First Government House Site | NSW Environment & Heritage

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Heritage

First Government House Site

Item details

Name of item: First Government House Site
Other name/s: Museum of Sydney, A Rum Rebellion Site
Type of item: Archaeological-Terrestrial
Group/Collection: Government and Administration
Category: Government House
Location: Lat: -33.8636608076 Long: 151.2115307490
Primary address: 41 Bridge Street, Sydney, NSW 2000
Parish: St James
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Sydney
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Metropolitan
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
PART LOT101 DP834054
LOT102 DP834054

Boundary:

See Curtilage Map
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
41 Bridge StreetSydneySydneySt JamesCumberlandPrimary Address
37 Phillip StreetSydneySydneySt JamesCumberlandAlternate Address

Statement of significance:

First Government House was the first permanent centre of colonial administration in Australia. 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. As such, it is associated with numerous events of political, cultural and social significance to the colony's development. Its use as both home and seat of authority and its siting and subsequent development determined to a large extent the pattern of growth of Sydney. This entails both the physical pattern of the streets and its cultural pattern of political, official, recreational and residential and mercantile quarters.

The site of the building contains the only remains from 1788 known to survive in 1983. These remains provide evidence of Australia's major phases of history, architectural, building technology, and administration of the colony in New South Wales.

First Government House has a unique historical significance because of the many historic figures, both European and Aboriginal, who are associated with the building. It also has great scientific significance which is proven in its potential to answer research questions in these and other fields.

First Government House is of great symbolic importance to the Australian people. The site is our most tangible link to our past and the foundation of white settlement in this country. (Historic Houses Trust 1992) (Bickford 1983)
Date significance updated: 03 Mar 00
Note: There are incomplete details for a number of items listed in NSW. The Heritage Division intends to develop or upgrade statements of significance and other information for these items as resources become available.

Description

Builder/Maker: James Bloodworth (attributed)
Construction years: 1788-1789
Physical description: The site is situated on the south-west corner of the intersection of Bridge and Phillip Streets in the northern section of the Sydney CBD. It includes an area that is currently occupied by Victorian terraces on the north-west portion of the site. (See Young Street Terraces SHR No. 00974)

Remains uncovered 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. (Department of Planning)

These are incorporated into the interior floor of the Museum of Sydney and the forecourt.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Archaeological Potential - Medium to High Other foundations may be extant under Bridge Street.
Date condition updated:11 Oct 99
Modifications and dates: 1795 - Verandah added
c.1795 - First printing office set up.
1801 - Governor King adds Drawing Room
1810-21 - New wing of five rooms including a salon on the southern side and a new stable block added.
1825-27 Alterations by Henry Dumaresq for Governor Darling
1845-46 - House and outbuildings demolished
Post 1846 - Site used for a variety of purposes, including offices, stores and a carpark.
1993 - Construction of Museum of Sydney on part of the site of First Government House.
(Dept of Planning:2-6)
Current use: Museum of Sydney on the site of First Government House
Former use: Government House and Government Offices, stores, carter's yard, carpark

History

Historical notes: First Government House took about a year to build. Governor Arthur Phillip laid the foundation stone in May 1788. As the first permanent building in the colony, it had two storeys built of bricks and stone comprising six rooms, two cellars and a rear staircase. In front of the house was a garden where many imported plant species were grown and the first orchard planted.

At the back of the house were clusters of outbuildings containing the kitchen, bakehouse, stables and offices and workrooms. When Governor Hunter took over as governor in 1795 he added a verandah to the house, possibly the first in the colony. Hunter also set up the colony's first printing office in the grounds which produced Notices and Orders and in 1803, Australia's first newspaper, the Sydney Gazette.

During Macquarie's period of Governor from 1810 to 1821 First Government House was altered dramatically by Francis Greenway. He designed a new wing of five rooms on the southern side and a new stable block. The stable block is now the Conservatorium of Music.

In 1824 the Colony's first Legislative Council met at the house.

On completion of the new (present) Government house in 1845 the house and outbuildings were demolished. By then First Government House was old, termite ridden and structurally unstable. (Department of Planning)

In 1851 the site was granted to the Municipal Council of Sydney for a proposed town hall. However, it was not considered sufficiently centrally located for this purpose. The site remained unfenced and covered in grass until 1867, when it was reported as being used for Council Stores.

In the 1880s and 1890s terraces were constructed around the site. Throughout the 1880s the Phillip Street side of the block was bounded by high wooden hoarding. The site was entered off Bridge Street and there were at least two small sheds, one of which was used as a tailor's shop.

