History

The First Government House

The first Government House, the "Government Hut" was constructed of timber slabs, wattle and daub, a thatched roof, calico ceiling, and external stone chimneys. It is believed to have been on a site between the present railway station and the River Torrens, and was destroyed by fire in 1841.

 

A Permanent House

Government House, Adelaide is the oldest Government House in Australia.

When Lieutenant Colonel George Gawler replaced Hindmarsh in 1838, he abandoned plans for a permanent house of timber and gave directions for the erection of a new building of masonry to cost £4,000 - if possible, but not to exceed £5,000.

A plan had been obtained from an English architect, Edward O'Brien, but this was amended by George Strickland Kingston, who had come to South Australia as an assistant to the Surveyor General, William Light, and who had had some experience in architecture and building. When Kingston received tenders for the proposed work they were in the vicinity of £7,000. After further amendment of the plans to reduce the cost, a contract was let to the builders, Messrs East and Breeze.

 

The East Wing

The earliest part of the House to be built was the east wing of the present building. It was completed and occupied in May 1840. Government House is thus probably the second oldest continuously occupied house in the State, after a small cottage in Pennington Terrace, North Adelaide, which was first occupied in mid-1839. When completed, Government House consisted of the present main Drawing Room, Morning Room, Hindmarsh Dining Room, and upstairs there were three bedrooms, a dressing room and two small servants' rooms.

The location of the kitchens and ancillary rooms was in a separate but adjacent building following the custom of the time. These were built on an east-west axis approximately 9 metres to the north of the house. In 1846 there were other additions to the north of this block.

After Governor Gawler was recalled to England in 1841, partly because of his "extravagant" building programs, his successors Mr. George Grey and Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Holt Robe found it necessary to spend the least possible amount on the house. The masonry walls around the boundary of the domain and the first guard room and flagstaff were erected in Robe's time, probably in 1847.

 

Major Additions

The increased prosperity of the State consequent upon the discovery and mining of copper, may have influenced the sanctioning of major additions in 1855. They were carried out despite the objections of Governor Sir Henry Fox Young, who suggested that a new Government House be built nearer to the River Torrens. The new work extended the earlier accommodation westwards, and included the Small Drawing Room, the main south facing Entrance Hall, the room to the west of it known as the Adelaide Room, the Ballroom and the Large Dining Room; and on the first floor, three bedrooms facing south and an additional bathroom. It seems likely that the Governor's Study and two bedrooms over the Large Dining Room were built at this time. The contractors were English and Brown, and the total amount spent appears to have been £8,200.

 

The Eighteen Sixties and Seventies

Improvements to the servants' quarters were made in 1863-69, when the earlier east-west building was demolished and replaced by a two-storey addition comprising a new kitchen, scullery etc, and servants' rooms. The old rooms to the north of this block were demolished and replaced in 1875.

In 1872 a Conservatory - now the Library - was built next to the Ballroom. The Billiard Room, the Private Secretary's Office, the Porter's Hall (now referred to as the Western Entrance) and Strong Room were added in 1878. In the same year £4,000 was voted for furniture and repairs. In 1874 the first guard room was demolished, the western boundary was moved 6.7 metres to the east to provide for the widening of King William Road, and a new west wall was built.

 

Twentieth Century Works

In 1941-57 the bathrooms in the main part of the house were renovated or formed, and in the nineteen seventies a new kitchen block was built between the dining rooms and staff area.

Cottages have been built in the northern part of the grounds, originally for the Butler (1928) and the Chauffeur (1945). The Private Secretary's Cottage (Peppertree Cottage) was built to the design of John W. Overall, MC, Chief Architect of the South Australian Housing Trust of that time, and under his direction.

In anticipation of a Royal visit, some rooms on the first floor of the original East Wing were rearranged and modernised in 1973 to form a separate suite for The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh. The suite comprised separate bedrooms, each with a bathroom, for the Queen and Duke, and a Sitting Room. Bedrooms for their immediate personal staff adjoined to the north. This work was designed and supervised by the Architect Dean W. Berry,CBE.

Governors, their families and house guests make use of all the upstairs rooms.

 

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