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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 451 - 487) 487 items

  • Bottle - Rice Wine, Ceramic, China, circa 1880 (Reconstructed) Archaeology

    Bottle - Rice Wine, Ceramic, China, circa 1880 (Reconstructed)

    This is reconstructed ceramic rice wine bottle is made up of a group of 65 fragments that were excavated at one of the digs on the Commonwealth Block between 1988 and 2003. It is of Chi ...

    Images: 1
  • Mug - Whiteware, Red, Transfer-Printed, Watteau Pattern, England, Staffordshire, 1833-1847 (Fragment) Archaeology

    Mug - Whiteware, Red, Transfer-Printed, Watteau Pattern, England, Staffordshire, 1833-1847 ...

    This ceramic mug or tankard was reconstructed from a group of seven fragments that were excavated at one of the digs on the Commonwealth Block between 1988 and 2003. It was manufactured ...

    Images: 1
  • Token - Copper, Australia, circa 1880 Archaeology

    Token - Copper, Australia, circa 1880

    This token, with an allergorical image of Justice under the word Australia, was excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. Working in Little Lon. Alongside t ...

    Images: 1
  • Astragalus - Bone, circa 1880 Archaeology

    Astragalus - Bone, circa 1880

    Alternative Name(s): Knucklebone This astragalus bone was excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. It has been cleaned to be used in the game knuckle bones. 'Wh ...

    Images: 1
  • Shell - Oyster, circa 1880 Archaeology

    Shell - Oyster, circa 1880

    This oyster shell was excavated during one of the digs conducted at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. It was found with seven dozen other oyster shells, champagne and P ...

    Images: 1
  • Plate - Whiteware, Blue, Transfer-Printed, Willow Pattern, England (Fragment) Archaeology

    Plate - Whiteware, Blue, Transfer-Printed, Willow Pattern, England (Fragment)

    This Willow Ware plate was reconstructed from three fragments that were excavated at one of the digs on the Commonwealth Block between 1988 and 2003. Homewares. Numerous crockery piec ...

    Images: 2
  • Seeds Archaeology

    Seeds

    These eight cherry seeds were excavated at one of the digs on the Commonwealth Block between 1988 and 2003 Uncovering past food practices. Of all the archaeological material uncovered ...

    Images: 1
  • Vase - Porcelain, circa 1880 (Damaged) Archaeology

    Vase - Porcelain, circa 1880 (Damaged)

    This porcelain vase was excavated during one of the archaeological digs conducted at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. It features a blue snake coiled around the stem. ...

    Images: 1
  • Bottle - Medicine, Glass, China, circa 1880 (Broken) Archaeology

    Bottle - Medicine, Glass, China, circa 1880 (Broken)

    This small medicine bottle was excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. It is of Chinese origin. Health and hygiene. 'Cleanliness is next to Godliness'. This i ...

    Images: 1
  • Penny Ink Well - Ceramic, circa 1880 Archaeology

    Penny Ink Well - Ceramic, circa 1880

    This ink well was excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. This type of inkwell is also known as a penny ink well. Writing implements, found throughout Little Lo ...

    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
  • 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
  • Cup - Hannibal Passing the Alps Pattern, Ceramic, Knight, Elkin & Co, Staffordshire, before 1846 (Reconstructed) Archaeology

    Cup - Hannibal Passing the Alps Pattern, Ceramic, Knight, Elkin & Co, Staffordshire, befor ...

    This cup was reconstructed from a group of 13 fragments that were excavated at one of the digs on the Commonwealth Block between 1988 and 2003. It was manufactured by Knight, Elkin & Co ...

    Images: 1
  • Dinner Plate - Whiteware, Grey, Transfer-Printed (Fragment) Archaeology

    Dinner Plate - Whiteware, Grey, Transfer-Printed (Fragment)

    This plate was reconstructed from a group of 10 fragments that were excavated at one of the digs on the Commonwealth Block between 1988 and 2003. The maker's mark calls this pattern 'I ...

