History of The Rocks

The Rocks is considered the premier place to visit and stay when visitors arrive in Sydney.

Ensconced in old world European architecture and views of Sydney Harbour, The Rocks was established in 1788 by Admiral Arthur Phillip. Originally settled as a penal colony, the transported convicts were given the task of building government establishments and official housing, many of which are still standing today. Examples of such structures include Cadman's Cottage, The Sydney Observatory and Dawes Point Battery, which acted as the first fortified position in New South Wales.

All of these sites are a must on any visitors' itinerary.


Sydney Harbour Bed and Breakfast offers visitors an opportunity to experience world class hospitality and unique accommodation in the heart of Australia's birthplace, The Rocks.

Upon entering our fully restored heritage mansion our guests become our main focus with no request too big or small. Sydney Harbour Bed and Breakfast offers boutique rooms each named after figures synonymous with Australian history. All rooms have been furnished in hand crafted colonial furniture and offer all the comforts of home.

The Cumberland Street building, now home to Sydney Harbour Bed & Breakfast, was originally constructed in 1914 as apart of a collection of nineteenth and twentieth century residential buildings. The cluster of constructions are part of the same development called the ‘Long's Lane Precinct’. The structure was exquisitely restored in the year 2000.


Heritage buildings are best cared for when they are lived in and loved. A heritage status is a source of pride for many residents and organisations. Owning a heritage-listen property brings about advantages such as protection, the local council is required to consider proposed developments surrounding heritage items or conservation areas. This is put in place to help preserve historically valued buildings in Sydney.

Though being a heritage-listed building brings about many advantages, there are a few limitations. The purpose of protecting heritage-listed buildings is to help preserve the character, architecture and landscape of the property. Government laws exist keeping the structure in its original state.

The public housing tenements constructed by the Housing Board between 1912 and 1924, the building is a valuable example of the Australian Federation architectural style as it was applied to a new building type in the early 20th century. The property is one of two surviving segments of a  much larger housing development which is significantly associated within the Housing Board, the first government agency established solely for the provision of housing.  

Early Settler 1807

1807 Plan of Sydney Town shows that the current streets between Cumberland, Essex and Argyle were closely settled along a defined building alignment. Built by occupants who were convicts and free settlers, the dwellings were likely to have been simple timber houses. Earliest recorder reference to Long’s Lane was made in Meehan’s 1807 map, where the streets of Cumberland and Gloucester were shown to have originally been formed with an interconnection along the alignment of Long’s Lane. Most of the development to the precinct occurred in the 1880’s and the early 20th century.


Arriving as a convict in Sydney off of the Baring, William Long settled here in 1815. After almost 15 years in Sydney, Long became a successful wine and spirits merchant in 1829, as well as being a licensee of pubs in Miller’s point and Lower George Street. William Long was formally granted the property of part of allotment 18 of section 74, along with 113-115 Gloucester Street. Previous to this, Long has assumed ownership of the western section of allotment 18, fronting Cumberland St, upon the passing of his wife of two years, Mary; who had owned the property since the death of her former husband in 1825.

Until 1853 the landlord for the property was James Wright, the trustee for Long’s daughter Isabella Wright was the proprietor of the Australian Brewery at the corner of Bathurst and George Street, Sydney. In 1853 Long’s daughter Isabella married James Martin, who subsequently became the registered owner of the property. Martin later served as Chief Justice of the N.S.W. Supreme Court, and is the person after whom Martin Place is named. 

1882-1887 Building Expansion

By 1882 the rate assessment books indicate that the pub had grown to contain between ten and fourteen rooms. A map dated to 1887 confirms that the building had undergone further alterations earlier in the previous decade. An extension to the pub was built at 142 Cumberland Street at this time, and mainly used as hairdresser's shop. 

NSW Housing Board rescued the Rocks in 1912

Following an outbreak of the plague in Sydney and The Rocks the NSW government, under The Rocks Resumption Act (1901), resumed the area, which was barricaded to prevent further spread of infection. Some buildings were demolished, and from 1912 the NSW Housing Board began to construct housing in the vacant blocks of land in The Rocks. The Housing Board, founded under the Housing Act 1912, was the first such agency in the state devoted to the construction of public housing. The Board acquired land upon which buildings were constructed to be leased to 'persons qualified under the Act' for business or residential purposes. The Housing Board examined public housing initiatives in the UK and Europe, and incorporated those ideas in constructing tenement dwellings in The Rocks. By 1907 the shop at 142 Cumberland Street and the adjoining building at No. 140 had been demolished. It appears that there was little development on the site over the next five years, but by 1912 the Board had moved to build worker's dwellings in Gloucester, Cumberland and Essex streets. In addition to housing, the Board also sought to ensure a mix of housing, corner shops, pubs and the like in the area. 

From 1912, the Housing Board built some 30 units in one development along Gloucester, Cumberland and Little Essex streets. In addition to housing, the Board also sought to ensure a mix of housing, corner shops, pubs and the like in the area. The new terraces, including 140-142 Cumberland Street, were built by J.H. Thompson of Bondi to the design of Board architect W. Foggitt. 

Boarding House

Among the first tenants of the new development at was Mrs Annie Johnson, who operated a 'residential' [boarding house] at No. 142 between1916 and 1931. Richard Boucher similarly ran a ‘residential’ at No. 140, from 1925 to 1930. Of this large Housing Board development, only the northern units remain: the building at 117 Gloucester Street, and the subject building at 140-142 Cumberland Street. The buildings demonstrate the typical Housing Board plan form, providing outdoor spaces in balconies and rear yards. Parts of the Gloucester / Essex / Cumberland Streets Housing Board development were demolished in the 1920s to make way for the approaches to the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The remainder of the development was demolished with the construction of the Cahill Expressway in the 1950s to make way for the new freeway.140-142 Cumberland Street continued to be tenanted through the 1970s. 

Squatters destroyed the building in 80s

The last house was vacated in the 1980s when the house was boarded up. Subsequently, squatters occupied the building. Many fixtures were stolen or demolished during this period, perhaps as a result of boom in house renovations elsewhere in the inner city.

Heritage Conservation works in 90s Sydney Cove  (previously called Sydney Cove)

Between 1994 and 1995, an extensive programme of conservation works was carried out on the building. The work comprised stabilisation, restoration of the front façade and roofs, cutting in damp proof courses, and construction of new floors. Joinery, plastering, and other surface finishes were reconstructed on the basis of surviving original fabric. The building is now operated as bed & breakfast accommodation. The Sydney Cove Authority also carried out conservation works to the buildings and rear yards in the remainder of the Long's Lane Precinct, including 113-117 Gloucester Street. This work was awarded the 1998 Lloyd Rees Award for Outstanding Urban Design.

Home for Sydney Harbour Bed and Breakfast

The fully restored heritage mansion, where all rooms have been refurbished in hand crafted furniture. Sydney Harbour Bed and Breakfast offers visitors a unique opportunity to experience genuine Bed and Breakfast Accommodation and attentive hospitality in the heart of The Rocks, Australia's birthplace.