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  • Title
    Government House, Sydney, 1850 / by Jacob Janssen
  • Creator
  • Call number
  • Level of description
  • Date

  • Type of material
  • Reference code
  • Issue Copy
  • Physical Description
    1 drawing - watercolour and gouache - 24.5 x 32.2 cm

    The first Government House stood on the corner of Bridge and Phillip streets. Nine successive governors lived at First Government House, from 1789 to 1845.
    The first Governor of NSW, Arthur Phillip, ordered its construction and in 1789, a modest cottage was built, overlooking Sydney Cove. Phillip had laid the foundation for the first Government House only three months after the First Fleet landed at Sydney Cove. Phillip's new house was planned as a three-bedroom cottage, but soon expanded to become a two-storey dwelling. The house took just over a year to build, and was constructed with 5,000 bricks imported from England, as well as locally produced bricks and lime mortar.

    First Government House was an important site of early contact between European settlers and Sydney's Aboriginal population, albeit forced contact. Arabanoo, an Aboriginal man captured by Phillip at Manly in late 1788, lived at the first Government House for about five months. In May 1789 Arabanoo died from smallpox and was buried in the Government House gardens. The following November two other Aboriginal men, Bennelong and Colebee, also from Manly, were captured under Phillip's orders. They too lived at Government House until they escaped, within six months. It was here, at Government House, that Governor Bligh was arrested in 1808.

    Over time, the building developed a number of structural faults, due to its hasty construction and poor building materials, which required ongoing repairs. It was modified and enlarged by successive Governors and plans for its replacement dated from at least 1817, during Governor Macquarie’s rule, instructing the convict architect Francis Greenway to prepare plans for a new Government House and stables within the Governor's Domain.

    In 1832, Governor Bourke decided to move Government House further north-east within the Government Domain on the advice of surveyor-general, Thomas Mitchell, due to demands for greater wharfage required for the growing town, which required the land occupied by the government gardens in front of Government House. Construction began on the new Government House in 1837, to a design by Edward Blore, and was completed in 1845.

    First Government House and its service buildings were demolished in 1846 and the bricks and other building materials sold at auction. The Library holds one of the bricks at R 49. Shortly thereafter, Phillip Street was realigned and extended to the newly reclaimed Circular Quay, so that it ran across some of the First Government House foundations.

    Reference: Library file.
  • Collection history
    Private collection by descent.
  • Scope and Content
    The house is placed as the main focal point of the work, the painting depicts additional details such as the landscaped grounds, the driveway and two horse-drawn carriages coming and going from the house. Several figures are located in the landscape, including a couple strolling in the grounds and a soldier on sentry duty on the western side of the house. Near the sentry we can see a small section of a Norfolk pine, which had been planted by Governor Phillip.

    The burgeoning town of Sydney can be seen on the right hand side of the work. This discrete town view includes the obelisk in Macquarie Place, established in 1818 by Governor Macquarie to mark the place from which public roads in the colony were measured. The original St Phillip’s Anglican church can be seen on the far edge of the view with its round clock tower.
  • Copying Conditions
    Out of copyright: Life of artist plus 70 years
    Research & study copies allowed:
    Please acknowledge:: Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales
  • Signatures / Inscriptions

    Signed and dated lower right.
  • Subject
  • Topic
  • Place
  • Open Rosetta viewer

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