Series VPRS 15811
Index Plans 400'=1" Numeric
About this Series Related Series Accessing the records in this Series
Date Range: Series Circa 1890 - Circa 1950
  Series in Custody Circa 1890 - Circa 1950
  Contents Circa 1890 - Circa 1950
Public Access: Open
Location: North Melbourne
Format of Records: Physical
Agency which created this SeriesAgency which created this Series
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Date Range Agency Title Agency Number
Circa 1890 - Circa 1950 Melbourne Water Corporation [known as Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works to 1992] VA 1007
Agency currently responsible for this SeriesAgency currently responsible for this Series
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Date Range Agency Title Agency Number
1994 - cont Yarra Valley Water Limited VA 4106
Description of this SeriesDescription of this Series
  • How to use the Records
    Researchers should access the Index Map Book via online computer database in the reading room. Index Map Books (VPRS 12758) provide access to early numeric and subsequent alpha-numeric systems of plans.

    This incomplete series of Index Plans, drafted in 400' to 1" scale, provides access to detail and record plans created as part of the numeric system. Large scale 40' to 1" plans known as Detail Plans (VPRS 8601) provide the most information. Detail Plans index the survey field and level books and researchers interested in these records initially need to identify the relevant Detail Plan. Blue lines and numbers refer to relevant Detail Plan numbers.

    Record Plans drafted in 160' to 1" scale are located in VPRS 8604. Circled numbers provide reference to relevant Record Plans.

    Researchers are advised to refer to the series description for VPRS 12758 Index Map Books for detailed explanations and instructions relating to numerous series of plans in the PROV custody.

  • Function / Content
    This series comprises an incomplete collection of index plans, drafted in 400' to 1" scale. The plans provided access to detail (40' to 1") and record (160' to 1") plans created as part of the numeric system.

    In 1892 the recently formed MMBW had private contractors survey Melbourne as part of the task of establishing the metropolitan sewerage system. The survey fixed the location of structures within allotments and the associated levels.

    As a result of the survey a number of different types of records were created that documented the urban structure at the time and for the next 80 years. As the record system was understood in 2000, the system's major elements were:

    * Survey field books - books used by surveyors to record their field observations.

    * Survey level books - books that record levels above and below a datum point.

    * One inch to forty feet plans and their metric successors used for the location of structures and the sewerage system (including Detail Plans [DP], Sewerage Plans and Property Service plans). Lithographic copies of the forty feet to one inch plans were produced for distribution and working purposes and, later, half-plate photographic negatives of the DP and sewerage plans were made. Microfilm copies of house connections files containing Property Service plans were made in the 1970s and the 1980s.

    * Plans of other scales.

    * Index maps - maps that facilitate access to other maps and plans for different areas and of larger scale.

  • Recordkeeping System
    The Index Plans were arranged in numerical order. It appears that only a limited number of Index Plans comprising the P1 consignment of this series is in existence and effectively no further details about the arrangement can be provided at the time of the transfer (2006).

    General Process

    The survey upon which the MMBW's plans were initially based was contracted to private surveyors as the MMBW's surveyors workload did not permit them to do the survey.

    After surveying an area contractors submitted their field and level books to the MMBW for the draughting of plans and checking. The surveyors field and level books (VPRS 8600 and VPRS 8599 respectively) provide the primary information for the plans.

    When the initial 1890s Block Survey was complete MMBW continued to survey new structures and changes in existing structures when these works affected the MMBW system. These changes to the urban environment were draughted onto the initial plans that MMBW had created. The plans of the Block Surveys, now known as Detail Plans [DP], were drawn to a scale of one inch to forty feet. (Later, with the advent of metric measurement, these became 1:500 scale drawings.)

    Survey Field Books

    As their name suggests surveyors used these books in the field to record the observations and measurements that they made in the course of a survey.

