Blog Article

The transformation of one of Sydney's last remaining wool stores

Author: Stephen Lacey 

As time went by, those wool stores that didn’t burn to the ground, were converted to luxury apartments, or demolished.
A. Hinchcliff Son & Co was started in 1845 by the ‘Wool King’, Andrew Hinchcliff. Andrew Hinchcliff, commonly known as the “Wool King” in his time, started his rise with Hinchcliff House. A small holding on the busy sea port of Semi-Circular Quay,
Hinchcliff started with the south building and as business grew he acquired the iron mongers workshop next door to complete the fine wool store that we know today as Hinchcliff House. By the 1880s two substantial stone wool stores stood side by side, and it is these interconnected buildings that survive today.
According to the Office of Environment & Heritage: “The store demonstrates the former use and function of Circular Quay as the principal trading port of the colony of NSW…” Of course, all that fine merino fleece had to be stored somewhere safe, and so we saw the advent of the ‘wool castle’; grand storage houses such as the imposing 1864 Mort Wool Store by architect Edmund Blacket, and the Barker Wool Store, designed by Blacket’s son, Arthur, in 1894.
Thankfully, the former Hinchcliff Wool Store at 5-7 Young Street, Circular Quay, wasn’t one of those to face the wrecking ball. Which is why it has achieved State heritage significance as a rare example of a largely intact wool store of the mid- 19th century. Over the years, ‘Hinchcliff House’ has been used by St Vincent de Paul, a hostel for homeless men, a chapel, and an English school.
Now, after years of being mothballed, Sydney architects, Carter Williamson have been enlisted to restore and
reinterpret Hinchcliff House as an elegant destination for dining, and boutique retail.
Shaun Carter of Carter Williamson said, “Hinchcliff’s story has inspired us, the City and AMP Capital to restore Hinchcliff House to its former glory. Removing the accretion of “junk” fabric of over a century of use. The refurbished and restored building with be a showcase of original heritage fabric and grand spaces. The authenticity of these spaces and materials provide a perfect balance and juxtaposition to the many new and exciting architectural works forming around Hinchcliff House at Quay Quarter. A mix of old and new buildings anchored by beautifully considered and design public domain providing exemplary city making for a significant part of Sydney's urban fabric. A vital addition at the edge of Sydney’s cultural ribbon. We believe Hinchcliff House, in that great European tradition of Heritage building housing many exciting types of businesses will be the perfect anchor for an inspired tenant.”
Authentic features include the original cathead pulleys, internal post and beam construction and exposed timber floors. Situated in one of the key corners of the emerging Quay Quarter Lanes precinct, Hinchcliff House will open its historic, three-story loading bays to engage with streets, lanes and people. A hidden basement bar, accessed via an old fire door in Loftus Lane, will provide an element of surprise and intrigue, for workers, locals and tourists.
The story of wool may be a time gone by, but Hinchcliff House survives to take its part in an entirely new story of a dynamic new urban neighbourhood.

Images: The first two images below show the condition of Hinchcliff House in 2017 prior to refurbishment, and the final image below, taken in 2020, show the premises after restoration works. Architect: Carter Williamson. Builder: Richard Crookes Constructions.

There was a time when Australia rode to prosperity on the sheep’s back. From 1871 until the 1960s, wool was our biggest commodity, driving the nation’s economy and making us the envy of the world.