Charles Grimes - 1802 Port Phillip Bay Survey
In 1802 the third governor of New South Wales, Governor King, sent the Surveyor General of New South Wales, Charles Grimes to explore King Island, Western Port, and Port Phillip, then the southern parts of the colony of New South Wales.
Port Phillip was first entered by Europeans in February 1802, by John Murray aboard a ship called the Lady Nelson. He was followed, 10 weeks later, by Matthew Flinders, who did some recording and surveying of the bay. Charles Grimes was sent by Governor King later that year to have a better look at the area.
The significant thing about Charles Grimes' journey was that he completed a survey of Port Phillip and identified sites for a settlement, mentioning the current site of Melbourne. Many historians are interested in this achievement because it is felt by many that Grimes and his party did not receive proper acknowledgment for the significance of their findings.
One of the party, James Flemming, at the request of Governor King, kept a journal of the journey. This journal gives us some of the first European sightings of land and landmarks that are now very familiar. The party entered Port Phillip on January 20th, 1803 and sailed out of the heads on February 27th on their way back to Sydney.
The Flemmings Journal, the diary kept during this exploration of Port Phillip is not a well known document, except by a few dedicated Grimes advocates and supporters in the history world. And to date the journal has not been that accessible.
This version of Flemming's Journal was produced by the Footscray Historical Society in the 1980's. It has since been digitised by Melbourne's Living Museum and with the permission of the Footscray Historical Society and is available for download on this web site.
This document should be read by every student of history or for that matter every Victorian who has some curiosity about what things looked like before the Europeans changed everything.
This journal arguably contains the first few sentences in the story of the European settlement of Melbourne. It certainly contains the first European observations of Port Phillip and the Maribyrnong and Yarra Rivers. Download
Most Eligible Place for a Settlement
Saturday 26th Feburary 1802
The most eligible place for a settlement that I have seen is on the Freshwater River (Yarra).
In several places there are small tracts of good land, but they are without wood and water. I have every reason to think that there is not often so great a scarcity of water as at present from the appearance of the herbage. The country in general is excellent pasture and thin of timber, which is mostly low and crooked. In most places there is fine clay for bricks, and abundance of stone.
I am of opinion that the timber is better both in quality and size further up the country, as I saw some what is called ash on the banks of the Freshwater River, and the hills appear to be clothed with wood. As to the quantity of good land at the different places, I shall be better able to describe when I am favored with a sight of a chart, as I have not been permitted to see one since I came out.
There is great plenty of fish in Port King. The country in general is newly burnt.
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