This record needs moderation

sketcher, amateur photographer, modeller and surveyor, was born in Datchet, Buckinghamshire, on 21 June 1816, third and youngest surviving child of William Snell Chauncy and Theresa, the English-born daughter of a French surgeon, Dr Dominique Pierre Lamothe. He was the brother of Martha Snell Berkeley and Theresa Snell Walker . Their mother died in 1818 and their father remarried the following year, subsequently having five more children, some of whom also came to Australia. The Chauncys lived in France for almost five years, and, said Philip, his elder sister Theresa 'did her best to supply the place of a mother to me’. In 1825 the family moved back to Britain and Philip lived with his father and family in Wales and Worcester, until going to London to study under an aurist, Mr Curtis of Soho Square.

Chauncy’s sisters had migrated to South Australia in 1836. Prompted by Theresa’s glowing accounts of the colony, Philip joined them in 1839, landing at Holdfast Bay from the Dumfries on 23 October. Other members of the Chauncy family were in Adelaide by 1841, the year Philip married Charlotte Kemmis and was appointed an assistant government surveyor at the Swan River Colony (Western Australia). He noted 'making a reduced sketch of Fremantle in my field book’, on 19 October 1845.

Charlotte died on 11 February 1847 at their home 'The Retreat’ at West Guildford, when Philip was away surveying the York Road. On 30 June 1848 Philip married Susan Augusta Mitchell, the daughter of Rev. William Mitchell, at Middle Swan Church (WA), in a twin ceremony with Susan’s sister Anne (who married Edward Courthope, brother of Elizabeth Irwin ). Rev Mitchell conducted the ceremony and the two sister were given away by Major Irwin. Philip’s diary (DL) records that he 'Took a pencil portrait of my Susie’ on 2 September 1848 and that two days later he was making a model of his wife, the only known reference to any sculptural aspirations.

In 1853 Philip, Susan and the children moved to Heathfield, Melbourne, Victoria, where Chauncy set up as a private land surveyor and estate agent. Lack of business led to his accepting the position of assistant government surveyor at the McIvor (Heathcote) diggings, the journey there of 72 miles with his wife and their four children taking, he said, 'ten days, of which it rained nine’. He surveyed Heathcote and selected and surveyed Echuca. He made sketches of the developing Heathcote township and district in the 1850s, including a view of the cemetery containing the grave of his eldest son, Philip Lamothe, who died in 1854, aged three. Another sketch, Survey Office, Heathcote, Victoria (c. 1855), shows the assistant surveyor’s Gothic Revival cottage with tiny figures of two of his children, Tese (Theresa) and Willie, in the foreground.

From 1860 Chauncy was chief survey officer at Dunolly, Victoria. He took some photographic views of the area in 1865. The family then settled in Melbourne because of his wife’s ill-health. Susan died in 1870 and Philip’s sister Theresa (now the widowed Mrs Poole) came to look after the eight surviving Chauncy children. Chauncy published affectionate tributes to both wife and sister in 1873 and 1876, reprinted as Memoirs of Mrs Poole and Mrs Chauncy (Kilmore 1976) and illustrated with some of his sketches. He continued to be employed as a Victorian district surveyor at Castlemaine, Ararat, Camperdown and Ballarat until 'Black Wednesday’ (9 January 1878) when the Appropriation Bill was blocked in the Victorian Parliament and all public servants lost their jobs. He then became registrar to the Anglican bishop of Ballarat, retiring through ill-health in November 1879. He died at Ballarat on 9 April 1880.

Chauncy’s obituary in the Ballarat Star (10 April 1880) stated that he was a highly competent and imaginative surveyor and planner. Examples of his survey plans survive in the Crown Lands and Survey Department, Melbourne. Wherever he lived he became acquainted with the Aboriginal people and learned their languages, contributing an appendix and helping Robert Brough Smyth with other material for his book, The Aborigines of Victoria (Melbourne 1878).

Staff Writer
Date written:
Last updated: