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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 411 - 420) 489 items

  • Bottle - Salad Oil, Glass, England, 1850-1880 Archaeology

    Bottle - Salad Oil, Glass, England, 1850-1880

    This glass salad oil bottle was excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. It was manufactured using a two-piece mould with separate base part in England between 18 ...

    Images: 1
  • Mug - Commemorative, Crimean War, Stoneware, after 1856 (Reconstructed) Archaeology

    Mug - Commemorative, Crimean War, Stoneware, after 1856 (Reconstructed)

    This Crimean war commemorative mug was excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. While it has no maker's mark, it was probably manufactured in Britain. The Crimean ...

    Images: 1
  • Jar - Ointment, circa 1880 (Part) Archaeology

    Jar - Ointment, circa 1880 (Part)

    This base of a ceramic jar was excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. It would have been used for ointment or paste. Health and hygiene. 'Cleanliness is next ...

    Images: 1
  • Cup - Castle Pattern, Stoneware, circa 1880 (Reconstructed) Archaeology

    Cup - Castle Pattern, Stoneware, circa 1880 (Reconstructed)

    This cup has been reconstructed from a group of 27 fragments made up of both cups and saucers. These fragments were excavated at one of the digs at the Commonwealth Block site between ...

    Images: 3
  • Saucer - Castle Pattern, Stoneware, circa 1880 (Reconstructed) Archaeology

    Saucer - Castle Pattern, Stoneware, circa 1880 (Reconstructed)

    This saucer has been reconstructed from a group of 27 fragments made up of both cups and saucers. These fragments were excavated at one of the digs on the Commonwealth Block between 19 ...

    Images: 1
  • Bottle - Salad Oil, Glass, circa 1880 Archaeology

    Bottle - Salad Oil, Glass, circa 1880

    This salad oil bottle was excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. It was manufactured using a two- piece vertical mould with separate base. Food and eating. Kit ...

    Images: 1
  • Tambour Hook - Bone, circa 1880 (Broken) Archaeology

    Tambour Hook - Bone, circa 1880 (Broken)

    This worked bone tambour hook, also known as a tambour needle, was excavated during one of the digs conducted at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. It was found in in-s ...

    Images: 1
  • Pipe - Clay, USA, circa 1880 (Fragment) Archaeology

    Pipe - Clay, USA, circa 1880 (Fragment)

    This fragment of a tobacco pipe bowl was excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. On the fragment part of an American flag can be seen suggesting it was manufactu ...

    Images: 1
  • Thimble - Bronze, circa 1880 Archaeology

    Thimble - Bronze, circa 1880

    This bronze thimble was excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. It was found with a crochet hook. Working in Little Lon. Alongside the tightly packed cott ...

    Images: 1
  • Doll - Frozen Charlotte, Porcelain, circa 1880 (Part) Archaeology

    Doll - Frozen Charlotte, Porcelain, circa 1880 (Part)

    This porcelain Frozen Charlotte doll was excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. Frozen Charlottes were typically unjointed china dolls that ranged in height fr ...

    Images: 1
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