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Scarce early map of South Australia based on the surveys of Matthew Flinders and Colonel William Light printed in 1839. Light is by far the most important figure in the early years of Adelaide and a visionary in town planning. … Read Full Description
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Scarce early map of South Australia based on the surveys of Matthew Flinders and Colonel William Light printed in 1839.
Light is by far the most important figure in the early years of Adelaide and a visionary in town planning.
After having rejected Port Lincoln and Kingscote as possible sites, Light returned to Holdfast Bay and noted in his journal on 29 December 1836: ‘ nearly all day examining the plain, and looking out for the best situation for the capital. I was delighted with the appearance of the country, and the supply of fresh water we were certain of possessing at four p.m., I had the pleasure of seeing the Governor and Mr. Fisher, and we agreed on going the following day to look at the place I had selected for the capital. The next day, Light and Governor Hindmarsh inspected the site and although Hindmarsh liked what he saw he stated that it was too far from the harbour. They agreed to move the location by one and a half miles lower down the bank of the river but after re-examining the area the following day, Light noticed previous evidence of the river having breached its banks. Light wrote that from 3-11 January 1837, ‘ was employed in looking repeatedly over the ground, and devising in my own mind the best method of laying out the town according to the course of the river, and the nature of the ground this being fixed, I commenced with Mr. Kingston and Mr. Neale only … It may be asked then, “ choose it?” I answer, “ it was on a beautiful and gently rising ground, and formed altogether a better connection with the river than any other place”’. Although Light had been given total autonomy by the Commissioners in selecting the site, he was being undermined by Hindmarsh and his supporters, who saw the distance to the sea as unworkable. In response to correspondence from Hindmarsh, Light called a public meeting to discuss and vote on the matter. The meeting took place in Edward Stephens’ tent at Holdfast Bay, on the 10 February 1837. The subsequent vote found was in favour of Light’ selection and he then proceeded to divide the town into 1000 acre allotments as instructed by the Commissioners. Light resigned from his position in 1838, after being instructed to use faster and less accurate surveying methods for the country surveys. His health soon deteriorated and he died of tuberculosis at the age of fifty-three on 6 October 1839.
Matthew Flinders (1774 - 1814)
Matthew Flinders (1774-1814) Flinders navigator, hydrographer and scientist, was born on 16 March 1774 at Donington, Lincolnshire, England and educated at Donington Grammar School and by the vicar of Horbling; then, having developed a longing to go to sea, partly through reading Robinson Crusoe, and determined to embark upon a life of exploration, he entered the navy in 1789. In 1791 he served with diligence under William Bligh as midshipman on a voyage to Tahiti and, returning to England, saw action in H.M.S. Bellerophon at the naval battle of the Glorious First of June 1794 The next year he sailed from England for Port Jackson in H.M.S. Reliance in which George Bass was surgeon. After he arrived there he made two trips with Bass in small open boats, exploring Botany Bay and George's River on the first, and then, after a brief visit to Norfolk Island, going farther south to Lake Illawarra. He rejoined the Reliance for a voyage to the Cape of Good Hope to bring back livestock. In 1798 Flinders, now lieutenant, joined the schooner Francis on a visit to the Furneaux Islands and carried out hydrographic work. A second visit to Norfolk Island followed, after which, in company with George Bass, he circumnavigated Van Diemen's Land in the sloop Norfolk from 7 October 1798 to 12 January 1799, and thus proved it to be an island. He then examined parts of the Queensland coast, but although he entered Glass House Bay, he did not discover the Brisbane River. In March 1800 he sailed for England in the Reliance, where reports of his outstanding ability had preceded him. While in England in 1801 he published his Observations on the Coasts of Van Diemen's Land, on Bass's Strait and its Islands, and on Part of the Coasts of New South Wales, but he was chiefly concerned with preparation for an expedition whose results were to place him among the foremost