    Images: 1
  • Plate - Thistle Pattern, Porcelain, George Wood, Staffordshire, 1850-1854 (Reconstructed) Archaeology

    Plate - Thistle Pattern, Porcelain, George Wood, Staffordshire, 1850-1854 (Reconstructed)

    This transfer printed plate was excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. The pattern is known as "Thistle". The maker's mark "G.W." could refer to George Wood 185 ...

    Images: 1
  • Perfume bottle - Glass, Colourless, before 1880 Archaeology

    Perfume bottle - Glass, Colourless, before 1880

    This small 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 follow when ...

    Images: 1
  • Marble - Ceramic, circa 1880 Archaeology

    Marble - Ceramic, circa 1880

    This white clay marble was excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. This type of marble is commonly known as a "commie". 'When I was a child, we played in the st ...

    Images: 1
  • Ink Stone - Chinese, circa 1880 (Reconstructed) Archaeology

    Ink Stone - Chinese, circa 1880 (Reconstructed)

    This Chinese ink stone, in two pieces, was excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. Ink stones were used by Chinese writers to mix ink. Water was put in the inden ...

    Images: 1
  • Notebook - Cardboard & Paper, circa 1880 Archaeology

    Notebook - Cardboard & Paper, circa 1880

    Notebook excavated at one of the digs on the Commonwealth Block between 1988 and 2003. This notebook is unique in that it has Chinese characters, English words and Italian words in it. ...

    Images: 2
  • Bowl - Ceramic, circa 1880 (Reconstructed) Archaeology

    Bowl - Ceramic, circa 1880 (Reconstructed)

    This is a bowl which has been reconstructed from a group of fragments excavated at one of the digs on the Commonwealth Block between 1988 and 2003. It is probably a 'second' of good des ...

    Images: 1
  • Bowl - Ink Mixing, Ceramic, circa 1880 (Fragment) Archaeology

    Bowl - Ink Mixing, Ceramic, circa 1880 (Fragment)

    This fragment of an ink mixing bowl was excavated at the at the Commonwealth Block site between 1088 and 2003. It was used for mixing ink. Writing implements, found throughout Little L ...

    Images: 1
  • Toy - Spinning Top, Wood & Metal, circa 1880 (Damaged) Archaeology

    Toy - Spinning Top, Wood & Metal, circa 1880 (Damaged)

    This spinning top was excavated during one of the digs conducted at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. 'When I was a child, we played in the street with hoops; we playe ...

    Images: 1
  • Fork - Silver, circa 1880 Archaeology

    Fork - Silver, circa 1880

    This fork 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 ovens or i ...

    Images: 1
  • Wineglass - Glass, circa 1865 (Fragment) Archaeology

    Wineglass - Glass, circa 1865 (Fragment)

    This drinking glass rim was excavated during one of the archaeological digs conducted at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. It is engraved 'Castledonn', '1865' Alcohol ...

    Images: 1
  • Coin - Penny, Great Britain, 1812 Archaeology

    Coin - Penny, Great Britain, 1812

    This British penny was was excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. Cultural diversity in Little Lon. Little Lon was home to a diverse population. Germans, Jews ...

    Images: 1
  • Bottle - Porter Ale, Glass, circa 1880 Archaeology

    Bottle - Porter Ale, Glass, circa 1880

    This glass porter bottle was excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. Alcohol and Drinking. There were 15 hotels at Little Lon in 1900. The profusion of beer, w ...

    Images: 1
  • Coin - Penny, Great Britain, 1806 Archaeology

    Coin - Penny, Great Britain, 1806

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

    Images: 1
  • Coin - Token Penny, Hobart, circa 1880 Archaeology

    Coin - Token Penny, Hobart, circa 1880

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

    Images: 1
  • No Image Available Archaeology

    Smoking Pipe - Kaolin, Moulded, Squatters Bungaree, after 1838 (Fragment)

    These fragments of a tobbacco pipe were excavated at the Commonwealth Block site between 1988 and 2003. The style of these pipes is known as a 'Squatters Own Budgeree' or a 'Squatter's ...

    Images: 0
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