Government House, 1869, by Lieutenant-Colonel Trevor, State Library of New South Wales, PXA 974

Government House, 1869, by Lieutenant-Colonel Trevor, State Library of New South Wales, PXA 974

By 1834, pressures on the available land in Sydney Cove, particularly around Circular Quay, compelled Governor Bourke to consider surrendering land around 'Old' Government House.

Earlier Commissioner Bigge had suggested clearing the land all the way up to Bridge Street, establishing wharves in their stead and leaving the Governor's residence on its Bridge Street site.

New Government House, Sydney Cove Elyard

New Government House, Sydney Cove Elyard

But Governor Bourke decided to open up the land for business and find a new site for Government House. He commissioned a committee to examine and report on his plan in July 1836 after discussing with Colonial Architect Mortimer William Lewis and Lieutenant-Colonel George Barney.

Their report found the plan and elevation of the proposed new house, designed by E. Blore, was suitable (with the addition of a dining room) and suggested a site equidistant between the Government Stables and Fort Macquarie. The final castle-like design of the 'New' Government House would reflect these two nearby buildings.

As stated by Captain Barney, 6 August 1836;

I would fix the House about 1000 feet to the northeast of the stables with a frontage looking north-east. There would be an area of 200 yards in front, and 150 yards to the rear, about 400 yards from Macquarie Fort. It will be about equidistant from the Fort and Stables. I would connect the out-offices to the southward of the building. The advantages of this site over others are,  first, it does away with all objections in reference to the stable; it is more private and affords a better view of the harbour; it also does away with the objection in reference to the mud-bank at Farm Cove; it is susceptible of adequate drainage; it will not require higher foundations than the former site 

The removal of 'Old' Government House allowed Macquarie Street to be extended to the north, opening access to eastern wharves.  Perhaps even more significantly the extension of Macquarie, Phillip, and Pitt Streets opened valuable street frontage; the sale of which more than covered the costs of the new building.

Construction of the final design began in 1837, but it was not until 1845, that its first resident, Governor Gipps, moved into the building. Since then it has been the Vice-Regal residence for the Governor of New South Wales, except for two brief periods: 1901-1914 and 1996-2013.   

By Geoff Barker, Senior Curator, Research and Discovery, 2017

Government House, (1899, March 25). The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1871 - 1912), p. 686.
Old Sydney,(1912, November 17). Truth (Brisbane, Qld. : 1900 - 1954), p. 11.
New Government House, (1836, October 10). The Sydney Herald (NSW : 1831 - 1842), p. 2.