History of the House

Find out about the history of Old Government House, situated in the University of Auckland's city campus.

Beautiful picture of Old Government House with green lawn and cloudy blue sky on the background

Old Government House, completed in 1856, was the first mansion of its kind built in New Zealand. Classical in style with much of the timber facade cut to resemble stone, it played an important part in the government of New Zealand until 1865 when the capital was moved to Wellington.

For the next century the house was Auckland's viceregal residence. Royalty stayed here six times and Queen Elizabeth II broadcast her Christmas speech to the Commonwealth from upstairs in 1953.

Since being transferred to the University in 1969, the house has been the Staff Common Room.

It also contains a Council reception suite, flats for visiting academics, rooms for the Federation of Graduate Women and a lecture theatre.

Some of the trees in the grounds match Old Government House for antiquity. Two oaks at the north-western corner of Old Government House lawn were probably grown from acorns brought from the Great Forest at Windsor and the Royal Oak at Boscobel, Shropshire where Charles II hid after the battle of Worcester in 1651.

The big coral tree and the Norfolk pine at the southern edge of the lawn are said to have been planted by Sir George Grey during his second term as governor (1861-67).

This video includes interviews with Emeritus Professor Russell Stone, architect Denys Oldham and the manager of Old Government House, Tim Biggs. Film and music by students of the University of Auckland.

View more historic photos of Old Government House from the National Library of New Zealand.

Discover more about the history of the University of Auckland

Photography credits

Creator unknown : Photograph of Government House, Auckland. Ref: PAColl-8794. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Ballroom, Government House, Auckland. Ranfurly family Photographs. Ref: PA1-f-194-38-2. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Corridor, Government House, Auckland. Ranfurly family Photographs Ref: PA1-f-194-25. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand

Ashworth, Edward, 1814-1896. Ashworth, Edward, 1814-1896 :[The Hobson album]. Government House, Auckland. N.W. view. [1842 or 1843].. [Various artists] :[Mrs Hobson's album. 1843-1845]. Ref: E-216-f-005. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23035127