Government House guidebook
A History of the House
The first Governor's residence in New South Wales was a portable canvas house brought by Captain Arthur Phillip from England on the First Fleet in January 1788. In May of that year convict labourers commenced building a new two-storeyed brick residence sited in present day Bridge Street. This first Government House was extended and embellished and served as a home to the first nine Governors - from Phillip to Gipps - and was the political, ceremonial and social centre of the colony.
In 1816 Governor Macquarie commissioned architect Francis Greenway to design a grand residence and stables in the castellated style. Macquarie's passion for building was considered the chief extravagance of his administration and while the stables were built, the Home Government prevented him from proceeding with his plans for a new vice-regal residence. Macquarie's stables, currently the Conservatorium of Music, occupied a prominent position in the Government Domain and their distinctive Gothic style determined the style and site of the second Government House.
Changing accommodation requirements and the differing tastes of governors, resulted in additions and modifications to the first Government House. It became increasingly difficult to successfully maintain the structure and fabric of the older sections of the building. After decades of protest about the poor condition of the old house, the erection of a new residence was finally authorised.
Believing no architect in the colony was capable of designing such an important structure the Governor, Sir Richard Bourke, requested that an 'eminent architect' be engaged in England for the project. The commission was awarded to Edward Blore, architect to King William IV, whose portfolio included various works at Windsor Castle, Hampton Court and Buckingham Palace. By late 1834 a full set of 97 working drawings, plans and specifications were dispatched to New South Wales.
Blore had never visited the colony and the final siting of the house on Bennelong Point was determined by Colonial Engineer, Captain George Barney and Colonial Architect, Mortimer Lewis. Lewis was given the responsibility of modifying the plans to suit the site and local conditions. By reversing Blore's plan, Lewis gave the entrance to the house a southern orientation and the State Rooms an easterly aspect overlooking the harbour. Construction of the house began in September 1836, using locally quarried sandstone. The main contractors were the English Building Company, responsible for masonry works, and Brodie and Craig, who undertook the carpentry and joinery. Much of the labour used consisted of recently arrived tradesmen, all free immigrants.
By the early 1840s as the structure became visible, a young Queen Victoria was on the throne in England and the transportation of convicts to New South Wales had ceased. The severe economic depression of the early 1840s delayed the completion of the building. The ground floor was sufficiently completed for the Governor, Sir George Gipps, to celebrate the Queen's Birthday Ball there in May 1843. When the house was completed two years later it had cost the unprecendented sum of £46,000.
Government House was the most sophisticated example of Gothic Revival architecture in the colony. The furniture and furnishings were assembled from various sources: transferred from the old Sydney Government House; from the Parramatta house; acquired locally; or imported from England. Some of the earliest furniture was commissioned from leading Sydney craftsman such as Andrew Lenehan, John Hill and Edward Hunt. These pieces form the nucleus of an important collection of New South Wales colonial furniture remaining in the house. Changes in fashion and the differing tastes of the Governors and their wives resulted in regular refurbishment of the interiors and their contents. A wealth of archival documentation and pictorial material records this important aspect of the house's history.
The second Governor to occupy the house, Sir Charles FitzRoy, directed the construction of a guardhouse (the Lodge) and gates. By 1855, Governor Denison, a Royal Engineer, directed the Colonial Architect's office to address the shortcomings of the building and upgrade the services and facilities. With a family of ten children, the Denisons required greater family and staff accommodation and found it impractical to send the laundry to Parramatta as his predecessors had. By 1858 a wash house and laundry had been built and the servants' hall had been enlarged.
During his term Governor Sir John Young and his wife re-decorated the house and further developed the gardens; the eastern terrace and fountain were constructed by the Colonial Architect James Barnet at this time. The first Royal visit to New South Wales - that of Prince Alfred, second son of Queen Victoria, occurred in 1868 when Lord Belmore was Governor. Following Prince Alfred's attempted assasination at Clontarf on 12 March 1868, Lady Belmore transformed the Drawing Room into a theatre where surgeons operated to remove the bullet lodged in the Prince's abdomen.
