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Robert Russell (13 February 1808 – 10 April 1900) was an architect and surveyor, active in Australia.

Early life

Russell was born near Kennington Common, London, England, the son of Robert Russell, a merchant, and his wife Margaret, née Leslie.[1] Russell had a good education and in 1823[1] was articled to the architect and surveyor William Burn at Edinburgh, and stayed there for five years. Russell later worked in London, and did surveying in Drogheda, Ireland.[1]

Career in Australia

In 1833 Russell moved to Sydney, New South Wales where he was given the position of acting assistant town surveyor in the Survey Department.[1] In September 1836 he was sent to Port Phillip (now Melbourne) 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 later 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 and Robert Hoddle visited Melbourne and, under instructions from Bourke, Hoddle surveyed and made a plan for the city of Melbourne. Hoddle used the plan prepared by Russell as a basis. It is argued by some, especially descendants of Robert Hoddle that "it is to Hoddle that we owe the provision for squares, park lands and exits from the city, and he is entitled to be called the first surveyor and planner of Melbourne".

Russell later 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. Russell 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 Mitchell Library and William Dixson Gallery, Sydney.


  1. ^ a b c d Harley Preston, 'Russell, Robert (1808 - 1900)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, MUP, 1967, pp 409–411. Retrieved 27 November 2009


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