A collection of original Australian furniture from the 1850s to 1870s, custom made for Government House, is still used today.

Toorak House furniture

Much of the furniture in the State Apartments was either custom made for the House, or transferred in 1876 from the previous Government House, Toorak House.

The colonial Victorian Government furnished Toorak House for the incoming Governor Hotham in 1854, and much of it was supplied by local cabinetmaker George Thwaites and Son.

The Government paid George Thwaites £4550 5/- and 6d for furnishings for Toorak House, in preparation for the arrival of Governor Hotham and his wife, resulting in some critical newspaper reports about the amount paid.

However, some pieces are still used today which date back to Toorak House, including the State Chair.

Other furniture items believed to have been brought from Toorak House, and in use today, include:

  • a cedar bookcase, with intricate carvings, in the Billiard Room
  • a pedestal sideboard carved with the crown and featuring Queen Victoria’s monogram
  • a cedar hall table and four cedar hall chairs, which have Queen Victoria’s monogram (VR) carved into the back
The State Chair on the dais in the Government House Ballroom
The State Chair in the Government House Ballroom

Cabinetmakers

George Thwaites and Son, and another local cabinetmaker, James McEwan and Company, were contracted to make the furniture for the new Government House.

The Weekly Times reported in April 1876:

‘Manufactured in Melbourne by local tradesmen, from designs furnished by the most advanced authorities in England, the furniture is of a description which cannot be surpassed. The rarest and most durable woods only are used, and for this purpose the forests of Victoria, Tasmania, New South Wales, New Zealand and Queensland have been laid under contribution.’

 ‘Their united efforts will afford future generations cause for a feeling of just pride at the perfection attained at this early stage of the history of this colony.’

Visit our speeches section for the Governor's speech on the launch of Made to Order: George Thwaites and Sons, Colonial Cabinet Makers by Robert La Nauze.