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Archives Collection

The City of Adelaide Archives is responsible for preserving the archival records of the City of Adelaide and individuals and organisations closely associated with it. The records date from the formation of the Council—Australia’s oldest—in 1840.

They 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. About 5,000 shelf metres of records are stored at the Archives, and most of these can be made available to the public for research.

In addition to the Council’s own administrative records, the City Archives also houses the historic City of Adelaide Civic Collection. This consists of about 3,000 items relating to the City and its history. These items have either been purchased by or presented as gifts to the Council. The Collection includes many museum artefacts and artworks such as the Queen Adelaide and Colonel Light relics, and presentations from Adelaide’s Sister Cities.

The Archives is also the custodian of the City of Adelaide Oral History Collection. This comprises over 100 taped interviews and transcripts of former Lord Mayors, Councillors and Corporation staff, as well as elderly City residents and business proprietors.

Archival Records Available for Public Research

Historic Maps and Plans

This collection 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, the City’s streets, squares, gardens  park lands and sports grounds during the 19th and 20th centuries,  old tramway and railway routes, engineering and traffic infrastructure and services, surveying plans, land use and property maps.

VIEW COLLECTION: Catalogue of Maps and Plans.

Earliest Corporation Records

The bulk of these records are from the 1850s and 1860s. They comprise bundles of  annual correspondence received by the City Council about a host of municipal matters, lots of early tenders and contracts for civic works, memorials and agreements, employment applications, and reports of early Council officials like the Inspector of Weights and Measures, the Inspector of Nuisances and the Conservator of the River Torrens. A priceless collection of old documents which are mostly in remarkably good condition for their age. 

These records were originally arranged and described by the Council’s Archivist in 1978, and a typewritten copy of this listing can be viewed here.

City of Adelaide Assessment Books

These were rate records of City properties, produced annually from 1847. They can help you find out the age and use of properties, and the names of their occupants and owners.

Annual Reports

They 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.

Council Minutes

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:

The files listed below are very large in size and may take a while to download.

Citizens’ Rolls

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.

Municipal Year Books

Year Books were published annually from 1911–1974. 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

These 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.

City Engineer’s Records

Consist of correspondence, files and drawings, 1852–1982, about the City's infrastructure including construction, cleansing, maintenance and repair of streets, squares, drains, bridges and other public works and projects.

Smith Survey

This was a detailed trigonometrical survey of the City carried out by the City Engineer (Charles Smith) during 1878-1880, 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.

The Smith Survey sheets may be viewed here:

The Survey Sheets were prepared from notes recorded in the original Smith Survey Field Books (23 volumes) which may be viewed here:
Note: The below files are very large in file size and may take several minutes for a full download.

Licensing Records

The records of the City Inspector’s Office 1854–1973 deal with the inspection and licensing of a range of business and other activities carried on within the City, including 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.

Health Records

Information about the health of the City’s population is contained in 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.

Public Streets Register

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.

DOWNLOAD: Public Streets Register (XLS, 650KB)

Parks and Gardens Records

Records relating 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.

City Building Plans

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 1923 are recorded in the following Plan Registers.

Pre 1924 Return of plans submitted to Council and Local Board of Health 1882-1925:

Return of Surveyor to City Council of Notices Received for Building Work  1882-1925:

Copies of plans of building work in the City, including alterations and additions, submitted to the Council for approval are held from 1924. Plans of many non-government properties are available including houses, businesses, offices, hotels, factories and warehouses.

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

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

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

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