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Subdivision Plans

This is a large collection of posters advertising new subdivisions and sale of land in NSW.

What are these collections?

The subdivision plans, also known as estate maps, are part of the Library's extensive map collection. Mostly produced from the 1860s to the 1930s, these posters advertised new subdivisions and sale of land. They were originally produced by real estate agents to promote the merits of newly created estates and subdivisions.  Printed in both colour and black & white, these advertising materials illustrate the early development of the real estate industry in Australia, highlight changes in the way land was subdivided, streets were named and properties were valued and reflect the spread of suburbs across Sydney and regional areas.

Subvision plans were fleeting items, not meant to last beyond the land auction and many would have been discarded by real estate agencies once a property was sold. The Library has acquired over 40,000 of these ephemeral advertising posters.

What we can learn from the collection

The plans illustrate the urban development of Sydney and New South Wales, as large estates were divided up and transformed into suburbs and towns.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, there was a large scale movement of people from the inner city following the clearing of the densely populated areas around Millers Point and Surry Hills and the development of large industrial and manufacturing estates in the outer city areas. The Subdivision plans particularly focus on the rush to purchase land in Sydney’s expanding suburbs which often centred around the suburban rail and public transport network.

They also document the development of regional and rural New South Wales, from the subdivision of large pastoral estates and the sale of crown lands to the development of towns to support rural industries.

Most of the plans are lithographs, some are hand-drawn survey maps, often the first iteration of the newly created land division. Many of the plans have been annotated with prices of individual lots, how many were sold on the day of the auction and also include details such as planned railway stations, parks and whether city water and gas were available. 

The Library is digitising its large collection of subdivision plans and you can follow the progress of this project through our online map guide. You can find subdivision plans for particular suburbs through our catalogue. Here is the collection for Bondi.