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Biographical entry Blackburn, James (1803 - 1854)

Upton, Essex, England
Collingwood, Victoria, Australia
Architect, Civil engineer and Surveyor


James Blackburn was employed as a sewer inspector in England in 1826. Later that year he was sentenced for fraud and deported, along with his family to Tasmania. Due to laudatory testimonials he was immediately employed at the Department of Roads and Bridges. In 1839 he was instrumental in the formation of the Department of Public Works alongside his colleague Alexander Cheyne. A significant part of Tasmania's road-making, surveying, and engineering work was performed by Blackburn. He was granted a full pardon in 1841 and set up his own engineering and architecture practice in Melbourne in 1849. Among many other projects, he designed the Melbourne water supply from the Yan Yean reservoir and is lauded in history as one of the greatest engineers of his time in Australia.

Published resources

Book Sections

Edited Books

  • Bailey, M. R.; Chrimes, M. M.; Cox, R. C.; Cross-Rudkin, P. S. M.; Hurst, B. L.; McWilliam, R. C., Rennison, R. W.; Ruddock, E. C.; Sutherland, R. J. M.; Swailes, T. ed., Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers in Great Britain and Ireland, Volume 2: 1830-1890 (London, United Kingdom: Thomas Telford Publishing, 2008), 907 pp. pp.96-97. Details


Resource Sections

  • Rasmussen, Carolyn, 'From the Significant to the Indispensible: The Working Lives of Seventeen Figures in the History of the Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works', in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian National University, 2019, Details

Tom Hyde