|List||National Heritage List|
|Legal Status||Listed place (19/08/2005)|
|Place File No||1/12/036/0479|
|Summary Statement of Significance|
First Government House, built in 1788 on the eastern side of
Sydney Cove and demolished in 1845, leaving archaeological remains, has left a
site of outstanding heritage value to the nation on account of its direct
association with the founding of British settlement and therefore the beginning
of modern Australia. Erected only
a few months after the arrival of the British and subsequently extended, the
place reaches back to a momentous event and an extremely significant period in
Australia’s history. It is the
most tangible link with the foundation of European settlement in
Australia. The site contains the
only tangible relics of 1788 still in situ in Sydney, including the original
foundations of the first Government House and the copper foundation plaque laid
by Governor Phillip; now housed in the Museum of Sydney.
First Government House is associated with the leadership and administration of the colony of New South Wales during the first half century of settlement. with the administration of the convict system in New South Wales and with British power and authority. At that time the colony of New South Wales encompassed two thirds of the continent, and was the mother colony from which four other colonies and external territories were carved. It was the home and offices of the Governors of New South Wales from 1788-1845 and the official, social and administrative centre of the colony from 1788-1845. It was Australia's first administrative, legal, political and social centre; through its doors passed Governors, Aborigines, foreign visitors, explorers, merchants, settlers and statesmen. It is a link with the major decisions of the period, major events such as Governor Bligh’s arrest during the Rum Rebellion, the beginnings of policy towards Aboriginal people and the first efforts to open communication between settlers and Indigenes, with the establishment of the essential liberties which we take for granted today; those of self-government and a free press. The colony’s first Legislative Council met at the house in 1824 while the first Government Orders (1795) and Australia’s first newspaper (1803) were printed at the site.
First Government House is associated with the development of Sydney – Australia’s first city – and early planning of this fledgling settlement. The place represented a social centre and major point of interest in the early colony; consequently it is the centrepiece of numerous valuable early works of art and so has played a significant role in the visual recording of early Sydney.
The First Government House Site is significant in being the site of the earliest surviving building remains in mainland Australia (being slightly predated by the remains of the Norfolk Island First Government House), and for dating from the very first year of British settlement, 1788. It is the only known mainland site dating from the first year of settlement, and was the first major European structure erected on the mainland. The site contains the earliest known mainland evidence for the manufacture of building materials. The building was the first example of architectural style in mainland Australia, and was the first two-storey building erected. The site contains remains of works associated with the printing office and metal printing type. It provides evidence of Australia’s major phases of history, architecture, building technology and administration of the colony of New South Wales.
The First Government House Site has proven research significance having provided rare evidence of Australia’s major phases of history, architectural and building technology, and administration of the colony of New South Wales. It has the potential to yield further significant historical and archaeological information about the earliest years of British settlement in Australia in all unexcavated areas of the First Government House Site. The footings, drains, pavings, floors, artefacts and other fabric can reveal much about early Australian building and manufacturing methods and materials and also the culture of this early period of European settlement in Australia.
The First Government House Site is a significant symbol for the Australian people as the most tangible link to our past and the foundation of white settlement in this country. It provides a publicly accessible cultural focus and landmark for many Australians of British descent, for First Fleet descendants and for Aboriginal people.
The First Government House Site is significant for its association with many historical figures, both European and Aboriginal. It is associated with Arthur Phillip, the first governor of the first permanent European settlement in Australia and thus the man who led the first British colony in Australia in its embryonic years. The next eight Governors (Hunter, King, Bligh, Macquarie, Brisbane, Darling, Bourke and Gipps) all lived in the building. Significant Aboriginal people – the first to have any sort of lengthy dealings with the British - lived at and/or visited the place, including Arabanoo (who was in fact buried in the garden), Bennelong, Colbee and others. Prominent colonists and overseas visitors were also associated with the place.
