1837 Melbourne from The Falls


An early sketch of Melbourne in 1837, looking across "the Falls".

The artwork is by Robert Russell (1808-1900), Melbourne's first surveyor. Russell's tent was located very near to where he sketched this vista from. Russell was sent to Melbourne in 1836 by Governor Bourke to survey the general area of the Settlement.

Batman originally chose the location of his village because of "the Falls"; a low basalt ridge that created a barrier between the fresh water coming downstream and the salt-water coming up from the Bay. This meant that the residents of the village could draw fresh drinking water most of the year.

The Falls can be seen in this image as dark stones. The indigenous people had used these stones as a means of crossing the river for perhaps thousands of years. And so did the new settlers, relying on a number of punts until a small wooden bridge was built further upstream in 1840.

Batman and his nemesis, Fawkner, had settled into the area mid-to-late 1835, and both had established rough dwellings for their families. By 1837 the Settlement was seeing more and more residents arriving, along with their sheep, cattle and dogs. This was all disturbed in March of that year when Governor Bourke arrived from Sydney in order to prepare the land into blocks suitable for sale. Robert Hoddle was the surveyor who came with Bourke, and using Russell's survey, he laid out the streets of Melbourne initially in accordance with Governor Darling's Town Planning Order 28 (which defined a rectangular village with pre-ordained street widths and property sizes).

Russell made many sketches of early Melbourne and, later in his life, he returned to his sketchbook and created a number of iconic watercolours based on those early sketches. This watercolour was actually created in 1882. Russell passed away in 1900.

Artwork attributed to Robert Russell.

All text © HotPress

Notes from the State Library tell us that this image "Shows the rocky falls on the Yarra River, near the point where Queen Street meets the river; tents on the bank, four buildings. The falls were removed to make way for Queen's Bridge, in the 1880s."

This is a digitally retouched reproduction of the original held by the State Library of Victoria. All prints are reproduced without the HOTPRESS watermarks.

Our team of conservators have worked on a high resolution digital image in order to remove blemishes and artifacts such as stains, mould, scratches and damage caused by the handling of the original. We strive to provide authentic representations of the original work that are suitable for enlargements that retain the tones and character of the original.

Collections: Melbourne 1820-1840, Yarra

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