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85/1285-81 Glass plate negative, full plate, 'Town Hall, Sydney', Henry King, Sydney, Australia, c. 1880-1900. Click to enlarge.

‘Town Hall, Sydney’ by Henry King

Photographed by King, Henry in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1892-1900.
This image shows Sydney Town Hall which was built between 1868 and 1889 from the corner of George and Druitt Streets. Various architects were involved over the course of its construction, including George McRae, who was responsible for the Queen Victoria Building. The ornate high Victorian Second Empire Style reflected the affluence and confidence of the booming city of the time. When finished the Town Hall's Clock Tower was the tallest structure in the city.

The photograph also shows a large sandstone structure where the Town Hall steps now stand. This structure is a porte-cochere – a covered area for horse-drawn carriages, designed so that guests arriving for a function could step out of their carriages under cover. The porte-cochere was completed in 1892 (the Town Hall itself was completed in 1889). A ring road for ease of access for horse-drawn vehicles and stone gates with iron railings were also part the original site. Excavations in the 1920s for the underground Town Hall railway station severely weakened the the porte-cochere and in 1934 the structure was declared unstable and demolished.

This photographic negative was taken by the Sydney based photographer Henry King. It is part of a collection of over 1300 glass plates taken between 1880 and 1917, although most appear to have been made in the late 1880s and 1890s

King was one of the Colony's most significant early photographers and although born in England around 1855 grew up in Sydney. He found work with the well-known Sydney photographer J. Hubert Newman and in 1880 established a studio in partnership with William Slade. Four years later he was sole proprietor.

King quickly established a reputation for himself due to the high quality of his finished work. While King's income, like many other photographers, was dependent on portraiture he, like Kerry, is best known for his outdoor work. These views, particularly his city views, are justifiably praised and seem more carefully framed and printed than Kerry's. Outdoor views of Sydney make up the main bulk of King's work in the collection although, like Kerry, he took a series of photographs of the Jenolan Caves using magnesium flares.

Henry King died aged 68 in Waverley War Memorial Hospital on 22 May 1923 following abdominal surgery

Geoff Barker, Curatorial, December, 2008

King, Richard, Australian Dictionary of Biography - Online Edition
Josef Lebovic, Henry King, 1855 - 1923, auction catalogue, Josef Lebovic Gallery, Paddington, Australia, date unknown
Newton, Gael, Shades of Light; Photography and Australia 1839 - 1988, Australian National Gallery, Canberra, 1988


Object No.


Object Statement

Glass plate negative, full plate, 'Town Hall, Sydney', Henry King, Sydney, Australia, c. 1880-1900

Physical Description

Glass negative, full plate, 'Town Hall, Sydney', Henry King, Sydney, Australia, c. 1880-1900.

Silver gelatin dry plate glass negative in landscape format. The caption, studio number and studio mark are inscribed on the reverse of the negative.

The negative is not fully catalogued.

11/22 Tyrrell Inventory Number, 102 King Studio Number


This negative is not fully catalogued.



215 mm



Henry King became sole proprietor of a photographic studio in George Street in 1880. Henry King's studio closed around 1900 and Charles Kerry acquired some of his negatives.



This photograph is one of 1334 Henry King photographs which are also part of a larger collection of 7,900 negatives once owned by Sydney bookseller, James Tyrrell. After King's death in 1923 the studio collection of glass negatives was purchased by Tyrrell.

In addition to the Henry King images, the Tyrrell Collection at the Powerhouse Museum includes glass plate negatives published by Kerry & Co. Studio and a number of other negatives by unattributed photographers. James Tyrrell used the images by Kerry & Co. and Henry King to produce his own booklets and views of New South Wales but although full of iconic Australian images, the collection does not appear to have been fully utilised by Tyrrell.

The photographic collection acquired by Tyrrell was purchased by Australian Consolidated Press and its new owners almost immediately set about producing a limited series of complete sets of contact prints of the collection for libraries and museums in New South Wales. Housed in boxes copies of these were given to the State Library of New South Wales and the Macleay Museum at the University of Sydney.

In 1985 Australian Consolidated Press donated the collection to the Powerhouse Museum. The collection at this time consisted of 7,903 glass plate negatives and 7,916 contact positive prints. Of these 493 glass plates were damaged but usable and 13 plates totally broken.

Geoff Barker, Curatorial, December, 2008

Cite this Object


'Town Hall, Sydney' by Henry King 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 15 August 2020, <>


{{cite web |url= |title='Town Hall, Sydney' by Henry King |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=15 August 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

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