The Liverpool lad who mapped our capital

Charles Scrivener named the location of our capital city.

Charles Scrivener named the location of our capital city.

Why is Scrivener Dam on Lake Burley-Griffin in Canberra named after a boy who grew up in Liverpool? 

Good question! When five-year-old Charles Robert Scrivener (or Charley to his friends) arrived in Liverpool by train with his family on a hot dusty afternoon in 1860, it was the start of a new life with new opportunities.

The family was to prosper in what was then a struggling, sparsely populated town.

His father, Charles Ambrose Scrivener, was to become one of the most dominating figures in 19th century Liverpool.

He had come to Liverpool to take up his post as a school teacher in the double-storey weatherboard school house opposite Bigge Park, the first public building in Liverpool constructed in 1811.

The family opened up a general store named Scrivener and Sons. Charles' influence grew and he served on Liverpool Council for 28 years, five as the mayor.

Charley would help his father in the shop delivering papers around the town and to train passengers, delivering orders and cleaning and feeding the horses, all before school.

Charley joined the NSW Department of Lands as a cadet Geodetic Computer in the Trigonometric Branch in 1876.  

He went on to conduct surveys in the rugged country across the State producing incredibly detailed maps in harsh conditions which established his reputation as an extremely able bushman.

In 1908, Charley was given the task of identifying the location for the nation's Capital and mapping a new federal territory.

In 1909, he recommended the Canberra valley as the site. It has been argued that Lake Burley-Griffin should have been named Lake Scrivener is it was Charley who recommended a water feature years before the design competition.

Charley was later appointed Director of Commonwealth Lands and Surveys, a position he held until his retirement in 1915.

Canberra University lecturer and teacher Terry Birtles has written the definitive biography on one of Liverpool's most successful sons. He is coming to Liverpool to deliver a free talk on the life of Charley Scrivener at the next meeting of the Liverpool Historical Society at Liverpool Museum on Saturday, June 10 from 1pm. For details contact 0403 107 496.

Glen op den Brouw

President, Liverpool Historical Society


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