In 1899 workmen digging at the site found the foundation stone laid by Phillip in 1788.

In 1912 a corrugated iron, two storey building was erected on the site for the office of the Government Architect. After its demolition in 1967 the site was paved over for use as a carpark. (Conybeare et.al. 1988: 28)

Until 1983 it was generally thought that nothing remained of First Government House and the buildings associated with it. Excavation was undertaken as a prerequisite of a building development. In February 1983 the archaeologists uncovered foundations dating back to 1788.

Between June and December 1983 a second stage of excavation was carried out. In the meantime increased public and political interest was evident. 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. (Department of Planning)

The site was placed on the Register of the National Estate by special gazettal and public meetings were held to raise support for the site. The progress of the excavations was followed in the media. (Proudfoot et.al. 1991:9)

As a result of the importance of these finds the NSW Government, owner of the site, released the commercial developers from their development lease in order to keep the site for future generations. (Department of Planning) A national design competition was announced for a development design to ensure the conservation and protection of the site. (Proudfoot et.al. 1991: 9)

In 1984 a third stage of excavation was carried out. Between December 1984 and January 1985 the site was sealed with bitumen to protect the remains. Further analysis of the stratigraphy and artefacts from the site was carried out. In June 1988 an architectural competition was announced for the design of a structure to commemorate first government house, and adjoining commercial office development. (Proudfoot et.al. 1991:9)

It is now the site of the Museum of Sydney.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Commerce-Activities relating to buying, selling and exchanging goods and services (none)-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Events-Activities and processes that mark the consequences of natural and cultural occurences (none)-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Technology-Activities and processes associated with the knowledge or use of mechanical arts and applied sciences (none)-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages (none)-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. (none)-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups (none)-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Governor Arthur Phillip, 1788-1792,-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Aaron Muron Bolot, architect-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Governor Sir George Gipps, 1838-1846-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Governor Lt.William Paterson-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Governor William Bligh, 1806-1810-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Governor Ralph Darling and Eliza Darling, 1826-1830-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Governor Bourke, 1831-5-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Governor Phillip Gidley King 1800-1806-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The site is a symbol of the foundation and perpetuation of European settlement and authority in Australia. First Government House was a major link with the U.K. as it was the first permanent centre of British colonial administration in Australia. It is associated with a major phase in Australia's government, being the centre of power throughout its life. The first portion of the building to be erected was constructed by the first settlers of the colony. The in situ works and structures demonstrate the high standard of the first building in the colony and the echoing European style. An example of the technology and high standards of the building are demonstrated in the footing and drainage system. The remains show evidence of difficulties in the building materials used and how the problems were resolved. First Government House was an example of modern living and displayed in later buildings. The extensions and alterations show the enhanced importance of the governor and his colony. Its replacement was an indication that it could no longer reflect this status adequately. It has associations with important people, such as explorers, governors, foreign visitors, Aboriginals, merchants, statesmen and settlers. Is is also associated with government decisions and historic events for the first 57 years of the colony's existence. It was the office and residence of the first and eight succeeding Governors of NSW. It is associated with the earliest formal attempts to communicate with the Aboriginal people of Australia. It was the location for historic events such as the arrest of Governor Bligh at the beginning of the Rum Rebellion, the beginning of the press in Australia and the first meetings of the Legislative Council. As one of the first stone and brick buildings erected in the colony, it is significant as a prime example of experimentation with, and development of , building style and technology. The location of First Government House influenced the development of the irregular street pattern at the south-eastern side of Sydney Cove. The ground around the house was one of the first areas in the colony to be cleared. The changing use of this land is a prime example of experimentation with the development of landscape design. It is also associated with the history of art. It was a major landmark and was the centre of many paintings and drawings of Sydney before 1845. (Conybeare et.al. 1988:11-15) (Bickford 1983)
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The First Government House Precinct is significant due to the variety of styles, and the consistent scale, texture and unique quality of many of its component buildings. Both variation in terms of space and scale are contributed by the site within the townscape of Bridge and Phillip Streets. The site provides a balance between the dominant verticality of buildings in the city. (Conybeare 1988:11-15) (Bickford 1983)
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
It is a crucial landmark for all Australians, including in particular groups of people who are of English, Irish and Scots descent, Aboriginal people and First Fleeters. The site is significant to Aboriginal people because of its association with historic Aboriginal persons and also as the focal point in their country's invasion by white people. As it contains the oldest in-situ remains of British settlement in Australia, and as the site of the earliest seat of government in the colony, the site is saturated with direct historical associations and, for many, has become the symbolic focus of diverse environmental, cultural, racial and political issues related to the colonisation of Australia. (Historic Houses Trust 1992) (Bickford 1983)
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
First Government House is of Archaeological significance because it contains the answers to many historical and scientific questions which can only be solved by archaeological techniques. The First Government House site gives archaeologists and historians opportunities for research into aspects of the city of Sydney 200 years ago. The site has research value as an area of primary information from the earliest days of colonisation to the present day. It has educational value as a resource explaining the history of an area and the techniques for researching that history. The primary site and precinct with their associated structures and grounds are significant because they constitute an archive of the development of architectural history, building technology and changing land uses in urban development over a 200 year period. (Conybeare et.al 1988:11-15) (Bickford 1983)
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
The site contains in situ remains of Australia's first permanent Government House. These remains are the only known in situ physical evidence from the first year of European settlement and are our most tangible link with it.
It is the only site yet located with archaeological deposits covering the full 211 years of Australia's European Colonisation.
SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
Being the first permanent residence, it became an exemplar for building fashion: stone footings, white washed brick walls and terra-cotta or shingle roofs became the accepted residential standard of the free class. (Conybeare et.al. 1988:11-15)
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workHeritage Act - Site Specific Exemptions HERITAGE ACT 1977

