In 1842 the Gibbes family moved to Kirribilli Point to reside in 'Wotonga", the house constructed by Colonel Gibbes on the site where Admiralty House now stands.
In May, 1842, Robert Campbell, who owned Kirribilli Point, leased 5 acres in the extreme south-west corner, the site of Admiralty House, to J.G.N. Gibbes, for a period of 21 years, at an annual rental of £30, Campbell covenanting to pay "a sum not to exceed £800, in lieu of the said £500", in consideration of Gibbes "having erected a house on the land ... of very superior value to that which ... it was proposed should be constructed."
An advertisement notifying the sale of the house at a later date described it as having a wide verandah, a spacious entrance hall, drawing and dining rooms, l0 bedrooms and other usual rooms in the main part of the house; a large court-yard, servants' rooms, kitchen, coach-house, stables etc. "with an abundant supply of good water, which has never failed in the driest weather".
After residing on the property for nine years, seven as lessee and two as owner, J.G.N. Gibbes "of Carrabella Point" sold the property to James Lindsay Travers for £1,533.
Travers sold portion of the land, and portion was resumed by the Government for Defence purposes. In l856 Travers sold the remaining 32 acres to a son-in-law of Colonel Gibbes, Lieut-Colonel George Berney, R.E. The property was sold in l860 for £4,500 to G. A. Lloyd, who put it up for auction as 'Wotonga House" in 1874. It was then purchased by Thos. Cadell for £5,050.
In l883 in pursuance of an agreement with the Imperial Government, on the basis of Sydney being the head naval depot of Her Majesty's ships on the Australian Station, the New South Wales Government offered to provide and maintain a residence for the Naval Commander-in-Chief. The choice fell on Wotonga, and accordingly the property was purchased from the Hon. Thos. Cadell, M.L.C., the transfer being effected in February l885 in the name of "Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen." Extensive building arrangements and other improvements were then carried out.
Eleven admirals lived there between l885 and 1913. After that date it was lent to the Federal Government as a Sydney residence for the Governor-General. The first Governor-General to occupy it was Lord Denman. Eventually Government House was established at Canberra, and in 1930 Admiralty House was handed back to the State Government. Its lovely antique furniture was auctioned. It was not until 1945 that Admiralty House became Commonwealth territory. Once again it became the Sydney home of Australia's Governor-Generals.
From the time of their marriage in 1836 until 1845, William Gibbes and his wife, Harriet Jamison, resided at Beulah, at Kirribilla. A catalogue of household furniture to be sold at auction by Mr S Lyons on 10th July, 1845, at the residence of W. Gibbes Esq. on the North Shore, is preserved in the Mitchell Library. On the front of the catalogue was announced "A steamer will be engaged to convey passengers across and back. The furniture is nearly all English, and quite new."
The drawing room carpet measured 26 feet by 20 feet, and this room also contained several rugs. The space, however, appeared to be needed to house the 69 articles listed on the inventory. These included one rosewood couch and two ottomans to match, one chiffonier and bookcase, one mahogany pedestal table, two large what-nots; one mahogany music stand with rosewood stool, one rosewood ladies' work table, one rosewood fire stand, 14 mahogany easy chairs, grand piano in mahogany case, one rosewood cottage cabinet piano, one rosewood guitar and one rosewood cabinet.
The dining room contained one set of dining tables 19 feet long, one solid mahogany claw table, one mahogany rising table, one cedar rising table and one round table. In this room also were one pair of handsome duelling pistols, one case of duelling pistols with hair triggers and apparatus complete, and one blunderbuss with bayonet. Forty-two lots of silverware included one set of ivory-handled knives and forks of 40 pieces, one dessert set of 36 pieces, and another of 24 pieces with mother-of-pearl handles. Among the glassware were two claret jugs, two pairs quart decanters (massive), three pairs pint decanters to match, 26 tumblers, 17 hock glasses, 18 champagne, 18 claret, 66 wine, 24 jelly, 21 water carafes, 15 finger glasses and 12 massive circular salts. In the dining room there was also a mahogany pianoforte.
In the No. 3 room was another set of knives and forks of 24 pieces with mother-of-pearl handles, one case of percussion pistols, one percussion rifle, one paint box, one set of pool balls, one dozen billiard cues. The library contained 24 volumes of Scott's novels, 24 volumes Cooper's works, 9 volumes Bulwer's works, 17 volumes Byron, 9 volumes Moore's works.
Boats included one four-oared boat, mast, sail, and two oars, one wherry with two paddles, one funny with two skulls, and one dingy.
After selling 'Wotonga" in l851, Colonel Gibbes lived at "Greycliffe", Vaucluse, of which Nesta Griffiths remarked in her Some Houses and People of New South Wales "During the late 'forties that pretty house of Gothic design was built by Dr Wentworth for his daughter, Mrs Reeves. Their plans, however, were changed, and in 1850 Greycliffe was leased to Colonel Gibbes." Greycliffe is now in use as a Tresillian Mothercraft Training Centre.
