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Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales, 1788-1899

Harris v. Riddell [1834] NSWSupC 80

architecture - surveying

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Dowling J., 1 July 1834

Source: Australian, 4 July 1834[1 ]

Tuesday. - S. L. Harris v. C. D. Riddell, Esq.  This was an action in the nature of a feigned issue, for the purpose of trying the right to the plaintiff to certain commission and other allowances claimed by him from the Government for services performed as a Surveyor and Architect.  It appeared by a letter written in 1822, by Major Goulburn, the then Colonial Secretary, that Mr. Harris was retained by Government as Colonial Architect, with a nominal salary of £100 a year, and as a further remuneration, and allowance of £10 per cent. on the value of the wall of the new gaol then erecting on the South Head Road.  It further appeared that by subsequent official directions he was required to make a survey estimate and general expose of the state and condition of most of the public buildings of the Colony, and to form plans in order that they might be transmitted to England, for the information of the Home Government, but to the labour no fixed scale of remuneration had been agreed to.  It was proved that he had not only devoted the whole of his time to, this duty, but had also employed three assistants besides paying fore his own stationery, office rent, and travelling expenses.

The plaintiff's claim was resisted by the local Government, on the ground that as to the gaol wall, the commission was to be taken only on the actual cost to the Government, which employed convict labourers, and not on the real value of the work, and that as to his commission for making the expose, and surveying the public buildings, and also his claim for stationery and clerks expenses, &c. that was to be covered by the salary of £100 a year.  After a lengthened correspondence with the local Government, plaintiff appealed to the Secretary of State who directed the present Governor at his discretion to allow the case to be fairly tried, by authorising one of the public officers to appear and defend the action, as between subject and subject.

The Jury, after a patient investigation, which lasted till nine o'clock at night, found a verdict for the plaintiff, damages £1420 4s. 6d.

Counsel for plaintiff, Messrs. Norton, Keith, and Unwin; for defendant, the Solicitor General.



[1 ] For the trial notes, see Dowling, Proceedings of the Supreme Court, State Records of New South Wales, 2/3282, vol. 99, p. 10.

On 4 September 1834, Governor Bourke informed Lord Stanley that he had appointed Riddell, the Colonial Treasurer, as Nominal Defendant to this action.  This had been ordered by Viscount Goderich to settle Harris' claims.  Bourke told Stanley of the verdict and that it had been paid: Historical Records of Australia, Series 1, Vol. 17, p. 502.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University