Charles Grimes – Survey of Port Phillip

Board 2: The Most Eligible Place for a Settlement

‘The most eligible place for a settlement I have seen is on the freshwater river’. Do these words sound familiar? Perhaps the phrase, ‘This is the place for a village’, rings a bell.

That famous statement attributed to John Batman in 1835 is credited with identifying the current site of the City of Melbourne. A significant statement in our most liveable city’s history. However, the ‘eligibile place for a settlement’, mentioned in the first phrase, written 32 years earlier in February 1803, refers to the same site that has become Melbourne as we know it.

In January, 1803, the acting chief surveyor of New South Wales, Charles Grimes, led an expedition to survey Port Phillip Bay. They had been mapping the coast of the Bay from the east when they came across ‘a great river’. On February 3rd, 1803, a group rowed up the river in a small rowing boat and landed two or three miles upstream.

They came to a junction of two rivers and took the left stream, now known as the Maribyrnong River.

They rowed all day, stopping off occasionally and making notes in a diary.
The crew camped overnight on the banks of the river somewhere in what is now Avondale Heights, then rowed back downriver the next day and up the other stream, now known as the Yarra River, until they came to a small water fall near what is now Queen Street.

It was just over this water fall that the Grimes’ team identified as the ‘eligible place for a settlement’. The same place John Batman later identified as the ‘place for a village’. Pedantic stuff maybe but significant and almost sacred to many of us. It is the first sentence in the story of ‘Marvellous Melbourne’ and as such was worthy of celebration on its bicentennial.