In the period between the arrival and departure of the Governors, the colony and the house were administered by the Lieutenant-Governor. Major works to the house were usually undertaken at these times. In 1872 the Lieutenant-Governor Sir Alfred Stephen directed Colonial Architect James Barnet to construct a porte cochère at the entrance to the house. The eastern colonnade was commenced in 1879, to protect the State rooms from excessive heat and sunlight and to provide a covered outdoor entertaining area.
An important development of the history of the interiors was the redecoration of the State rooms in 1879 by Lyon, Cottier and Company, Sydney's leading decorators. Their original hand painted and stencilled Aesthetic Movement ceilings survive in the Ante and Drawing rooms.
While Lord Loftus, Governor from 1879 to 1885, retreated to 'Hillview', his successor Lord Carrington re-established Government House as a focus of social activity. Lord and Lady Carrington held balls, dinners, receptions, garden parties and fetes and their term co-incided with Queen Victoria's Jubilee in 1887 and the Centennial celebrations in 1888.
Prior to the arrival of the Earl of Jersey in 1891, a separate two-storey timber and shingle cottage, the Chalêt, was constructed on the western terrace to provide additional accommodation.
In the latter years of the nineteenth century the men appointed to govern New South Wales changed from career public servants, with military or naval backgrounds, to those with aristocratic connections or titles. The increasing colonial experience of responsible government gave rise to a perception that the Governor's task had become more social than political. Furthermore, these titled and wealthy men were expected to entertain lavishly at their own expense. Federation, and the role of the Governors-General, raised questions as to the Governors' continuing significance, with some states believing that the position might be eliminated altogether. New South Wales proposed to move the State Governor from the house to make way for the Governor-General, in the belief that 'the seat of Government must be in New South Wales'.
In preparation for occupancy by the Governor-General in 1901 extensive changes were made to the building's fabric. A major stone replacement program using 'yellow block' sandstone from Pyrmont had begun in the 1890s and this now included extensions to the ballroom and the billiard room. At the rear of the house, a new kitchen and scullery were provided, the servants hall enlarged, and a range of outbuildings constructed. Between 1898 and 1901 electricity was introduced to replace the gas lighting system.
The State Government offered Government House rent free to the Commonwealth and the New South Wales Governors were relocated to Cranbrook, Rose Bay. This arrangement continued until 1911 when, committed to a reduction in vice-regal expenditure, a newly elected Labour Government challenged the limited use of Government House by the Governor-General. The government refused to renew the Commonwealth's lease and in December 1912 took formal possession of the house.
The State Government's actions attracted a series of legal challenges which were finally resolved in the government's favour. The government abandoned proposals to use the house as an art museum or as a convalescent hospital for returned soldiers and in 1915 the then Governor, Sir Gerald Strickland, was requested to resume occupancy of the house.
Changing taste in the twentieth century slowly eroded the elaborate late nineteenth century interior decorative schemes. As early as 1903 wallpaper replaced the Lyon and Cottier paint schemes of the Ante and Drawing rooms. The soft furnishings - upholstery, case covers, portiere curtains, carpets and rugs - were also renewed to modernise the interiors.
During the Second World War precautions were taken to protect the house and the cellar was to be used as an air-raid shelter. The Governor, Lord Wakehurst made the house available for public inspection to raise funds for the war effort.
Following the war, General Sir John Northcott was the first Australian to be appointed Governor of New South Wales. A highlight of his term of office was the 1954 visit to Sydney by Queen Elizabeth II, the first visit by a reigning monarch to Australia.
By the 1960s the State rooms had been transformed. They were now painted white, with plain coloured carpets and the furniture re-upholstered. The original colonial furniture had largely been removed from the State rooms and was dispersed through the house. The interiors were now more sparsely furnished, with reproduction antique furniture and modern light fittings.
