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National Trust Willunga branch.

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National Trust of South Australia


Government House site

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Fast Facts
Also known as: The Government Hut
Town or Locality: Willunga
Year constructed: c. 1839
Built by: Government of SA
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Willunga’s Government House was a wooden cottage built by 1839 in the Government Reserve. It was situated on top of the hill across the creek from three other early Government huts and provided accommodation for officials and Government employees either visiting Willunga or passing through to Encounter Bay.

It became known as 'Governor Gawler’s Government House’ after Governor Gawler stayed overnight here on 22nd November 1839 on his way to explore Lake Alexandrina and the River Murray. The Governor’s party included his daughter, Captain Sturt (Surveyor General) and Mrs Sturt, Mr Inman (Chief of Police) and Messrs Gell and Bryan, of the Governor’s household.

Twelve months later Lady Franklin, wife of the Governor of Tasmania, stayed overnight here on 31 December 1840 (New Year’s Eve) and described it as a ‘Government hut of two rooms, dividing partition not to ceiling, and a brick chimney to one room, brass handles to doors - earthen floors”.

In 1854, George Worthington on behalf of the Magistrates of the Lower Court of Willunga, asked the Governor if the old Government House building could be used for holding Court sessions, instead of the Bush Inn where it was impossible to maintain the degree of order and decorum required in a court of justice. The House was in poor repair, but the magistrates were willing to submit to the very inferior accommodation rather than again hold court in a public house. The outcome is unknown. A labourer and his family, supposed to be trespassers, were the occupiers of the old building at that time.

In July 1855 Governor Gawler’s Government House was suggested by the District Council of Willunga as a suitable building to house female immigrants. However the Governor Sir K. G. MacDonnell visited Willunga and over-ruled the Council's Chairman Thomas Kell, deciding instead that the depot would be set up at the new Court-House and Police Station, then nearly completed.

It is not known when the Government House building was demolished or fell into total disrepair, but it possibly did not survive much beyond the erection of the new Court House and Police Station in 1856. The site on the Nature Reserve Trail is now marked by a plaque erected by Willunga National Trust and unveiled by A N (Tony) Liddy in 1999.


  • Willunga National Trust files
  • South Australian Register Saturday January 4th 1840
  • South Australian Register Wednesday 18 July 1855 page 2.
Government House site, Court House Reserve, Willunga
Government House site, Court House Reserve, Willunga
Government House plaque, 'unveiling', 1999.
Government House plaque, 'unveiling', 1999.

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