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Title: Timeline of Old Government House

The Government Farm was set aside by Governor Gawler in the Valley of the Upper Strut to grow pasture for and to agist Government stock. The Governor also considered it a place suitable for use as an occasional retreat close to Adelaide.

Governor Grey, facing a financial crisis in South Australia, put the Farm up for auction. This was hastily cancelled because of a defect in the title.

A stone cottage (the present Servants’ Quarters) was built for the supervisor of the Government Farm. It consisted of two rooms an two lean-to rooms at the back.

This cottage was altered and improved with the view to becoming a small retreat for the Governors.

The Gold Escort, after bringing gold from the Victorian diggings to Adelaide rested on the Government Farm.

Sir Richard MacDonnell was appointed Governor of South Australia and with the colony’s flourishing economy, more imposing Vice-regal residences were sought.

A new summer residence for the Governor was proposed to be built next to the original cottage on the Government Farm, with Parliament voting 1000 pounds for it. This building, although small by Vice-regal standards, was constructed of local uncut stone with brick quoins and featured a bay window with turret and flagpole to distinguish it from other domestic buildings, and included South Australia’s first indoor plunge pool. A spacious terrace surrounded the building and the adjacent older cottage became a kitchen annex.


Main Building floor plan


Used by Governors MacDonnell and Daly.

Tenanted by Major J.A. Fergusson (Governor Fergusson’s brother). 

The Governor’s cottage was taken over by the Survey Department for the manufacture of rabbit poison. The foreman of works, Mr Max Biernbaum, used the House as living quarters, and the older cottage became the factory.

The new larger Vice-regal summer residence, Marble Hill, was completed. It had twenty-six rooms and was designed in a Victorian Gothic Revival Style.

All buildings on the site were transferred to the new Woods and Forests Department and a Woods and Forests Nursery was set up adjacent to those buildings.


The Government Farm became South Australia’s first National Park, except for the Woods and Forests Nursery area.

The Old Government House, re-named “The Rest”, was occupied by the curators of the Woods and Forests Nursery.

Marble Hill was almost totally destroyed in the aptly named ‘Black Sunday Bushfire’. In September the Government announced that Marble Hill would not be rebuilt.

All buildings on the site were transferred to the Commissioners of the National Park.

The Old Government House Main House was opened to the public after partial restoration.

Major restoration was done on both the Main House and the Servants’ Quarters. The garden was completely redesigned.

The Friends of Old Government House was formed to care for the complex.

Using money from a Centenary of Federation grant and funds raised by the Friends of Old Government House, further renovations and restoration was done, including a new roof and wallpaper and curtaining throughout the Main House.


Design: Tracy Gamlin for Friends of Old Government House © 2005
Modified September 2014