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3 & 4 April

The House and the William Robinson Gallery will be closed to visitors on Tuesday 3 and Wednesday 4 April in preparation for an Official Event.

We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

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Entertaining was an important official duty of the governor, and how he 'dispensed hospitalities' often determined his popularity. As the most elegant venue in town, Old Government House was the social hub of Brisbane's emerging society.

Distinguished guests enjoyed lavish formal dinners, while garden parties on the Kidney Lawn were held as receptions for visiting dignitaries. Young ladies made their social debut at Cotillion balls where only the very latest and finest fashions were worn and each debutante's dress was described in detail in the newspaper the following day.

'The chief social event of the year' was the Birthday Ball held in May to celebrate Queen Victoria's birthday. The first ball in the House was held in 1862 and attended by four hundred guests. Initially, the House was an excellent venue for vice-regal functions. The three main rooms on the ground floor were used for dancing, while people went to the private drawing room for 'cards and conversation'. Light refreshments were served in the vestibule and the covered courtyard became the supper room.

'Everyone who was anyone' attended these magnificent parties, but as Queensland's population grew so did the guest lists, and it became increasingly difficult to host these large-scale events in the House. The lack of a ballroom was a major drawback, especially in 1899 when the Lamingtons hosted "the largest Vice-Regal Ball witnessed in Brisbane" – marquees and annexes had to be erected to accommodate the 1200 guests.