    There appears to have been two major series of Field Books created in the MMBW. One series of these is largely in PROV custody as VPRS 8600. This series relates to the block and house surveys that the MMBW performed from 1892; books from the other series have not been located (September 2000) but their existence has been deduced from references on sewerage plans to field book numbers with an O prefix. The latter are not part of VPRS 8600 and research needs to be done to identify them and the purpose of the survey they document.

    Field books (VPRS 8600) used for the purposes of the MMBW's Block Survey located properties and their connections to the sewerage and drainage system. The books contain the surveyors' drawings of streets and properties, measurements and angles. The drawings include information about the structure (brick or timber) and can include features such as the name of the owner of a property, name of a property, features of yards and gardens and the measurement information necessary for the survey. As well as tenements they show fence, drainage, cutting, embankment street channel, drainage pit, underground drain and bridge information for transfer to the Detail Plan.

    When the contractor had completed his survey the survey was checked by another survey performed, presumably, by a Board surveyor. It is not known (September 2000) whether the check survey repeated the whole of the contractors' survey, portion of the contractor's survey chosen according to some pre-determined criteria or at random or because some aspect of the initial survey required verification. In doing the check survey the surveyor may have recorded different features of a property than those recorded by the original survey.

    Early field books often contain indexes (either visual or text based) that identify the pages of the book where the surveyor drew particular sections of a streetscape. Otherwise, unless the DP provides a page reference (as it often does), each page of the book has to be examined to locate the survey of a particular property or part of a street.

    The continuous, iterative and linear nature of the survey - draughting process meant that field books for contiguous areas of Melbourne were not sequential. Moreover, after the initial survey, field books used in the Block Survey were re-issued for surveys of individual houses as they were connected to the system or alterations made that affected the house connection. Consequently, properties that are widely separated geographically might be located on sequential pages of a field book.

    Survey Level Books

    These recorded the levels at various points in a survey. Their content consists of tables showing heights above a datum point. The datum for levelling (the MMBW datum) was determined in 1884 to relate to the mean low water spring tides at the Williamstown Time Ball Tower. This datum was used for Imperial levelling until 1971 when metric Australian Height Datum values were adopted.

    These books require further research.

    Detail Plans (DP)

    Until 1978 Detail Plans were drawn from the survey field books to a one inch to forty feet (1:480) scale. In 1978 the Imperial scale was change to a metric equivalent scale of 1:500. Until the late 1960s, when the Board introduced a transparent base material, the Imperial scale plans were drawn on heavy Whatman paper (mounted with a linen backing) on an overall map sheet size of 50 inches x 30 inches.

    Until 1953 the ground dimensions and area covered by each plan varied according to street pattern. Hence, the pattern of streets in a neighbourhood decided the size of the detailed area of a plan. In 1953 the Board adopted a plane rectangular grid system based on the zone 0 traverse mercator system to replace the previous street pattern system. The ground dimensions of each map were standardised at 1600 feet x 800 feet and the area covered by the maps at 29.385 acres. Spot heights are shown to two decimal places of one foot throughout the period from 1892.

    The earlier of the DP arrangements was a running number sequence of plans starting at one and going to plan 5032. This sequence may not have been the first arrangement indexed as some evidence suggests that some of the DP's may have had different single numbers to those that they now bear; however, this assumption is by no means certain. If there was a different arrangement of the DP's in 1892 the evidence points to it as not lasting for long as references in the field books establish the early identity of the single number DP's. This single number sequence lasted until 1953 when the MMBW grided Melbourne on an alpha-numeric arrangement.

    The alpha-numeric grid was not changed with the transition from imperial to metric measurements nor, as far as is known in September 2000, were the plan numbers for the imperial plans that had been draughted by then and covered a large portion of Melbourne. Alpha-numeric DP's were draughted for outer suburban areas as they were sewered but the evidence suggests that, although policy was to convert the older areas to the new alpha-numeric system, little progress was made in drawing plans in the new system for the older suburbs.