navigators of all time. Promoted commander in February, he was selected to command H.M.S. Investigator, 334 tons, with instructions from the Admiralty to explore in detail, among other places, that part of the south Australian coastline, then referred to as 'the Unknown Coast', which stretched eastwards from the head of the Great Australian Bight to the Victorian border. In April 1801 he had married Ann Chappell of Lincolnshire. He had hoped to take her with him on his voyage, but the Admiralty refused to permit it and thus unknowingly condemned the newly-married pair to separation for nine years. Flinders sailed on 18 July 1801 and sighted Cape Leeuwin on 6 December, after a passage which demonstrated his ability as a navigator and his attention to the welfare and health of his crew. Sailing eastwards he reached the western extreme of the Unknown Coast on 28 January 1802 and made a landing in Fowler Bay, which he named after the Investigator's first lieutenant. Flinders continued with his charting of the coast, effecting landings wherever desirable 'in order that the naturalists may have time to range about and collect the produce of the earth'. In February the Investigator entered the mouth of a large inlet stretching northwards (Spencer Gulf); this raised great expectations that it might be the entrance to a strait then believed to stretch upwards to the Gulf of Carpentaria but these hopes soon faded. On 22 March Kangaroo Island was discovered, a landing made, and many kangaroos killed for food. Gulf St Vincent was next explored and charted and, after a second brief visit to Kangaroo Island, the Investigator sailed east. On 8 April the corvette Le Géographe, under Captain Nicolas Baudin, was sighted, and Flinders told Baudin of the provisions and water to be obtained on Kangaroo Island. Flinders named the place of meeting Encounter Bay, which defines the eastern limit of his discoveries upon the Unknown Coast. On 9 May the Investigator dropped anchor in Port Jackson. After overhauling the ship, Flinders sailed north on 22 July to make a detailed survey of the Queensland coast, at that time incomplete, and thence went to the Gulf of Carpentaria. Soon after passing through Torres Strait, however, the Investigator, leaking badly, was careened for a survey which revealed that she was so rotten that she would founder immediately if caught in a gale and, even if patched up and handled carefully in fine weather, would barely remain afloat for a further six months. Flinders could not effect the necessary repairs, but determined to circumnavigate the continent and return to Port Jackson by way of its western coast. After examining and charting the south and west shores of the Gulf of Carpentaria with exceptional skill, Flinders reluctantly abandoned the survey. Running down the west coast, he rounded Cape Leeuwin and, after navigating the Bight in the depth of winter, brought his ship safely into Port Jackson on 9 June 1803. Flinders was anxious to complete the surveys as outlined by the Admiralty, and in August 1803 he sailed as a passenger from Port Jackson in H.M.S. Porpoise to secure a suitable ship. Soon after leaving she struck a reef and was lost, but Flinders navigated her cutter more than 700 miles (1127 km) back to Port Jackson, one of his great achievements. Having arranged for the relief and rescue of his wrecked shipmates, Flinders sailed in the schooner Cumberland, 29 tons, planning to proceed to England by way of Torres Strait. The schooner soon proved totally unfit for service, needing almost constant pumping to keep her afloat as well as being very crank. Flinders therefore decided to seek assistance at Mauritius in conformity with his French passport. He arrived there on 17 December 1803, the day after Le Géographe had left for France. By this time war between Great Britain and France had broken out again. General De Caen, governor of Mauritius, was a faithful and honest servant of Emperor Napoleon, but his attitude to Flinders was overbearing, and he could scarcely have employed a more abusive term than 'impostor' towards a man of Flinders' integrity, when only a little calm reasoning was needed to make clear the obvious cause of his enforced arrival. De Caen must have known of the care given at Port Jackson to the many sick in Le Géographe, and of Flinders' personal help at the friendly meeting in Encounter Bay, for he had received a letter from Baudin asking that assistance be given to any English ship forced to call at Mauritius, in return for the hospitality his expedition had received. For all that De Caen put Flinders under arrest. De Caen soon