GRIMES, Charles (1772-1858)


GRIMES, Charles (1772-1858)
surveyor-general of New South Wales, discoverer of the Yarra
was born, probably in England, in 1772. Towards the end of 1790 he was appointed deputy surveyor of roads in New South Wales, but he did not arrive at Sydney until 21 September 1791. From there he went to Norfolk Island, and soon after his arrival, on 4 November, Governor King (q.v.) appointed him deputy surveyor-general of New South Wales. At Norfolk Island he was employed correcting a previous survey which had been made without proper instruments, and he also undertook some of the administrative work. He returned to Sydney in April 1794 and, the surveyor-general Augustus Alt being in bad health, Grimes took over most of his work. In February 1795 he spent about a week at Port Stephens and reported unfavourably on the locality. Between then and 1803 Grimes was engaged in surveying grants and roads in the county of Cumberland, and in November 1801, with Barrallier (q.v.), he completed a survey of the Hunter River. In August 1802 he was appointed surveyor-general, in November sailed from Sydney for King Island and Port Phillip, of which he made a survey, and on 2 February 1803 the mouth of the Yarra was discovered. Next day Grimes ascended the river in a boat and explored what is now the Maribyrnong River for several miles. Returning to the Yarra it was explored for several miles but the boat was stopped by Dight's Falls. The journal of James Flemming, a member of the party, has been preserved, and in it he several times refers to finding good soil; and though it was evidently a dry season Flemming, who was described by King as "very intelligent", thought from the appearance of the herbage that "there is not often so great a scarcity of water as at present". He suggested that the "most eligible place for a settlement I have seen is on the Freshwater (Yarra) River". Grimes returned to Sydney on 7 March and, in spite of Flemming's opinions, reported adversely against a settlement at Port Phillip.
Grimes obtained leave of absence and went to England in August 1803. It was nearly three years before he was back in Sydney. In March 1807 he was sent to Port Dalrymple, where he made a survey of the district and examined the route to Hobart. He returned at the end of the year, and became involved in the deposition of Bligh (q.v.) on 26 January 1808. He was one of the committee formed to examine the administration of Bligh, was appointed acting judge-advocate, and sat in that capacity at the trial of John Macarthur (q.v.). He realized, however, that he had no legal training, resigned on 5 April, and was sent to England with dispatches in the same month. He was not well received in England, and his salary was held back for a long period on account of his association with the mutineers. He resigned his position on 18 July 1811, in the following year became a paymaster in the army, and saw service in Canada, Great Britain and India. He was appointed paymaster at the recruiting depot, Maidstone, in September 1833 and was transferred to Chatham in 1836. He retired from the army on a pension in July 1848, and died at Milton-next-Gravesend on 19 February 1858. He married and had two sons.
B. T. Dowd, Journal and Proceedings Royal Australian Historical Society, vol. XXII, pp. 247-88; Historical Records of Australia, ser. I, vols. I to VII, ser. III. vol. I; J. J. Shillinglaw, Historical Records of Port Phillip; The Gentleman's Magazine, March 1858, p. 343.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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