The First Government House Site is on Cadigal clan country,
which extends from the southern Harbour entrance along the south shore,
including the current location of the Museum of Sydney, it is a place of
importance in Indigenous tradition (Museum of Sydney).|
The First Government House Site is situated on the south-west corner of the intersection of Bridge and Phillip Streets in the northern section of the Sydney Central Business District. Commenced in May 1788 on the instructions of Governor Phillip, the house and its associated outbuildings were demolished in 1845. Remains excavated on the site include the foundation of the back wall and part of the western wall of Phillip’s house, and the foundations of the original outbuildings containing the bakehouse and kitchen. Other stone foundations, drains and a corner of the Dining Room Governor Macquarie added to the house are also extant (Proudfoot, H, et al, 1991).
The extant archaeological resource is located within the forecourt area of the Museum of Sydney on the site of the First Government House fronting Bridge Street and now known as First Government House Place, the foyer of the Museum of Sydney (but not including the remainder of the Museum), and areas within the road reserves of Young Street, Bridge Street and Phillip Street. The front rooms of Phillip’s house, the verandah and cellars were covered by Bridge Street and Governor Macquarie’s addition, designed by the architect Greenway, lie under Phillip Street (Proudfoot et al. 1991, pp 158-9).
Foundations of the first Government House and associated outbuildings, buried under later deposits, were excavated and subsequently reburied. The archaeological evidence includes footings, walls, floors, drains, cuttings, pavings, trenches, privies, garden soil, impressions of removed materials and artefacts.
The sub surface archaeological remains in the forecourt area, the First Government House Place, have been covered with removable granite paving stones and outlined with the floor plan of the house. Steel studs mark the location of Governor Phillip’s 1788 residence, and white granite pavers. A large granite paver in the centre of the forecourt has been elevated at an angle to reveal the footings of Phillip’s 1788 house. Some of the archaeological evidence is visible through ‘windows’ in the paving and in the foyer of the Museum of Sydney where some remains of first Government House’s drains and privies are exposed below the floor. Also displayed is a selection of relics, ruins and rubbish from the house excavated in the 1980s (Historic Houses Trust, 2005).
The creation of Cadigal Place, a gallery within the Museum of Sydney, was a step forward in the recognition of the importance that the First Government House Site had and continues to have within the Aboriginal Community. It represents the earliest interactions between the British and the Aboriginal people of the area, the relationships with notable individuals and the policies, which guided the progressive colonisation of Australia. “The creation of Cadigal Place means that the traditional People of Sydney are being recognised. Their involvement is important because it gives the traditional owners the chance of involvement in matters that concern the ancestors who lived on this land at the time of European invasion” (Museum of Sydney, Chalker, 1999).
The First Government House Site is located at the busy intersection of Bridge, Phillip and Young Streets and a variety of buildings, including nineteenth century terrace and office buildings, as well as twentieth century office buildings, stand nearby.
Commenced in May 1788 in the vicinity of Sydney Cove on the
instructions of Governor Phillip as a residence and office, the first
Government House was the first major European building to be erected in
mainland Australia. (First Government House at Norfolk Island was begun in
April 1788 and completed the following month). Governor Arthur Phillip laid the
foundation stone for the building in Sydney only four months after the First
Fleet’s arrival, and he administered the colony of New South Wales from its office.
The colony of New South Wales, founded as a convict settlement, was ‘the mother
colony of the Australias…At its foundation it encompassed two-thirds of the
continent. Four other colonies were carved from it: Tasmania, 1825; South
Australia, 1836; Victoria, 1851;Queensland, 1859; and the Northern Territory in
1863. Three of today’s capital
cities-Hobart, Brisbane and Melbourne- were first ruled from Sydney’ (Hirst J,
1998). Administration also extended across the Pacific to Norfolk Island.|
The building, erected under the leadership of James Bloodsworth, took a year to build. The symmetrical two storey, building single-pile was Georgian in style with a hipped roof. The ‘pediment’ above the entry may have been a simple gable with a central bay emphasised by pilaster strips (Broadbent, J, 1997, p 5). Built of brick and stone the house had six rooms, two cellars and a rear staircase. In the garden in front of the house illustrations show that many imported plant species were grown and the first orchard planted. At the back of the house the complex included a cluster of outbuildings containing the kitchen, bakehouse, stables, offices and workrooms. The materials reflected the early growth of the fledgling colony and the settlers’ ability to manufacture materials (eg bricks and clay roof tiles) and adapt to their new environment. The building served as both the residence and office of the governor.
