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Government House in Adelaide is a grand residence well suited for its vice regal occupant. The house is magnificent and the sprawling gardens are serene, but for new arrivals from England, the city could get too hot in summer. In the nineteenth century, a succession of governors were appointed, but most only stayed in South Australia for a few years.
In 1858 Governor MacDonnell, having already extended Government House in the city, commissioned the construction of a modest vice-regal retreat on the Government Farm at Belair, now called Belair National Park. He was the first Governor to have spent his summers in the delightful house in the cooler climate of Belair.
Old Government House in 1885 (Image: State Library SA B4140)
The next governor to use Government House at Belair was Sir Dominick Daly, but the governor after him, Sir James Fergusson chose Robe on the Limestone Coast, rather than old Government House as his summer home. Throughout the early 1870's the brother of the Governor lived in the cottage residence at Government Farm.
Governor Jervois arrived in South Australia amid popular acclaim in 1877. He was a tactful and persuasive man. Within a year, he had persuaded the Government to allow him to spend £7,000 on the improvement of the existing Government House. In 1878 he persuaded the Government to complete the much larger Marble Hill for his summer residence at a cost of £36.000, a large sum in those days.
In 1886 Old Government House and the servants' quarters were transferred to the Woods and Forest Department, and were used by Government Nursery (now State Flora) employees until 1958.
Today Old Government House at Belair and its lovely gardens are looked after by the Friends of Old Government House. They hold open days for the house, gardens and visitor centre on the first Sunday of every month, and on public holidays (closed Good Friday and Christmas Day). The house is also open for special tours on request.
The friendly volunteers are happy to provide guided tours of the house and carefully tended gardens on the open days, explaining the history of the place and how it relates to the history of Belair National Park. The tours take around thirty minutes depending on how many questions there are. Photography is allowed inside the house, but use of a flash is not permitted. At the visitor centre, there are many additional items of history which you can browse before or after your tour.
You can find Old Government House Belair between the State Flora nursery and the adventure playground at Belair National Park. Perhaps combine your visit on open days with one of the free guided walks in Belair National Park? For more information about the Friends of Old Government House and the open days see their Facebook page or website.
You can even get married in the beautiful, private garden of this heritage listed place. There are two areas available for wedding venues - the wedding lawn for boutique weddings (maximum number 50 guests), or the Terrace for up to 140 people. Please contact the Friends of Old Government House for details and costs.
Note: Entry to the park in a car is free if you mention you're visiting Old Government House.