Series VPRS 16685
Surveyors' Field Books, Black Sequence
About this Series Related Series Accessing the records in this Series
Date Range: Series 1837 - Circa 1927
  Series in Custody 1837 - 1927
  Contents 1837 - 1927
Public Access: Open
Location: North Melbourne
Format of Records: Physical
Agency which created this SeriesAgency which created this Series
Display entries per page
Date Range Agency Title Agency Number
1837 - 1851 Surveyor General's Department, Port Phillip Branch (also known as the Melbourne Survey Office) VA 943
1851 - 1857 Surveyor-General's Department VA 2921
1857 - 1927 Department of Crown Lands and Survey VA 538
Agency currently responsible for this SeriesAgency currently responsible for this Series
Display entries per page
Date Range Agency Title Agency Number
2002 - cont Department of Sustainability and Environment VA 4554
Description of this SeriesDescription of this Series
  • How to use the Records
    Note about the date range: Most field books in this series date from the period 1837 - c.1880. There is only a small number from 1920 (East Gippsland) and 1927 in PROV custody.

    The field books of this series may be accessed by referring to VPRS 16933, Index to Field Books. The Index is arranged by surveyor name and provides the field book and bundle numbers plus a brief description of the survey location. See the description of that series for further information.

    Alternatively, the black sequence field books can be accessed by browsing this series' item descriptions which describes the contents of each field book by surveyor name and survey location. Please note that although the item descriptions for this series are reasonably comprehensive, it may be worth browsing the index series VPRS 16933 if you are searching for a survey in a particular location that isn't included in the Series Item Descriptions.

    Surveyors' names can be found on the relevant record plans, VPRS 16306.
    Difficulties that may be encountered include:

    (i) Illegibility of the surveyor's signature

    (ii) The signature on the plan may be that of a contracted surveyor which does not correspond with the entry (possibly a District Surveyor) in the 'O1 Book', VPRS 16933

    (iii) Many of the locality descriptions are vague (where they exist at all) resulting in a number of books (and bundles) needing to be perused to locate a specific survey.

    (iv) Incorrect indexing of a surveyor's surveys including books which have been transferred to different bundles.

  • Function / Content
    This series comprises the field books known by the Department of the Crown Lands and Survey as the Black Sequence from at least the mid 19th century - (probably from 1871 when the Red Sequence commenced) see Recordkeeping system for further information.

    This series includes the field books of the earliest surveyors in the Port Phillip district including Robert Hoddle, Robert Russell, William Wedge Darke, Henry Williamson Hutchinson Smythe, Thomas Henry Nutt, and Charles James Tyers.

    Surveyors in the field used small standard books to record both survey data and notes as surveys were carried out. They often contain notes about topography and environment, bearings and distances, astronomical and sun observations for charting coordinates, boundary marks and other non cadastral detail which is not necessarily incorporated in to the Record Plans [of Crown Land] see VPRS 16306.

    The field books reflect the process of surveying in Victoria and the government's change in emphasis: from the Colony of New South Wales' efforts to control unlicensed occupation of land by the squatters on pastoral runs; the early cadastral surveys mapping Victoria; to the Department's response to public demand for Crown land released under sections of the various Land Acts.

    Parish and Township Record Plans have been produced since 1837 to define the status of land and to support the orderly alienation and management of Crown Land. The Field Books were used by surveyors to take notes on site to gather enough information as a first step toward drawing up of the Record Plans. Cadastral information from the Field Books is summarised in the Field Notes (still in the custody of Department of Sustainability and Environment as at November 2011), which were then used to produce the parish and township Record Plans, VPRS 16306.

    Early instructions to Robert Hoddle from the Surveyor-General of the Colony of New South Wales, Sir Thomas Mitchell advised that the field book of each surveyor and assistant surveyor was to be considered a journal, in which he was required to specify, besides the survey data, any other work carried out and a general description of the environment. Hence details of general conditions in the field, hours worked and supplies carried are also recorded in the field books as well as the survey data. Instructions also made clear that the Field Books were public property and each surveyor and assistant surveyor was accountable for delivering the Field Books back to the Department so that the cadastral information could be transferred in to plans by draughtsmen.

    Detailed instructions for current and historical survey practices are available in the Survey Practice Handbook Victoria, The Surveyors Board, Victoria 1994, ISBN 07306 50154. As at 2011 the Survey Practice Handbook was available on the Land Victoria website and from the Surveyors Registration Board.

