI.
 Deed dated 26/27 January 1831, book D no. 973, LPI.
 Town Surveyor’s Notebook for Buildings, Town Allotments at p153, 9/2700, State Records.
 In Deed dated 2 February 1833, book E no. 706, LPI.
 Ibid note 5.
List of Maps and Plans
“A” Plan of allotments or ground in the City of Sydney, Harper, 1823
“B” Map of the Town of Sydney, 1831
“C” City Sections Plans, 1833, City of Sydney Archives
“D” Plan in deed dated 19-9-1844 registered number 478 book 7, LPI Services
“E” Francis W Shields, Plan of Sydney in 1842, City of Sydney Archives
“F” City detail sheets, Plan B, Section No. 1, 1855, City of Sydney Archives
“G” Plan in deed dated 30-8-1862 registered number 107 book 87
“H” Doves Plans of Sydney, 1879-80, City of Sydney Archives
“I” Plan of part of allotment 18 dated 26-10-1899, FP 61341, LPI Services
“J” Plan of Lot 18 section 94, dated 24-8-1899, FP 11196, LPI Services
“K” Part of Plan “F”
“L” Drawing of Coles Buildings, Argyle Street, Sydney, c1850, Maps/0382, Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW