Sydney sketching – fmr Marrickville lockup

July 3, 2012

Apparently delinquent youth in Marrickville a hundred years ago were running riot, which might in part account for the bizarre facade of this local Police Station built at the time. A case perhaps of the NSW Government looking tough on law and order issues. Designed by Government Architect, Walter Liberty Vernon, it is said to mimic a local property developer’s villa nearby, overlooking the Cooks River, which featured rusticated sandstone. “Rusticated” is an architectural term I’ve recently come to grips with and refers to sandstone with a roughly-hewn looking appearance, as opposed to smooth surfaces of what I think is referred to as “dressed” sandstone. Vernon contrasted areas of rusticated and dressed in his numerous buildings around town: the Pyrmont Fire Station, Newtown Post Office and the Registrar-General’s Building.

Unlike the other three mentioned, this a squat single-storey building. What marks this facade as a Police Station (apart from the sign above the entrance) are the stone crowns atop the pilasters flanking the entrance.

I spent half-an-hour standing up sketching this with a blunt pencil and realised very quickly that the blocks of sandstone seem ready-made for continuous line. Spending more time on the “middle” process (initial process is general shape and last process is the detail and tone), moving towards the largest geometric shapes, is still required. Focussing on individual blocks of sandstone sets up the extraordinarily tight symmetry of the facade. I’m often asked if I use a ruler for straight lines – the idea abhors me – but as a foundation, it would have helped today! I would have liked to have contrasted the dressed sandstone areas (lintels and sills). In Gladstone Street, it’s off the high road shopping strip and incongruously in what is now a relatively quiet back street of residential houses. Facing west, it’s good to draw in the afternoons.

Here are photos taken at the time it changed hands from being a neighbourhood centre to a real estate agency. What isn’t obvious here is that the building is symmetrically designed around a single axis, lit by a skylight,  which runs the full length of the building block to, what I imagine, was an Exercise Yard past a series of prison cells. Not immediately obvious here is the original bright green front doors with yellow trim. Sometime between 1936 and the present, elaborate external light fittings have been removed.


I’ll come back again with my own seating. I think this is the most unusual Police Station in the entire city and I’m on the lookout for anything else in such a Fort Knox-looking style.


Built in 1895-1896; cost 2,369 pounds 2/4. Referred to initially as the ‘Marrickville Lock-Up’. Meader, Chrys, Richard Cashman and Anne Carolan, Marrickville: People and Places. Hale & Ironmonger, 1994. 

NSW Office of Environment & Heritage. Heritage Item report:


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