Phillip left the colony in 1792 and was succeeded by Governor Hunter, followed by Governors King, Bligh, Macquarie, Brisbane, Darling, Bourke and Gipps. A number of these governors extended and renovated the building, greatly enlarging its original size and considerably changing its form. Governor Hunter added a verandah, probably about 1795. He also set up the colony’s first printing office in the grounds. Governor King in around 1800-01 virtually doubled the size of the building by adding rooms on the eastern side and by 1802 had added a further verandah along the northern front. Broadbent has speculated that Elizabeth Macquarie used Edward Gyfford’s Design for Elegant Cottages and Small Villas, published in England in 1806, as the model for the extension along the back of the existing house which Governor Macquarie and his wife made to Government House in 1810 (Broadbent, J, 1997, pp 32-33). In 1818-1819 Macquarie undertook major works adding a new wing of five rooms on the southern side and a gabled two storey east wing, the latter designed by Francis Greenway as the first Italianate structure in Australia. Greenway also designed a new stable block for Government House, now the Conservatorium of Music. Governor Darling raised the roof of the south wing, making it two storey.
First Government House was erected on sloping ground on the eastern side of Sydney Cove. In a prominent position the house, the first permanent residence of the governors and one of the first stone and brick buildings erected in the colony, became the exemplar of building fashion: stone footings, whitewashed brick walls and clay tiles or shingled roofs became the accepted residential fashion. The siting and subsequent development of the first Government House determined to a great extent the pattern of growth of Sydney. This comprised both the physical pattern of the streets and the cultural pattern of political, official, recreational and mercantile quarters.
During the lifetime of the first Government House, a second Government House, still extant, was erected at Parramatta and the governors spent varying amounts of their time there. In 1835 the British Government authorised the erection of a new residence to a design by the prominent English architect Edward Blore. The present Government House was begun in 1837 and finished in 1845 under the supervision of the Colonial Architect, Mortimer Lewis with Colonel Barney of the Royal Engineers as adviser. (NSW Heritage Office, Database No 2450417). On completion, the first Government House and outbuildings were demolished in 1845.
The administration of New South Wales was directed from the building. First Government House played a central role in the life of the young colony, and therefore in the development of Australia through the crucial early decades. The building was the centre of British rule and authority in New South Wales. It was here that all the major policy decisions were developed, such as land settlement regulation. The convict system was administered from here. Major events occurred during the house’s lifetime, including the arrest of Governor William Bligh during the Rum Rebellion. The period also saw the implementation of policies toward the Aborigines.
1788 marked the beginning of European settlement in Australia with the arrival of the first fleet and considered the beginning of modern Australia, and is certainly an important date in Australian/European history (Wilmott, 1990: 4). Upon arrival Governor Phillip’s instructions from George III were to 'endeavour by every possible means to open an intercourse with the natives, and to conciliate their affections, enjoying all our subjects to live in amity and kindness with them. And if any of subjects shall wantonly destroy them, or give them unnecessary interruption in the exercise of their several occupations, it is our will and pleasure that you do cause such offenders to be brought to punishment according to the degree of the offence' (Bickford, 1989: 9).
Despite Governor Phillip’s hopes of friendly relations, early contact between the Colony and the Aboriginal people was initially restrained. During the period from 1788 to 1790, Governor Phillip made several attempts to communicate with the Aboriginal people of the area with little success. His desperation to communicate with them led him to give the order to capture three men over this period, Arabanoo, Colbee and Bennelong (Kohen, 1993:55). Two Aboriginal children (Nanbaree and Booron) also acted as informants following a stay in the Colony hospital (Attenbrow, 2002: 14). Notably Pemulway at the end of 1790 speared a convict by the name of McInyre (or M’Entire) (Governor Phillip’s personal huntsman). Governor Phillip ordered troops to find those responsible. It was found that McIntyer had shot not only game but also many Aboriginals, justifying his death under Aboriginal law. Pemulway was not located following this incident (Kohen, 1993:55). Pemulway, remained implacably hostile, and in 1790 declared war upon the British (Wilmott. E, 1990: 5). Although there is no direct connection between Pemulway and first Government House, between 1790 and his death in 1802, his behavior caused consternation in the colony. Governor King acted forcefully and set a precedent for direct action by settlers in opposing Aboriginal resistance (Mulvaney, 1985:15).
