First Government House archaeology collection, Museum of Sydney on the site of first Government House


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A collection of over 140,000 artefacts including bricks, ceramics, glass, and clay pipes, which were collected during two major phases of excavation on the site of first Government House (corner of Bridge and Phillip Streets, Sydney) between 1983 and 1991.

The excavations on the site of first Government House revealed the foundations of first Government House, constructed in 1788 and extended many times until its demolition in 1845, along with its outbuildings, drainage systems and the adjacent guardhouse built in 1812. The FHG archaeological site as a whole is exceptionally rare, on a national and international scale, bearing unique physical evidence of the first seat of government and the first permanent, brick dwelling built in the fledging colony of New South Wales.

Half of the collection was recovered from foundation trenches, drains and leveling fills that date to the Government House occupation. The collection yielded specific evidence of the location of Australia’s first printery, and some evidence of an adequate diet consumed at Government House during the early ‘starvation’ years. While a few deposits could be linked to specific Governors and their staff, changes in the accessibility of glass and ceramic tablewares used by earlier and later colonial governors and their households can be observed over time. The FGH archaeological collections continue to provide a platform for ongoing research into the domestic arrangements and daily life of Government House and the colony prior to 1845.

The extensive post 1845 component of the collection is derived mainly from large-scale construction and rebuilding programs that followed the demolition of First Government House, While they lack the potential to provide information on specific occupants or groups of occupants, many interesting and complete artefacts yield important information for material culture studies, and contributes to a general understanding of Sydney life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.


Archaeology; First Government House, Sydney; Sydney

Coverage Spatial

Australia; New South Wales; Sydney

Coverage Temporal




2012-05-30 23:45

2011-12-19 11:53