    The drawings show information about the structure (brick or timber) of tenements derived from the field and level book and many other details. They can include features such as the name of the owner of a building, name of a building, features of yards and gardens and the measurement information necessary for the survey. As well as buildings they show fence, drainage, cutting, embankment street channel, drainage pit, underground drain and bridge information and spot heights. However, with the growth of Melbourne after 1945 the demand for mapping caused less and less detail to be provided until, eventually, in some plans, details of buildings are not shown.

    DP's were the basis for the lithographic prints (known as Litho's) copies of which were later held by the State Library of Victoria and the University of Melbourne architectural school. While further research is needed it is believed that the sewerage plan was a linen mounted lithographed copy of the DP. It is believed other lithographed copies were distributed to municipalities within the Board's area as well as being for sale.

    The DP is distinguished from its lithographic print by the information that it gives on structures and the source of its detail. On the DP the numbers of the field book and level book containing the original survey of a block are recorded in a rectangle located on the top right hand side of the plan. The field book used for the check survey is also shown on this shield. Subsequent alterations that led to alterations to a property connection and, consequently, to the DP plan were recorded in a legend on the side of the plan. This information is not available on lithograph copies distributed outside the Board.

    Both sewerage plans and property service plans are to the same 1:480 scale as the DP. Sewerage plans showed the sewerage reticulation within the detail plan area of several suburban blocks while the property service plans showed the MMBW connections to a particular property. Property service files were microfilmed from about 1972 to about 1987 when the technology was replaced.

    At some point in their history the 1:480 and 1:500 area plans (with sets of plans of other scales) were photographed (other than the photographs taken for the photolithographic process) and a 6 inch x 4 inch negative produced. By 1999 Melbourne Water Corporation had the negatives arranged in the same sequences as the plans from which they were derived i.e. by scale and by registration system. For the 1:480 and 1:500 negatives a particular plan reference will usually contain three negatives (and occasionally more). One negative will be that of a DP plan and another that of a sewerage plan. Showing less building in an area, the former of these is often a negative of an earlier plan than that showing the sewerage connection. Both negatives should be examined. A third negative of a purple tint will usually be of the sewerage plan. Field book and level book references can be obtained from the negative of the DP. Further research is required into the history of these and the negatives of the other plans.

    MMBW transferred plans of 1:480 and 1:500 scale to PROV as VPRS 8601/P1, VPRS 8602/P1, VPRS 8608/P2 (which appear be similar to VPRS 8602, further research is required), VPRS 8608/P3, VPRS 8608/P5, VPRS 8608/P7, and VPRS 8609/P25. This arrangement reflected the dispersal of the plans in the archives plan room and the record managers knowledge of their history and arrangement at the time of transfer. The nature of the plans in the various series-consignments requires further research, although VPRS 8608/P2 has been tentatively identified as a set of early general design drawings and the plans in VPRS 8608/P5 appears to be those from which lithographs were made. Of the series-consignments, VPRS 8601/P1, VPRS 8602/P1 and VPRS 8608/P3 are consignments of plans that Board officers would immediately recognise as DP plans.

    Plans of other scales

    Plans of other scales to the DP's were also drawn. The scales included 160 feet to one inch, 200 feet to one inch, 400 feet to one inch (and their metric equivalents). At the time of writing (September 2000) the original 160 feet to one inch plans are located in VPRS 8604/P1 and VPRS 8605/P1. Photographic negatives of the plans of these other scales should be used. The purpose of these other scales has to be researched.

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Controlled SeriesControlled Series
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Date Range Series Title Series Number
Circa 1890 - Circa 1950 Detailed Base Plans [DP] 40'=1" Numeric VPRS 8601
Circa 1890 - Circa 1950 Record Plans 160'=1" Numeric VPRS 8604
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Consignment Number Contents Date Range Public Access No. of Units
P0001 Circa 1890 - Circa 1950 Open 7
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