For those who love secondhand books (including rare and hard to find editions), vinyl records/ music and audio cassettes, comics, or other entertainment memorabilia including limited edition items, but above all books, and who are in need of a bit of retail therapy, it is impossible to go past the Argyle Emporium – housed in the Goulburn’s former courthouse and police station.

Entrance area and cash desk

Inside the Emporium you will find seemingly endless corridors and rooms, including former prison cells, lined with bookshelves full to overflowing with books on every imaginable subject, not to mention loads of the other merchandise referred to earlier. I have seen estimates of the number of items on sale here at any one time ranging from 30,000 to 500,000. Personally I think the number would be very close to 500,000 if not in excess of it.  If browsing I suggest you come early in the day and bring a packed lunch!


While it may not look like it, things are arranged in a logical order and the staff are excellent should you need assistance in finding something – including the exit from the labyrinth of rooms and maze of corridors. I mention the latter as it is indeed easy to get lost in this place.



I wonder of the lady or gentleman lying on the sofa depicted below sat down for a rest or just couldn’t find their way out.


Sadly the founder and owner of the Emporium, Stephen Dunn, passed away in 2019. Describing himself as an eccentric, and looking every bit the part, he used to relate how he opened a secondhand bookshop in 1998 with the sole purpose of stopping himself going insane, having had to quit his job in outdoor advertising in Sydney due to ill health. Having outgrown its original location, Stephen moved his Emporium into this building in 2006.



As I have mentioned, the building itself is the city’s former courthouse and police station. This naturally makes it of additional interest to those, like me, with a penchant for things historical.

Goulburn has, over the years, had four courthouses including the current splendid Victorian building situated around the corner from the Emporium on Montague Street and upon which I have written a separate review.

The city’s first courthouse was constructed in around 1830 and was a rough hewn timber building with the intent that it be temporary. Plans were drawn up by architect William Buchanan for a second courthouse in 1834 but it is unclear if any such building was actually built or not. Colonial architect Mortimer Lewis designed a third courthouse (the right hand side of this combined building as depicted below) in 1835 though it was not built until 1849. A police station was added onto the left hand side of the courthouse building in the early 1880s and a tunnel was installed linking the station with the new/current courthouse when it was built in 1887. After this time the third courthouse became a Lands Title office and the police moved out in 1975.

Former Police Station (on left) and Former Courthouse (on right) of combined building

From a historical perspective one can still see, within the bookshop, a number of former police cells with steel doors and steel bars on the windows.



Location: Sloane Street – around the corner from Belmore Park

My next Goulburn review–HERE

Return to the beginning of my Goulburn reviews –HERE

24 thoughts on “Argyle Emporium (Bookshop) – Former Court and Police Station

  1. It’s great to see a beautiful old building, as well as thousands of books, getting a second chance at life. I love a good library, but there’s something special about second-hand book stores too — I think it may be the hope of coming across a very special find. It’s happened a few times to me! Interesting writeup, Albert!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Isn’t it funny how many of the best bookshops are in outback towns. Very few people visiting Goulburn would notice this one though of late the tourist office etc have noticed that it can be a draw card for the town and have started promoting it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What an absolute gem of a place, Albert! I can imagine it would be easy to spend a whole day (or even a lifetime, if the sofa’s occupant is anything to go by!) exploring all it has to offer. It’s a true Aladdins’s cave and if I’m every over there the Argyle Emporium will be at the top of my list for must-do’s. A great story, a great use of redundant buildings and a brilliant idea. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Glad to see you have re-discovered your muse Albert and what a way to do it, this place is an absolute gem. I am sure that if I went in there it would take me a week to drag myself back out again. Great stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Barterbooks looks wonderful, if somewhat more posh than the Goulburn one. It is funny how you find these large bookshops in more remote parts. I imagine the could not afford the rent in central London or Sydney. Seeing Barterbooks reminds me more of another one much closer to Sydney which has lovely coffee shop etc too.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. That looks like a treasure trove!! Will have to visit next time we’re home in Oz. We’ve recently gotten a suit case record player and now love buying second hand records – its amazing what you find!!

    Liked by 1 person

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