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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 461 - 470) 489 items

  • 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
  • Whistle - Clown, Porcelain, circa 1880 (Damaged) Archaeology

    Whistle - Clown, Porcelain, circa 1880 (Damaged)

    This porcelain whistle in the shape of a clown, was excavated during one of the archaeological digs conducted at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. The two holes in the ...

    Images: 1
  • Pipe Smoking - Kaolin Archaeology

    Pipe Smoking - Kaolin

    This clay tobacco pipe bowl was excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. It was manufactured for Organ and Macintosh of Melbourne, Australia. A pipeful of tobacc ...

    Images: 1
  • Bottle - Salad Oil, Glass, 1850-1880 Archaeology

    Bottle - Salad Oil, Glass, 1850-1880

    This light green 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 and a fre ...

    Images: 1
  • Bottle - Ink, Ceramic, circa 1880 Archaeology

    Bottle - Ink, Ceramic, circa 1880

    This ceramic ink bottle was excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. Writing implements, found throughout Little Lon, indicate that writing was a commonplace act ...

    Images: 1
  • Coin - 1 Cent, Mauritius, 1877 Archaeology

    Coin - 1 Cent, Mauritius, 1877

    This is a 1 cent copper coin from Mauritius, it was excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. Cultural diversity in Little Lon. Little Lon was home to a diverse p ...

    Images: 1
  • Bowl - Rice, Ceramic, China, circa 1880 (Fragment) Archaeology

    Bowl - Rice, Ceramic, China, circa 1880 (Fragment)

    This ceramic rice bowl was excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. It is of Chinese origin. Uncovering past food practices. Of all the archaeological material u ...

    Images: 1
  • Button - Rifle Volunteers, Brass, Hobson & Son, New Zealand, circa 1880 Archaeology

    Button - Rifle Volunteers, Brass, Hobson & Son, New Zealand, circa 1880

    This brass military button was excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. It was manufactured for Rifle Volunteers, NZ by Hobson and Son, of Haymarket, London. Wor ...

    Images: 1
  • Perfume bottle - Glass, Colourless, 1870-1900 Archaeology

    Perfume bottle - Glass, Colourless, 1870-1900

    This small clear glass bottle was excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. Health and hygiene. 'Cleanliness is next to Godliness'. This is a difficult maxim to ...

    Images: 1
  • Medallion - Metal, circa 1880 Archaeology

    Medallion - Metal, circa 1880

    This small metal medallion was excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. The inscription, which appears to be in Arabic, suggests that this is where it originates ...

    Images: 1
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