Government House, Sydney
This morning we leapt up with a plan to see Government House and the Conservatorium of Music. We booked the latter and bimbled to the House just in time for the next tour. We had a very knowledgeable guide for our free tour of this beautiful house, wonderful stories of a variety of characters, sadly, no photographs inside – completely understandable. In 1788, soon after a British settlement was established at Sydney Cove, the first Governor of the colony of New South Wales, Governor Arthur Phillip, laid the foundation if Sydney’s first Government House. The building was located in Bridge Street (on the site of the Museum of Sydney). After nearly fifty years of serving as the colony’s political, ceremonial and social centre, the building had become worn and dilapidated and many submissions were made to the British government for permission and funding to construct a new building.
In 1836 construction finally began on a new Government House. The new building was influenced in its location and architectural style by the existing Governor’s Stables, completed in 1821 (now the Conservatorium of Music located at the main entry gates to Government House). Locally quarried sandstone was used for the construction.
The building was designed by Edward Blore, architect to WIlliam IV and Queen Victoria. Blore had recently built the British Houses Houses of Parliament in an Elizabethan Gothic style, expressing the continuity of government by constitutional monarchy. Blore had also worked on Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. The new Government House was built in the Gothic Revival style characterised by castellated towers and other medieval features.
After years of delay and budget overruns, the House was completed in 1845 when Governor Sir George Gipps, ninth Governor of New South Wales, and his wife took up residence. Over the years the building has been extended, refurbished and modernised to suit the tastes and needs of successive Governors. Today, the House holds a significant collection of portraits, furniture, decorative arts and gubernatorial memorabilia as a result of Vice Regal patronage.
Government House is the Official Residence and Office of His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret’d) 38th Governor of New South Wales and Mrs Linda Hurley. His Excellency is the 27th Governor to occupy this Government House and has held the position since the 2nd of October 2014. Pictured with the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall and with their children.
The Office of Governor of New South Wales is the oldest public office in Australia. More than two and a quarter centuries later, the role of Governor has continued to hold an important constitutional, ceremonial and community role in the State.
The Governor is appointed by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II and is her representative in New South Wales. The Governor is also the formal head of state. The Governor’s primary task is to perform the sovereign’s constitutional duties on their behalf.
The Governor’s constitutional role includes appointing the Premier and Ministry (normally after an election); presiding over the Executive Council (the supreme executive authority in New South Wales which has legal authority to proclamations, regulations and appointments to the public service); determining Parliamentary session dates and elections and assenting to bills passed by Parliament. The Governor and Mrs Hurley also act as patron to many organisations and charities. His Excellency is currently patron of over two hundred organisations.
His Excellency and Mrs Hurley host a diverse and busy program of official Vice-Regal functions including dinners, investitures, receptions and calls at Government House. Guest include visiting royalty and dignitaries, religious, cultural and charitable organisations, educational groups and members of the public.
The grounds of Government House are set on land that was put aside by Governor Phillip in 1792 and originally included the whole of Bennelong Point, the present Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain and the lower parts of Macquarie and Phillip Streets.
Indigenous vegetation was cleared prior to the construction of the building and kitchen gardens, orchards and pastures for grazing cattle established to support the House. By circa 1870 stock no longer grazed in the House grounds and the kitchen gardens became part of the Botanic Gardens. In the early part of the twentieth century the grounds were further reduced to the present area, however the nineteenth century of the gardens remains intact.
There are many old and outstanding trees in the gardens including a Melaleuca leucadendra (paperbark tree) planted by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on her first visit to Australia and Government House in 1954. The oldest tree in the garden, believed to have been planted shortly after the house was completed in 1845, is this Ficus macrophylla (Moreton Bay fig), a rainforest tree native to the east coast of Australia from southern New South Wales to central Queensland. In the wild this species starts as a seedling growing high on an existing tree which it slowly strangles as its roots grow down towards the ground. Fibres from the tree were used by Aborigines for nets. Moreton Bay fig trees became a popular planting for parks and large gardens from the mid nineteenth century.
ALL IN ALL A VERY LOVELY HOUSE
VERY TRADITIONAL AND WELL PRESENTED