HODDLE, Robert (1794-1881)

HODDLE, Robert (1794-1881)
son of a chief clerk of the discount office of the Bank of England, was born at Westminster, London, on 20 April 1794. He was appointed a cadet in the Royal military surveyors in 1812, and 10 years later was engaged in a military survey at Cape Colony. He then went to Australia, in September 1823 was appointed an assistant surveyor at Svdney, and in 1824 was assisting Oxley in the survey of Moreton Bay. During the following 12 years he was engaged on surveys in many parts of New South Wales, including the first detailed survey of the site of Canberra. At the end of February 1837 he went to Port Phillip to take charge of the surveying work which had been begun by Robert Russell (q.v.). Hoddle's first map of Melbourne, completed on 25 March 1837, covered the area from Flinders-street to Lonsdale-street, and from Spencer-street to Spring-street. The principal streets were made one and a half chains wide, and the smaller, then intended merely to furnish back entrances, a half chain wide. Later Hoddle provided for wide exits from the city such as Wellington and Victoria parades, and the continuation from Elizabeth-street to Sydney and Mount Alexander roads. He also made provisions for squares and reserves in the city itself and in the immediate suburbs. He was in no way responsible for the narrow streets which later were formed in Fitzroy, Collingwood and Richmond. These were made when comparatively large areas were subdivided by their owners. Hoddle acted as auctioneer at the first land sale at Melbourne in June 1837, and in 1838 fixed the site of Geelong in spite of opposition from the Sydney authorities who favoured Point Henry. In 1840 he was granted a gratuity of £500 as he was leaving the survey department on account of ill-health. However, after a few months holiday he recovered his health, took up his duties again, and the gratuity was not paid to him. He later did valuable work in the country districts of Victoria, became surveyor-general in 1851, and retired in July 1853 with a pension of £1000 a year. He had bought in 1837 the block of land in Elizabeth-street, Melbourne, on which the State Savings Bank now stands, for a comparatively small sum, and he became a wealthy man. After his retirement he took an interest in the Old Colonists' Association and was elected a life governor in December 1873. He died at his residence at the west end of Bourke-street, the site of the present general post office, on 24 October 1881. He was married twice and left a widow and children. Hoddle-street, East Melbourne, was named after him. He did excellent work in New South Wales, and Victoria owes much to his wisdom and foresight.
The honour of having laid out the town of Melbourne has also been claimed by Robert Russell. In an interview reported in the Melbourne Argus for 26 April 1899 Russell, then a very old man, stated his case in a reasonable way. He undoubtedly made a plan of the settlement as it was before Hoddle arrived, for Hoddle in a report dated 10 April 1837 said: "From Mr Russell I could only obtain a plan of the settlement executed by himself and Mr Darke, on which I drew a plan of the Town of Melbourne." Hoddle had left the ship which brought him from Sydney on 4 March and immediately accompanied Governor Bourke on a tour round the settlement. The governor's diary for that date states that he "rode over the ground adjacent to the huts with Surveyor Hoddle and traced the general outline of a township". Hoddle's field-book for the same date gives the bearing of Spencer-street as N.332 which was evidently fixed by the governor in consultation with Hoddle. It was no part of Russell's instructions that he should lay out a township (see Victorian Historical Magazine, January 1919, pp. 37-40), and he certainly, while at Port Phillip, gave no evidence of desiring to go beyond his instructions.
The Age and The Argus, Melbourne, 25 October 1881; Historical Records of Australia, ser. I, vols XII, XIV, XV, XXI; T. O'Callaghan, The Victorian Historical Magazine, January 1919; Isaac Selby, ibid., December 1928; H. S. McComb, ibid., May 1937, and May 1938; F. Watson, A Brief History of Canberra; Henry Selkirk, Journal and Proceedings Royal Australian Historical Society, vol. XI, pp. 52-6; James Jervis, ibid., vol. XXIII, pp. 42-56.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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