The Burramatta people lived along the south banks of the Parramatta River for tens of thousands of years where they fished, hunted and dug for food. Old Government House sits on the hill named Rose Hill by our first governor, Governor Arthur Phillip. He walked along the river from Duck Creek, near Silverwater late in April 1788, just months after landing over 1,000 soldiers, convicts, wives and children on the shores at Sydney Cove. He decided that this would be the place for the second settlement. And so it was along the northern banks of the river that our first successful crops of wheat and corn were grown.
As Parramatta grew, Phillip had the streets of Rose Hill surveyed and he had built a plaster and lath cottage which looked down along High Street. When Governor Hunter arrived, Phillip's house had collapsed. He built, on the site of Phillip's house, a brick two storey building. This building, finished in 1799, is the front part of Old Government House today.
It was left to Governor Macquarie, who between 1814 and 1818 expanded the house into its palladian style you see today. It was designed by Elizabeth Macquarie and aide-de-camp John Watts. Francis Greenway designed the portico.
The Governors of NSW used Parramatta as their country residence, with their main residence being Government House in Sydney which stood on the site of the Museum of Sydney. In 1845, the Government House we have now was completed and the governors were informed that the government would not maintain two houses. Governor Gipps and Governor Fitzroy kept Old Government House going at their own expense until the death of Lady Fitzroy on 7th December 1847. She was thrown out of her carriage near the George Street entrance when the horses bolted.
The Governors left Parramatta.
In 1855, Lord Denison had all the furnitrue and fittings sold by public auction. The house was leased firstly as a private residence, then a boarding house and finally St John's School.
In 1907, The King's School, an Anglican boarding school signed a contract to lease the house as dormitory accomodation for 25 years. The Government spent 4,000 pounds restoring the house in 1909 and The King's boys stayed for the next 55 years! They looked after and preserved the house for us.
In 1965, by an act of Government, Old Government House was deeded to the National Trust of Australia (NSW). The Trust has been restoring the house to its original form since 1995, with the assistance of Government grants. The ground floor has been interpreted to the Macquarie era, whilst the upstairs is more eclectic, representing a little of all governors who used the house. The National Trust has furnished the house in early colonial period furniture, making it the best collection of colonial furniture anywhere in Australia.
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