Old Government House

Old Government House

Old Government House is situated in Belair National Park, South Australia's oldest National Park, 12 kms from Adelaide C.B.D. Its building - a main building and detached kitchen with servants accommodation - date from the 1850s and were built for the first vice-regal summer retreat in South Australia. Full restoration took place in the 1970s as a fully furnished Victorian gentleman's country retreat; turreted colonial - Georgian in style, surrounded by extensive tiled terracing. Each room reflects its original function - wide entrance hall, manly study, gracious dining room with drawing area, sole bedroom with slightly feminine influence and adjacent gentleman's dressing room and bathroom with plunge pool. The second building has been re-interpreted as a fully furnished cottage for a workman's family of the late 19th Century, with parlour, comfortable furnished bedroom, a large, well appointed kitchen with an excellent and functional range with coppers and second bedroom, now as a children's room. Throughout are many artefacts which belonged to significant pioneer families with some emphasis on the needle arts of several identified women pioneers. The buildings are set in a secluded garden re-created in mid-Victorian Anglo-Italianate style and features mature, exotic trees and a heritage rose collection. It provides an attractive venue for touring parties and educational groups, as well as wedding ceremonies and heritage style functions. It is the premier built heritage site in Belair National Park and is managed by the volunteer group, the Friends of Old Government House on behalf of Belair National Park, Department of Environment, Heritage and Aboriginal Affairs.

Address: 
Belair National Park, Upper Sturt Road, Belair, SA
Tel: 
0882785477
Hours: 
12.30-4.00pm Sun and public holidays
Admission: 
Adults $2, Concession $1.50, Children 50c, Family $4.50
Facilities: 
Toilets adjacent, guided tours, disabled access, souvenirs available, brochures for sale, wedding venue (ceremony only)
Collection: 
2,000-3,000 items. The collection is housed in two buildings built on the Government Farm (now Belair National Park) originally as a vice-regal summer retreat (1860-1880) and later maintained as living premises for employees of various Government departments (1880-1958). At the time of proposed restoration as a house museum in 1960, any original furnishings, furniture and artefacts had been removed from the site. Sir J.B. Cleland (Chairman of the National Parks Commission) made a public appeal in the early 1960s for donations for suitable furniture and artefacts from descendants of S.A.'s pioneer families to form the nucleus of the collection. Most of these donated items still remain in the collection. Following restoration of the premises, in the 1970's, these artefacts have been augmented with further donations from the public, from government store and with purchases of items largely from the period 1860-1880. A number of artefacts and pieces of furniture belonged to the prominent figures in South Australia's colonial history, (eg, governors, explorers, men in public life) and a significant part of the collection consists of items handcrafted by identified women pioneers and includes embroideries, tapestries, needlework, quilts, pictures and drawings.
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Items

Campaign chest

Creator:
Unknown
Description:
Australian cedar campaign chest used by Governor's wife, Lady Blanche MacDonnell on journeys throughout southern Australia 1856-1862.
Date:
c. 1855
Item Id Number:
1839

Relocated 1995 from storage at Government House to Old Government House through Lady Dunstan. Railway travel warrant made out to Lady Blanche Macdonnell still affixed to back. Chest is one of three items on premises provenanced to Governors who used the building.

Portrait

Susanna, wife of Captain John Hindmarsh

Susanna, wife of Captain John Hindmarsh
Creator:
Attributed to Mary Stephen (nee Hindmarsh)
Description:
Crayon and chalk portrait of wife of first Governor of South Australia. Companion portrait of Captain Hindmarsh held in Barr-Smith Library Special Collection, Adelaide.
Date:
c. mid 19th century
Item Id Number:
A/N 105

Portrait has been attributed to Lady Hindmarsh's daughter, Mary (Mrs George Milner Stephen) a fine miniaturist. Companion portrait of Governor Hindmarsh held in Barr Smith Library, Special Collection - also attributed to Mary - two portraits of Governor and Lady Hindmarsh are mentioned at Jubilee Exhibition.

Patchwork quilt

Exhibition quilt

Exhibition quilt
Creator:
Louisa Fanny Catt
Description:
Late Victorian patchwork quilt of high quality and workmanship and intricate design. Silks and satins used. Exhibited at Jubilee International Exhibition, Adelaide, 1887.
Date:
1882-1887
Item Id Number:
1299(a)

Creator Louisa Catt was a pioneer of Meadows, South Australia. Pattern used for quilt was 'mosaics 4' published by Caulfield (sic), 1882. For further information see "History South Australia" No. 131 July, 1997 Newsletter of Historical Society of South Australia.

Indoor pool

Bathing Pool, Old Government House

Bathing Pool, Old Government House
Creator:
Architect,- E.A. Hamilton - Builder, C. Farr
Description:
First indoor bathing pool in South Australia. Commissioned for Governor, Sir R.G. MacDonnell on the Government Farm.
Date:
1858
Item Id Number:
n.a.

It was incorporated in the original 1858 floor plan of Old Government House, Belair at the insistence of Sir R. Macdonnell who was prevented by a newly passed statute from bathing in public. Pool was gravity fed from nearby springs with constant flow; no flooding (overflow pipe)

Tapestry

Death of the Black Douglas

Creator:
Matilda Solomon
Description:
Tapestry exhibited at Jubilee International Exhibition, Adelaide 1887. Companion tapestry "Joseph presenting his father to the Pharaoh", also on display at Old Government House.
Date:
before 1887
Item Id Number:
A/N 102

Entry form for Jubilee Exhibition 1887 is still on backing; gained 3rd place in Pictures section F, class429. Another large tapestry worked in same manner (half cross stitch 2-ply wool & silk, by Matilda Solomon, entry n. 18) listed in the same exhibition as "Joseph Presenting his Father to Pharaoh", also on display at Old Government House.