A graduation ceremony in the Great Hall

The Great Hall

Our Great Hall has been home to thousands of graduations, plays, exams and even the occasional wedding. Learn more about the history of the Great Hall.


In 1854, Edmund Thomas Blacket began designing the University’s Great Hall. The original colonial architect, Blacket’s design was intended to mirror the Tudor Gothic style seen in the London Guildhall, the Banqueting House at Hampton Court Palace and Westminster Hall in England.

The foundations were laid in 1855 and by July 1859, the Great Hall was ready for unveiling. A grand music festival was held over a week to commemorate the momentous opening of University buildings to the public.

Since then, the Great Hall has been used for a range of University events. This includes graduation ceremonies, musical productions, plays, banquets, public lectures, book launches, balls, exams, memorial services, fairs and book sales. 


Complete with stained-glass windows, gables and gargoyles, it’s no wonder our Quadrangle is often compared to Hogwarts. The New South Wales Government's Office of Environment and Heritage has described the group of buildings that form the main Quadrangle as "probably the most significant group of Gothic Revival buildings in Australia".

An iconic feature of the Great Hall is the sloped roof, built in hammerbeam style to resemble that of Westminster Hall in London. Look up and you’ll see 12 carved wooden figures of angels sitting among the beams holding items that reference the arts and sciences ­– Grammar has a papyrus roll, Dialectic has Aristotle’s diagram of the three syllogistic figures, Poetry has a harp, Ethics has a St Mary’s lily, Metaphysics has a symbol of the Deity, Arithmetic has an abacus, Geometry has the 47th proposition of the first book of Euclid, Astronomy has a star, Music has a lyre, and Physics has an ancient air pump. An angel of knowledge originally sat atop the eastern gable but was removed in 1874. 

The iconic von Beckerath Organ was inaugurated in 1882, and then rebuilt between 1928 and 1933, and again in 1972.