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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 431 - 440) 489 items

  • Bowl - Ceramic, circa 1880 (Reconstructed) Archaeology

    Bowl - Ceramic, circa 1880 (Reconstructed)

    This ceramic bowl was reconstructed from three fragments that were excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. The decoration on the inside face of the bowl suggests ...

    Images: 1
  • Teaspoon - Silver Plated, circa 1880 Archaeology

    Teaspoon - Silver Plated, circa 1880

    This large teaspoon was excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. Food and eating. Kitchen facilities in the homes of Little Lon were rudimentary. Few people had ...

    Images: 1
  • Penny Token - Metal, John Howell Bookseller, Adelaide, circa 1880 Archaeology

    Penny Token - Metal, John Howell Bookseller, Adelaide, circa 1880

    This one penny token was excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. It was for John Howell Bookseller, Liverpool Cheap Book Depot, Hindley St, Adelaide. Working in ...

    Images: 1
  • Coin - Penny, Metal, England, circa 1880 Archaeology

    Coin - Penny, Metal, England, circa 1880

    This English penny was excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. Working in Little Lon. Alongside the tightly packed cottages, commercial enterprise thrive ...

    Images: 1
  • Coin - Copper, circa 1880 Archaeology

    Coin - Copper, circa 1880

    This coin or token was excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. The inscription indicates that it is probably French. Cultural diversity in Little Lon. Little Lo ...

    Images: 1
  • Jewellery - Wedding Ring, Brass, circa 1880 Archaeology

    Jewellery - Wedding Ring, Brass, circa 1880

    This brass wedding ring was excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. Jewellery and ornamentation. Poverty did not prevent Little Lon's inhabitants - women and me ...

    Images: 1
  • Pencil - Slate, circa 1880 Archaeology

    Pencil - Slate, circa 1880

    This slate pencil was excavated at one of the digs at the Commonwealth Block, 2001-2003. It was found in a cesspit. Writing implements, found throughout Little Lon, indicate that writi ...

    Images: 1
  • Comb - Wood, circa 1880 (Incomplete) Archaeology

    Comb - Wood, circa 1880 (Incomplete)

    This wooden comb was excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. It would have been used for removing nits and fleas. Health and hygiene. 'Cleanliness is next to G ...

    Images: 1
  • Domino - Bone, circa 1880 Archaeology

    Domino - Bone, circa 1880

    This worked bone domino was excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. People living in and visiting Little Lon found many ways to enjoy their leisure time. Tokens ...

    Images: 1
  • Cup - Blue Flow Ware, circa 1880 (Reconstructed) Archaeology

    Cup - Blue Flow Ware, circa 1880 (Reconstructed)

    This cup was reconstructed from 11 fragments that were excavated at one of the digs on the Commonwealth Block between 1988 and 2003. Uncovering past food practices. Of all the archaeol ...

    Images: 1
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