Government House
Main façade of Government House
General information
TypeVice-regal residence
Architectural styleItalianate
LocationKings Domain,1 Government House Drive, Melbourne, Victoria
Coordinates37°49′41″S 144°58′37″E / 37.827939°S 144.976939°E / -37.827939; 144.976939
Construction started1871
OwnerGovernment of Victoria
Design and construction
Architect(s)William Wardell
Government House Garden and Grounds
Official nameGovernment House Complex
TypeState Registered Place
Designated20 August 1982
Reference no.H1620[1]
Heritage Overlay numberHO397[1]

Government House is the official residence of the Governor of Victoria, currently Margaret Gardner. It is located in Kings Domain, Melbourne, next to the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Government House was opened in 1876, on land that had originally been set aside in 1841. Previous governors' residences included La Trobe's Cottage (1839–1854), Toorak House (1854–1874), and Bishopscourt (1874–1876). It was designed by William Wardell in the Italianate style, and modelled to some extent on Queen Victoria's Osborne House residence, to which it bears a strong resemblance. Between 1901 and 1930, Government House was used as the official residence of the Governor-General of Australia. This occurred during the period when Canberra was still under construction and Melbourne was designated as the temporary seat of government. Despite Parliament House opening in 1927, the Governor-General did not permanently move to Yarralumla for another three years, at which point Government House was given back to the Victorian government.


A large area of land south of the Yarra River was set aside by Lieutenant-Governor of Victoria, Charles La Trobe, in the early 1840s, with part intended for the Royal Botanic Gardens, and the hilltop area for a Government House. A competition in 1853 produced a winning design by Knight & Kerr in Elizabethan style, but was not proceeded with. In 1857, Ferdinand von Mueller, Director of the Gardens, landscaped the whole area as one parkland. Another competition in 1864 was won by Reed & Barnes in Italianate style, but was also not proceeded with.[2]

Eventually a design was prepared by the Chief Architect of the Public Works Department, William Wardell, in a grand Italianate manner, and this was built between 1871 and 1876.[3][4]

While La Trobe was Lieutenant-Governor he lived in La Trobe's Cottage. Between 1854 and 1874, Governors lived at Toorak House, in the suburb named after it, then briefly at Bishopscourt in East Melbourne until the present Government House was occupied in 1876.

Between the formation of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901 and 1927, Government House was the official residence of the governor-general of Australia. When the Federal Parliament commenced sitting in Canberra in 1927, the Governor-General stayed at Government House, Canberra at Yarralumla while Parliament was in session, but also continued living at Government House in Melbourne until 1930. During this period Governors of Victoria lived at Stonington mansion. The House has been in continuous use by the Governors of Victoria since 1934.

Building design

Government House was designed by William Wardell, Inspector General of the Public Works Department, in the Victorian Period Italianate style, and is reminiscent of Queen Victoria's summer residence on the Isle of Wight, Osborne House. The building reflects the optimism of the period, with an economy still growing fast twenty years after the Victorian gold rush.

The main building consists of three parts: the south wing with its extravagant single storey State Ballroom, the formal State rooms, and smaller dining and drawing rooms to the north. Rising from the building is a 145-foot belvedere tower. The mews — a paved area surrounded on three sides by stables and coach houses is nearby.

The garden was designed by John Sayce in 1873 and is thought to be the "most intact 19th century mansion garden remaining in Melbourne" by the Victorian Heritage Register.[5] William Guilfoyle, curator of the Melbourne Botanic Gardens, further refined the original garden design with "many fine mature trees, including conifers, Australian rainforest species and deciduous trees, which are characteristic of the era and which also reflect Guilfoyle’s personal taste.".

See also


  1. ^ a b "Government House Complex". Victorian Heritage Database. Government of Victoria. Retrieved 14 August 2023.
  2. ^ "Winning homes : 75 Australian house design competitions / Tim Reeves - Catalogue | National Library of Australia". Retrieved 8 November 2023.
  3. ^ School of Historical Studies, Department of History. "Government House - Entry - eMelbourne - The Encyclopedia of Melbourne Online". Retrieved 8 November 2023.
  4. ^ "Government House". Victorian Heritage Database. Retrieved 8 November 2023.
  5. ^ Victorian Heritage List