The Quadrangle

The Senate Room

The Senate Room on the first floor in the Quadrangle was originally the Library until 1909 when the Library relocated to the new Fisher Library (now MacLaurin Hall) and adjacent Bookstack.


Images are courtesy of the University Secretariat unless otherwise indicated. Click on photos for enlargement.

The Senate Room


Left: The Senate Room.


The Library Room, 1857

Between 1857 and 1909, the current Senate Room on the first floor in the Main Building was the location of the University's first Library. However, by 1879, the Library had outgrown the space allotted to it and the collection was distributed in rooms all over the Quadrangle. In 1909 the Library was relocated into the new Fisher Library (now MacLaurin Hall) and adjacent Bookstack.

Library Room
Library Room

Above: The Library Room in the 1900s, before its conversion to the Senate Room, photos, University of Sydney Archives.


The Senate Room, 1911

Between Senate's first meetings in 1851 and the refitting of the Library Room in the Quadrangle as the Senate Room in 1911, Senate meetings were held in various external venues including:

  • 1851: the Chambers of the Speaker of the NSW Legislative Council - Charles Nicholson - in Macquarie Street
  • Sydney College, College Street. (Sydney College existed from 1835 to 1850. Its land and building - the Edward Hallen Building, called the Big School Room - were temporarily occupied by the newly-founded University of Sydney in 1852. In 1854 Sydney Grammar School was incorporated by Act of Parliament, acquiring the land and building in College Street and opening in 1857.)
  • Selbourne Chambers in Phillip Street. (In 1896 the University of Sydney Law School moved to No. 174 Selbourne Chambers, a three-storeyed building on the site of the present Selbourne Chambers, and remained there until 1913.)

The minutes of Senate's Buildings and Grounds Committee meeting on 12 October 1909 record that instructions were given for the room heretofore used as a library to be fitted up for meetings of the Senate and Faculties, and for suitable furniture to be obtained.

The Senate Room was set up with 17 bentwood chairs and the Chancellor's ceremonial chair at the head of the table. Research into the carpet suggests that the carpet may have been a William Morris design.

Subsequent to this, the minutes of Senate first record a Senate meeting being held "at the University" on 6 February 1911, although not specifically in this room. However, Senate meetings continued to be held in Selbourne Chambers for some time after this.

Senate Room 1912
Senate Room
Senate Room
Senate Room

Top from left: The Senate Room in 1912, photo, University Archives, and between 1914 and 1920, showing a close-up of the Nicholson bookcase and paintings at the rear of the room, photo by Ellice Hamilton, courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney.

Above from left: Views of the Senate Room dated 1914-20, showing the left hand side of the room facing the rear and the tapestry “Triumph of the Dance" c1734, hanging at the front of the Senate Room, photos by Ellice Hamilton, courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney.


Redecoration of the Senate Room, 1938

Through the generosity of Mrs Mills, wife of Dr Arthur Edward Mills (Deputy Chancellor 1936 to 1939), the Senate Room was remodelled in 1938. The painting "The Blue Lady", which had been donated by Sir Charles Nicholson in 1865, was used as the key to the new colour scheme of the room.

Read the report by Stephenson & Turner, Architects.

The Blue Lady
Senate Room 1951
Senate Room 1960s

Above left: "The Blue Lady", artist unknown, after Anthony Van Dyck 1566; gift of Sir Charles Nicholson Bart in 1865; thought to be Lady Clifford, University Art Collection, reproduced with the permission of the University of Sydney.

Top right: A special meeting of the Senate held in the Senate Room on 5 February 1951, in celebration of the first meeting of Senate, photo, University Archives.

Above right: The Senate Room in the 1960s with features of its 1938 redecoration still evident - "The Blue Lady", the table with its 5 components, the chairs and the blotting pads, photo, University Archives.


Refurbishment of the Senate Room 1970s

Senate meetings moved to the old Law School in Phillip Street for several years, and relocated to the Senate Room in the 1970s.

The Room's pale blue curtains, beaten copper light fittings, linear air-conditioning grilles and pelmets, which appear in the 1980s photograph below, probably date from the 1970s.

Senate Room 1980s
Senate Room

Above: The Senate Room in the 1980s as it was from the 1970s until its refurbishment in 1997, photos, University Archives.


Refurbishment of the Senate Room, 1997

The first Senate meeting in the newly refurbished Senate Room was held on 4 August 1997. The new furniture was donated by the Chancellor's Committee.

Senate Room
Senate Room carpet

Above from left: View of the Senate Room, and detail of the carpet which was specially designed and made for the room, photos, University Secretariat.


LB