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Archives In Brief 89 - 1865 'Trig' Survey of Sydney

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Provides a brief overview of the Trigonometrical (Trig) Survey of the City of Sydney 1865, NRS 9929 and the recent project to make it available on CD-ROM. For further information about the Survey consult Archives Investigator. You can also find information about the Survey and the CD-ROM project in Vital Signs No. 4 March 2003.

Historical background to the survey

The need to plan services for growing Sydney, 1840s

By the late 1840s Sydney was experiencing large-scale and unplanned growth. The need to address the issues of water supply, sewerage and street alignments became a priority. These functions were the responsibility of the Council of the City of Sydney.

By 1853, with four years of summer water rationing, public criticism of the Council's inability to provide an adequate water supply resulted in inquiries by both the City Council and the Legislative Council. In October 1853, as result of the Legislative Council's second select committee's recommendations, the City Council was abolished and replaced with three appointed Commissioners. The Commissioners, under new legislation, were allowed to borrow more money than the Council to improve water and sewerage services.

The need to construct better water and sewerage systems, 1850s

Beginning of the Survey, 1854

The Trig Survey was undertaken by the City Surveyors Department in preparation for the construction of better sewerage and water reticulation systems. The Survey began in October 1854 with the taking of measurements followed by the laying out and plotting of the construction lines of the streets.

Plotting and interior detailing of the survey, 1855

By May 1855, all of the construction lines of the streets within the city bounded by Macquarie Street on the East, by Campbell Street on the South, and by the water line on the West and North had been marked, measured and plotted.

The filling in of the Survey's interior was contracted out to private surveyors. The early sections were detailed by Messrs Hutton and Burrowes.

Use of the Survey

The Survey was used as a working copy until at least the 1890s. The Survey shows changes to the sewerage and water reticulation systems, changes to street names, alignments and property boundaries, and newly constructed buildings.

Custody of the Survey

The Survey was transferred, with the function of managing the water supply and sewerage systems, from the City Council to the Metropolitan Water and Sewerage and Drainage Board in 1888. The Board transferred the Survey to the then NSW State Archives in 1974.

Information shown on the Survey

Boundaries of the Survey

The Survey consists of one plan in 56 sheets. It covers the area from Pyrmont and Chippendale in the west to Darlinghurst in the east, and from the harbour in the north to the southern boundary of Redfern. The area is approximately the same as the boundary created when the City was incorporated in 1842 with the addition of Redfern.

Details of the urban layout of Sydney

The Survey shows the urban layout of Sydney in the mid 19th century. It shows property boundaries and buildings. The buildings are colour coded to indicate the type of building material used in construction.

Details of sewerage and water reticulation systems

The Survey contains details about the sewerage and water reticulation systems, such as the location of pipes, pipe diameter, type of material used, depth from surface, and date the pipes were laid or connected to existing systems. The Survey also uses symbols to show the location of fireplugs, fountains, and locks connected to the water reticulation system.

The digitisation project

The Trig Survey is now available to view on the City Of Sydney website .

A joint initiative

The project to create a digital copy of the Trig Survey was an initiative of State Records and the Council of the City of Sydney Archives. Financial support for the project was provided by the Department of Information Technology and Management, Sydney Water, the Historic Houses Trust of NSW, Godden Mackay Logan (heritage consultants) and Tropmans Architects.

Details of the project

The project took two years to complete. The 56 parts of the Survey required detailed preparation and preservation work. Details of the conservation work undertaken may be found on the CD-ROM version of the Survey, and in an article in Vital Signs March 2003. The original plan will be preserved by remaining unused and kept in air-conditioned storage.

What is on the CD-ROM?

Three maps to locate relevant parts of the survey

As well as the 56 sheets of the Trig Survey, three other maps have been copied and can be used to locate the relevant sheet of the Survey. The three maps are marked to indicate the coverage of the 56 individual sheets.

The three maps are:

  • Smith and Gardiners 1855 map of Sydney and suburbs. This shows Sydney at the time the Survey commenced
  • Map of the City of Sydney 1903. This map (which does not include Redfern) shows the City at the end of the 19th century before the impact of 'slum clearance' and resumptions
  • Map of the City of Sydney 1968. This map shows a more recognisable Sydney.

Accessing the CD-ROM

Where to use the CD-ROM

The digital version of the Trig Survey is available on CD-ROM in State Records' reading room and State Records' regional repositories, at State Records' community access points, at the City of Sydney Council Archives, and metropolitan public libraries. See Archives in Brief 14 and Archives in Brief 40 for information about the locations of the regional repositories and the community access points.

It is planned to make the survey available online in the future.

Information about using the CD-ROM

Instructions are on the CD-ROM as well as on print-outs available in the reading room.

CD-ROM is not for sale

The CD-ROM is not available for purchase.

CD-ROM images can not be printed

Print outs of digital images are not available. Copies of the survey can be made from colour aperture cards, available in the Western Sydney Reading Room.

Other copies of the Trig Survey

Colour aperture cards of the Trig Survey are available for viewing in the reading room. A printed copy of the Map of the City of Sydney, 1968 is also available in the reading room.

© State of New South Wales through the State Records Authority, 2003.
This work may be freely reproduced and distributed for most purposes, however some restrictions apply. See our copyright notice or contact us.