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Henry Wade

1810 – 1854

Henry Wade (1810–1854), surveyor, was trained in surveying at Dublin College before being employed as a civilian assistant by the Royal Engineers Corps. Between 1834 and 1839, he worked on various projects in County Donegal and County Leitrim, also conducting surveys for planned improvements along sections of the River Shannon and for the railways. Wade was called into colonial service in 1841 following a request from the governor of New South Wales, Sir George Gipps, for six new surveyors – men with such skills being in high demand in the wake of increased immigration and the expansion of squatters into previously unsettled districts. Shortly before leaving for New South Wales, Wade married Sophia Allen, the daughter of military officer. They arrived in Sydney in October 1841 and within a few weeks Wade was instructed to proceed to Moreton Bay, which had ceased operating as a penal settlement in 1839. Tasked with sub-dividing the land for public auction, Wade drew up a plan for the town of Brisbane in April 1842 and also surveyed and planned the site of Ipswich. With the economic depression of the early 1840s beginning to affect land sales and following an official complaint against him, Wade was laid off in 1844, remaining in Brisbane on half-pay with his growing family before eventually returning to Sydney in 1846. Later that year, he was reinstated and sent to Melbourne to commence preparations for the surveying of a border between the Port Phillip district and the colony of South Australia. Wade led the first section of the border survey, starting on 3 April 1847 from the south coast at a point he and his assistant, Edward White, judged to be 141° longitude – the point agreed as that from which the border would proceed north in a straight line. By early August, they had marked out almost 200km of the border, but were forced to abandon the project when they ran out of supplies. Wade returned to the Port Phillip district and was appointed surveyor for the Portland area. In this role, he completed surveys of the township of Portland and surrounding coastal areas; the towns of Hamilton, Wickliffe and Cavendish; and the Glenelg, Wannon, Wando and Chetwynd rivers. Despite Wade’s work being hampered by the labour shortages caused by the gold rush, his superiors were dissatisfied with his progress and recalled him to Melbourne in 1854. By this time, Wade was in very poor health. He died while surveying in the area of Yangardook, near Gisborne, in July 1854, leaving Sophia and six children, the youngest less than three months old.

Updated 2018