The Quadrangle

MacLaurin Hall

Originally the Fisher library reading room in the Quadrangle, it was remodelled and named MacLaurin Hall when the new Fisher Library opened in 1963. Gothic Revival in style, the building was designed to form a corner to the Quadrangle and is two storey to the Quadrangle and three storey to Manning Road.

On this webpage:

Click on images for enlargement.

MacLaurin Hall   

 MacLaurin Hall today,
photo, University Secretariat.



The first Library 1857 - 1909

Between 1857 and 1909, the University's first Library (now the Senate Room) was located on the first floor in the Main Building near the Great Hall. However, by 1879, the Library had outgrown the space allotted to it and the collection was distributed in rooms all over the Quadrangle.

Library Room 1887  

The Library Room in 1887,
 photo, University of Sydney Archives.  


Read an article in the SMH, 13 July 1859, describing the Library in detail.


In the early 1900s

The Fisher Library was constructed between 1901 and 1908 as a separate purpose-built library, part of the south side of what was to become the Quadrangle. It had electic lighting, some 20 year before it was installed in the Great Hall.

Fisher Library under construction 1907

Fisher Library and the bookstack
under construction in 1907m
photo G3_224_0344,
University of Sydney Archives.

The Library was opened on 20 September 1909.

Read "Thomas Fisher, the man behind the library", by Dr Julia Horne
View more photos of the construction of Fisher Library

The building accommodated:

  • a large reading room for 150 readers on the first floor (now MacLaurin Hall)
  • the Nicholson collection on the ground floor
  • a refectory and service rooms in the basement
  • six floors of book stacks at right angles forming part of the west side of the Quadrangle - including two electric book lifts and glass floors

Views of the completed and separate Fisher Library in 1908:

 Fisher Library 1908  Fisher Library 1908

The Quadrangle side, with the Women's
Common Room obscuring the cloister,
photo, University of Sydney Archives.

View from the "University paddock"
from the south,
photo, Library website.

The Reading Room in 1909:

 The Reading Room

The original Fisher Library  

Photos, University of Sydney Archives 

In the 1910s

During a period of the University's building expansion in 1915 to 1921, when the number of students doubled to 3,275, the south-west wing of the Quadrangle was completed (1918) linking Fisher Library and bookstack to the Main Building and becoming part of the Fisher Library as the Periodicals Room (now the Professorial Board Room).

In the 1920s

In 1926 the bookstack was linked to the newly built Western Tower and North and North-west ranges. An extension to the book stack commenced in 1924 but but its completion was delayed by the Depression.

In the 1930s

About 1935:

The Reading Room c1935 The Library in 1935
 The Reading Room c1935,
photo, University of Sydney Archives
The Library in 1935,
photo, G3_224_2717_200,
University of Sydney Archives

In the 1950s

The Reading Room in the 1950s:

 The Reading Room  The Reading Room
 The Reading Room  The Reading Room
 Photos, University of Sydney Archives

1962 - today

Within fifty years, the Fisher Library was no longer adequate for its purpose and in 1962, the old Fisher Library was vacated and a new five storey undergraduate wing occupied, opening in 1963.

A nine storey stack was completed four years later and its cladding in bronze was completed in 1971.

1965  1971
The new Fisher Library in 1965,
prior to the completion of the stack,
photo G3_224_2627,
University of Sydney Archives.
Completing the cladding of the stack in 1971,
photo, Fisher Library


1962 - today

The old library reading room in the Quadrangle became an examination hall and was named MacLaurin Hall after Sir Henry Normand MacLaurin who was Chancellor from 1896 until his death in 1914. The original book stacks were replaced by a staircase leading to a new entrance and the area remodelled to accommodate much of the History Department.

Today, MacLaurin Hall is used as a venue for special events, talks and university functions.

