One of my third great grandfathers, Philip Chauncy (1816 – 1880), was educated as a surveyor.

In 1839 he emigrated from England to South Australia. Two years later he married Charlotte Kemmis, a fellow emigrant, and moved to Western Australia to take up a government appointment as assistant surveyor. Charlotte died in 1847.

In 1848 Chauncy remarried, to Susan Mitchell, second daughter of the Reverend William Mitchell, a chaplain of the Colonial Church Society in Western Australia.

In June 1853 the family, which then included three young children, left Western Australia for Victoria. On their arrival in Melbourne the Chauncys stayed with Philip’s brother William in Sandridge, now known as Port Melbourne. Within a month Philip bought a small cottage and allotment in the suburb of Prahran “at a very high price”, took an office in the city, engaged a clerk, and went into business as a land surveyor and commission agent. This venture was unsuccessful, however, and he “soon discovered the only thing I could do well was spend money”.

Rescue came soon in the form of an offer of appointment as Surveyor-in-Charge of the McIvor district, present-day Heathcote. This he accepted in August 1853. His yearly salary was was £400, the equivalent of several hundred thousand Australian dollars today, with an additional £200 annually for travelling expenses and equipment, rations for himself and five men, forage for one horse, and firewood.

In “Memoirs of Mrs Chauncy”, a biography of his wife Susan which Chauncy wrote in his retirement, he describes their 72 mile journey from Melbourne to Heathcote. It took ten days, nine of them rainy. The axle of their wagon broke, they became bogged, they were robbed, and their servant abandoned them.

At that time the McIvor diggings had about three thousand diggers and storekeepers. The Commissioner’s camp housed some 150 Government employees, all living under canvas. Philip, fortunately, had brought four tents of his own.

Philip laid out the town of Heathcote, and conducted other surveys in the district, notably a survey of the Murray River settlement which became the town at Echuca. His office was also responsible for land sales in the district. Chauncy’s staff included four assistant surveyors and their subordinates.

Living and working under canvas was uncomfortable and Philip wrote often to the Government authorities in Melbourne asking to be provided with better accommodation. He recorded in his diary that on Christmas Day 1854 the temperature in his tent was 114 degrees Fahrenheit (45°C).

The Government provided £1546 (roughly $AUS 1.5 million today) towards the construction of a stone building on the main street in the centre of Heathcote. This was to serve as the Survey Office, with living quarters for Chauncy and his family. The Chauncys lived in the Government camp for over a year; their new house was completed in February 1855. It was the Chauncey’s home for five and a half years. Philip made a garden with vines and fruit trees. This was extended into an adjoining block he purchased in 1854 (now occupied by a house at 49 Wright Street).

1857 sketch of the Survey Office, Heathcote, by Philip Chauncy. The children playing are Therese born 1849 and William born 1853. Image retrieved from the Public Record Office Victoria VPRS 14517/P0001/25, K493

Philip also bought land in the district, including a farm six miles from Heathcote, which he name Datchet after his birthplace in Buckinghamshire. As well, he built a brick house, ‘Myrtle Cottage’, in Heathcote’s High Street (probably at about 152 High Street, since demolished).

From a map of Heathcote township drawn by Philip Chauncy in 1853 showing the survey office (red *) and blocks of land bought by Philip Chauncy (blue *)
Note the spelling of present-day Chauncey Street is Chauncy Street on this map
Public Record Office Victoria VPRS 8168/P0002, DIST65; HEATHCOTE TOWNSHIP; CHAUNCY P

In 1860 Philip was transferred to the Dunolly Survey District, sixty miles west of Heathcote. He moved there in 1861.

The Survey office and Chauncy residence (where my great great grandmother Annie Frances (1857 – 1883) was born) still stands. When I first saw it on a visit to Heathcote in 2007 it was very run down.

Heathcote Government Surveyor’s Office in 2007 viewed from Chauncey Street
Renovations in progress on the Heathcote Government Surveyor’s Office in March 2020
The restored former Heathcote Government Surveyor’s Office in March 2022

Extensive renovation since then has considerably restored its colonial mid-Victorian character and charm. It now operates as a fine restaurant, named Chauncy.

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Further reading:

Wikitree: Philip Lamothe Snell Chauncy (1816 – 1880)