John Septimus Roe

John Septimus Roe (8 May 1797–28 May 1878) was born at Newbury, Berkshire on 8 May 1797. At ten, Roe was sent to Christ's Hospital School in London, to study for a career as a school teacher. There, he showed a great aptitude for mathematics, and was selected for training by the Mathematical School, which trained selected students for service in the Royal Navy. He was an outstanding student, and was apprenticed to the Navy at the age of 15.

John Septimus Roe entered the Naval service on 11 June 1813. His first appointment was as a midshipman on HMS Rippon, captained by Sir Christopher Cole. Over the next year, the Rippon was engaged in a blockade of the French coast. After the Napoleonic wars ended in 1814, the Rippon returned to England, and Roe was appointed as a midshipman to HMS Horatio under Captain Dillon on 17 August. Roe travelled with HMS Horatio' until January 1817. On 4 February 1817, the Admiralty appointed him to the surveying service in New South Wales, under the command of Captain Phillip Parker King; Roe sailed for New South Wales on the troopship Dick, arriving on 3 September 1817.

Roe was involved in many surveys of the North, East and South Coasts of Australia. In Sydney, Roe carried out a survey of Sydney Harbour. Despite the capsizing of his boat on 19 August 1822, with the loss of four lives, the survey was completed, to be published by the Admiralty in 1826.

Roe returned to England visiting his family and meeting his future wife, Matilda Bennett. When the position of Surveyor-General of New South Wales became vacant, he expressed interest, but was informed it had already been filled. Shortly afterwards, however, he was offered the position of Surveyor-General of Western Australia, to be attached to an intended new settlement at the Swan River. Roe accepted on the condition that the position be a civilian appointment, as he was keen to leave the navy.

Having accepted the position, Roe had little time to set his affairs in order, as the official party would soon be leaving on the Parmelia. He then set about the purchase of equipment for his own requirements and for the surveying office. The Roes embarked upon the Parmelia on 3 February 1829.

The Parmelia arrived at the Swan River on 1 June 1829. Roe immediately set about making preliminary surveys of the harbour, river and surrounding land. The sites of Perth and Fremantle were chosen on his recommendation, and he was responsible for laying out the towns. During this period, Roe had only a single assistant to help him. Because of the immediate need to survey the harbour and lay out the towns, no rural blocks were surveyed until September.

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