Between 1981-1985 a program of major restoration and conservation of the State rooms was carried out under the supervision of Public Works Department. This restoration was based on extensive documentary research and investigation of the building fabric. The surviving 1879 Lyon and Cottier painted ceiling decoration of the Ante and Drawing rooms was conserved and their contemporary wall schemes reinstated. This work was enhanced by the restoration of the original furniture and light fittings and the commissioning of nineteenth century documented carpets and soft furnishings. As a result of this work, the national importance and quality of these Vice-Regal interiors and their valuable contents was recovered.
Recent Governors have enthusiastically supported open days at the house for the general public. In January 1996 the Premier of New South Wales The Hon. Bob Carr, MP, announced that Government House would no longer be set aside as the private residence of the Governor and that both house and grounds were to be opened for the benefit and enjoyment of the people of New South Wales. An advisory committee was established to consult relevant groups and the public to recommend new uses for the house. In March 1996 Government House opened to the public under the management of the Historic Houses Trust.
In presenting Government House to the public the Trust has surveyed the entire collection dispersed throughout the building and out-buildings. The furniture, pictures and objects in the State Rooms have been re-arranged and supplemented by important pieces which made been moved to lesser rooms or storage. The Trust's intention is not to recreate a particular period in the House's history but to respect and reflect more accurately the 150 year lifetime of the House.
The House continues to be used by the Governor for official vice-regal ceremonies, receptions and dinners. With the full concurrence of the Governor, the house has increasingly become a centre for a lively program of cultural and community events and is open to the public four days each week.
A Guide to the House
The Outer Hall
Originally a tall, open vaulted porch, this space formed an imposing entrance to the house but provided little protection for visitors arriving at the house. In 1873 the Lieutenant-Governor, Sir Alfred Stephen, directed construction of a porte cochère to provide shelter for carriages. This addition, carried out by the Colonial Architect James Barnet, enclosed Blore's massive entrance arch. It was infilled with stone tracery windows and an internal vestibule was created with elaborate Gothic, glazed doors. The sandstone walls were painted and the flagstones were replaced by encaustic floor tiles, supplied by the Sydney Patent Company.
When the ballroom was extended in 1898 a staircase was installed to provide access to the new musicians' gallery. The Coats of Arms of the Governors-General of Australia, from 1901-1914, record their brief occupancy of Government House. The cedar hall furniture is simple and utilitarian in function - the pair of Gothic hall chairs, c.1873, were commissioned from the Sydney cabinet maker Alexander Norton and bear an unofficial State Coat of Arms.
The Inner Hall
From the inner hall the western passageway provides access to the study and the administrative offices. The narrow staircase leads to a mezzanine floor above with rooms, which originally served the clerks room and dressing rooms for the Aide-de-Camp and the Hall Porter.
The twentieth century portraits of previous Governors of New South Wales were commissioned from leading Australian artists such as William Dobell and William Dargie. The Australian landscape and still-life paintings on display are part of a large collection of works on loan from the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The large cedar case clock, c.1860, above the door was manufactured by Angelo Tornaghi, an important Sydney supplier of clocks and scientific instruments.
The Main Hall
This hall is the central space of the house, dividing the public State rooms from the offices and waiting rooms. Featuring an impressive cedar staircase leading to the private and guest apartments, this room measures 43 x 22 feet (13 x 6.7m). Its grand scale, large open fireplace and Gothic detailing of the staircase and screen were intended to create the sense of an English baronial hall. The portraits of former Governors have been located here since 1845. The Marulan sandstone chimneypiece, the carved cedar detailing of the stair and the cedar wainscoting all follow Blore's original designs and specifications.
