Parishes and historical land administration
Queensland was originally divided into administrative areas to create a unique identifier for each property.
The initial administrative areas included pastoral districts, counties, parishes and land agent's districts.
Status of counties
Each county was usually 40 miles square in size. Some were unworkably large and were subdivided in 1900, increasing the total number from 109 to 319.
Knowing a county name can be important as the same parish names can be found in different counties (e.g. there is a Parish of Inglewood in the Counties of Bentinck, Clive and Marsh).
- View a list of county maps and scans available through Open Data.
- View the 19th century counties key map.
- View the key map for counties from 1900.
- Search the Queensland Place names database to discover more information about specific counties.
- Refer to the dates of revised county maps.
Status of parishes
Parishes were formed by subdividing counties into smaller administrative areas, usually about 25 square miles in size. The parish name was an intrinsic part of a property identifier in the old titling system.
In 1980s when the cadastre of Queensland was digitised a new numbering system was introduced that did not require the parish association. Now all property titles use the new titling convention.
Legal status: Although never officially removed as official names via the Government Gazette, the use of parishes as identifiers is now only relevant for historical title searches.
According to the last edition of the Queensland Parish Directory published in 1986 there were 5,317 parishes in Queensland.
Identifying properties using the historical parishes system
When blocks of land were surveyed within a parish, they were given a unique portion number. The unique identifier for the block would be the portion number and the parish name (e.g. Portion 23 Parish of Rosewood).
When freehold blocks were subdivided for the first time, the resulting blocks were described as subdivisions (subs) of the portion (e.g. subs 1 and 2 of Portion 23 Parish of Rosewood).
If these subdivisions were in turn subdivided, the resulting blocks were called resubdivisions (resubs) (e.g. resubs 1 and 2 of sub 1 of Portion 23 Parish of Rosewood). These could be further subdivided in which case the description of sub was again used (e.g. sub 1 of resub 2 of sub 1 of Portion 23 Parish of Rosewood). The next subdivision of this block would use the resub description and this pattern would repeat.
As land was further subdivided the system became more complex and untenable. A new system was needed to service a growing Queensland.
- View a list of parish maps and scans available through Open Data.
- Research parishes in the Queensland Parish directory—this resource was published in 1986 and contains 80 maps showing the parish boundaries.
- Search the Queensland Place names database to discover more information about specific parishes.
- Refer to the dates of revised parish maps.
Status of pastoral districts
Pastoral districts were created to assist in administering pastoral runs. A run referred to a large area on which sheep and cattle were depastured without the need for a lot of fencing.
A total of 15 pastoral districts were gazetted from 1842 to 1873:
- Moreton Bay
- Darling Downs
- Wide Bay
- Port Curtis
- North Kennedy
- South Kennedy
- Gregory North
- Gregory South.
- View lists of maps and scans available through Open Data:
- View a map showing the location of pastoral districts.
- Search the Queensland Place names database to discover more information about individual pastoral districts.
Land agents’ districts
Status of land agents' districts
Introduced in 1868, land agents' districts were used to help administer crown leases. They were rescinded in 1991.
Other administrative areas
Local government areas
Local governments were formally established in 1879 with the passing of the Divisional Boards Act, and are still in use today.
Localities (commonly referred to as suburbs) were not officially recognised until the Place Names Act was passed in 1958.
Using administrative areas to identify parcels of land
Uniquely identifying parcels of land and subdivisions
Descriptions of land evolved from common law in England. They were used to uniquely identify parcels (properties) of land or individual properties. The system of descriptions used was influenced by where a property was located and the size of the block and type of tenure. These included:
- Large properties (known as runs) were identified by the name of the run and the pastoral district that the run fell within (e.g. Marathon, Burke District).
- Smaller blocks of land in a rural setting were described based on parishes.
- Smaller blocks of land located in towns or cities were described based on the fact that they were part of a built up area.
Towns and cities system
When blocks of land were surveyed within a town or city area, they were usually given a unique allotment of section number. The unique identifier for the block would be the allotment of section and the town / city name (e.g. Allotment 5 of Section 2 Town of Lowood).
When freehold blocks were subdivided for the first time, the resulting blocks were described as subdivisions (subs) of the allotment of section (e.g. subs 1 and 2 of Allotment 5 of Section 2 Town of Lowood).
If these subdivisions were in turn subdivided, the resulting blocks were called resubdivisions (resubs) (e.g. resubs 1 and 2 of sub 1 of Allotment 5 of Section 2 Town of Lowood).
These could be further subdivided in which case the description of sub was again used (e.g. sub 1 of resub 2 of sub 1 of Allotment 5 of Section 2 Town of Lowood).
The next subdivision of this block would use the resub description and this pattern would repeat.
Plan numbering systems
Plans for whole portions of parishes and allotment of sections of towns were recorded in the Survey Office and not in the Titles Office. Prior to 1900 the plan numbering system included the first letter of the county name for parishes and the first letter of the town name for allotment of section plans (e.g. the plan prefix for the County of Stanley was S31 and for the Town of Ayr, A265).
When additional counties were created in 1900, a new system of plan prefixes for counties was introduced using 2 or 3 letters from each county name to uniquely identify survey plans drawn for the crown in each county (e.g. SL was used for the County of Stanley).
Around the turn of the 20th century, the Titles Office began giving a catalogue number to survey plans for registration upon lodgement. Cataloguing allowed plans for freehold land to be related to an individual county, parish or town series.
In mid-1925, a sequential numerical survey plan system was introduced to the Titles Office. The last number under the old system was RP 38204. Plans lodged under the new system commenced with RP 40001.
Overcoming the confusion
Over time, the more a parcel of land was subdivided, the more lengthy and cumbersome the description became.
To overcome these issues, in 1965 a new method of describing parcels of land was introduced. A unique identifier was created for a block of land by allocating each block a unique number on the survey plan and calling that number lot and using the survey plan number for the plan that showed the surveyed block as part of the description (e.g. Lot 1 on Registered Plan 34533).
Over time, established parcels of land were converted from the original description to a lot on plan description (e.g. Portion 23 Parish of Rosewood was replaced by Lot 23 on CC2311, Sub 1 of resub 2 of sub 1 of Portion 23 Parish of Rosewood was replaced by Lot 1 on RP34223).
The new numbering system does not require the parish association so parishes are now only relevant for historical land searches.