Built Heritage > Colonial

The Red House

Red House Woodford Square | Photograph: Courtesy Maclean Publishing Limited/Noel Norton

Written by Geoffrey MacLean

The original Government buildings, constructed in 1848 were considered to be incomplete, and it was not until 1892, in an effort to provide much needed accommodation, that alterations were carried out. Two new buildings of two floors were erected on either side of the northern building, used for the Court House; one to house the Registrar, the other the Record Office. Ornamentations were also added to the exterior of the building. To commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897, the Government offices were painted red and subsequently became popularly known as “The Red House”. The building was destroyed by fire in the Water Riots of 1903.

With D.M. Hahn as the architect, the Red House was then rebuilt using most of the external walls, but with added galleries and the Chambers at the northern and southern ends. Additional ornamentation in neo classical style was added to upgrade the appearance and the building was re-opened in 1907.

In 1990, an attempted coup held the Prime Minister, The Hon. Arthur Napoleon Raymond Robinson, together with Members of the House of Representatives hostage for three days.

It was not until 26 July 1991 that the traditional Chamber was restored to its original status. Parliament reconvened in that Chamber with a rededication and memorial service, in which a commemorative plaque bearing the names of those killed in and around the Red House, was unveiled.

An eternal flame, symbolizing “the need to be ever-vigilant in the protection of our democracy” was also lit outside.

With re-election of the People’s National Movement in 1992, the Red House became, once again, the centre of controversy, when a decision was made to remove the sea serpent atop the weather vane in order to replace it with a Ken Morris designed dove, bearing an olive branch in its beak. The installation, carried out during the night of 11 January 1992, was timed to correspond with the ceremonial opening of the 1992 Parliamentary session.

The Red House is at present being restored, with elaborate security measures being added to the original structure.



Red House Renovations – Jan 28, 2020

Citizens for Conservation is happy and proud to witness the return of Parliament to the seat of government; the refurbished Red House. Congratulations to all who contributed to bringing the iconic building back to its former glory.

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