Looking Back: How Early Land Surveyors in NSW Did Their Work

Looking Back: How Early Land Surveyors in NSW Did Their Work

Land surveying has been around since the 1700s in Australia. Particularly, the early surveyors in NSW mapped out potential settlement areas & established boundaries. They also helped in the planning of transport routes through the maps they created.

The beginning

Initially, early surveyors in Australia did their work to aid in land settlement, the measuring of land grants & sales and to keep records of moving boundaries.

Surveying equipment used by early surveyors in NSW

Given the limitations of technology before, early surveyors in Sydney & the rest of NSW used basic equipment to do their work. These included Gunter’s chain, circumferentor, theodolite & plane table. Moreover, the instruments built to British specifications proved ineffective against the demands of the geography of NSW. Improvements to the theodolite came during the time of Thomas Livingstone Mitchell. He fashioned the instrument to cater to the needs of the state.

Early surveyors in NSW

The earliest surveyors in NSW paved the way for succeeding surveyors like us. Below are four of them & some of their contributions to the country.

  • Augustus Alt – He was the first Surveyor-General of NSW. In 1788, he accompanied Governor Arthur Phillip in an expedition to the head of Parramatta River to establish settlements. He also played a role in determining settlements in Sydney Cove. Along with Governor Phillip, he drew up plans which required wide streets & huge blocks.
  • William Dawes – Serving as an engineer & surveyor, he laid out the government farm along with the first streets & allotments in Parramatta & Sydney. He joined various expeditions including those to Nepean. His training & skills in distance computation & cartography proved invaluable during the expeditions.
  • Charles Grimes – He was appointed deputy-surveyor of roads in 1790, to work in Norfolk Island. He corrected previous surveys conducted without the proper instruments. In 1796, he worked on surveys in the Concord, Prospect, Hacking River, Portland Place, Toongabbie & Chicken Bay, among others. He also drew up a general plan of all settlements, names & locations in the colony.
  • James Meehan – He served as an assistant of Grimes. In the latter’s absence, he measured farms to grantees. He also explored parts of Derwent River in Van Diemen’s Land & Shoalhaven in New South Wales. Additionally, he fixed the boundaries of land grants & registered the thrust of land settlement. He then created a notable map of Sydney in 1807.
  • Thomas Livingstone Mitchell – Despite the scarcity in surveying instruments, he set out to create the first proper baseline survey of New South Wales. He also made changes to the roads from Sydney to Parramatta to Liverpool. Additionally, he discovered & created a new path from the Blue Mountains towards Bathurst.

Final Thoughts

Land surveying has come a long way since the days of the early surveyors in NSW. But without their work, working as a surveyor in Newcastle, Sydney or anywhere else in NSW wouldn’t be the same. Hence, here at Geosurv, we are all grateful for their contributions to the industry & Australia. Along with our clients, they serve as our inspiration to do our work the best we can.

On that, whether your project requires a civil, commercial, construction or residential building surveyor, Sydney based or otherwise, we cater to you. Specifically, we have branch offices in Newcastle, Wollongong, Canberra, Brisbane & Gold Coast. To get a quote for your surveying needs, simply call 1300 554 675 or request a quote here.

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