Archives collection

The City Archives office is open.

From Wednesday 10 June 2020, the Adelaide City Archives is open on Wednesdays by appointment only, for those requiring access to development information. We will be expanding the service as time progresses.

To book your appointment please contact the Archives by phone on 8203 7439 or email us.

The City of Adelaide Archives holds the archival records of the City of Adelaide, and the many individuals and organisations closely associated with it.

The records date from 1840 when the Council, which is Australia's oldest, was formed. 

The records and documents relate mainly to matters connected with the Council’s municipal governance of the city, North Adelaide and the surrounding Park Lands. They include files, volumes, maps, plans and other documents as well as a large collection of photographs.

Searching the Archives collection

It’s hard to imagine, but there are about 5,000 shelf metres of records stored at the Archives. Most of these can be made available to the public for research. 

For your convenience, we’ve sorted them into major groups.

The following groups are available for you to view digitally:

    The collection of historic maps and plans dates back to 1836 and includes copies of Colonel William Light’s original plan of the City of Adelaide. 

    There are numerous maps showing:

    • the layout of the town acres
    • streets, squares, gardens park lands sports grounds during the 19th and 20th centuries
    • old tramway and railway routes
    • engineering and traffic infrastructure and services
    • surveying plans and land use 
    • property maps.

    View the Catalogue of maps and plans, dated November 1977.

    The bulk of the earliest corporation records are from the 1850s and 1860s. 

    They comprise bundles of annual correspondence received by the City Council about:

    • a host of municipal matters
    • early tenders and contracts for civic works
    • memorials and agreements
    • employment applications.

    In addition there are reports of early Council officials like:

    • the Inspector of Weights and Measures, 
    • the Inspector of Nuisances and 
    • the Conservator of the River Torrens. 

    This is a priceless collection of old documents which are mostly in remarkably good condition for their age.

    View a typewritten index to the Earliest Corporation records completed in 1987.

    The City of Adelaide Assessment Books were rate records of city properties, produced annually from 1847. 

    The full list of Assessment Books can be found here...

    These are held from 1840 and consist of minutes of meetings of the City Council and Local Board of Health. They also contain reports of the various Council Committees which dealt with the day-to-day administration of the City.

    The earliest handwritten minute books (31/10/1840 to 30/3/1874) may be searched here:

    Please note: the files listed below are very large in size and may take a while to download.

      The Smith Survey was a detailed trigonometrical survey of the city carried out by the City Engineer (Charles Smith) during 1878 to 1880, in preparation for the installation of a general system of deep drainage. 

      The Survey comprises 126 large format maps each of 10 acre blocks, which show the precise location and layout of every building that existed in the city at that time. You can get an idea as to the extent of the survey through the Street to town acre and Smith Survey sheet index.

      For more information about the Smith Survey and to view the entire collection, please read the Smith Survey Reference Guide

        The major streets of Adelaide, as delineated on Colonel Light’s original plan, were named by a Street Naming Committee on 23 May 1837. Most were named after persons instrumental in the foundation of the colony. 

        The names of other streets not shown in Colonel Light’s plan were recorded in ‘A Register of Public Streets’ that was maintained by the Corporation from the mid-19th century. The register lists every street within the City of Adelaide opened for public use, the date it was proclaimed a public street, and any name changes that may have occurred.

        Please note: the file  is very large in size and may take a while to download.

        View the Public Streets Register 

        Before 1882 the inspection of all new buildings was performed by the City Surveyor under By Law No. 26 of 1863. No plans were required to be approved by Council prior to the construction work taking place.

        Following the passage of the Building Act in 1881, Council was required to approve plans of building work in the city but did not have to keep a copy of them. The building plans were submitted to Council and then returned to the owner.

        It was not until 1924 that a new Building Act mandated that Council had to keep copies of plans of building work in the city, including alterations and additions, submitted for approval.

        Please note that these documents are very large and may take some time to download.

        Details of plans submitted to Council 1881 to 1925 are recorded in the following Plan Registers.

        Details of plans submitted from 1924 to 1956 can be found in the following Plan Registers.

        The Citizens' Rolls are the annual lists of persons entitled to vote in municipal elections. To qualify citizens had to either own or occupy property within the City, and this included women.  The earliest Roll is for 1852–53.