    The field surveyors marked out land in to allotments ready for sale; laid out roads and lines of telegraph; marked out sites to be reserved for public purposes such as schools, churches and cemeteries; laid out carriage and footways in municipal districts; oocasionally determined the boundaries of electoral districts and took levels fo sections and contour lines for other departments.

    Field Books may include the following information
    ;Purpose of the survey
    Location names - portion or allotment and section number; parish and county; municipality or shire; township
    A diagram to illustrate the survey to assist the preparation of a plan
    Details about the physical character, geological formation, soil types, variety and density of timber, grazing and agricultural potential
    Water supply - rivers, creeks, lakes, shorelines, watercourses
    Details of ownership - license, lease, or freeholders
    Position of improvements - buildings, houses, fences, roads, streets, lanes
    Datum line of the survey and the azimuth adopted, bearings in degrees, minutes and seconds of arc, angles
    Weather conditions
    Lengths as measured, corrections for slope and temperature
    Position of permanent marks
    Sketches of surrounds
    Astronomical observations

    Field Notes (held by Department of Sustainability and Environment)

    Cadastral information recorded in the Field Books was reproduced by the Department as "field notes" to create the Record Plans. Field notes were also produced when surveyors undertook re-establishment surveys as part of the process of issuing Crown grants. They specify sale details and are referenced on the Record Plans with annual single number references from c.1860 until 1942, and then in a single number sequence from 1942. The practice of producing field notes is still used today where surveyors record their field measurements in a field book or on field cards and the information is subsequently compiled as an "Abstract of Field Records" that becomes the registered survey document. These records are held at Land Victoria, Department of Sustainability and Environment as at November 2011.

    Researchers note: Surveyors field books of the Port Phillip District are also held at the State Library of New South Wales, Mitchell Library.

  • Recordkeeping System
    Three sequences of field books were managed by the Department - black, red and miscellaneous. Little is known about the process involved in issuing and controlling the field books, particularly in the early period of survey nor the significance of the colour designation for each sequence - it does not reflect the colour of the books themselves. It is possible that this series of pre- existing field books became known as the Black field books when the Red sequence commenced in 1871.

    Within each field book series, books are grouped in 'bundles' and are individually numbered. The book numbers are sequential across the entire series, not within each bundle. During c.1850's / the Department of Crown Lands and Survey arranged the field books into bundles within this series. It is believed that this was done to uniquely identify each field book and to assist with storage and retrieval. The Index to the Black Sequence VPRS 16933 contains evidence that the field books of the Black Sequence were renumbered by the Department in the 1860's / 1870's. Therefore the books are no longer arranged in their original distribution / creation order and there may be evidence of more than one number on each individual field book. For example, Bundle 1 book 1 dates from 1855 whilst the field books of the earliest surveyors in the Port Phillip District, Hoddle, Darke, Smythe and Tyers are located throughout the sequence.

    The black sequence of field books ranges from Bundle 1 / Book 1 to Bundle 205 / Book 2570C and the books date from 1837 - 1880, then 1920, 1927. It is the largest sequence of the Department's field books. Note that there is a consistent run of field books from 1837 through to 1880 but then a large gaps until 1920 and then 1927. There is only a small number of books from 1920 (which relate to survey in East Gippsland) and then 1927, see bundle 192.

    Although it is understood that private surveyors had an obligation to return their field books to the Department it is believed that this did not always occur. Therefore a reference to a field book in its corresponding Index series does not necessarily mean that the field book is still extant.

More research resourcesMore research resources
Indexes and RegistersIndexes and Registers
Display entries per page
Date Range Series Title Series Number
Circa 1850 - Circa 1879 Index to Surveyors' Field Books : Black and Red Sequences : O1 Book VPRS 16933
Controlled SeriesControlled Series
Display entries per page
Date Range Series Title Series Number
Previous SeriesPrevious Series
Display entries per page
Transfer Date Series Title Series Number
Subsequent SeriesSubsequent Series
Display entries per page
Transfer Date Series Title Series Number
List/s of records in this seriesList/s of records in this series
Display entries per page
Consignment Number Contents Date Range Public Access No. of Units
P0001 1837 - 1927 Open 35
Indexes and RegistersIndexes and Registers
Display entries per page
Date Range Series Title Series Number
Circa 1850 - Circa 1879 Index to Surveyors' Field Books : Black and Red Sequences : O1 Book VPRS 16933
More research resourcesMore research resources