An exam in MacLaurin Hall in 1964   An exam in MacLaurin Hall in 1984
 An exam in MacLaurin Hall in 1964,
photo G3_224_1087,
University of Sydney Archives.
An exam in MacLaurin Hall in 1984,
photo G77_2_0116,
University of Sydney Archives
 View of MacLaurin Hall from Manning Road  MacLaurin Hall, view from inside the Quadrangle

View of MacLaurin Hall from Manning Road, 
photo, DPWS Heritage Design Services

 View from inside the Quadrangle,
photo, copyright David White.

 Inside MacLaurin Hall  Sesquicentenary Colloquium Dinner

Inside MacLaurin Hall,
photo, University of Sydney.

The Sesquicentenary Colloquium Dinner
held in MacLaurin Hall on 12 October 2002,
photo, courtesy of ZOOM Productions.

 The north wall  The south wall

 The north wall,
photo, University Secretariat.

The south wall,
photo, University Secretariat.

 Cockatoos and MacLaurin Hall, 2003 

A pair of sulphur crested cockatoos taking
a bite out of MacLaurin Hall in 2003,
photo, University of Sydney more.


These include:

  • bosses - carved stone ornaments on horizontal string courses - see below.
  • coats of arms - along the south wall are carved shields representing University Visitors and distinguished officers, benefactors and graduates - view images.
  • finials - two ornamental carved stone lions on top of both ends of the gable roof each holding the shield from the Royal coat of arms - view images.
  • a fleche - an elaborate louvred fleche on the roof constructed of timber and clad with lead - view images.
  • gargoyles - many unusual, fantastic, mythical or eerie carved creatures - see one below and view more images.
  • grotesques - view images.
  • a Juliet balcony - on the western end.
  • pinnacles - a number of terminal stone ornaments on the roof and at the top of buttresses - view images.
  • tracery - ornamental work of interlaced and branching lines that support plain or stained glass in a Gothic window or are carved on solid walls (blind tracery).

The following photos are courtesy of the University Secretariat:

 Crown boss  A grotesque boss  Gargoyle

A crown boss

A grotesque boss

A gargoyle



Decorative features outside MacLaurin Hall include:

  • a vaulted ceiling decorated with bosses above the Hall's stained glass entry door leading from the Nicholson Vestibule - both pictured below.
  • a bronze plaque commemorating Thomas Fisher outside the entrance to the Hall - pictured below.
  • a bronze profile of Sir Normand MacLaurin, made in 1919 by Dora Ohlfsenon, on the wall of the landing outside the newer entrance to the Hall - pictured below.

The following photos are courtesy of the University Secretariat:

 The entrance from Nicholson Vestibule  Entrance door from the Nicholson Vestibule  Fisher plaque

The vaulted ceiling decorated with
bosses leading to the entrance to
the Hall from the Nicholson Vestibule.

The entrance door
from the Nicholson Vestibule.

 A plaque commemorating
Fisher outside
the entrance to the Hall.

   MacLaurin plaque  

A plaque commemorating
MacLaurin outside
the other entrance to the Hall.



Decorative features inside MacLaurin Hall include:

  • on the north wall, a bronze profile of Frederic Norton Manning, the University's first Lecturer in Psychological Medicine, by Edward MacKennal, given to the University in 1905 - pictured below.
  • a cedar hammer beam roof - pictured below - with terminals ending with carved lion and tiger heads - pictured below and view more images - which hold the large light pendants in their mouths - pictured below.
  • corbels - carved stone animal heads supporting the roof terminals and emblazoned with copper shields of nations whose universities were affiliated with the University in 1909 - pictured below and view more images.
  • coats of arms and crests carved in stone on the west and east walls - one pictured below and view more.

The following photos are courtesy of the University Secretariat unless otherwise indicated:

 Manning profile  Hammer beam roof  A carved animal head
 The bronze profile of
Frederic Norton Manning.
The hammer beam roof,
photo, copyright David White.
 Carved lion heads at the ends
of the roof terminals.
 One of the lights in MacLaurin Hall  A lion supports the crest of New Zealand  Coat of arms of Sir William Charles Windeyer
One of the lights
in MacLaurin Hall.
A corbel in the form of a lion
supporting the crest of New Zealand.
On the west wall, the coat of arms
belonging to
Sir William Charles Windeyer.