Historical information

The Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works (MMBW) plans were produced from the 1890s to the 1950s. They were crucial to the design and development of Melbourne's sewerage and drainage system. The plans, at a scale of 40 feet to 1 inch (1:480), provide a detailed historical record of Melbourne streetscapes and environmental features. Each plan covers one or two street blocks (roughly six streets), showing details of buildings, including garden layouts and ownership boundaries, and features such as laneways, drains, bridges, parks, municipal boundaries and other prominent landmarks as they existed at the time each plan was produced. (Source: State Library of Victoria)


This plan forms part of a large group of MMBW plans and maps that was donated to the Society by the Mr Poulter, City Engineer of the City of Kew in 1989. Within this collection, thirty-five hand-coloured plans, backed with linen, are of statewide significance as they include annotations that provide details of construction materials used in buildings in the first decade of the 20th century as well as additional information about land ownership and usage. The copies in the Public Record Office Victoria and the State Library of Victoria are monochrome versions which do not denote building materials so that the maps in this collection are invaluable and unique tools for researchers and heritage consultants. A number of the plans are not held in the collection of the State Library of Victoria so they have the additional attribute of rarity.

Physical description

Original survey plan, issued by the MMBW to a contractor with responsibility for constructing sewers in the area identified on the plan within the Borough of Kew. The plan was at some stage hand-coloured, possibly by the contractor, but more likely by officers working in the Engineering Department of the Borough and later Town, then City of Kew. The hand-coloured sections of buildings on the plan were used to denote masonry or brick constructions (pink), weatherboard constructions (yellow), and public buildings (grey).

The streets and built structures in this plan were surveyed in 1903 and released to contractors in 1904. In addition to the designation of building types by colour, the plan includes detailed descriptions of land use and ownership. While many buildings remain from this period, a number of the buildings represented have been demolished including the original Kew Town Hall, and the Congregational and Roman Catholic churches in Walpole Street. While the mansion ‘Illapa’ in Princess Street is still extant – now part of ‘Rylands’ – the neighbouring mansion ‘Elsmere’ was demolished some decades ago. Rivalling Illapa and Elsmere in size were two mansions in Walpole Street, one named on the plan as ‘Gnarlbine’. Over time, Kew Junction and the south side of High Street have been reconfigured and widened, so that the commercial buildings on the corner of Princess and High Street no longer exist. A surprising feature of this part of central Kew to the northwest of Kew Junction is the amount of vacant land. In a number of cases, this land is noted by the contractor as used for vegetable gardens.