relaxed the strictness of Flinders' detention a little and later, after the prisoner had given his parole, allowed him to live with friends outside the town. Here Flinders enjoyed the kindness of the entire population, both official and civil, and made many close friendships. He worked assiduously on his journals, log books and papers, while both in England and France many attempts were made to secure his release. The reason why Flinders was detained so long is difficult to define because of the apparent loss of official papers and the confusion of wartime administration. It has been said that De Caen considered Flinders to be a spy. Certainly the French passport was for the Investigator and not for the Cumberland, and she was carrying dispatches from Port Jackson, but these were trivial pretexts for denying the commander of a sinking ship his freedom for more than six years. In Paris the Council of State recommended the release of Flinders and his ship, and on 11 March 1806 Napoleon gave his approval. This instruction was acknowledged by De Caen but on 30 August 1807 he reported to the minister of marine and colonies that he did not intend to follow the emperor's order. He claimed that Flinders was very dangerous. He said that the order had been approved when a rapprochement with England appeared likely, but this had not eventuated. He added, probably influenced by François Péron's report to him on the defences of Port Jackson, that England appeared to be planning to extend her influence from there as far west as Mauritius itself, implying that Flinders' arrival was part of this project. On 25 March 1809 the Bureau of Political Economy in the Department of Marine and Colonies reported to the minister that no further dispatch had been received from De Caen justifying his delay in liberating Flinders; but De Caen must have realized that the weakness of the island in the face of the English blockade would have become obvious to Flinders after his confinement had been relaxed. De Caen therefore may have decided to continue the detention until the capitulation of the island was imminent. On 14 June 1810 Flinders sailed for England. He arrived on 23 October and received belated promotion to post captain. In failing health he prepared his monumental work A Voyage to Terra Australis; it was published on 18 July 1814, the day before he died. He was buried at St James's, Hampstead Road, but later alterations to the churchyard have obliterated his grave, so he was 'pursued by disaster after death as in life'. Matthew Flinders was among the world's most accomplished navigators and hydrographers, though his exploration was mostly made in unsuitable, leaky or rotten ships. To ensure that his observations were as accurate as possible and that nothing important was overlooked, his constant practice was to stand his ship off shore at dusk and run back each morning to where the previous day's work had ended. Each bearing and angle in his charting was taken by himself either from the deck or the mast-head and the results worked up by him each night. Flinders is remembered not only for his achievements in the realm of discovery but also for great improvements in the science of navigation, for his research on the action of the tides, and the affinity between the height of the barometer and the direction of the wind, and for his practical investigations into the deviation of the compass through the presence of iron in ships, since controlled by compensating devices such as the bar named after him. Some of his observations were published by the Royal Society in 'Concerning the Differences in the magnetic needle …' Transactions, 1805, pt 2. A Voyage to Terra Australis, written by an intellectual man, is an enlightening and fascinating story of brilliant navigation and discovery, achievement and tragedy, self-sacrifice and devotion. He pays noble tribute to his comrades suddenly swept away off the Unknown Coast; expresses spontaneous gratitude to the people of Mauritius who befriended him in the hour of need, and deep sympathy and understanding towards primitive Aboriginals. His moral character and devotion to duty were based on high ideals. At Mauritius he had many opportunities to escape but resolutely refused to break his parole, even when his health was shattered and his hope destroyed. His considerate and just treatment of the men who served with him won their confidence and respect. In his brief but brilliant career he surmounted difficulties and adversity, and his voyage in the Investigator endures as an imperishable monument to his undaunted spirit and outstanding ability.
