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Queenslandmarker's first Government House is located at Gardens Point within the grounds of the Queensland University of Technologymarker at the end of George Street in Brisbanemarker, Queenslandmarker, Australia.

Residence of the Queensland Governor

Constructed for Governor Sir George Bowen and Family

The government residential building was constructed to accommodate the first Governor of Queensland, Sir George Bowen, and his wife, Lady Diamantina Bowen, and their family. The family first arrived in Brisbane in Brisbane 1859 and Adelaide House, now the Deanery of St John's Cathedral, was leased for their use as a temporary Government House, while the construction of this building was undertaken.

The site chosen for the building was a high point of Gardens Point overlooking the Botanic Gardensmarker and with expansive vistas of the Brisbane Rivermarker. The two-storey building was designed by colonial architect Charles Tiffin in the classical revival style in 1860and the first stage of the building was completed in March 1862 by builder Joshua Jeays. The building is built from locally-sourced materials, predominantly sandstone, porphyry, red cedar, hoop pine and cast iron. The Governor and his family moved into the building in April 1862.

The first public function held in the building was a ball on Monday 16 June 1862 to celebrate the birthday of Queen Victoria. The ball was to have been held earlier (Victoria's birthday being 24 May), but was postponed due to a period of public mourning for the Queen's consort Prince Albert. Sir George and Lady Diamantina Bowen hosted 300 to 400 guests. It was a gala occasion and the new Government House was praised for enabling "the Governor to exercise his hospitality without restrictions through the want of space". There were rooms available for dancing, drinking of claret, sherry, tea and coffee and the playing of the card game whist. Meanwhile the dowagers and other ladies not involved in the drinking, dancing and card playing were entertained in drawing room. At 1 a.m., supper was served in the quadrangle, protected by a canvas roof and decorated with candles and Chinese lanterns. The dancing continued until 4 a.m., although the Bowens did not participate in the dancing due to Lady Diamantina's delicate health.

Approximately one month later on 26 July 1862, Lady Diamantina was safely delivered of a daughter, Agnes. Lady Diamantina's "delicate health" at the Birthday Ball was presumably a delicate reference to her advanced pregnancy. Agnes is believed to be the first child born in the building (the custom of those times was that children were born at home, indeed, Brisbane had no maternity hospitals in that era). Their son, George William Howard, was also born at Government House on 9 April 1864.

Lady Diamantina Bowen took a very personal interest in the development of the gardens around the building, which features lawns and flower gardens on the public sides of the building and vegetable gardens at the rear. She collaborated with Walter Hill, curator of the adjacent Botanical Gardensmarker on a number of projects, including large public events which extended out from the grounds of Government House into the Botanic Gardens.

The house was originally lit with candles and kerosense lamps, but by the late 1860s, gas became available and was installed. Unfortunately the initial pipes used were too thin and it was not possible to turn on all the gas lights simultaneously.

Other Governors

The building was home to the first 11 of the Governors of Queensland and their families. The building was modified somewhat over those years, the most obvious difference to the public face of the building being the roofing of the previously open upper terraces converting them into more Queenslander-style verandahs. Some extensions were also made at the rear, but these were more related to the service areas. In about 1900, a billard room was added at the request of Lord Lamington. The interior was renovated and redecorated in 1985—96.

Larger gas pipes were eventually installed to allow all the lights to be used. Although Brisbane had electricity in the late 1880s, the cost of fitting it to Government House was regarded as too expensive.

Sir William MacGregor, last of the Governors

However by 1909, the once spacious Government House was now nearly fifty years old and, by the standards of the times, perceived as being too small for the Governor's residence, especially as it lacked a ballroom deemed essential for entertaining. So it was decided to hand over Government House to be the nucleus of Queensland's first university, the University of Queenslandmarker, which was to be established at Gardens Point. A plaque on the building commemorates this handover in December 1909. In early 1910, the Governor, Sir William MacGregor, moved into the leased property Fernberg at Paddingtonmarker, a suburb of Brisbane, as a temporary measure while a new Government House was constructed in Victoria Park. However, although the plans for the new Government House were drawn up and the foundations laid, for some reason, that the project was abandoned. In 1911 the Government purchased Fernberg for ₤10,000 to be the permanent Government Housemarker of Queensland, a role that has continued to the present day.

Origin of the Lamington

One of Australia's culinary icons, the lamington was invented by the cook Armand Gallan at Government House, during the time of the Queensland Governor, Lord Lamington.

University of Queensland

On 10 December 1909, the building was handed over to be the nuclus of the newly established University of Queenslandmarker, as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the founding of the State of Queenslandmarker.

The University of Queensland had electricity connected to the building in about 1911.

The University of Queenslandmarker used the building until the late 1930s when the university outgrew the Gardens Point campus and moved its main campus to St Luciamarker..
The first Government House in Queensland - side view

Heritage Protection

Old Government House has been used as the Queensland headquarters for the National Trust of Australia.Concerts have also been held in the building.

In 1969, Old Government House was placed on the first list of significant heritage buildings compiled by the National Trust of Queensland, which protected the building from demolition. In March 1978, Old Government House became the first building to be protected by Queensland heritage legislation.

Queensland University of Technology

In 2002, an agreement between the National Trust of Queensland, the Queensland Government and Queensland University of Technologymarker handed custodianship of Old Government House to the Queensland University of Technologymarker.

Queensland University of Technologymarker have undertaken a major 3-year restoration of the building and it re-opened in 2009, with a ceremony on 7 June 2009 to mark the 150th anniversary of the establishment of Queenslandmarker. Speakers at the ceremoney included Peter Coaldrake, Queensland Governor Penny Wensley, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh and QUT Chancellor (and former Queensland Governor Peter Arnison. In addition to unveiling the plaque, Anna Bligh announced that QUT's lease of the building would be extended for another 30 years.

Having restored the buildings, QUT will use it for events and functions, and provide tours and information (including interactive displays) for visitors.

See also


  1. The Arrival & Reception of His Excellency Sir G.F. Bowen, First Governor of Queensland, Moreton Bay Courier, Tuesday 13 December 1859, page 2
  2. History of Government House, accessed 23 May 2009
  3. Courier, Friday 14 February 1862 page 3
  4. Courier, Tues 18 March 1962, page 3
  6. QUT: Old Government House: Separation
  7. The Birthday Ball, Courier, Wed 18 June 1862, page 2
  8. Birth notice, The Courier, Tuesday 29 July 1862, page 2
  9. Birth notice, The Brisbane Courier, Monday 11 April 1864, page 2
  10. Speech by Queensland University of Technology Chancellor, Sir Peter Arnison, Old Government House, 7 June 2009.
  11. QUT: Old Government House: National Trust, accessed 23 May 2009.
  12. QUT: Old Government House, accessed 23 May 2009

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