The present colour scheme is adapted from an 1855 annotated sketch of the hall by Conrad Martens. It is believed that the ceiling was decorated by the firm of Lyon and Cottier between 1879 and 1881. Prior to the arrival of the Earl of Jersey in 1891 the hall was re-decorated with the coats of arms of the Governors and Lieutenant-Governors, a skylight over the staircase and an embossed 'Japanese' wallpaper, part of which survives today. The large chandelier retains its c.1860 gaslight framework and its pierced metal air vent enabled gas fumes to escape, ducted to a ventilator in the roof.
Originally the Aide-de-Camp's office and later the Billiards room, this room was extended as part of a major refurbishment of the building in 1900-01. These changes were designed by the Government Architect W.L. Vernon who continued the Gothic theme with the elaborate stone fan vaulted ceiling and screen of leadlight windows with carved stone surrounds. The decoration of the stone chimneypiece incorporates English, Australian and New South Wales coats of arms together with those of Governor-General Lord Hopetoun and State Governor Lord Beauchamp, who were then in office.
During the nineteenth century the Governor's Study was located in a room adjacent to the private western entrance. This room became the Governor's Study in 1915 when the State Governors returned to Government House, following its lease to the Commonwealth from 1901-1912. The extensive suite of Arts and Crafts style oak furniture was commissioned from Walker, Sons and Bartholomew for this room and the adjoining administrative offices by Lord Beauchamp in c.1900. The selection of Aboriginal works on display have been purchased or presented to the Government House collections.
The Dining Room
Dining with the Governor was a privilege enjoyed by his overseas guests, those in high office and local confidantes. The suite of dining room furniture was commissioned by Governor Denison in 1857 from Andrew Lenehan, one of Sydney's leading cabinet makers.
In keeping with early Victorian convention, the room was originally painted in dark, sombre tones. The room's present decoration is a reinstatement of its 1879 scheme by Lyon and Cottier. This work was carried out by the New South Wales Public Works Department in 1984 and was based on extensive documentary research and analysis of the building fabric. In 1901 the large bay window was installed to provide a brighter interior. As part of this remodelling of the room the cedar wainscotting was installed over the Lyon and Cottier painted dado.
The Marulan marble chimneypiece, supplied by Mr Patten of Pitt Street in 1843, echoes Blore's designs for the decorative plasterwork in the main stairwell. The polished steel and ormolu grate and fender were acquired from the local ironmonger P.N. Russell and Company in 1858.
Portraits of the Royal Family and former Governors were traditionally hung in this room. In the early nineteenth century Governors were expected to provide their own plate, china and linen, however by the end of the century these were provided by the State. Examples of the English dinner services of Governors FitzRoy and Carrington and a large collection of engraved glassware owned by Lord Augusts Loftus remain in the house.
The Ante Room
The Ante Room provides the more intimate space of the State rooms. The principal feature of this interior is the elegant hand-painted and stencilled Aesthetic Movement ceiling decoration, executed by the decorating firm Lyon and Cottier, whose artists had trained in Glasgow, the leading centre for the revival of decorative painted finishes. A notable feature is the use of floral emblems of England, Scotland, Ireland and New South Wales. The wall decoration is a re-creation of the Lyon and Cottier scheme which had been covered over by wallpaper in the early 1900s.
The crystal chandelier dates from the 1860s and was originally lit by gas. In the late nineteenth century the open fireplace was fitted with a smaller register grate and a faux marble timber surround.
Amongst the significant pieces of furniture on display are three English rosewood tables, part of the original Drawing Room furniture purchased by Governor Gipps from Elizabeth Bay House in 1845. Other important pieces are the pair of marble topped display cabinets made by Alexander Norton in c.1870 from a variety of Australian timbers. The cabinets display a selection of nineteenth century European glassware and porcelain.
Acquired during Governor FitzRoy's term, the French ormolu clock, c.1850, reflects his taste for fashionable Louis Revival furniture and decorative arts.
The pictures in this room, principally Italian landscapes and Royal portraits were presented to the house by the former Governors Lord Augustus Loftus and Lord Carrington.
