These old survey reference trees were an early way of marking the landscape to define roads, Crown Lands and property allotments. As early as the 1830s the Surveyor-General requested that surveyors create accurate markings of allotment corners by using trees. In 1853 specific instructions were given as to how this was to be done. In basic terms, the trees at lot corners needed to be marked or blazed with a horse shoe shape and the bark removed. A broad arrow and the number of the allotment if known needed to be deeply carved into the wood.1 The photo above indicates that this tree is at the corner of Portion 258.2
Survey plans such as the one below had a reference table describing the trees marked at the time of the survey.3 If the tree wasn’t exactly at the corner of the property, a tree within 200 links (approx. 40 metres) was referenced with a magnetic compass bearing and distance to the corner so it could be located. If a tree was on the corner of two properties both allotment numbers were added.4
Unfortunately many of these reference trees have disappeared due to the damaging effects of time, natural disasters such as fires and floods, and the wilful or mistaken removal of these trees. In 1934 timber cutters in Wingham cut a slab from a tree that bore survey marks dating back to 1875.5 As was the case in the 1800s it is still illegal now to remove or destroy any survey markers.6
These old trees tell a story of early European settlement and there are calls by researchers to have these artefacts heritage listed and their locations and characteristics recorded before they and their stories are lost forever.7
Author: Janine Roberts
1 Overview of survey marking practice in NSW, https://www.nswlrs.com.au/getattachment/eeb15ea7-d12d-4bee-bec7-a2d38d407bb0/attachment.aspx
2 NSW LRS, Vol-Fol:15088-72.
3 Survey plan courtesy of P. Teerman.
4 Overview of survey marking practice in NSW, https://www.nswlrs.com.au/getattachment/eeb15ea7-d12d-4bee-bec7-a2d38d407bb0/attachment.aspx
5 The Sun, 3 June 1934, 7.