William Light (1786 - 1841)
Light was a soldier and surveyor born on 27 April 1786 in Kuala Kedah, Malaya, the second son of Captain Francis Light (1740?-1794) and Martinha Rozells, traditionally a Princess of Kedah but almost certainly a Portuguese Eurasian. His father, the illegitimate son of William Negus, a Suffolk landowner, and Mary Light, a serving girl, served four years in the navy, went to India in 1765 and became a trader in the seas around Siam, Malaya and Sumatra. While living on Junk in Ceylon he urged the East India Co. to take over the island of Penang from the sultan of Kedah in return for protection. The company at last agreed to do this in 1786 with Light as the first superintendent. William Light spent his infant years on Penang, but at 6 went to England to be educated by his father's friend, Charles Doughty, of Theberton, Suffolk. In 1799 he entered the navy as a volunteer, and left as a midshipman after two years. He became a civilian internee in France in May 1803 but escaped from Verdun on 5 January 1804. Next year he was in Calcutta at his sister's wedding on 9 March, and on 19 November 1806 was present when his brother-in-law, Major Welsh, fearing a massacre, disarmed a portion of his Indian regiment. He returned to Europe in 1806. In May 1808 he purchased a cornetcy in the 4th Dragoons, was promoted lieutenant in April 1809 while on the way to Spain and served with distinction throughout the Peninsular war. As an able linguist, who also drew well, reported accurately and showed great tact, he was frequently sent to confer with blood-thirsty guerilla bands. In November 1812 he became a junior staff officer at Wellington's headquarters, employed on mapping, reconnaissance and liaison duties. In spite of his daring and courage he went through more than forty actions without a wound. On return from Spain he purchased a captaincy in the infantry in November 1814. On half-pay after Waterloo, which he just missed, he spent some time travelling in Europe. Four years later he was back on full pay, serving in the Channel Islands, Scotland, and Ireland. In 1821 he quitted the army with the brevet rank of major and on 24 May married E. Perois in Londonderry. Turning again to the Continent, he mixed in literary and artistic circles. In 1823 he became aide-de-camp to Sir Robert Wilson, who raised an international force to help the Spanish 'Liberales' in their constitutional struggle against King Ferdinand, Light serving in the Spanish revolutionary army with the rank of lieutenant-colonel. The campaign was a farce. The Liberales melted before the French army which came to aid Ferdinand, and Light was severely wounded in a scuffle for the possession of Corunna. In 1824 he married Mary Bennet, a natural daughter of the third Duke of Richmond. His wife's wealth was important to Light since his father's extensive estates on Penang had been filched by his father's friends from the ignorant Martinha. The couple travelled widely in Europe, Light making many sketches, some being published in Sicilian Scenery (London, 1823) and Views of Pompeii (London, 1828). In 1827 Light bought a yacht in England, sailed her first to Italy, and then cruised leisurely round the Mediterranean. At Alexandria in 1830 he became friendly with Mohammed Ali, then rising to power as the founder of modern Egypt. To recruit British officers for the Pasha's navy, Light sailed his yacht to England. He revisited Alexandria briefly in 1832 and in 1834 commanded the paddle steamer Nile on its voyage from England to join the Egyptian navy. The Nile was taken over by Captain (Sir) John Hindmarsh who on return to England in February 1835 was given by Light a letter of introduction to his friend Sir Charles Napier, newly resigned as governor of the proposed settlement in South Australia. This introduction indirectly led to Hindmarsh obtaining the post, although Napier had recommended Light. In January 1836 Light returned to London and next month he was appointed surveyor-general of South Australia at £400 a year. Most of his staff and equipment had been selected already; Light made a few modifications, asked for two more assistants, and then unfortunately told the commissioners that 'he considered his staff sufficiently strong'. He fitted out the Rapid and, after a delay caused by his ill health, sailed in command of her with some of his staff on 1 May 1836. The main party under (Sir) George Kingston, the deputy-surveyor, had left five weeks earlier in the Cygnet. Light's instructions from the Colonization Commission set an impossible task. On his sole responsibility he was expected within two months to examine minutely 1500 miles (2414 km) of coastline, select 'the best situation' for the first settlement, survey the town site, divide 150 sq. miles (388 km²) of country into sections, and make reservations for secondary towns. He arrived off Kangaroo Island on 17 August 1836 and sailed straight to Encounter Bay, which he quickly rejected as unsafe and useless for a main harbour. Back at Kangaroo Island he found poor land, some South Australian Co. employees who had been there for a month, but no Cygnet. Before she arrived on 11 September, Light had started to examine the mainland coast. Rapid Bay, near the foot of Gulf St Vincent, impressed him favourably, but he sailed north to seek the harbour reported by the explorer, Captain Collet Barker, and the whaling captain, John Jones. The harbour eluded Light, and settlers began