The Drawing Room
By reversing Blore's original floor plan, Mortimer Lewis gave this room an easterly aspect and picturesque views over the harbour and foreshores. The furnishings and decoration observe the nineteenth century conventions of elegance and lightness in a Drawing Room. Originally decorated with wallpaper supplied by the English firm of Trollope and Sons, the room was extensively redecorated in 1879 by Lyon and Cottier as part of a major refurbishment of the interiors. The ceiling design incorporates allegorical figures of the Four Seasons, Dawn and Dusk.
The room was originally furnished with furniture and soft furnishings purchased in 1845 from Elizabeth Bay House, the home of the former Colonial Secretary Alexander Macleay. In addition, Governor Gipps commissioned numerous other pieces of furniture from local cabinet makers, including the elegant suite of rosewood drawing room tables by Andrew Lenehan. By commissioning such furniture, Gipps was praised for his encouragement and promotion of colonial manufacture. Later governors, such as Governor Fitzroy, introduced fashionable pieces of Louis Revival furniture, such as the pier glasses and console tables. Other acquisitions such as the marble topped cabinets decorated with ormolu mounted Sèvres porcelain plaques and the pair of marquetry tables demonstrate a continuing preference for that style until the 1880s.
The pair of coronation portraits of George III and Queen Charlotte were presented to the house by Anna Josepha King, widow of Governor King. These portraits had previously hung in the First Government House.
A series of inventories and photographs of the Drawing Room taken between 1870 and 1901 record successive changes of furniture, decorative arts, pictures and soft furnishings.
In the original plan this room was designed with a stage and alcove on the western wall which was accessible from the main hall. The largest reception room, this grand space was used for formal ceremonies and entertainment. Many governors took their oaths of office and officiated at investitures in this room. It was here that the gentlemen of New South Wales attended levees where they could present their cards and express their support. The levees were open to a broad range of men but invitations from the Governor to attend formal functions at Government House were more selective. The epitome of social success in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was attendance at a ball or recital.
Designed in the Gothic style by the Government Architect, Walter Liberty Vernon in 1899, a large musicians' gallery extended the room at the southern end, the upper level reached by a staircase from the outer hall.
The painted ceiling decoration is a re-creation of the 1879 Lyon and Cottier design that incorporated panels of musical instruments. Contemporary photographs show that the walls were decorated with a stencilled pattern giving the illusion of a damask fabric wallcovering. This decoration was painted over in the early decades of this century.
A series of yellow satin upholstered cedar banquettes, c.1860, form the principal furniture in this room. The walnut veneered grand piano is rare, being one of three made by the Sydney firm, Beale and Co. in c.1900.
From c.1870, French doors provided access from the Ballroom to the Eastern Terrace garden and from 1879, to the slate-paved Colonnade. The Colonnade protected the State rooms from excessive heat and light and provided an outdoor entertaining area.The First Floor Apartments
As a result of Governor Bourke's original brief, Blore's plan accommodated the Governor and his family on the first floor in the main body of the house. This prompted Mortimer Lewis' criticism that 'the proposed house is sufficient for a Governor and his ordinary Suite, but not for a married Governor with family'.
The original plan provided six bedrooms, some with attached dressing rooms. There was no private drawing room or dining room for the Governor's family. However, while Lewis did not change Blore's interior, his re-orientation of the house gave the upper rooms extensive views overlooking the harbour. As a result the central first floor room became the drawing room, furnished with the family's private furniture and possessions. As Lady Denison remarked '...this upstairs room has always been the home room; and when it gets our books and prints in and about it, it promises to be almost perfection'.
Over time, the rooms of the first floor have been divided to provide additional accommodation including sitting rooms and bathrooms for members of the Royal Family and visiting heads of state.
The western side of the house includes a mezzanine level with smaller rooms that provided accommodation for the staff of the Governor and official visitors. At each end of this range of rooms is a servants' staircase which provided for staff to access and service the first floor bedrooms.
