During the summer period in the four years from 1849, water was rationed in the City of Sydney, and public criticism of the City Councilís inability to provide adequate water supplies resulted in a number of investigations carried out by both the Council and the Legislative Council. Following the recommendations of the Legislative Councilís second Select Committee, the City Council was abolished in October 1853 (until 1857) and three Commissioners were appointed to exercise municipal functions.
The Survey was undertaken by the City Surveyorís Department of the Council, starting while the Commissioners were in office, as part of a push to expedite water, sewerage and drainage services.
The Survey began with the taking of measurements in October 1854. The laying out and plotting of the construction lines of the streets, and the filling in of the interior commenced shortly after. The filling in of the Planís interior was contracted out to private surveyors.
The plan completed in 1855-1856 is not the plan that now survives as this records series. In December 1864 the City Engineer, Edward Bell, reported to the Council's Finance Committee that the 1855-1856 plan (described as comprising 24 sheets each about six feet square) was out of date because of new building construction and old buildings being pulled down. He recommended a copy be taken off the original, at the same scale, and updated to show the current position (NSCA CRS 22/8, Report of 9 Feb 1865). The report was endorsed by the Committee.
Pencil annotations suggest the plan was used as a working copy until the 1880s, to sketch changes to the sewerage and water systems, changes to street names and alignments, to property boundaries, and newly constructed buildings.
The plan was transferred to the Metropolitan Water Sewerage & Drainage Board, presumably following creation of the Board in 1888 to take over functions from the City Council. It was transferred from the Board to the NSW State Archives in 1974. The records comprising this series are now held by the State Records Authority of New South Wales (records series NRS 9929). The digital copy available here was created as a joint City Archives - State Records project during 2002-2003.