Government House: Week 195

Garden outside the Government House: Sydney, Australia

If the architect Edward Blore completely had it his way, the servants would have had this view.

That’s what happens when you dispatch architectural plans from London without knowing much about the location’s geography. Unfortunately for the succeeding servants, this oversight was changed at the last minute. When Governor Sir George Gipps first took up residence inside the Elizabethan Gothic estate in 1845, his view was undoubtedly gorgeous.

Not every miscalculation was fixed though. Blore’s original design called for a vaulted double-story open porch as the main entrance. While great on paper, the direction of the layout wasn’t very compatible with Sydney’s wind patterns. It became a wind tunnel that must have bustled a lot of skirts and ruined quite a few fancy hairstyles until it was enclosed and the covered carriageway was added in 1873.

That would have been the end of the story except that the newly enclosed space (with the flags flying off the turrets) had the worst echo. It was a feature I noticed when my guide spent a lengthy period of time covering the history of the building. The echo was so bad the she had to ask one of the guests to stop translating her speech because the sound of multiple voices bouncing off the walls was too distracting.

Government House on a rainy day inside the Botanic Gardens: Sydney, Australia

Despite being the live-in residence of the Governor, the downstairs is open for free tours on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The interesting part of the tour, at least the part that keeps the guides on their toes, is that furniture periodically changes according to the whims and tastes of the current occupant.

As the tour was more about details like ballroom’s stenciled imitation damask, the role of the governor was only briefly touched upon. From what I grasped the Governor is the Queen’s representative in NSW and their role is largely ceremonial, as required by the state’s constitution.

Government House arcade: Sydney, Australia

The whole idea of the Queen of England still needing an official representative felt a bit antiquated. However I often forget Australia is part of the Commonwealth and while the Government House is no Buckingham Palace, the outdoor arcade probably has a better view. I definitely wouldn’t mind being invited to one of the many private functions held at the Government House. A cocktail and a view of the harbor would go down very well indeed.

How to get to Government House: Royal Botanic Gardens, Lower Macquarie Street, Sydney NSW 2000

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