The original service wing was designed by the Colonial Architect Mortimer Lewis. This wing consisted of the kitchen, scullery, pantry and other work rooms with the male servants' quarters above. A vaulted cellar is located under this wing and other offices included a bakehouse and smaller service rooms. The outbuildings consisted of a stone dairy set below ground level for coolness and a later 1860s stone meathouse. In 1858 the wash-house and laundry were constructed and servants' hall extended.
As a great house with servants' quarters and service rooms located at the rear, Government House's domestic organisation encapsulated a microcosm of the English class system within its walls. While the educated 'professional' men - the Aide-de-Camp and Private Secretary - were accommodated in the main house with the Governor and his family, the lower servants were accommodated at the rear of the house.
When the Governors-General took up residence in the house in 1901, the service wing was modernised and enlarged to provide additional offices and staff accommodation. This wing substantially survives but in 1979 many of the earlier outbuildings were demolished for a modern service building. Only the dairy, meathouse and a section of the original courtyard wall remain.
A Guide to the Garden and Grounds
Government House is built on land set aside by Governor Phillip in 1792 'for the use of the Crown and as common lands for the inhabitants of Sydney'. This area included the whole of Bennelong Point, the present Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain and the lower parts of Macquarie and Phillip Streets. The first Government House was situated near the present day corner of Bridge and Phillip Streets.
The new house was sited in the established landscape of the Governor's Domain, mid-way between Governor Macquarie's stables (now the Conservatorium of Music) and his sham fort (where the Opera House now stands). In keeping with the contemporary fashion for 'picturesque' settings, it was situated high on a harbour headland, providing a romantic silhouette with trees and shrubs partially screening the building. It was only seen in entirety at close quarters.
Indigenous vegetation was cleared to provide views, exotic trees and shrubs were planted and carriageways, paths, terraces and fences were laid out. The first private garden area, the western terrace, survives today with its extensive sandstone wall. Like other large colonial estates around Sydney, Government House was self-supporting with kitchen gardens, orchards and grazing stock. By the 1850s its leased farm, Grose Farm, had become the site of Sydney University; by c.1870 stock no longer grazed in the house grounds and the kitchen garden had become part of the Botanic Gardens. By the late nineteenth century the still largely natural picturesque setting had been transformed to one of horticultural order and smoothness. This change followed English landscaping fashion with the grounds having an ordered Italianate formality.
Today much of the nineteenth century character of the grounds remains. Unlike most other surviving colonial houses in Sydney, Government House has retained its setting and, most importantly, its relationship to the harbour. The Royal Botanic Gardens plays an important role in maintaining the gardens and grounds of the house.The Lodge 1846
One of the two Gothic style buildings associated with Government House to survive, the Lodge was designed by Mortimer Lewis. The design is an exact copy of one of the lodges at the entrance gates of the Royal Park at Windsor Castle. Originally sited at the main entrance to the house on Macquarie Street, this building was moved to its present location in 1915 when the stables were converted to the Conservatorium of Music.
The Gate House 1937
The New South Wales Government reclaimed Government House from the Commonwealth in 1912 and when Governor Strickland returned to the house in November 1915, the grounds were reduced from 35 acres (14 ha.) to 11 acres (4.5 ha.). The southern or front boundary fence was repositioned across the former parade ground in its present location. In 1937 a brick gate house was constructed incorporating offices for the Official Secretary, replacing an earlier square timber building.
Western Terrace c.1845
Inside the entrance gates, to the left of the drive, is the oldest part of the garden. This terrace was constructed with the house and retains the original sandstone retaining walls and some early plantings of olive trees. The terrace was formed around a rocky outcrop and knoll and screened the house from the town of Sydney. Until the 1860s the terrace was the principal garden area and its landscaping included a pair of parallel pathways lined with sandstone urns and ornamental garden beds. An 1870 photograph shows the sundial in its present location. The magnificent Magnolia grandiflora, adjacent to the northern end of the terrace dates from the 1850s.
