The first printed chart of the area that would become the Swan River Settlement
By CROSS, Joseph; and James STIRLING , 1829

Chart of Swan and Canning rivers on the Western Coast of Australia The Government will be administered by Captain Stirling R.N. as Civil Superintendent & Lieutenant Governor of the Settlement

Australasia & the Pacific Australia
  • Author: CROSS, Joseph; and James STIRLING
  • Publication place: London
  • Publisher: by J. Cross 18 Holborn (opposite Furnivals Inn)
  • Publication date: 15th Jan.y, 1829.
  • Physical description: Large folding engraved map, dissected and laid down on linen in 30 sections, with contemporary hand-colour in full.
  • Dimensions: 1130 by 600mm. (44.5 by 23.5 inches).
  • Inventory reference: 15055


The first printed map of the coastal region of Western Australia that would become the Swan River Settlement, preceding the first widely circulated map of the area, a ‘Sketch of the New Settlement of Swan River’, published in the ‘Quarterly Review’ of April 1829, by three months, and a ‘Chart of Swan River’, engraved by Arrowsmith and published in the House of Commons’ ‘Swan River Settlement. Copies of the Correspondence of the Colonial Department with Certain Gentlemen proposing to form a Settlement in the Neighbourhood of Swan River, in Western Australia’, on the 13th of May 1829.

The map
Cross’ map is based on the survey by James Stirling, and his map shows the tracks of HMS ‘Success’ as he sailed the coastline in 1827, taking comprehensive soundings. The map extends from about 31 degrees south, parallel with the upper reaches of the Swan River at ‘Ellen’s Brook’, to nearly 34 degrees south to Cape Naturaliste, and east to ‘General Darlings Range’ (‘averaging in Height about 1200 Feet’) between about 115 to 117 degrees east, and taking in Rottenest Island and Garden Island to the west.

The map includes Stirling’s persuasive commentary on the landscape, clearly designed to encourage settlement: “The whole line of Coast as far as Geographe Bay is a lime Stone Ridge from 20 to 600 feet in height extending inland to the distance of from one to five miles”; “Fine undulating grassy plains”; “fine level open forest country extending to the base of the range”; “undulating grassy country thinly wooded”; Mount William, at 3000 feet, is described as being “Very remarkable”; and evidence of a bountiful supply of fresh water “St. Mary’s Spring A Stream of Mineral Water”.

Joseph Cross (?died 1865)
Cross appears to have had a keen interest in emigration to the Australian colonies, having published several works related, including: Atkinson’s ‘An Account of the State of Agriculture and Grazing in New South Wales’, 1826; ‘Chart of Van Dieman’s Land’, 1826; ‘Chart of Part of New South Wales…’, 1827 – 1829; Wakefield’s ‘A Letter from Sydney, the Principal Town of Australasia. Edited by Robert Gouger. Together with the Outline of a System of Colonization’, 1829; Busby’s ‘Authentic Information Relating to New South Wales, and New Zealand’, 1832; but most famously, “the earliest work relating to the inland exploration of Western Australia” (Wantrup): ‘Journals of Several Expeditions Made in Western Australia During the Years 1829, 1830, 1831 and 1832: Under the Sanction of the Governor, Sir James Stirling’, 1833, which includes his subsequent map of Western Australia.

Captain James Stirling (1791-1865).

Fearful of French colonization in the Pacific, in April of 1826 Stirling was given command of the new HMS ‘Success’ with instructions to take a supply of currency to Sydney and then to move the misplaced and unsuccessful garrison at Melville Island. Once at Sydney, Stirling was soon persuaded by Governor, Sir Ralph Darling to sail west instead and examine the coast with the idea in mind of establishing a defensive garrison or other settlement that might open trade with the East Indies. Stirling “sailed in 1827 and during a fortnight’s visit was much impressed with the land in the vicinity of the Swan River. So also, was the New South Wales government botanist, Charles Frazer, whose report added weight to Stirling’s political and commercial arguments in favour of its immediate acquisition and Stirling’s appointment to establish a new colony there… under the direct control of the British government, and superintended initially by Stirling: a bill would soon be brought before parliament to provide for its government; private capitalists and syndicates would be allotted land in the proposed settlement according to the amount of capital and the money they spent on fares and equipment; priority of choice would be given only to those who arrived before the end of 1830, and no syndicate or company would be the exclusive patron and proprietor of the settlement.

On 2 May 1829 Captain C. H. Fremantle of the Challenger took possession, at the mouth of the Swan River, of the whole of Australia which was not then included within the boundaries of New South Wales. Stirling, who arrived later with his family and civil officials in the store-ship Parmelia, proclaimed the foundation of the colony on 18 June” (F. K. Crowley, ‘Stirling, Sir James (1791–1865)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography).

Exceptionally rare: only institutional examples are known, in the State Library of New South Wales; the State Library of Victoria; the BnF; and Utrecht University Library; Stirling’s original manuscript map is housed in the National Archives at Kew, with a copy in the Western Australia Archives.