Australian Historical Art Fund & Heritage Government Residences

Admiralty House

Admiralty House 1 2002

Admiralty House, Sydney is a graceful and imposing sandstone building situated on Kirribilli Point. It is used for official events and as the Sydney residence by the Governor General of Australia.

The land on which Admiralty House is built has had various owners, including Robert Campbell who bought the property in 1806 and who also built Duntroon in Canberra (now the Royal Military College).

Lieutenant Colonel JGN Gibbes

Portrait of J G N Gibbes, Australia or England, c.1805–1806, oil on canvas, 57 x 47.5 cm

In 1842 the property was leased to and later bought by the Colonial Collector of Customs, Lieutenant Colonel John George Nathaniel Gibbes (1834 to 1859). Gibbes proceeded to build a single-storey stone residence in the Georgian style, which he named “Wotonga”. The building had a graceful iron verandah with timber posts, a flagged floor and French windows. The property was sold by Gibbes in 1851. A portrait of Lt. Colonel Gibbes owned by The Australiana Fund currently hangs in the vestibule of Admiralty House.

It is interesting to note that the Campbell and Gibbes families are also linked with Government House in Canberra. On his retirement in 1859, Colonel and Mrs Gibbes went to live with their son Augustus who owned "Yarralumla Station". That property was later sold to one Frederick Campbell, the Grand-son of Robert Campbell. Frederick built the current residence "Yarralumla", on the property which today is Government House.

Over time Wotonga in Sydney came to have harbour foreshore fortifications, which included a battery, gunners' store, powder magazine and Marine Barracks, and Norfolk pines were planted around the garden.

In 1885 the property had changed its use and its name to Admiralty House, when it became the residence of the Admiral of the British Royal Navy's Australian Squadron and remained so until 1913. During this period new servants' quarters, offices and passages were added and a second storey and stone colonnades created, all of which remain today.

In 1913, it was decided that Admiralty House would be loaned to the Commonwealth Government as a residence for the Governor-General when in Sydney. At the height of the depression in 1930s, the Scullin Government closed Admiralty House in 1931 and decided to sell all of its contents at public auction.

In 1936, the Commonwealth Government re-opened Admiralty House as a Sydney residence for the new Governor-General, Lord Gowrie. Since then, successive Governors-General have used Admiralty House for the same purpose.

Formal title to Admiralty House finally passed from New South Wales to the Commonwealth by Crown grant in 1948 on condition that the House only be used as a residence for the Governor-General, which it remains today.

Objects with maritime, naval, vice-regal and indigenous associations have been sought and acquired by The Australiana Fund for Admiralty House.

For further information about the history of Admiralty House click on the link below.