The Chalêt 1890
This building was designed by the Government Architect Walter Liberty Vernon, to provide additional accommodation for Government House. Although its architecture breaks with the traditional use of the Gothic style at Government House, it does incorporate some Tudor-Gothic elements such as the half-timbered gables, broad brick chimneys and an oriel window. It is a fine early example of an Arts and Crafts inspired style of domestic architecture. In 1901 it was occupied by the Aide-de-Camp and by 1915 it had become the Official Secretary's residence. It is connected to the private entrance of the house by a straight stepped covered way constructed from timber with a slate roof.
The existing driveway follows the original line of the carriageway from the inner gates to the house. It continued beyond the house and returned to the stables (currently the Conservatorium) along the line of old oleanders on the eastern side of the front lawn. The drive was lit by gas lights by 1852. At the south-east corner of the house is a large Moreton Bay fig tree (Ficus macrophylla) planted in the 1840s, the survivor of a pair that stood either side of the principal entrance. The outer entrance gates were moved to their present location in 1957 with the construction of the Cahill Expressway and the southern section of the drive was re-aligned.
The Eastern Terrace c.1860
A major development of the gardens took place following the arrival of Governor Sir John Young, focusing on the area to the east of the house. The earlier lawn was extended out on a large terrace by constructing low stone walls, strongly defining this part of the grounds.
This was Sydney's grandest terrace with the walls set out symmetrically around an axial path. A series of symmetrical gravel paths was established with a central circular pond and composition stone fountain and a stone wall topped with urns. The ornamental gardens consisted of beds richly planted out with period shrubs, perennials and bulbs. The design bears a strong resemblance to contemporary fashionable English gardens, described in horticultural journals of the time and it represents a change in taste to a high Gardenesque style.
The overall form of the terrace remains but the original ornamental garden beds have been lost.Mrs Macquarie's Road 1813-1816
Mrs. Macquarie's Road ran around the harbour foreshores, connecting Sydney Cove with Woolloomooloo Bay. The form of the road remains below the slope at the northern edge of the grounds. The stand of giant bamboo is an early nineteenth century planting.
The Bathing House 1826
In 1826 a bathing house was constructed for Governor Darling on the Farm Cove foreshore. The structure comprised a rock pool open to the harbour and enclosed on the shore by a castellated stone wall and building containing dressing rooms and privy. The bathing house was an early example of its type in New South Wales although others had been built at Government House, Parramatta and at Darling Harbour, for soldiers from the Sydney barracks. The bathing house was demolished in the late 1920s.
The Stables 1817-1821
In July 1817 Governor Lachlan Macquarie commissioned architect Francis Greenway to prepare plans for a new government house, associated offices and stables. Macquarie chose the site for the new house and stables, instructing Greenway to design the stables 'in the castellated style'.
Greenway had planned the stables to be part of the picturesque landscape surrounding the proposed Government House. With horse stalls, boxes and staff quarters arranged around a central courtyard, the stables were typical of the period, but were the most elaborate to be constructed in New South Wales.
During the nineteenth century alterations were made to the interiors of the stables to provide additional staff accommodation and in the early 1900s provision was made for a motor garage. In 1912 the Advisory Committee for an Academy of Fine Arts recommended that a Conservatorium of Music be established, preferably in an existing building. It was decided that the stables be altered to house the new Conservatorium. Existing rooms were converted to offices, an auditorium was constructed in the central courtyard and the entrance gates to Government House were moved back from Macquarie Street to provide a public space in front of the building. The Conservatorium was officially opened in 1915.