ORDER UNDER SECTION 57(2)

I, the Minister for Planning, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, in pursuance of section 57(2) of the Heritage Act, 1977, do, by this my order:
(1) revoke the existing exemptions made to the Historic Houses Trust under section 57(2) of the Heritage Act; and
(2)u nder section 57(2) of the Heritage Act grant an exemption from all section 57(1) activities to properties owned or managed by the Historic Houses Trust and listed on the State Heritage Register as outlined in Schedule A with the following conditions:
(a) that the Historic Houses Trust provide an annual report to the Heritage Council on future works proposed for its properties;
(b) that the Historic Houses Trust advise the Heritage Office archaeologists of any proposed works requiring major excavation at its properties to allow due consideration of the need for additional archaeological work;
(c) that the Director of the Historic Houses Trust must lodge all archaeological monitoring or excavation reports prepared with the Heritage Office library on completion after review by Heritage Office archaeologists;
(d) that the Historic Houses Trust employ as required a consultant historical archaeologist with appropriate archaeological qualifications, knowledge, skills and experience and the Director of the HHT must obtain the advice of that person about the heritage significance of the archaeological resource and/or the impact of the development proposal on the heritage significance of the archaeological resource, and take that advice into account;
(e) that the Director of the Historic Houses Trust must take into account as far as practicable the cumulative effect of approvals on the heritage significance of the item and on the heritage resource of its area;
(f) that the Director of the Historic Houses Trust must ensure that approvals are in accordance with any requirements, guidelines, regulations and general conditions issued by the Heritage Council. The Director of the Historic Houses Trust may impose additional conditions which do not conflict with any Heritage Council conditions.

The Hon Frank Sartor MP
Minister for Planning
Minister for Redfern Waterloo
Minister for the Arts

11 April 2008

SCHEDULE A

Item State Heritage Register Listing Number

1. Elizabeth Farm 00001
2. Rouse Hill House 00002
3. Elizabeth Bay House 00006
4. Glenfield Farm, Casula 00025
5. Hyde Park Barracks and The Mint 00190
6. Exeter Farm (Meurant's Cottage) 00205
7. The Rose Seidler House 00261
8. Wentworth Mausoleum 00622
9. Justice and Police Museum 00673
10. Meroogal, Nowra 00953
11. Vaucluse House 00955
12. Government House, Sydney 01070
13. First Government House Site (Museum of Sydney) 01309
14. Susannah Place 01310
Apr 24 2008
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
HERITAGE ACT 1977
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

FRANK SARTOR
Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0130910 Dec 99 13911864
National Trust of Australia register   25 Jul 83   
Register of the National Estate  28 Sep 82   
National Heritage List  19 Aug 05 S15105 

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written   
WrittenAnne Bickford, Robert Irving, Michael Pearson, Helen Proudfoot, Meredith Walker,1983First Government House Site (Sydney, Australia), Statement of Cultural Significance.
TourismAttraction Homepage2007First Government House Site View detail
WrittenLewis, Miles1987Vice-Regal Shacks
WrittenSelkirk Provis, Joan1982First Government House (article)
TourismTourism NSW2007Museum of Sydney on the site of First Government House View detail

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5045710
File number: H00/00364; S96/00465 [S170]


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