Doherty Smith & Associates is now Compass Consulting Surveyors

Click here to see this blog and more on our new website

From the earliest days of the settlement, the State of NSW was divided in to Counties, each representing an area which is further divided into separate Parishes. There are currently 141 Counties in NSW, the first named being Cumberland County, by Phillip in 1788, and intended to cover the area between Botany Bay and Broken Bay from the mountains to the coast.

The division of the state into Counties was completed in the 1843. The division of Counties into parishes proceeded much more slowly, roughly keeping pace with settlement. By 1863, most of the parishes in the Eastern and Central Divisions of the state had been named.

Instructions issued in 1864 to the licensed surveyor directed that when fixing the boundaries of a newly introduced parish, to attempt to keep the area to about 25 square miles. The instructions did allow a variation to between 15 and 35 square miles where necessary.

In naming new parishes, surveyors were instructed to adopt aboriginal names wherever possible. This has led to some interesting misinterpretation where the aboriginal names were no more than mispronunciations of the English names already bestowed. “Eurobodalla” is actually a mispronunciation of “Holey dollar”, which was the currency in Macquarie’s time. “Bodalla” is a mispronunciation of “Boat Alley” and “Gabo Island” is a mispronunciation of “Cape Howe Island”. (Source: Hallmann, Legal Aspects of Boundary Surveying as apply in New South Wales.)

Closer to the Central West, parish names include Micketymulga, Wuuluman (pronounced wool-oo-min), Nubrigyn, Yarrobil, Eurudgere, Muckerwa, Galwadgere, Ironbarks, Catombal, Buckinbah, Bolderogery, Gilgal, Terrabella, Gundy and many more.

The boundary between the Counties of Wellington, Bligh, Lincoln and Gordon is located at the confluence of the Bell and Macquarie Rivers at Wellington.

Under the Torrens title system, Counties and Parishes have lost significance somewhat. The previous description of rural parcels of land was Portion 123 in the Parish of Mandagery, County of Ashburnham.  Each parcel of land is given a unique identifier, based on a lot number, plan number and occasionally a section within a plan. So Lot 2 in DP765432 will get an identifier of 2/765432. Lot 1 in Section 3 of DP789456 will have an identifier of 1/3/789456. To replace the parish and county description, each parish has been allocated a plan number. For example, the parish of Bumberry has been allocated the DP number of DP750142, making portion 123 in the parish of Bumberry now Lot 123 in DP750142 with a folio identifier of 123/750142. While much less romantic, this allows for unique identifiers under the new format.

Parish maps have historically been used as a reference by Local Government, State Government, Land Titles Office and Valuer General’s Office. The local Lands office would have a copy of relevant parish maps for their area, showing additional information to the standard printed version such as status of roads and notes on changes to boundaries including plan numbers, and gazettal notice information. Now, the old system of parish maps has largely been replaced by Geographic Information Systems with the capability of not only storing more information but accessing it more readily and allowing for expansion.

Old parish maps are still available to be viewed online using the LPI’s Pixel viewer. This online resource is well worth a visit. Try a keyword search for “Wellington” which will bring up the county of Wellington as well as the parish plans in that county.

Surveyors dealing with rural land will have a use for the old parish maps for some time to come, accessing this rich data source for all sorts of information that is difficult to find elsewhere. For most people, if nothing else, it is worth being aware of the history.


Eric Smith

Registered Surveyor