Tuesday, October 3, 2023

See what your regional town looked like 100 years ago!

Recent stories

State Library of New South Wales, Media Release, 20 July 2023

Over 4,600 historic plans of 460 regional towns in NSW — from Bourke to Bega — have just been digitised and made available for the first time on the State Library of NSW’s website.

According to the State Library’s maps expert, Maggie Patton: “Subdivision plans are an absolute goldmine for genealogists and local historians as they allow us to place ourselves in the past — on a street, in a town, where we once lived, where our ancestors established themselves.”

“What’s more, they are filled with fascinating details like property prices, town descriptions and sometimes a photograph,” says Ms Patton.

Subdivision plans were ephemeral items, usually discarded once a development site was sold. Luckily, the State Library has acquired and preserved these 100-year-old plans for the people of NSW and beyond, to access and use.

Dating from as early as the 1880s, up to the 1930s, the plans were produced by real estate agents and auctioneers to advertise new subdivisions and land sales. They range from hand-drawn surveyors’ plans to beautifully designed colour posters.

“They provide a fascinating visual record of how your town was imagined by town planners of the past, and how it has developed and expanded over time,” says Ms Patton.

“Some of the plans are annotated with sales figures, and you can see how public transport or access to shops, parks and local attractions influenced the popularity of a town.

“Estate agents used creative marketing strategies to entice people to regional locations by promoting special events with free transport, refreshments or entertainment for the kids.”

A 1914 plan of Newcastle promotes ‘a Garden suburb’, ‘a Triumph of town planning’, The Riverview Estate at Cowra is ‘one of the choicest residential estates in the progressive town of Cowra. One of the finest agricultural districts in the State’.

For the past 10 years the State Library has been progressively digitising its collection of 40,000+ subdivision plans of suburban and regional NSW with funding support from the NSW Government. These are now publicly available on the Library’s website.

Order a print of your suburb

Subdivision plans make great gifts! You can order an archival print of any of the digitized plans from the Library Shop. Simply search your regional town at sl.nsw.gov.au/subdivision, copy the link of your chosen map, and send an enquiry to order your print at library.shop@sl.nsw.gov.au.


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