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Ranger's cottage in Centennial Park, Sydney, designed by Vernon in the Federation Bungalow style

Walter Liberty Vernon (1846–1914) was an English architect who migrated to the state of New South Wales, Australia and pursued his career as an architect in Sydney. He is noted for designing multiple government buildings which are still standing, many of which have a heritage listing.


Early life

Vernon was born 11th August 1846 in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, England,[1] the son of a banker's clerk, Robert Vernon and Margaret Liberty. He was articled in 1862 to a London architect, W.G.Habershon, and studied at the Royal Academy of Arts and South Kensington School of Art. After completing his studies, he pursued a practice as an architect in London and married Margaret Anne Jones in 1870 at Newport, Wales. His London practice was successful, but he suffered from bronchial asthma and received medical advice to leave England.Thus, he migrated to Australia and arrived in Sydney in November 1883.[1]

Walter Liberty Vernon

Career in Australia

Vernon established a private practice in Sydney but later joined the Government Architect's Branch in 1890 as Government Architect. The activities of this office were boosted in 1894 when extra funding was committed as a way of creating relief work during the Depression.

As an architect practising in Australia, Vernon favoured what were later known as Federation styles such as Federation Arts and Crafts and Federation Free Style. (The Federation style was, roughly speaking, the Australian equivalent of the Edwardian style.) Examples of the former were his fire station in St Johns Road, Glebe, and the Public School, Military Road, Mosman.[2] Examples of the latter were his fire stations in The Avenue, Randwick; Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst; and Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont. The last two are on the Register of the National Estate.[3] Another example of Federation Free Style is the former police station, Taylor Square, Darlinghurst, also on the National Estate.[3] In a stylistic departure, he designed the (former) police station in Bourke Street, Surry Hills, in the Romanesque style; it too is on the National Estate.[3]

For more substantial public buildings, Vernon continued the tradition whereby such buildings were designed in a Classical style. Notable examples were the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Mitchell Library (part of the State Library), Central Railway Station and Newcastle Court House; all of which are on the National Estate.[3] The Art Gallery has been described as "masterly symmetry featuring Ionic colonnades."[2] Central Station has been described as "the grandest railway station in Australia."[4]

Vernon also designed significant additions to existing buildings, such as Customs House, Sydney; Randwick Police Station; the Chief Secretary's Building, Sydney; Balranald Post Office; Armidale Post Office; and the former Premier's Office, Sydney. His office was also responsible for the public decorations during the Federation celebrations of 1901.

He retired as New South Wales Government Architect in 1911 and returned to private practice, establishing a partnership with Howard Joseland. The latter, also born in England, was a practitioner of the Federation Arts and Crafts and Federation Bungalow styles.[2] One of the buildings designed by Vernon and Joseland was the Paterson Reid and Bruce building, York Street, Sydney, which is now on the National Estate.[3]

Vernon had an outstanding career as an architect, with approximately thirty of his buildings being on the Register of the National Estate.[3] He is known as a key practitioner of various Federation styles.[2]


National Estate

The following Vernon buildings are on the Register of the National Estate.[3]

  • Lidcombe State Hospital
  • Burwood Post Office, Sydney
  • Annandale Post Office, Sydney
  • Crows Nest Fire Station, Sydney
  • Kitchen Block, Parramatta Psychiatric Centre
  • Newtown Post Office, Sydney
  • Redfern Court House, Sydney
  • Former Police Station, Taylor Square, Darlinghurst, Sydney
  • Main Warehouse, Darling Island, Pyrmont, Sydney
  • Pyrmont Post Office, Sydney
  • Pyrmont Fire Station, Sydney
  • Former Police Station, Bourke Street, Surry Hills, Sydney
  • Art Gallery of New South Wales, The Domain, Sydney
  • Herbarium, Sydney Botanical Gardens
  • Shelter House, Sydney Botanical Gardens
  • Central Railway Station, Sydney
  • Central Police Court, Liverpool Street, Sydney
  • Registrar-General's Building, Prince Albert Road, Sydney
  • West Wing, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
  • Stable Square, Hawkesbury Agricultural College, Richmond
  • Hay Court House
  • Wagga South Public School, Wagga Wagga
  • Maitland Court House
  • Newcastle Court House
  • Newcastle Post Office
  • Lismore Post Office
  • Parkes Court House
  • Lands Board Office Building, Dubbo
  • Paterson Reid and Bruce Ltd, York Street, Sydney (with Howard Joseland)
  • Former Premier's Office, Sydney (additions by W.L.V.)
  • Randwick Police Station, Sydney (additions by W.L.V.)
  • Customs House, Sydney (additions by W.L.V.)
  • Chief Secretary's Building, Sydney (additions by W.L.V.)
  • Balranald Post Office (additions by W.L.V.)
  • Armidale Post Office (additions by W.L.V.)

See also


  1. ^ a b "Walter Liberty Vernon". Australian Dictionary of Biography Online. Retrieved 2007-12-18.  
  2. ^ a b c d A Pictorial Guide to Identifying Australian Architecture. Apperly (Angus and Robertson Publishers). 1994.  
  3. ^ a b c d e f g The Heritage of Australia. Macmillan Company. 1981.  
  4. ^ Heritage of Australia, Macmillan Publishers, 1981, p.2/108


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