Land Research NSW:

Crown Land History

Crown Land Tenures in NSW


New South Wales was a penal colony and to maintain order, limits of settlement were imposed by the Colonial Office in London. The needs of the blossoming agricultural industry however could not easily be constrained and many families sent sons out beyond the limits in search of pasture on which to run their herds. Having no legal right to occupy these large tracks of land they simple squatted on them, becoming known as "squatters", and the land they occupied become known as a "run" because they "ran" their cattle and sheep on the land. Through the HLRV you may also find plans of the old "runs", sketchs of the areas held by squatters.

 By the mid 1830s the vast expansion of this illegal settlement was a significant problem and many now wealthy squatters clambered for some form of recognition of their occupation. In 1836 grazing leases of seven to fourteen years were granted. At the end of which the grazier had a certain pre-emptive rights to purchase. After the gold rushes of the 1850s large amounts of capital were available and with increasing emigration more people wished to settle on the land. However as so much of it was take up by the squatters the government was forced to act to free up the land for more settlement.

The Crown Land Acts of 1861 (1)

In 1861 in NSW, John Robinson enacted the Crown Lands Alienation Act and The Crown Lands Occupation Act and the era of the free selector started. These acts allowed people to select portions of crown land which included land held by the squatters by pre emptive right. They became known as "selectors". The great rivalry between these groups became a thing of legend, generating much literature and poetry, such as Henry Lawson's "The Fire at Ross's Farm". Mr Robinson's Act's provider two tenures; a Conditional Purchase and a Conditional Lease.

Administration of the crown land holdings

By 1913 political, economic and social needs had seen a vast growth in the number and types of tenures. Tenures like solider settlements holdings, used to assist returned solders to settle on to the land, or Prickly Pear Leases designed to see if land, infected with noxious weeds could be brought under cultivation. This growth brought about the Crown Lands Consolidation Act, which was the primary legislation for crown land holdings until its repeal in 1989.

Tenure Cards

Administration of these tenures was done by keeping a separate card for each holding known as a Tenure Card. Each tenure card was known by the name of the holding eg CSL 1935/123 Moree. To decode, first is the name of the tenure, (Closer Settlement Lease) then the year it was granted, the number of the holding, and then, the land district it was granted in. On the card would be recorded details of who held the land, rents or instalments paid and any mortgages affecting the land. Also recorded on the card were any resumptions or other actions affecting the area.


The charting maps would indicate if a portion was a crown holding. Tenure cards contain a wealth of historical and family history. Unfortunately, as the crown tenures have now been converted into Torrens titles the tenure cards where transferred to the NSW State Archives Office, which is now located in Kingswood an outer western suburb of Sydney. The Office is reluctant to release them for privacy reasons.(2) You may however be able to obtain copies from the local lands office. Even though this land was leasehold crown land, regulations did require that certain transactions were registered before they would be recorded on the tenure card. The only way to do that was to register the sale or mortgage in the old system register. So, while the card may be difficult to see searching in the vendors index may reveal some information about owners and mortgages.

Here is a list of the main holdings under the Crown Lands Consolidation Act.
Title Abbreviation
Auction Purchase A. P.
After Auction Purchase A. A. P
After Tender Purchase A. T. P.
Annual Lease A. L.
If your land was not big enough to sustain an income you may have been able to apply for addition land. Any additional land was prefixed with the word additional. Therefore any other tenure with an "a" in the name would be an additional holding. Eg ACP 1945/123 Moree would be an additional conditional purchase.
Title Abbreviation
Conditional Purchase C. P.
Conditional Lease C. L.
Conditional Purchase Lease C. P. L.
Crown Lease Cn. L.
Closer Settlement Lease C. S. L.
Group Purchase Lease G. P. L.
Homestead Farm H. F.
Homestead Selection H. S.
Improvement Lease I. L.
Improvement Purchase I. P.
Inferior Land Lease I. L. L.
Occupational Licence O. L
Preferential Occupational Licence P. O. L.
Permissive Occupancy P. O.
This tenure, as the name implies was simply a licence to occupy land for a limited time and for a limited purpose, they were administered by the local Lands Office. The cards were not kept at Crown Lands Head Office.
Title Abbreviation
Prickly pear lease P. P. L.
Residential Lease R. L.
Residential Lease Purchase R. L. P.
Soldiers Group Purchase S. G. P.
Return Soldiers Special Holding Purchase R. S. S. H. P.
Suburban Holding S. H.
Suburban Holding Purchase S. H. P.
Snow lease Sn. L.
Special Lease Sp. L
Settlement Purchase S. P.
Settlement Purchase Lease S. P. L.
Settlement Purchase S. P.
Town Lands Lease T. L.L.
Town Land Lease Purchase T. L. L.P.
Week-end Lease W. E. L.
Week-end Lease Purchase W. E. L. P.
Western Lands Lease W. L. L.