John Septimus Roe statue
Public Art : John Septimus Roe statue
Sculptor: © Greg James
Description: The bronze statue of the Swan River
Colony's first Survey General, Sir John Septimus Roe (1797 -1878), stands on the site of what was once Roe's
family home. It is one of the few statues in Perth installed at street level (without a plinth or base).
Date : The John Spetimus Roe statue was originally
complete in 1990 but in 2007, the statue was donate to the City by MacCormac Architects and installed at its
Location: John Septimus Roe can be found on the
corner of Victoria Ave and Adelaide Terrace, Perth, Western Australia.
So Who Was John Septimus Roe? :
John Septimus Roe was born at Newbury, Berkshire on the 8th May, 1797.
A young Roe was a whiz at mathematics and was subsequently apprenticed to the Royal Navy at the age
of 15. Roe's first appointment was on the HMS Rippon in 1813 during the closing stages of the Napoleonic wars.
In 1817 the Admiralty appointed him to the surveying service in New South Wales, under the command
of Captain Phillip Parker King.
His first role in Australia was to assist Captain Phillip Parker King on the 1817 -1822 expeditions
of the Australian coast on the cutter Mermaid and later Bathurst. On board was also botanist Allan Cunnigham. During the first journey Roe nearly drowned in the Kalgan
River while trying to circumnavigate Oyster Harbour. Following his misadventurer King named a point on
the peninsula Mount Roe in Roe's honour.
During the 1821 expedition on the Bathurst, Roe escaped serious injury when he fell 15m (50feet)
from the masthead and was knocked unconscious.
On his return to Sydney he again dodged death when his boat capsized while surveying Sydney harbour
and 4 lives were lost.
Roe returned briefly to England before being assigned to help establish a settlement at
Melville Island. From there he traveled to Ceylon, India and Rangoon carrying out naval duties and
Roe once again returned to England to recoupe from a bout of bad health.
Having just missed out on the position of Surveyor-General of New South Wales, Roe instead
excepted the position of Surveyor-General of Western Australia under the proviso he could leave the navy and
take the role as a civilian appointment. They were happy to oblige.
Before setting sail on the Parmelia to establish the Swan River Colony in 1829, Roe proposed and
married Matilda Bennett. They both boarded the ship together.
On arrival Roe quickly jumped to action, making preliminary surveys of the harbour, river and
surrounding land. He chose Perth and Fremantle as key locations for towns. Much to his surprise and frustration,
within 2 months of his arrival three shiploads of settlers arrived, all expecting to take up land. As he and
his assistant had been busy surveying the harbour and designing the layout of the town, they hadn't even had a
chance to survey rural blocks. The pressure was on and so too an ever increasing backlog. By April, 1830, 36 ships
full of settlers had arrived to the colony all expecting land. Roe and his assistant were under enormous stress and
growing anger from disgruntled settlers.
John Septimus Roe Trivia : A slight
kink in the road, where St George's Terrace and Adelaide Terrace meet, is
rumoured to exist because Roe's wife Matilda did not want her favourite tree cut down so John
designed the road to go around it.