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Agency VA 943
Surveyor General's Department, Port Phillip Branch (also known as the Melbourne Survey Office)
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Date Range: 1836 - 1851
 
Description of this AgencyDescription of this Agency
Following the establishment of the Port Phillip District as part of the Colony of New South Wales in 1836, the Governor directed that a Branch of the Surveyor-General's Department be set up there. The first Survey officers, appointed on 10 September 1836 and led by Robert Russell, followed the newly appointed Police Magistrate for the District, William Lonsdale, arriving at Port Phillip in late September in the Stirlingshire, accompanied by a party of convict labourers, horses and tons of equipment.

Unlicensed occupation of land at Port Phillip was one of the major concerns of the new administration. The government surveyors began to map the shores of Port Phillip Bay in 1836 using accurate bearings provided by HMS Rattlesnake anchored in the Bay. Gradually that work spread inland to include towns, rivers, roads and farmlands.

Detailed instructions for the survey of the District, an essential preliminary to the sale of Crown lands, were given to Robert Russell by the Deputy Surveyor-General in Sydney on 10 September 1836 (Historical Records of Victoria, Volume 5, pp.6-8). Later directions issued on 15 September outlined Lonsdale's general superintendence role (p.10). Russell was soon replaced by Robert Hoddle who visited Port Phillip in March 1837 with New South Wales Governor Bourke and whose appointment was confirmed in August 1837. In the meantime Hoddle produced plans for the Town of Melbourne and acted as auctioneer at the first land sale on 1 June 1837. Hoddle's main instructions from the Surveyor-General, dated 31 July and 18 November 1837 (Historical Records of Victoria, Volume 5, pp.98-100 and pp.116-117) provided the basis for major surveys of the District in ensuing years. Late in 1839 the Survey Department prepared a list of all resulting land sales, totalling 86,000 acres and raising 117,000 pounds in revenue. In the years 1851 to 1853 Hoddle became Victoria's first Surveyor-General.

Russell and Hoddle were also appointed as Commissioners of Crown Lands concurrently with their surveying duties (New South Wales Government Gazette 21 September 1836 and 10 May 1837). In this role they were among those responsible for policing the unauthorised occupation of Crown land. For information about the responsibilities of District and Field Surveyors and Commissioners of Crown Lands, see VRG 27 District Land Offices.

The Port Phillip Branch received instructions from the Surveyor-General's Department in New South Wales, but was also responsible to the Police Magistrate of the Port Phillip District (1836-1839) and subsequently the Superintendent (1839-1851), who in turn reported to the Governor of New South Wales, (see also VA 472 and VA 473). However, except for his involvement in Russell's replacement, Lonsdale's role was limited to the provision of support services. Following separation from New South Wales in 1851 a separate Surveyor General's Department (VA 2921) was established in Victoria under Robert Hoddle as Surveyor-General.

Location of Records

For records of the Surveyor-General's Department, Port Phillip Branch see List of Holdings, 2nd edition, 1985, section 3.18.4. and list below. Relevant records are also to be found in the Archives Office of New South Wales.


 
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Record series created by this AgencyRecord series created by this Agency
Displaying 1 to 20 of 24  Go To First Page Of List Go To Previous Page Of List of 2 Go To Next Page Of List Go To Last Page Of List 
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Date Range Series Title Series Number Series Location Public Access
? 1837 - ? 1871 Surveyors Descriptions of Subdivisions and Allotments VPRS 15 North Melbourne Open
? 1837 - Circa 1985 Index to Record Plans (Put Away and Current) [use microfiche copy VPRS 16935] VPRS 16719 North Melbourne Closed
? 1837 - cont Manuscript Parish Plans [RECORDS NOT TRANSFERRED] (refer to Microfiche Copy, VPRS 8287) VPRS 8286 Other Closed
? 1837 - cont Manuscript Township Plans [RECORDS NOT TRANSFERRED] (refer to Microfiche Copy, VPRS 8289) VPRS 8288 Other Closed
? 1839 - ? 1896 Inward Registered and Unregistered Correspondence VPRS 44 North Melbourne Part Open
? 1848 - 1870 Inward Correspondence, Reports and Instructions, District Surveyor, Portland VPRS 1259 North Melbourne Open
1836 - 1848 Outward Registered Correspondence to Surveyor General VPRS 5 North Melbourne Open
1836 - 1856 Outward Letter Books VPRS 6 North Melbourne Open
1836 - 1868 Inwards Correspondence VPRS 97 North Melbourne Open
1836 - 1984 Historic Plan Collection [use microfiche copy VPRS 15899] VPRS 8168 North Melbourne Part Open
1837 - Circa 1927 Surveyors' Field Books, Black Sequence VPRS 16685 North Melbourne Open
1839 - 1865 Inward Correspondence VPRS 94 North Melbourne Open
1840 - 1879 Miscellaneous Records VPRS 93 North Melbourne Open
1840 - 1915 Inwards Correspondence, Surveyor-General VPRS 1258 North Melbourne Open
1841 - 1844 Special Survey Descriptions VPRS 14152 North Melbourne Open
1841 - 1851 Inwards and Outwards Correspondence, Survey Office Copies VPRS 15909 North Melbourne Open
1851 - 1858 Inwards Correspondence, Colonial Secretary [1851 - 1855] and Chief Secretary [1855 - 1858] VPRS 6906 North Melbourne Open
1852 - 1873 Reports Relating to the Trignometrical Survey VPRS 15905 North Melbourne Open
1985 - ? 1985 Outward Registered Correspondence to Surveyor General (Microfilm Copy of VPRS 5) VPRS 6764 Other Open
1985 - 1985 Inward Correspondence, Surveyor General's Department, Port Phillip Branch (Microfilm Copy of VPRS 97) VPRS 6922 Other Open
Functions for which this Agency has or has had primary responsibilityFunctions for which this Agency has or has had primary responsibility
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Date of Responsibility Function Title Function Number
- 1851 Survey VF 17
Functions for which this Agency has or has had secondary responsibilityFunctions for which this Agency has or has had secondary responsibility
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Superior AgenciesSuperior Agencies
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Date of Relationship Agency Title Agency Number
1836 - 1839 Police Magistrate Port Phillip District VA 472
1839 - 1851 Superintendent, Port Phillip District VA 473
Subordinate AgenciesSubordinate Agencies
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Related AgenciesRelated Agencies
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Groups containing this AgencyGroups containing this Agency
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Date of Relationship Group Title Group Number
1836 - 1839 Police Magistrate, Port Phillip District VRG 7
1839 - 1851 Superintendent, Port Phillip District VRG 11
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