Unfortunately there are no records of the Aboriginal version of events (McBryde, 1989:1) associated with the establishment of the Colony or the Governors who resided and held power from first Government House. Historical records by European settlers provide some insight into this early contact period, however the history is necessarily biased (Bickford, 1989:8).
During Phillip’s time, when attempts were made to open communication and understanding between the British and Aborigines, several Aboriginal men who had been ‘kidnapped’ came to live at or visit Government House. Aboriginal people associated with the building included Arabanoo (who died in 1789 and was buried in the garden), Bennelong, Colbee and others. It was also in this building that Governor Gipps, several decades later, decided to punish the European offenders involved in the Myall Creek massacre.
The first printing of Notices and Orders (1795) took place in the building and Australia’s first newspaper, the Sydney Gazette commenced in 1803. The building was also the venue for the inaugural meeting of the Legislative Council in 1824. Colonists from all levels of society, including many leading individuals, visited the building in the course of daily life in the town. Similarly, significant overseas visitors called at the Governor’s office.
The building was visually prominent in early Sydney due to its mass, design and siting. It figured in numerous paintings and drawings of the early town, and so played a part in the depiction of the young settlement by artists. It also influenced early town planning in Sydney and the town’s development.
Following a recommendation by the Colonial Architect, Mortimer Lewis to the Board of Survey (1845) that the first Government House required expensive repairs and interfered with the lines of the streets, demolition and disposal of the materials took place in 1845-46. Bridge Street was realigned and in 1851 the Municipal Council of Sydney was granted the site for a proposed town hall. However the site was considered not centrally located and remained unfenced and covered in grass. In 1867 it was reported as being used for Council stores. From 1863 the land was sold in lots and a number of buildings were built over the site. Two extant rows of terrace houses, 36-42 Young Street (c1874-75) and 39-47 Phillip Street (1867-68) were constructed around the site. Throughout the 1880s the Phillip Street side of the block was bounded by high wooden hoarding. Other small structures, built between 1845 and 1912 when the Public Works Department resumed government occupation of the site, were demolished and the site cleared. A large two storey galvanised iron building was erected for the office of the Government Architect. It was sited back from the Bridge Street frontage to leave the Government House footings largely undisturbed, apart from some sections where modern services had been introduced. However the southern part of the site was leveled into the bedrock for a basement (Proudfoot et al. 1991, p 154).
In 1902 the Phillip Street tramline was extended, curving around the corner and down Bridge Street to form a loop to Circular Quay. The Phillip and Bridge Street corner was splayed and the construction of the line may have caused considerable disturbance to the Government House foundations under Bridge Street (Conybeare Morrison and Partners, 1985). The installation of services, water supply, sewerage, gas, tramway, electricity, telegraph and telephone services impacted on the underground remains of first Government House to some extent. The copper foundation plate laid by Governor Phillip was uncovered while digging a tunnel for the installation of telegraph and telephone services under the southern footpath of Bridge Street in 1899 (Proudfoot et al. 1991, p 143).
The ‘tin shed’ was demolished in 1962 and the site used as a car park. In 1982 public comment was generated by a proposal by the NSW Government to develop the area. Consultants, archaeologist Anne Bickford and historian Helen Proudfoot, were engaged to determine if there were any remains of the first Government House on the site, prior to its development as a 44 storey office tower. Excavations began on the First Government House Site in early 1983. Foundations of the back wall of Governor Phillip’s house and other archaeological deposits were found in the first exploratory trenches. Between June and December 1983 a second stage of excavations was carried out. The base of the back wall, part of the western wall of Phillip’s house and the foundations of the original outbuildings containing the kitchen and the bakehouse were all uncovered. Stone foundations, garden paths, drains, evidence of the first printing office and thousands of other objects were also discovered (Proudfoot, H, et al, 1991.).
