Peter Lewis Bemi

BEMI, Peter Lewis (1795?-1853) — Sydney

Surveyor, land agent and lithographer. Produced Saint John in the hundred of Parramatta, county of Cumberland 1828 — thought to be the first map produced by lithography in Australia; Map of part of Keelogues at Illawarra 1839 — printed by Edward David Barlow; Map of a portion of the estate named Paddington on the South Head Road near Sydney (ms) 1839; Plan of the estate named Ferry Gardens 1840 — printed by William Kellett Baker; Plan of the estate named Fitzroy Terrace situate at Camperdown (ms); Kensington to be sold by auction — printed by Baker; Plan of allotments in a part of Camperdown named Milton 1843 — printed by Raphael Clint; Map of 84 allotments of land situate on the Surry Hills in the city of Sydney 1852, etc.

Peter Lewis (or Louis) Bemi was born in London in or about 1795, the son of the Italian Peter Bemi and his wife Ann Phillips, who had married at St. Dionis Backchurch in London 4 May 1794. In 1815, Bemi was charged with stealing a timepiece valued at £2 from a public house called the “Adam & Eve” near St. Pancras. He was acquitted on that occasion, but convicted of another theft on 13 Sep 1815. He was sentenced to death, but the sentence was commuted to transportation for life in May 1816. He arrived in Sydney at the age of twenty-one aboard the Mariner 11 Oct 1816. Employed as a clerk at Sydney, he was sufficiently reintegrated and well thought of to request a salary 6 May 1824. He was however denied permission to marry Charlotte Anderson in that year and denied a conditional pardon in 1829. He married Jane Wright (1797-1851), daughter of the highwayman and First Fleet convict James Wright, 23 Feb 1827 at St. John Parramatta. By 1828 he was employed as a government draughtsman and surveyor and was finally pardoned 6 Sep 1832. He subsequently worked independently as a surveyor and land-agent, much involved in the staking out of building lots on the fringes of Sydney. The Australian 12 Dec 1837 reported of a plan of Darlinghurst that “the plan is finished by P. L. Bemi in that masterly style, for which he is justly pre-eminent in Australia”, while the Sydney Gazette confirmed on the same day his “masterly style, for which he is so justly celebrated as a surveyor in New South Wales”. He opened an office in George Street in July 1838. Like so many others in the colony, he was declared insolvent and his furniture auctioned off 14 May 1842. His debts amounted to a mere £12.14s.5d. (Australasian Chronicle, 24 Mar 1842). In 1852 his report on the woeful state of disrepair of the Berrima Road was read to a public meeting. Bemi himself died suddenly aged fifty-nine on 11 Apr 1853 and his funeral held at Camperdown two days later.

Adjoining Polack’s Bazaar, George Street, Sydney — 1838-1840
Pitt Street, Sydney — 1840-1842
Elizabeth Street, Cattle Market, Sydney — 1847
York Street, Sydney — 1853

BNA. NLA. OB. Tooley. Trove.