        Please note that these documents are very large and may take some time to download.

        This is a list of Special Files created by the Town Clerk’s Department from 1905 to 1976. 

        Files dealt with significant matters requiring ongoing attention, and consisted of correspondence, reports, memoranda, newspaper clippings and extracts from Council and Committee minutes relating to a particular subject. 

        The series consisted of almost 700 separate file titles, most of which comprise multiple parts.

        View the Town Clerk's Department Special Files register.

        In addition, you can view the following collections, not yet digitised, by searching the archives. 

        Municipal Year Books were published annually from 1911 to 1974. 

        They are a short guide to the Council and the city, containing information about many municipal services and amenities, the Park Lands, streets and statues, and prominent public buildings.

        Town Clerk's Records include correspondence, files and newspaper cuttings of the old Town Clerk’s Department, 1852 to 1982, together with records relating to inspection and licensing, parks and gardens and public health.

        The City Engineer's records is a fascinating collection consisting of correspondence, files and drawings, from 1852 to 1982, about the city's infrastructure. 

        Records  include construction, cleansing, maintenance and repair of streets, squares, drains, bridges and other public works and projects.

        The records of the City Inspector’s Office date from 1854 to 1973 and deal with the inspection and licensing of a range of business and other activities carried on within the city.

        This includes lodging houses, private hospitals, places of public entertainment, taxi-cab owners, street hawkers, milk vendors, street musicians, newspaper vendors, motor car drivers, boot blacks, and cow keepers. 

        To help your research we've listed a guide to some of the registers below:

        1875ITEM0001
        Register of Licences including cow keepers and milk sellers - 1888-1909
        Includes also marine stores, chimney sweeps, horse and carriage bazaars, public amusements, offensive substances, explosives, coffee and other stalls, shoe-blacks stands, cow keepers, milk sellers, hawkers.
        Please note: date range is approximate and differs for different licence types.    

        1875ITEM0002

        Register of licences 1895–1906
        Includes marine stores, chimney sweeps, horse and carriage bazaars, public amusements, offensive substances, explosives, coffee stalls, shoe-blacks stands, milk sellers, hawkers, weighing machines, hospitals and kerosene stores - 1895 - 1906.

        1875ITEM0003.1

        Cow keepers and milk sellers [Licence register] 1899-1903

        1875ITEM0003.2
        Register of cow keepers and milk sellers 1904-1909

        1875ITEM0004.1 

        Register of licences excluding cow keepers and milk sellers - shoe blacks / coffee and other stalls / ice creams 1883-1889

        1875ITEM0004.2

        Register of licences - general 1906-1913
        Includes restaurants, stalls, horse and carriage bazaars, hide stores, explosives, private hospitals, lodging houses, public entertainment, branders S and C market, slaughtermen, slaughtermen labourer, explosives wholesale and chimney sweeps licences.

        1875ITEM0004.3
        Licence Register 1946-1954
        Includes stables, restaurants, hide and skin stores, boats - Torrens Lake, horse and carriage bazaars, explosives and fireworks, private hospitals, chimney sweeps, coffee stalls, markets and fellmongers. 

        Information about the health of the city’s population is contained in the Health Records collection.

        They include such records as the City of Adelaide health returns, Health Inspectors’ reports, records of bacteriological examinations and visits by the Medical Officer of Health and Trained Nurse to premises occupied by sufferers of infectious diseases.

        The Parks and Gardens records relate to the laying out, landscaping, planting and maintenance of the city’s parks and gardens from 1856, including reports of the City Gardener and Park Lands Ranger. 

        There are also applications for permits to depasture sheep and cattle on the Park Lands.

        The Annual Reports collection summarise the activities and achievements of the Council from 1878, and include reports by the (Lord) Mayor, Town Clerk and each of the Council’s chief administrative officers.

        Need more information?

        If you have any questions regarding the City Archives, or the services available, please contact one of the friendly staff. 
        We are open for counter/telephone enquiries 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday to Friday and our search room is open for public research 10:00 am to 4:00 pm Tuesday to Thursday:

        08 8203 7439

        City of Adelaide Archives, GPO Box 2252, Adelaide SA 5001