Government House, Sydney

This article is about Government House, Sydney, the currently used building. For the previously used government houses, see First Government House, Sydney and Old Government House, Parramatta.
Government House

Main façade of Government House
General information
Architectural style Gothic revival style, Victorian Architecture
Town or city Royal Botanic Gardens Macquarie street
New South Wales
Country Australia
Coordinates 33°51′36″S 151°12′54″E / 33.859919°S 151.215008°E / -33.859919; 151.215008
Current tenants Queen of Australia
Governor of New South Wales
Construction started 1845
Owner The Queen in Right of New South Wales
Design and construction
Architect Mortimer Lewis, Edward Blore
Formal gateway and entrance drive to Government House, Sydney

Government House is located in Sydney alongside the Royal Botanic Gardens, overlooking Sydney Harbour, just south of the Sydney Opera House. Constructed between 1837 and 1843, the property has been the official residence of the Governor of New South Wales since Sir George Gipps, except for two brief periods; the first between 1901 and 1914, when the property was leased to the Commonwealth of Australia as the residence of the Governor-General of Australia,[1] and the second from 1996 to 2011. The property was returned as the Governor's residence in October 2011[2] and was managed by the Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales from March 1996 to December 2013.[3]

1845 to 1901

In 1845 the British government agreed that a new Government House in Sydney had become a necessity, and the royal architect, Edward Blore, was instructed to draw up plans. Construction commenced in 1837 and was supervised by colonial architect Mortimer Lewis and Colonel Barney of the Royal Engineers.[4] Stone, cedar, and marble for the construction were obtained from various areas of New South Wales. A ball in honour of the birthday of Queen Victoria was held in the new building in 1843, although construction was not complete. The first resident, Governor George Gipps, did not move in until 1845.[4]

Government House, with its setting on Sydney Harbour, has a garden area of 5 hectares and is located south of the Sydney Opera House, overlooking Farm Cove. It was designed in a romantic Gothic revival style—castellated, crenellated, turreted and is decorated with oil portraits and the coats of arms of its successive occupants. Additions have included a front portico in 1873, an eastern verandah in 1879 and extensions to the ballroom and governor's study in 1900–01.

From 1845 until 1901, the building served as the Governor's residence, office and official reception space.

1901 to 1914

Cranbook, 1917

Between 1901 and 1914, the building was used to house the new role of Governor-General of Australia, created by the Federation of Australia. During this period, three Governors of New South Wales occupied Cranbrook, Bellevue Hill, namely Harry Rawson, Frederic Thesiger, 1st Viscount Chelmsford and Gerald Strickland, 1st Baron Strickland.[5][6]

In 1913, the decision was taken to establish a residence for the Governor-General at Admiralty House, Kirribilli.[7]

1914 to 1996

Water fountain in the formal gardens on the eastern side of Government House
Garden features in the formal gardens on the eastern side of the house, with views across to Sydney Opera House

From 1914 to 1996, the building again served as the residence, office and official reception space for the Governor of New South Wales.

1996 to 2011

However, in 1996, at the direction of the then Premier of New South Wales, Bob Carr, the property ceased to be used as a residence, and the Governor's day office was relocated to the historic Colonial Secretary's Office Building nearby, at 121 Macquarie Street.[8] On 16 January 1996 Carr announced that the next Governor, Gordon Samuels, would not live or work at Government House. On these changes, Carr said "The Office of the Governor should be less associated with pomp and ceremony, less encumbered by anachronistic protocol, more in tune with the character of the people".[9] Carr later quipped that his decision had been "for Jack Lang",[10] referring to the Premier of a former state Labor Government that was dismissed by a Governor, Philip Game, in 1932 during a constitutional crisis.

The state's longest-serving governor, Sir Roden Cutler, was also reported as saying: "It's a political push to make way in New South Wales to lead the push for a republic. If they decide not to have a Governor and the public agrees with that, and Parliament agrees, and the Queen agrees to it, that is a different matter, but while there is a Governor you have got to give him some respectability and credibility, because he is the host for the whole of New South Wales. For the life of me I cannot understand the logic of having a Governor who is part-time and doesn't live at Government House. It is such a degrading of the office and of the Governor."[9]

This move generated further controversy, as the proclaimed cost savings of over $2 million never materialised. The Auditor-General found it cost $600,000 more to maintain the building without a resident Governor; and public attendance decreased (resident Governors had maintained public access during their tenures).[11] This led the group Australians for Constitutional Monarchy to organise a protest, resulting in one of the largest marches in Sydney history: a crowd of 15,000 protested outside Parliament House, Sydney, blocking Macquarie Street.[12] On the day before Gordon Samuels' swearing-in, a petition bearing 55,000 signatures was handed in, calling on the Premier to reconsider.[13] During the hiatus of resident governor, Government House was consistently used for vice-regal purposes and remained the official reception space of the state, including as a key meeting venue of APEC Australia 2007 in September 2007, at which time the political leaders of the 21 member states of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation met.

2011 to present

In October 2011, the then Premier Barry O'Farrell announced that the Governor, now Marie Bashir, had agreed with O'Farrell's offer to move back into Government House: "A lot of people believe the Governor should live at Government House. That's what it was built for ... [A]t some stage a rural or regional governor will be appointed and we will need to provide accommodation at Government House so it makes sense to provide appropriate living areas". However, because government house has not been a residence for fifteen years, O'Farrell also announced that the Governor will initially move into a smaller adjacent building, called the chalet, while refurbishments of the main wing occur, with a proposed move into the main house "before Christmas".[14] From December 2013, management of Government House was returned to the Office of the Governor from the managers since 1996, the Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales.[3]

See also


  1. "Historic Houses Trust". Government House Guide. Retrieved 8 October 2011.
  2. "Governor Marie Bashir makes a grand return home to Government House". The Daily Telegraph. 7 October 2011.
  3. 1 2 "Government House". Government House, Sydney. Governor of NSW.
  4. 1 2 "The Governor of NSW: Government House". Parliament of New South Wales. NSW Government. Retrieved 10 December 2010.
  5. "SOCIAL.". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 5 October 1901. p. 7. Retrieved 22 December 2013.
  6. "THE NEW GOVERNOR.". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 4 February 1902. p. 5. Retrieved 22 December 2013.
  7. "A brief history of Admiralty House, Sydney". Governor-General of Australia. Retrieved 22 December 2013.
  8. "The Governor of NSW: The Governor's Office". Parliament of New South Wales. NSW Government. Retrieved 12 December 2010.
  9. 1 2 "Editorial – A Governor on the side". The Sydney Morning Herald. 17 January 1996.
  10. Parliament of New South Wales, Hansard, Constitution Amendment (Office of Governor) Bill: Queen-in-Right-of-New-South-Wales
  11. Humphries, David (13 November 1997). "Blow-out in costs for "empty" residence". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  12. Richards, George (1 March 1996). "Era ends as door closes on Governor's home". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  13. Lunn, Stephen (1 March 1996). "Monarchists decry Carr's "republic by stealth"". The Australian.
  14. "Governor Marie Bashir makes a grand return home to Government House". The Daily Telegraph. 7 October 2011.
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