to arrive two weeks before the entrance to the Port Adelaide River was found on 21 November. The background of Mediterranean travel gave Light confidence in this small but safe harbour and in the adjacent fertile plains with the Lofty Ranges for water, as the site for his settlement. To accord with instructions, however, he had to visit Port Lincoln before deciding finally. He had returned to Gulf St Vincent and determined the actual city site by the time Hindmarsh arrived on 18 December 1836. Although pleased at first by the site, Hindmarsh demurred at it being six miles (9.6 km) from the coast, and soon found other objections. Light pressed ahead with his survey of the town and laid out its 1042 acres (422 ha) by 11 March 1837. To appease Hindmarsh he later surveyed twenty-nine sections at Port Adelaide. Other surveys were impeded by dissensions among the colonists, and particularly the determined efforts, in which Hindmarsh was involved, to move the capital to Encounter Bay or Port Lincoln. When Light did commence the country surveys he found his staff inadequate in numbers and experience, their spirit sapped by poor pay, insufficient equipment and no provision for transport. Light and the resident commissioner, (Sir) James Fisher, saw that the task would take several years. They decided to send Kingston to England to ask for more equipment and staff, and to urge the recall of Hindmarsh. Meanwhile Light struggled on with the survey and had 60,000 acres (24,281 ha) completed by December 1837, when Hindmarsh was still seeking from Lord Glenelg permission to move the settlement. Some 150,000 acres (60,703 ha) were ready by June 1838 when Kingston returned with the commissioners' answers. Not only had Light's appeals been rejected, but his trigonometrical survey was to be replaced by 'running surveys' to speed up the work. If Light refused to carry out this temporary form of survey, Kingston was to do it while Light was to be relegated to the minor task of coastal examination. Light promptly resigned with all but two of his staff. Although his health was now particularly bad, he became the principal partner in a private firm of Light, Finniss & Co. Hindmarsh was recalled in July 1838. The new governor, Colonel George Gawler, arrived in October 1838 to find the survey department in confusion under Kingston, and he appointed Captain Charles Sturt as surveyor-general. Moves in London and Adelaide to have Light reinstated proved abortive because of his health. In January 1839 Light set out for a survey contract north of Adelaide, but ten hours in the saddle proved too much for him and he was forced to return. Next afternoon his temporary dwelling was burnt down, and with it most of his lifetime accumulation of papers, journals, and sketches. He moved into his incompleted house, Theberton (Thebarton), living as an invalid, and nursed by Maria Gandy, who had come out with him in the Rapid. He was desperately poor and sold sketches to make a little money. With the aid of salvaged papers, he wrote and published at his own expense, A Brief Journal of the Proceedings of William Light (Adelaide, 1839). In May he took part in a search for a northerly route to the Murray, but returned from the trip in a severe fever. He died from tuberculosis on 6 October 1839 and was buried in the city square named after him. Light separated from his wife in 1832 because, during his absence from Egypt, she had been living with another man, by whom she later had three children. These children were later given the name of Light. At his death Light appointed Maria Gandy his sole executrix and beneficiary. Light was described as 'of medium height, sallow complexion, alert and handsome, with face clean shaven excepting closely cut side whiskers, black curly hair, brown eyes, straight nose, small mouth, and shapely chin'. He made friends readily and they remained loyal. One of them said that Light was 'a man of extraordinary accomplishments, soldier, seaman, musician, artist and good in all'. In his Brief Journal Light wrote, 'The reasons that led me to fix Adelaide where it is I do not expect to be generally understood or calmly judged of at present … I leave it to posterity … to decide whether I am entitled to praise or to blame'. Boyle Travers Finniss, his friend and colleague, said, 'If Colonel Light had not stood firm … the first colonists would have been ruined, the capital of the Company would have perished, and public feeling would have ruined the Commissioners'. Light gave Adelaide its belt of parklands, a feature of town planning ahead of the times. His fine self-portrait is in the National Gallery, Adelaide, and a portrait by George Jones, R.A., is in the National Portrait Gallery, London. In the Adelaide Town Hall there is another portrait which is a copy of the original held by descendants of the Light family in England. A statue by Birnie Rhind stands on Montefiore Hill, overlooking the city he founded. A monument over his grave, designed by Kingston and erected in 1843, soon crumbled and was replaced by a new one in 1905, stands in the Adelaide city square which bears Light’s name. A garden suburb, likewise honouring him, was built on land about 4 miles south of Adelaide previously occupied by the Mitcham army training camp, and officially designated in 1921. The Light River (Yarralinka), in the mid north of South Australia, was named for him in the late 1830s.
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