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William Light Collection

Colonel William Light was South Australia’s first Surveyor-General. His design for the city of Adelaide is considered by many to be a prototype for an ideal city plan.

Adelaide was the first town planned in the world using trigonometrical survey rather than the established ‘running survey’. Light worked with a grid design, consistent with that used in other British colonies, but his plan introduced the concept of the ‘garden city’ – the belt of parklands.

Light’s plan was featured in the influential work by Ebenezer Howard, Garden Cities of To-morrow (1898, 1902) which inspired a key movement in the development of modern town planning, and influenced urban designers such as Walter Burley and Marion Mahony Griffin.

Light’s correspondence, notebooks, diaries, writings, watercolours, sketchbooks, plans and maps, held by History South Australia, State Library of South Australia, State Records of South Australia, and the City of Adelaide Civic Collection, cover the period 1809-1841, and are the only surviving papers of an official relating to the first survey work in the colony of South Australia. The papers are important evidence in the controversy over whether Light or George Strickland Kingston was the originator of the plan of Adelaide.

Inscription Number: #27

Year of Inscription: 2008

Physical Locations:History South Australia City of Adelaide Civic Collection State Library of South Australia, State Records of South Australia

Light's Plan of the city of Adelaide

Light’s Plan: This plan of the city of Adelaide was drawn to Surveyor-General Colonel William Light’s instructions in 1837 by draftsman Robert Thomas. Watercolour, 1690mm x 1210mm

History SA HT2001.166

Letter by William Light to his friend George Jone

Letter by William Light to his friend George Jones in England written from ‘Gulf St Vincent Lat. 34.43 Long. 138’3’’, dated 22 November 1836. The letter deals with the site he had chosen for the settlement and includes a sketch of the locality, with an enthusiastic description of the area. George Jones was an artist who painted Light’s portrait in 1823.

Courtesy of the State Library of South Australia