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Surveyor's Hut

Surveyor's Hut

Surveyor's or Scrivener's Hut (the Hut), is a small concrete store for survey plans of the new Federal Capital, is all that remains of the camp established at this site in 1909 by Charles Robert Scrivener and his surveyors. The Hut is part of west Capital Hill, between Capital and State Circles. A survey of the area was undertaken to provide information to the Commonwealth, and more specifically, to provide base survey drawings for the impending design competition of Canberra.

Why is this place important?

The Hut is important because it was part of the original Federal Capital survey camp, and is one of the earliest extant Commonwealth buildings within the Federal Capital. The concrete building, with corrugated iron roof and heavy steel door, was used in the 1910 surveyor's expedition to the future capital site to store maps and other documents. It is named after Charles Scrivener, the first director of Commonwealth lands and surveys.The Hut was associated with Charles Robert Scrivener, Canberra's Surveyor, who mapped the region for the design competition for the capital. He later worked closely with Walter Burley Griffin in his preparation of the 1918 plan for Canberra.

The Hut was used to store survey drawings and plans. As a functional building, it demonstrates innovative and pragmatic use of materials.

The site also contains populations of the endangered Button Wrinklewort. The Scrivener's Hut site contains a small population of around 300 plants.

The management of Scrivener's Hut is primarily guided by the NCA's Conservation Management Plans for Sites Managed by the National Capital Authority 2009. Management of heritage values is also undertaken in accordance with the Lake Burley Griffin and Adjacent Lands Heritage Management Plan.

The key management needs of the site are weed control, mowing the open grass areas, and conducting controlled ecological burns. Click here for more information on conservation needs of the ACT's grassy ecosystems, including information about how you can help.

Looking at the Surveyors' Hut

The Hut is a simple, single roomed structure measuring 3.11 x 2.98 metres. The walls of mass concrete are uniformly 250 mm thick and have been finished with a cement render. The floor is also of concrete.

The roof in enclosed by a flat concrete ceiling, which is protected from the weather by an open ended bowed corrugated iron roof. The roof has no framing apart from two timber top plates from which it is sprung. The use of such a roof was innovative.

The roof extends to form an overhang on the north and south ends of the Hut, while on the east and west it finishes flush with the walls. Originally the overhang to the north formed a lobby between the Hut and the surveyor's offices. Evidence of the timber framing to the lobby can be seen in the mortices cut into the top plates. Access to the Hut is through a heavy timber framed and ledged door that is sheeted externally with iron. The door features sturdy iron hinges and bolts.

The use of steel, iron and concrete protected the survey drawings from fire.

History of the Hut and Capital Hill

The surveyor's camp was created by Charles Robert Scrivener and his team in bushland at Capital Hill in 1909. Scrivener was the District Surveyor of Hay, New South Wales. In 1908, his services were 'loaned' to the Commonwealth to provide survey information on the proposed Federal Capital sites, which were being selected. The camp at Capital Hill initially consisted of fourteen tents and one permanent skillion roofed structure. By 1911, two gabled roof drawing offices had been placed to the east of the tents. The exact date of when the Surveyor's Hut was constructed in not known, but it appeared in photographs from 1913.

The international competitors for the planning of Canberra used Scrivener's base survey maps. The winning competitor, American architect and planner Walter Burley Griffin, worked closely with Scrivener until the surveyor's retirement in 1915. The Walter and Marion Griffin completed their final plan in January 1918. It was then prepared by Scrivener's team and printed later that year.

By 1920, some of the roadworks for the Griffin plan had been established and a plan prepared during that year showed a road skirting the surveyor's camp (State Circle) and crossing the Molonglo River. In 1941, the roadworks near the Surveyor's Hut were a little further advanced, but the State Circle was still incomplete.

Other uses were found for the Capital Hill site. In 1925, the Commonwealth Works Department erected a series of makeshift huts (Capital Hill and Hillside Hostels) on the Hill as housing for workers engaged in the construction of the Provisional Parliament House and other large Federal Capital projects. These huts were removed in 1966.

Capital Hill was chosen as the site of the new Parliament House and construction work for that project continued around the Surveyor's Hut for over a decade. With the opening of Parliament House in 1988, the Hut remains intact at the base of Capital Hill. It remains as one of the earliest Commonwealth built structures.


The Surveyor's Hut is located north-west of Parliament House, between State and Capital Circle. The interior of the Hut is not accessible to the public.