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Government house,  Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney | by BRJ INC.
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Government house, Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney

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Government House is located in Sydney just south of the Sydney Opera House, and overlooks Sydney Harbour. It was the official residence and remains the official reception space of the Governor of New South Wales, Australia and is now managed by the Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales as a museum.

 

The abode of the first Governor of New South Wales, Captain Arthur Phillip, was a structure made of canvas and timber brought from England by the First Fleet. Built after the Fleet's arrival in January 1788, a substantial "temporary" government house was located on the corner of what is now Bridge and Phillip streets in Sydney completed by 1789 using English bricks, native stone and a quantity of convict baked sandstock bricks from Sydney. It was extended and repaired by the following eight Governors, but was always in poor condition and was demolished in 1846. It was built according under the direction of James Bloodsworth, a convict builder responsible for the construction of most of the colony's buildings between 1788 and 1800. The house suffered as a result of the poor mortar (made from the lime of crushed sea shells) and white ant infestations and what appeared to be rising damp in later years. Despite these problems, the house was an architectural milestone for Australia, and the first proportionately classical building in the continent. It even included Australia's first staircase. The building adapted quickly to the Australian climate. A verandah was added by Governor King circa 1800 and a drawing room was added in a side wing in the same year. By 1816 Francis Greenway was commissioned to construct a substantial extension and ballroom by Governor Macquarie, transforming Phillip's house into an italianate cottage. The stables commissioned for the house by Macquarie in 1816 still stand in the Botanic Gardens and form a facade for the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. This building is best described as a small castle and retains many of its original features and nostalgic battlements and towers. Much of the "Governor's Domain" to the east of the original house has survived today as the adjacent areas of parkland known as The Domain, the Royal Botanic Gardens, and also the gardens of today's Government House, adjacent to the Sydney Opera House.[1] The foundations of this house were excavated by archaeologists in 1983, and they were incorporated into the new Museum of Sydney.[2]

Major General Lachlan Macquarie (Governor 1810-1821) was responsible for prompting the construction of many of the colony's first permanent public buildings, and he attempted to build a replacement for the original Sydney Government House. Work was started by the convict architect Francis Greenway, but the project was not approved by the British government, and only the castle-like stables were ever finished. This building now is the nucleus of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.[3]

[edit]Country House

The desperate search for farmland suitable to sustain crops to feed the new colony led to the establishment of the township of Parramatta and, in 1790, Governor Arthur Phillip built a second residence for himself there. This cottage, as with many of the settlement's earliest structures, was not robustly constructed and fell into disrepair[4]; it was demolished by 1799. However, a precedent for a "country residence" for the Governor had been set.

Other country residences of the Governor included a cottage constructed at Windsor overlooking the Hawkesbury River (circa 1790) and a residence at Port Macquarie (circa 1821) of which the ruins are still visible.

[edit]Old Government House (Parramatta)

  

Old Government House, Parramatta.

The poor quality of the original Sydney Government House, as well as crime and unsanitary conditions in the growing Sydney settlement[5] convinced successive Governors of the desirability of a rural residence. In 1799 the second Governor, John Hunter, had the remains of Arthur Phillip's cottage cleared away, and a more permanent building erected on the same site.

Later, starting in 1815, Governor Lachlan Macquarie and Mrs Macquarie added extensively to Hunter's structure and by 1818 their principal residence had acquired the appearance which it retains today (the building's Palladian style extensions were designed by Macquarie's aide, Lieutenant John Watts).[6]

Out buildings in the Governor's Domain include a mutilated Bath House attributed to Francis Greenway (1822), some stones from an Observatory built for Governor Thomas Brisbane (1821) and a small farm house built by George Salter in 1798 - 1806 and acquired and extended by Governor Lachlan Maquarie in 1816 for use as a dairy.

"Old Government House" is furnished in the style of the early 1820s and is open to visitors. It is situated at Parramatta on 260 acres (1.1 km2) of parkland overlooking the Parramatta River, and is Australia's oldest public building. The grounds are of particular interest as they are a relatively undisturbed colonial-era reserve surrounded by what is now Australia's largest urban area. The practice of "firestick" land management conducted by the aboriginal Darug tribe, which once dwelt in the area, is evident from certain scars to be seen on trees still standing (their bark being removed to build canoes). Also, shells used to strengthen the mortar used in the House's construction have been found to originate from aboriginal middens.[7]

Old Government House and Government Domain were included in the Australian National Heritage List on 1 August 2007.

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Taken on July 11, 2010