Town Hall - Grand Staircase

Sydney Town Hall - Grand Staircase


One of the grandest surviving buildings in Australia, the 19th century Sydney Town Hall is a great example of the Victorian/Beaux-Arts. It is also thought to be the only non-religious city building to retain its original function and interiors since it was built more than 130 years ago. The building is listed on the NSW heritage register.

The Grand Staircase was constructed between 1869 and 1875 as part of the original Town Hall.


The Grand Staircase has extensive peeling paint, suspended acrylic paint had peeled back in multiple large sheets, and plaster mouldings were covered by suspected enamel paint.  The original ceiling appeared to be in good condition overall, although mouldings around the central lift well had dropped.


  • Scaffolding was setup to allow conservators access to assess and document areas
  • Loose paint flakes were removed and colour matching of acrylic and enamel paint was undertaken
  • The walls and plaster moulding were primed and painted
  • Stencils were taken of the floral decorative frieze used to trace decorative patterns onto the remediated walls
  • Gilding was repaired in remediated areas
  • A consolidant was then applied to the ceiling in discrete areas
  • An area of loss to the plaster was filled, levelled, and textured with small hand tools
  • Areas of paint loss and fill were retouched

There were plenty of hiccups on this job!  A major issue was the discovery of puddles and an active leak due to heavy rainfall in May 2022. After the leak was resolved, ICS undertook moisture monitoring and ran a dehumidifier in the space to assist with drying, consolidating and adhering detached elements.

Another wall was also affected by slow moisture movement and salt migration, manifesting as areas of ‘puffing’ and likely caused by a historical leak.  Further actions were taken to allow for better moisture movement in the substrate.

Treatment outcomes

The grand staircase is vibrant again with its original decorative finishes, conserved for future generations to enjoy the elaborate interiors, fine design and high level craftsmanship of this important heritage listed building.

Further information

History of Sydney Town Hall

Sydney Town Hall - Grand Staircase
Before treatment - western wall
After treatment - western wall
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