Charles Scrivener

Mapping the Capital: the Scrivener Survey of Canberra

In December 1908 the Australian Parliament chose Yass-Canberra as the location of the Australian national capital. However, no specific city site was identified.

Surveyor Charles Robert Scrivener was given the tasks of identifying the location for the new city and mapping a new federal territory.

The site Scrivener recommended in March 1909 for the national capital embraced 'distinctive features which [lent] themselves to the evolution of a design worthy of the object' was the Canberra Valley.

The survey work was done through the heat of summer and blizzards in the Australian Alps in winter; over mountains and flooded rivers and through forests and dusty paddocks.

As they looked through their thodolites, the surveyors were not just measuring and documenting the natural features. They were imagining a future capital which would take shape within this landscape.

Mapping the Capital tells the story of this extraordinary survey; a survey that not only mapped the national capital but gave form to the idea of a city which would represent Australian ideals and achievement.

Mapping the Capital in on display at the National Capital Exhibition.

From left to right: Felix Broinowski (chief cartographer), unknown, unknown, Charles Scrivener (chief surveyor), Arthur Percival (deputy surveyor), Percy Sheaffe (deputy surveyor)- National Library of Australia

From left to right: Felix Broinowski (chief cartographer), unknown, unknown, Charles Scrivener (chief surveyor), Arthur Percival (deputy surveyor), Percy Sheaffe (deputy surveyor)- National Library of Australia