Robert Hoddle

Robert Hoddle

Robert Hoddle (20 April 1794 – 24 October 1881) was a surveyor of Port Phillip in the 1830s, and the creator of the Hoddle Grid in central Melbourne.

Early life

Hoddle was born in Westminster, London, the son of a clerk of the Bank of England. He became a cadet surveyor in the Royal military surveyors in 1812. In 1822 he left for the Cape Colony, South Africa where he worked on military surveys.

urveying in Australia

Hoddle arrived on the "William Penn" at Sydney Harbour in July 1823. Governor Brisbane appointed him assistant surveyor under surveyor-general John Oxley. He spent the next twelve years in Queensland and surveying the Blue Mountains, where he worked on the Bell's Line of Road. He also surveyed the sites of the New South Wales towns of Berrima and Goulburn.

Hoddle arrived in Port Phillip, the future site for Melbourne, in March 1837 and was appointed senior surveyor with his assistants D'Arcy and Darke; he was to take charge of the surveying work which had been begun by Robert Russell. Whether Hoddle planned Melbourne or used Russell's ideas has been a subject of controversy. Hoddle's first map of Melbourne, completed on 25 March 1837, covered the area from Flinders Street to Lonsdale Street, and from Spencer Street to Spring Street. The principal streets were made one and a half chains wide (30 m), and the smaller, then intended merely to furnish back entrances, a half chain wide (10 m). Later Hoddle provided for wide exits from the city such as Wellington and Victoria parades, and the continuation from Elizabeth Street to Sydney and Mount Alexander roads. He also made provisions for squares and reserves in the city itself and in the immediate suburbs. He was in no way responsible for the narrow streets which later were formed in Fitzroy, Collingwood and Richmond. These were made when comparatively large areas were subdivided by their owners.

By 1838 Melbourne, Williamstown and Geelong were quickly surveyed for deliverance to the market as real estate. He fixed the site of Geelong in spite of opposition from the Sydney authorities who favoured Point Henry. His designs were an innovation for Australian cities, as Melbourne and its inner suburbs were planned in the grid style.

Late life

William Lonsdale appointed Hoddle auctioneer at the first sale of crown land on 1 June 1837, at which he sold half-acre (0.2 ha) allotments averaging just over £35 an acre. His commission was £57 12s. 7d. He bought two allotments for himself costing £54. Hoddle built himself a house on the corner of Bourke and Spencer Streets where, in retirement, he tended his trees, played organ and flute and translated Spanish.

In 1840 he was granted a gratuity of £500 as he was leaving the survey department on account of ill-health. However, after a few months holiday he recovered his health, took up his duties again, and the gratuity was not paid to him. He later did valuable work in the country districts of Victoria, became surveyor-general in 1851, and retired in July 1853 with a pension of £1000 a year. He had bought in 1837 the block of land in Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, on which the Commonwealth Bank of Australia now stands, for a comparatively small sum, and he became a wealthy man. After his retirement he took an interest in the Old Colonists' Association and was elected a life governor in December 1873. He died at his residence at the west end of Bourke Street, the site of the present general post office, on 24 October 1881. He was married twice and left a widow and children. Hoddle Street, East Melbourne, was named after him. He did excellent work in New South Wales, and Victoria owes much to his wisdom and foresight.

Hoddle was an artist as well as a surveyor. Many of Hoddle's paintings are in the National Library of Australia, State Library of Victoria and the State Library of New South Wales. They show scenes of New South Wales and Port Philip. Some of his works were offered for sale in a South Yarra gallery in October 2004 and May 2005.

Between 1830 and 1836, Hoddle made several visits to the area now known as the Australian Capital Territory (A.C.T.), where his chief task was to survey boundaries of properties settled by squatters. He is the earliest-known European artist to have depicted the A.C.T. area. Some of the paintings he made during this time are held at the National Library of Australia. They include:
* [ Ginninginderry, i.e. Ginninderra, Plains, New South Wales; watercolour]
* [ Ginninginderry, i.e. Ginninderra, Plains; watercolour]

Additional works by Hoddle include:
* [ View from Limestone Hill called Campbells Hill, New South Wales, March 1832; watercolour]
* [ The seven day's in the Week's Occupation of the Australians, hunting, 1835; ink wash]
* [ Unidentified coastal landscape, New South Wales, 1; watercolour]
* [ Unidentified coastal landscape, New South Wales, 2; watercolour]
* [ View from Illawarra Range en route to Kiama, 1830; watercolour]


*Dictionary of Australian Biography|First=Robert|Last=Hoddle|Link=
*Marjorie J. Tipping, ' [ Hoddle, Robert (1794 - 1881)] ', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, MUP, 1966, pp 547-548

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