See what Canberra used to look like with the click of a mouse

Glynis Quinlan 21 January 2020 2

Did you know there was once a cricket pitch where Lake Burley Griffin is today? Or that several Canberra suburbs have been named after early landholders?

These are among the insights revealed by a series of maps dating back to the 1800s which have been added to the ACT Government’s mapping service, ACTmapi.

ACT Minister for Environment and Heritage Mick Gentleman said the addition of the old maps will allow Canberrans to see what the ACT and surrounding region once looked like with just the click of a mouse.

“These maps will be invaluable to anyone with an interest in the history of where they live or a place they know and how it has changed over time,” Mr Gentleman said.

“The historic maps have been scanned and processed so you can overlay them onto aerial photography of the ACT as it appears today to get a comparison of land use and tenure.

“The maps date back to the 1800s and show the sheer size of land holdings of the time, which often consisted of a number of land portions.”

Mr Gentleman said that a group of land portions used to make up a locality, which was called a parish.

“The portion plans show specific details about the layout of buildings and environmental features on the parcels,” he said.

“Where Gungahlin and Goorooyaroo nature reserve stand today, there used to be the parish of Goorooyaroo, where Mulligans Flat School existed and Old Coach Road went through to Bungendore.” (See photo of map above).

Mr Gentleman said that the ACTmapi online tool also shows maps from 1830 to 1930 revealing settlements and rural pastoral boundaries. These maps also highlight the historic location of cottages and huts, as well as where bushland was cleared and fences were built.

“The 1915-1930 map series even shows a cricket pitch which is now under Lake Burley Griffin,” Mr Gentleman said.

“These maps give a fascinating insight into the history of land ownership in the region. Users will quickly recognise that the names of many of the early landholders and localities, such as Campbell, Crace, Weetangera and Weston, are now recognised with places in Canberra named after them.

“The maps also reveal details of old homesteads and cottages which in many cases have been lost to time,” he said.

“An example is Old Lands End in the parish of Weetangera. The portion plan from 5 September 1871 shows such detail as a garden and hut on the block but now when you zoom into today’s aerial photography all that exists is rubble and a few trees.

“The maps and data made available today will complement existing databases on ACTmapi, such as the Territory Plan, heritage, vegetation and registered trees map overlays to support decision making by planners, land managers, researchers and members of the community.”

To find out more or access maps of interest please go to and click on ‘historic plans’.

Top photo: A 1912 map of the parish of Goorooyaroo, showing where Mulligans Flat School once existed and the Old Coach Road going through to Bungendore. This is where Gungahlin and Goorooyaroo nature reserve are currently located.

Photo above: This map shows the area where Parliament House now stands as it looked back in the 1830s. The detail on the old map shows the location of barbed-wire farm fences that once ran through the area, as well as an old track that ran around Parliament house. The map is overlaid (the see through quality of it) with a modern map of the area. Photos supplied.

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2 Responses to See what Canberra used to look like with the click of a mouse
Elias Hallaj Elias Hallaj 12:15 pm 25 May 17

I love maps! This is a great online resource. Thanks for sharing this Glynis! 🙂

skyblue skyblue 9:59 am 24 May 17

It seems the ACT Government is good at preserving documents/maps. Not so good at preserving/maintaining heritage buildings and precincts.

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