Governors of New South Wales
1788-1792 Captain (later Vice-Admiral) Arthur Phillip, RN
1795-1800 Captain John Hunter, RN
1800-1806 Captain Phillip Gidley King, RN
1806-1808 Captain (later Vice-Admiral) William Bligh, RN
1810-1821 Colonel (later Major-General) Lachlan Macquarie
1821-1825 Major-General Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane, Bart. KCB
1825-1831 Lieutenant-General (later Sir) Ralph Darling
1831-1837 Major-General Sir Richard Bourke, KCB
1838-1846 Sir George Gipps, Kt Bach.
1846-1855 Sir Charles Augustus FitzRoy, KCH, KCB
1855-1861 Sir William Thomas Denison, KCB
1861-1867 Sir John Young, Bart PC, KCB, GCMG (later 1st Baron Lisgar)
1867-1872 Earl of Belmore (Sir Somerset Richard Lowry-Corry), PC Ireland, GCMG
1872-1879 Sir Hercules George Robert Robinson, GCMG (later Baron Rosmead)
1879-1885 Lord Augustus William Frederick Spencer Loftus, PC, GCB
1885-1890 Baron Carrington (Charles Robert Wynn-Carrington), PC, GCMG (later Marquess of Lincolnshire)
1891-1893 Earl of Jersey (Victor Albert George Child Villiers), PC, GCMG
1893-1895 Sir Robert William Duff, PC, GCMG
1895-1899 Viscount Hampden (Henry Robert Brand), GCMG
1899-1901 Earl Beauchamp (William Lygon), KCMG
1902-1909 Admiral Sir Harry Holdsworth Rawson, KCB
1909-1913 Baron Chelmsford (Frederic John Napier Thesiger), GCMG (later Viscount Chelmsford)
1913-1917 Sir Gerald Strickland, Count della Catena, KCMG
1918-1923 Sir Walter Edward Davidson, KCMG
1924-1930 Admiral Sir Dudley Rawson Stratford de Chair, KCB, MVO
1930-1935 Air Vice-Marshal Sir Philip Woolcott Game, GBE, KCB, DSO
1935-1936 Brigadier-General the Hon. Sir Alexander Gore Arkwright Hore-Ruthven, VC, GCMG, CB, DSO (later Lord Gowrie of Canberra and Dirleton)
1936-1936 Admiral Sir David Murray Anderson, KCB, KCMG, MVO
1937-1945 Baron Wakehurst (Captain the RT Hon. John de Vere Loder), KCMG
1946-1957 General Sir John Northcott, KCMG, KCVO, CB, KtStJ
1957-1965 Lieutenant-General Sir Eric Winslow Woodward, KCMG, CB, CBE, DSO
1966-1981 Sir Arthur Roden Cutler, VC, AK, KCMG, KCVO, CBE
1981-1989 Air Marshal Sir James Rowland, AC, KBE, DFC, AFC
1989-1990 Rear Admiral Sir David Martin, KCMG, AO
1990-1996 Rear Admiral Peter Sinclair, AC
1996-2001 The Hon. Gordon Samuels, AC
2001- Professor Marie Bashir, AC
The Coats of Arms
Heraldry, or the use of coats of arms, emerged during the mid-twelfth century in Europe and it appears that its original purpose was the identification of knights in armour on the battlefield. The depiction of arms on a shield was also used in tournaments and the pagentry and expense of these events meant that those of insufficient social standing could not participate. The use of a coat of arms thus became a symbol of the owner's identity and status.
The architectural use of heraldic decoration has a long tradition, commencing in England during the mid-thirteenth century.
At Government House the coats of arms of the Governors of New South Wales ornament both the interior and exterior of the building. Edward Blore's 1834 designs indicated that the building's exteriors should incorporate the governors' coats of arms and in 1853 Governor FitzRoy commenced the tradition of carving coats of arms to honour former governors.
The main hall of the house is decorated with leadlight and painted coats of arms of the Governors and Lieutenant-Governors, commencing with Captain Arthur Phillip. These were first installed in 1891, probably by Lyon and Cottier as part of a redecoration of the hall at this time.