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Little Lon Collection

Mug, Copeland and Garrett, Staffordshire

Image: Mug, Copeland and Garrett, Staffordshire

Source: Museum Victoria

The Commonwealth Block is an area in inner-city Melbourne bounded by Lonsdale, Exhibition, Little Lonsdale and Spring Streets comprising. During the mid- to late-nineteenth century, it developed as a working class district, with simple houses, cottage industries and small scale businesses. The area has been regarded as a slum, occupied by criminals, prostitutes and the poor, however archaeological research on the nineteenth-century occupation of the site suggests a more complex history with at least some long term occupants seeking a respectable life. Towards the end of the century many ethnic minority groups were moving into the area and operating businesses, and the early twentieth century saw the construction of a number of small factories.

In 1948 the Commonwealth Government compulsorily acquired the land. The homes and factories that populated the back streets and lanes were razed to the ground, and a large government office block was built in the south-east corner. Ahead of a tidal wave of further commercial development in the late 1980s, an archaeological investigation of the area was commissioned by The Department of Administrative Services and Telecom Australia. In the summer of 1987-1988 over 200,000 artefact fragments were uncovered from the first archaeological dig which took place along Little Lonsdale Street. There have been four further digs since: Black Eagle & Oddfellows Hotels (1991), 17 Casselden Place (1995), Phase 3 Testing (2001), and Casselden Place (2002-2003). These digs produced an additional 300,000 artefacts. Artefacts from all but the Phase 3 Testing season are in Museum Victoria's collection.

The 'Little Lon' collection (named after the site of the first archaeological excavation) provides fascinating insights into the people who lived and worked in Melbourne in the latter part of the 19th century. Archaeologists found magnums that once held the best French champagne; marbles, toy tea sets, dolls and other children's toys; Chinese ceramics, willow pattern plates, Crimean War souvenirs, tokens and coins. Residents purchased homeopathic pain killers, patent medicines and laxatives. They ate cheap cuts of mutton and oysters by the dozen, and the area was infested with rats. Archaeologists and historians continue to analyse the distribution and stratigraphy of objects, to discover more about the people who lived in the district.

Items per page: 10 50 (showing 391 - 400) 489 items

  • Opium Tin - Copper, circa 1880 (Fragment) Archaeology

    Opium Tin - Copper, circa 1880 (Fragment)

    These seven fragments of a copper opium tin were excavated at one of the digs on the Commonwealth Block between 1988 and 2003. Cultural diversity in Little Lon. Little Lon was home to ...

    Images: 1
  • Marble - Glass, circa 1880 Archaeology

    Marble - Glass, circa 1880

    This orange and cream glass marble was excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. 'When I was a child, we played in the street with hoops; we played hopscotch, and ...

    Images: 1
  • Marble - Glass, circa 1880 Archaeology

    Marble - Glass, circa 1880

    This glass marble was excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. 'When I was a child, we played in the street with hoops; we played hopscotch, and chasey, and cowb ...

    Images: 1
  • Marble - Glass, circa 1880 Archaeology

    Marble - Glass, circa 1880

    This blue glass marble was excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. 'When I was a child, we played in the street with hoops; we played hopscotch, and chasey, and ...

    Images: 1
  • Marble - Glass, circa 1880 Archaeology

    Marble - Glass, circa 1880

    This large glass marble was excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. 'When I was a child, we played in the street with hoops; we played hopscotch, and chasey, an ...

    Images: 1
  • Brooch - Crescent, Brass, circa 1880 (Damaged) Archaeology

    Brooch - Crescent, Brass, circa 1880 (Damaged)

    This crescent shaped brass brooch was excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. It may have been part of the lodge regalia of a friendly society. Jewellery and or ...

    Images: 1
  • Smoking Pipe - Kaolin (Fragment) Archaeology

    Smoking Pipe - Kaolin (Fragment)

    These two tobacco pipe bowls were excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. A pipeful of tobacco was long-lasting and its aroma disguised the stench of Melbourne' ...

    Images: 1
  • Token - 1 Penny, Professor Holloway's, Pills & Ointment, London, England, Great Britain, circa 1857-1858 Archaeology

    Token - 1 Penny, Professor Holloway's, Pills & Ointment, London, England, Great Britain, c ...

    Copper token excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. Tokens issued promoting Professor Holloway's pills and ointments have proven the most common token finds o ...

    Images: 1
  • Supper Plate - Whiteware, Moulded and Blue Flow Transfer, Favorite Pattern, Ralph Hall, Staffordshire, England, 1841-1849 Archaeology

    Supper Plate - Whiteware, Moulded and Blue Flow Transfer, Favorite Pattern, Ralph Hall, St ...

    This plate, which has been reconstructed from three fragments, was excavated during one of the digs at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. Homewares. Numerous crockery p ...

    Images: 1
  • Bottle - Wine, Green Glass, France, 1850-1900 Archaeology

    Bottle - Wine, Green Glass, France, 1850-1900

    This green glass bottle is one of a group of 11 that were excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. Ten of the 11 bottles are complete and unbroken. They were manu ...

    Images: 1
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