After leaving Greycliffe, Colonel Gibbes lived at Yarralumla, the property of his son Augustus and previously of his son-in-law, Sir Terence Murray. The estate was actually granted to Terence Aubrey Murray and Thomas Walker of Concord (the philanthropist) on 27th July, 1842, and was sold to Augustus Gibbes in 1858.
Yarralumla is mentioned by J. Gale in Canberra History and Legends:
At Yarrolumla a house was built suitable in dignified design and in capacity to what was then and for some time afterwards one of the finest pastoral properties in Australia. It was erected on a very pleasant site overlooking Yarrolumla Creek and the Molongo River into which it flowed, and giving a beautiful and extensive view not only over what is now Canberra, but southwards along the undulating valley where the pastoral land lay. The house was the principal residence of the owner when not detained in Sydney by his legislative duties, until he sold it to his brother-in-law in 1858. And when the Federal Capital Territory was formed in 1912, Yarrolumla House was used as a hostel for visitors to the site of the new city, and was later converted and adapted to use as the principal residence of the Governor-General of Australia, which high duty it still performs.
Colonel Gibbes died at Yarrolumla in December, 1873, aged 86 years. His wife died seven months later. Memorial windows have been erected to their memory in St John's Church, Canberra. The pulpit window, to the memory of Lieut. Col. John George Nathaniel Gibbes, is of floral design with the Gibbes Arms and motto in the centre. The organ window, of similar design, commemorates Colonel Gibbes' wife Elizabeth.
The Gibbes Arms as depicted in the memorial windows, are described in Burke's Armorial Families:
Three battle axes sa. Crest: An arm embowed, steel, in armour, garnished or, the hand in a steel gauntlet grasping a battle axe, as in the Arms. Motto: Tenax propositi
Fanny Gibbes married the Hon. Charles Ludlam, a member of the New Zealand legislature.
Matilda married Colonel Berney (pronounced Barney) already mentioned, who purchased Wotonga from J.L. Travers in 1856. He had arrived in Sydney in December, 1835, as commanding engineer, when a branch of the ordnance was established in New South Wales. After arrival he was also appointed civil engineer, and in these two positions he carried out many important public works. After ceasing to be immediately connected with the military service in l843, Colonel Berney successively held the offices of Lieut.-Governor of the shortlived Colony of North Australia in l846, Chief Commissioner of Crown Lands, and Surveyor-General. He was a member of the Legislative Council from 1843 to 1856.
In 1952 Dr Jill Makinson, daughter of Mary Makinson and great-granddaughter of Colonel Gibbes, married in England John Berney of Morton Hall, Norfolk, grandson of Colonel George Berney and Matilda Gibbes.
The descendants of Colonel Gibbes have distinguished themselves in a way their ancestor could not have foreseen. Frederick, son of Augustus, a Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps, was shot down and died in a German hospital in 1916. Frederick's son Peter, born in 1915, became a Squadron Leader in the R.A.A.F. in the 1939-45 war and was awarded the D.F.C. and A.F.C. Now Operations Manager for Ansett-A.N.A , he was reported by the Sun in August, 1958, as having flown 83 different types of aircraft, starting with tiny Gipsy Moths and finishing with the 500 m.p.h. pure jet De Havilland comet and turbo-prop Bristol Britannia. With 19,000 hours logged as an aircraft commander, he has carried a quarter of a million people for more than four million miles.
Augustus Rodney Gibbes, son of Augustus John Osborne Gibbes, and grandson of the original Augustus, a Wing-Commander with D.F.C. in the R.A.A.F. on loan to the R.A.F., was killed in action in 1954.
Another cousin, well-known Australian fighter "ace" R.H. (Bobby) Gibbes, son of Henry Edmund George Gibbes, is mentioned in Who's Who in Australia, 1955.
GIBBES, Robert Henry Maxwell, D.S.O., D.F.C., and Bar, b. May, 1916, Young, N.S.W., ed. All Saints' College, Bathurst, N.S.W., jackeroo before war; R.A.A.F. Feb. 1940, as Air Cadet, command. P/O 1940, overseas, Adjutant with 450 Squadron 1941, acting Squadron- Leader February 1942, at which time took command of No. 3 Squadron; shot down in flames, parachuted out of aircraft May 26, 1942, broke leg and ankle; D.F.C. July, 1942, during strafing raid at Nun, Tripolitania, landed in enemy territory and picked up P/O shot down by A/A; Chief Flying Instructor, Mildura, March 1944. Temp. Wing Commander May and posted to Darwin, from there to Halmaheras Oct. 1944 as Wing Leader of 80 Wing. Proprietor Gibbes Sepik Airways Ltd., New Guinea, since 1948.
Mowle, P.C. Sydney Morning Herald, 1930. Canberra's First Hundred Years and After.