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HOWTOguide 45: Accessing Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works (MMBW) base plans

The purpose of this How Toguide is to assist researchers with searching for MMBW base plans and should be read in conjunction with PROVguide 45: Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works (MMBW) base plans.

These plans were used at the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works (M.M.B.W.) to plot water, sewerage and drainage works.

The Index Map Book provides access to several series of base plans by providing the negative number/s required for ordering the plans. PROV’s website has a searchable digitised copy of the index map book available online.  Once you identify the location of interest from the main index, you can then view the map and from there find the plan number and order the negatives for viewing in the VAC Reading Room.

Step: 1 Log in to PROV’s online catalogue Access the Collection at


Step 2: Select the Searching tab and click on Find by number. Select Series and enter (VPRS) 12758 in VPRS field and click    on Search.


Step 3: Select the tab Accessing the records in this Series, then click on the triangle

Lists/s of records in this series, consignment  P0005 is the digitised copy of the Index Map Book, click on the  grey hyperlink  P0005 consignment.


Step 4: In the consignment details screen, click on the grey hyperlink to the Index Map Book.

Step 5: Click on the grey hyperlink to go to the Index to MMBW Map Book.  


Step 6: To download the image of the Index, click on the grey hyperlink pdf under the Download heading.


Step 7: The first page of the Index Map Book is the Main Grid System which consists of a map of the Melbourne metropolitan area by municipality, and is overlayed with a grid. Identify the grid reference for the exact location of the suburb or street of interest, the reference is a number and a letter, for example grid 11E

Main Grid System – Select the grid reference


Note: Some suburbs may be on more than one grid reference, you may need to refer to a Melways street directory) to determine the exact location (ask staff at the PROV counter).

For example looking for plans of the Essendon area, see grid reference 11E


Step 8: Now we have the map reference, to locate map 11E. Follow steps 1-5 to return to the series page and scroll through the item contents for the map of interest. In this example we want to locate map 11E. Click on the grey hyperlink to go to Map Book 11E.

This will display grid reference 11E from the Index Map Book.


Step 9: On the map locate the street(s) / area of interest – for example (Thomson Street, Essendon).

Note the base plan number for the detail base plans 40’ to 1” it is a small diagonal blue number bounded with a thin blue line (eg 1682).

Example: Thomson Street, Essendon, order (negative) plan number 1682 in VPRS 8601/P2


Step 10: Once you have the detailed base plan number/s for the maps of interest you can order the negatives for viewing.  Note: negative are held in cold storage for their long-term preservation and are delivered to the VAC reading room 24 hours from the time indicated on your Current Order.

Step 11: To order the detail base plan (for example 1682). Select the Searching tab and click on Search within a Series.



Step 12: Enter the series number in the VPRS field 8601 and the plan number (eg 1682) in the other text field and click on the Search button.


Step 13: Your search results will be displayed. To order negatives for viewing at the Victorian Archives Centre, select items from the P0002 Consignment, as indicated below, and place a tick in the check box next to the item you wish to order, then click on the Order selected entries to place the order.


Why order negatives?

  • There are usually several versions of the plans in the packet of negatives, which provides far more information than a single plan.  This can indicate changes over time, or provide different information for the same time period, such as field book numbers or property service numbers.
  • Negatives can be viewed on PROV’s reader printers and saved to USB stick free of charge or printed on the spot for a small fee.
  • By viewing negatives there is less wear and tear on the original plans, which assists with their long term preservation.

Fast Fact:  negatives are held in cold storage for their long-term preservation and are delivered to the VAC reading room 24 hours from the time indicated on your Current Order.

Step 14: If your order has been successful, your screen should show the following information:

–         What time your records will be available for viewing plus 24 hours

–         What Reading Room your records can be viewed from.


Note: Records are held in the Reading Room for 10 business days from the date ordered. After 10 days the records are returned to the repository and you will be required to reorder them.

 Tip: On the detailed base plans negatives in VPRS 8601 and VPRS 8602 the plans contain references to the field books and level books used in the survey of properties.  The numbers are recorded in a rectangle, or on the side of the plan and usually headed Field Book (FB) or Level Book (LB).  Note the FB number or LB number and place an order through PROV’s online catalogue using Search in a series, enter the series number in the VPRS field (VPRS 8600 Survey Field Books 1891 – 1970 or VPRS 8599 Survey Level Books 1901 – 1992) and the field book number or level book number in the other text field, as per the steps 10-12 above.  

What do the other references mean in the Index Map Book and which series do you order the plans/negatives from?


Page 11E


VPRS 8601 Detailed Base Plans [DP] 40’=1″ Numeric 1889 – 1970


Small diagonal blue numbers bounded with a thin blue line

(eg 1682 = VPRS 8601/P2 negatives)




page 11E


VPRS 8602 Detailed Base Plans [DP] 40’=1″ Alpha-numeric c1950 – 1978


Page number, Red Circled grid number, Grid Alpha (template in centre of page) (eg 11E 13  J  = VPRS 8602/P2 negatives)




page 11E


VPRS 8604 Record Plans 160’=1″ Numeric  c1890 – c1950


Large blue numbers bounded with a thicker blue line

(eg 100 = VPRS 8604/P2 negatives)




page 11E


VPRS 8605 Record Plans 160’=1″ Alpha-numeric c1950 – c1970


Page Number and Red Circled Grid Number

(eg 11E 6 = VPRS 8605/P2 negatives)



page 6F


VPRS 8607 Record Plans 200’=1″ c1960 – c1970


Plan number and Green Circled Grid with compass directions

(eg 372SW = VPRS 8607/P2 negatives)





VPRS 8608 Plans Not otherwise Classified c1992 – c1992

In Access the collection – search by the series number 8608 and refer to Description of this Series to identify plans.

For further information on MMBW records see VA1007 Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works and VA 4106 Yarra Valley Water.



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