RUSSELL, Robert (1808-1900)


RUSSELL, Robert (1808-1900)
architect and surveyor
son of Robert Russell, was born in London in 1808. At the age of 16 he was articled to an architect and surveyor at Edinburgh, and in 1832 came to Sydney where he was given a position in the survey office. In September 1836 he was sent to Port Phillip with instructions to survey the bay and its surroundings. There was no suggestion that he was to do any town-planning, but having some difficulty with horses, which delayed his work, he made a plan of the settlement on the site of Melbourne. In after years he stated that he had laid it out in streets based on a plan at the Sydney survey office. Early in March 1837 Governor Bourke (q.v.) and Robert Hoddle (q.v.) visited Melbourne and, under instructions from Bourke, Hoddle surveyed and made a plan for the city of Melbourne. He used the plan prepared by Russell as a basis, but his survey was the official survey, and even if it owed something to Russell's preliminary survey, which is by no means certain, that was only a portion of the work. It is to Hoddle that we owe the provision for squares, park lands and exits from the city, an he is entitled to be called the first surveyor and planner of Melbourne.
In after years Russell practised as an architect in Melbourne until he was forced to retire by old age. St James' Church was designed by him. He kept his mind to the last and died at Richmond, Melbourne, on 10 April 1900, aged 92. He married and was survived by two sons and two daughters. When he died both the Argus and the Age newspapers spoke of him as the original surveyor of the city, but though this claim cannot be granted he did valuable work as an amateur artist by preserving many original sketches of Melbourne in its early years, in both water-colour and pencil. Some of these are at the public library, Melbourne, and in the historical collection, and there are also examples in the William Dixson gallery, Sydney.
The Argus, Melbourne, 26 April 1899 and 11 April 1900; The Age, Melbourne, 12 April 1900; Victorian Historical Magazine, January 1919, December 1928, May 1937, May 1938; Victoria the First Century; W. Moore, The Story of Australian Art.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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