The excavations at the site created much public controversy and media interest. The remains were excavated under pressure by the government, which had already leased the site. Demonstrations and public protests pressured the New South Wales Government to allow more time to excavate the whole of the site before deciding its future. Public meetings were held to raise support for the site. The progress of the excavations was followed in the media (Proudfoot et al. 1991, p 9). A strong popular movement developed to protect the place. The Friends of First Government House Site, a citizen action group concerned about the preservation of Australia’s colonial heritage, formed in 1983 to campaign to save the First Government House Site. They organised a large public rally in August 1983 to protest any proposals to destroy the remains of the house. The place was entered in the Register of the National Estate by special gazettal in November 1983.
Foundations and some other structures were left in situ, and eventually the site was carefully backfilled until its future was decided. The NSW Government announced that it would preserve the remains in perpetuity. It was finally resolved that the remains would be protected through re-burial and paving (with removable materials) and marking of the building in an open plaza, while a commercial office building and a museum, the Museum of Sydney on the site of first Government House, were to be constructed on part of the site. Further limited excavations took place to define the extent of the remains, and in 1990 the whole of Young Street from Raphael Place to Bent Street was excavated to enable the construction of Governor Phillip Tower car park. Post excavation analysis of the artefacts excavated from the site commenced in 1987. Over 140,000 archaeological objects were unearthed during the excavation of First Government House Site between 1983 and 1991 (Historic Houses Trust - Museum of Sydney Collection, 2005, p 1). The excavation of additional small areas of First Government House Place and the Museum of Sydney foyer continued until 1996 (Bickford in Bickford et al, 1996, p 66). In 1988 an international design competition was held for an integrated development of the block, including an interpretive museum, the Museum of Sydney, in situ conservation of the remains and a commercial building, the Governor Phillip Tower, on the Young and Bent Streets end of the site. While the winning design was not selected from the competition, the firm Denton Corker Marshall were chosen to undertake the project in 1989 (Proudfoot et al. 1991, p 162).
The Museum of Sydney, opened in 1995, was constructed at the southern end of the site to display and interpret artefacts uncovered during the excavation. The design of the museum was strongly influenced by the site’s historical nature, which is reflected in the building’s location, materials, room design, function and interpretative role. The Museum (MOS) defines itself 'as a place with many layers' which 'explore(s) the worlds of colonial and contemporary Sydney through objects, pictures, stories and digital-media technologies. Starting from before 1788 when Australia was colonised – some say invaded – MOS takes you on a journey exploring Sydney’s people, places and cultures, then and now' (Historic Houses Trust - Museum of Sydney – on the site of first Government House, 2005, p 2).
The public art commission, Edge of the Trees, by Janet Laurence and Fiona Foley is located at the corner of Bridge and Young Streets adjacent to the First Government House Site. It is a contemporary sculptural installation describing and symbolising the emotions of the first encounter between the Cadigal people and the men and women of the First Fleet in 1788.
First Government House Site has been a site of significant interest to the public and the media. Stimulated by interest in the archaeology, the site’s associations with the founding of the nation and its symbolism, public discussion and debate has continued around issues of curation, storage and interpretation of the archaeological artefacts, the name and the role of the museum.
|Condition and Integrity|
The in situ foundations that have been excavated and
reburied are believed to be in excellent condition, having been conserved in
accordance with best archaeological practice. The unexcavated areas have
significant archaeological research potential. |
The recording and interpretation of the artefacts requires further work.
Located around the intersection of Bridge and
Phillip Streets, Sydney, being an area bounded on the west by paving defining
the western edge of First Government House Place (and its alignment) and by the
western wall of the foyer of the Museum of Sydney, by the southern wall of the
foyer of the Museum of Sydney (excluding the staircase), by the eastern wall of
the foyer of the Museum of Sydney in a line running north-west until it meets
the Museum of Sydney loggia, then easterly via the loggia and its alignment to
its intersection with the eastern alignment of Phillip Street (including
footpath), then northerly via that alignment to its intersection with the
northern alignment of Bridge Street (including footpath), then westerly via
that alignment to its intersection with the alignment of the paving defining
the western edge of First Government House Place.|
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Report Produced Tue Dec 10 11:17:58 2013