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Government House, Bermuda

Government House, located in Hamilton, is the official residence of the Governor of Bermuda.

Government House Bermuda is the official residence of the Governor and stands on Langton Hill overlooking the North Shore in the Parish of Pembroke. Built in the Italianate style, the house was designed by architect William Cardy Hallet and built in 1892. It replaced an earlier residence called "Mount Langton" (after a Scottish estate belonging to Sir James Cockburn, Governor of Bermuda from 1814-1816) which had served as Government House from 1815 when the seat of government was moved from St. George's. Built in the Italian style with stone imported from France, it is a stunningly beautiful landmark; visible to all from the road or water with its off-white stone towers and arches. The house's most impressive feature, however, are its grounds: with 33 acres of open space Government House is one of the largest open spaces left in Bermuda.

Government House is also a working office for over 20 people employed as executive, secretarial and domestic staff for the Governor and the Deputy Governor (who resides elsewhere). Although the Governor is the Queen's representative, appointed by the British Government, the upkeep of Government House (and the Governor's own salary, staff and other expenses) is the responsibility of the Bermuda Government.

The House has more than 30 rooms, including a large drawing room and dining room for formal entertaining, both of which open onto a long enclosed glass sun terrace overlooking the pool and garden. All the paintings are of Bermuda images, and the theme continues upstairs through the corridors and upstairs in The Royal Suite and the private quarters of the Governor and his wife which overlook the North Shore towards Dockyard and the 4 guest bedrooms whose verandah offers a good view of Hamilton. Some of the artwork is part of the Government Collection, the rest is on loan from Masterworks Foundation and local artists and these are always changing.

Outside the main entrance to the House are three cannons, which have been in their present position since 1919. On either side of the cannons are two Washingtonia filifera (Petticoat Palms) planted by The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh in February 1975. From the terrace opposite there used to be steps down into the garden; it was close to these that on the night of Saturday, March 10, 1973 the then Governor Sir Richard Sharples was murdered, together with his ADC, Captain Sayers, and his dog.

To left are the West Gates and on the terrace is a Podocarpus macrophyllus (Japanese Yew Tree), planted by Governor Sir Alexander Hood and Lady Hood to commemorate the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. On the next terrace there is a Bermuda Cedar planted by Winston Churchill in 1942 after his visit to the USA to meet President Roosevelt and address a Joint Session of Congress. On the same level there is a Princess Palm planted in 1963 by Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, a Roystonea regia (Royal Palm) planted by Princess Margaret in 1975 and a Thrinax parviflora (Thatch Palm) planted by Margaret Thatcher in 1981. On the terrace below, on either side of the path, are a pair of Queen Palms planted by The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh in 1994. Near to the next flight of steps is another Podocarpus macrophyllus planted by The Queen in November 1953.

Down the steps there is an avenue of Bermuda Cedars, the first on the left planted by Sir Edwards Richards, the first black Bermudian to head the Government of the Island. Two others bear the names of Princess Alexandra and Princess Margaret. Just to the left of the bottom of the path there is a Royal Poinciana planted by the Duke of Windsor on in 1940, and back towards the House a Royal Palm planted by the Duke of Kent in 1928.

A walk across the lawn towards the garage and outbuildings takes one to a Delonix regia planted by HRH The Prince of Wales in 1970. Behind is the old drive lined with Canary Island Date Palms. Sloping down to the right are woodlands with a paddock and a meadow. Beyond the site of the old house, the flat area to the right of the cottage, there is a semi circular area of grass on which stands a mango tree planted by Prince George, later King George V and Bermuda's first rubber tree, planted by Governor Lt. Colonel William Reid in 1840. On either side of the cutting leading to the entrance to the grounds are evergreen shrubs, and large bouganvillea vines over 100 years old cover the walls.

Opposite the cottage there is a flight of steps leading down into the Marsh Folly Gardens. In this sheltered and well wooded area there some of the oldest White Cedars on the island. On the other side of the road is a rock garden. A walk back to the Terrace then takes one through a collection of Palms planted by Prime Ministers US Presidents: John Major (1991), George Bush (1990 and 1991), Margaret Thatcher (1990), Harold MacMillan (1961), Ted Heath (1972) and Richard Nixon (late 1960's).

As the largest open green area in the Parish, it has every endemic and native species of vegetation that existed before the colonisation of Bermuda. These are crucial to ward off erosion and wind damage from hurricanes. The grounds of Government House were severely damaged by Hurricane "Fabian" on September 5th, 2004 and there is underway a long-term programme of clear-up, re-landscaping and planting. Five gardeners from the Parks Department of the Bermuda Government maintain the grounds.

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