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50-72 Union Street, Pyrmont
In 2003/2004 Casey & Lowe undertook an archaeological excavation at 50–72 Union Street, Pyrmont incorporating parts of the former Alma and Edward Streets.
The study area is located immediately alongside the natural foreshore on this side of Darling Harbour and was close to early wharves and associated industries. Historic documents showed that the area had the potential to contain remains of different types of houses indicative of the changing nature of nineteenth-century residential dwellings in Pyrmont associated with the industrial development of the suburb.
Although this part of Pyrmont was close to other areas of Sydney Harbour that were resumed for clearance following the outbreak of bubonic plague in Sydney in 1900, houses on the site were not demolished until the late 1920s. This was to make way for the construction of the Anchor Flour Mill which operated at the site until it too was demolished after it ceased operating in 1982.
Varying impacts from the construction of the flour mill meant that survival of archaeological remains differed across the site. The larger multi-roomed houses along Union Street were the best preserved. They included the remains of some of the earliest domestic structures built on the site by the owner John Kellick, who was also a builder. The archaeological program exposed the remains of three houses built by Kellick between the early 1840s and 1859. These houses were occupied by various tenants from the 1840s and 1850s through to the early twentieth century. During the final phase of occupation the houses functioned as boarding or lodging houses.
Due to twentieth century impacts upon the site, the preservation of archaeological remains varied between the properties:
A large quantity of artefacts was recovered during the archaeological investigation. These were concentrated in underfloor deposits in the kitchens at Nos 66 and 64 Union Street. The date range of artefacts from these deposits indicates a gradual accumulation of materials over the entire occupation period of the houses, from the mid and late nineteenth century into the early twentieth century.
Detailed analysis of the artefacts and their distribution within the houses reveal to us aspects of the lifeways of the occupants of these houses.
The largest number of items from the cesspits came from the Edward Street cesspit fill. The presence of conjoining artefacts throughput the deposit indicated a primary deposit of direct household refuse which was used to backfill the cesspit. This would have happened after its abandonment as a water closet c.1870-1880 and prior to the introduction of citywide rubbish removal.
Although none of the artefacts could be linked directly to any particular individuals or families who occupied the houses, each of the artefact assemblages contained items typical of objects found on domestic working-class urban sites in Sydney. They provide an insight into the diet, health, activities, interests and gender of household occupants and are a direct link with life in this working-class neighbourhood of Pyrmont during the second half of the nineteenth century and early decades of the twentieth century.
Work on the site was undertaken on behalf of Charter Hall Holdings.
Photographs and plans in the attached reports are from NSW State Records, the City of Sydney Archives, the Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW, and various individual cited publications.
Final reports for excavations in 2003/2004.
Download page for 21 PDF files including an Executive Summary, total approx 65 MB.
Information leaflet for 52-70 Union Street, Surry Hills PDF 2 pages, 236KB
View of the study area dating from the late nineteenth or early twentieth century looking into the rear yards of houses along Union Street, Pyrmont. Nos 66 and 64 Union Street are located next to vacant land and have separate outbuildings at the rear. This view from the northwest also shows the Alma Street terraces in the lower left of the photo and the Edward Street terraces in the foreground. Reference: Matthews, 1982, Pyrmont and Ultimo: A History.
Miscellaneous artefacts from underfloor deposits in Union Street houses included beads, buttons and other fastenings from clothing and footwear, as well as recreational and household items.
Nearly complete decorative child’s plate recovered from the cesspit at 38/40 Edward Street.
View of Union Street in 1919 prior to demolition. Nos 64-66 Union Street at the far right appear to be single-storey from the front but from the rear are two-storey dwellings. No. 62 Union Street is immediately to the left of these two houses. City of Sydney Archives, CRS 51, Demolition Books, 1900-1949, NSCA CRS 51/764.
A selection of glass containers found in the Edward Street cesspit. Most items were complete and include range of food, beverage or medicinal containers.
Remains of sandstone house footings, hearthstone and brick dish drains from the kitchen at No 64 Union Street.
Ceramic artefacts recovered from the cesspit at 38/40 Edward Street. Many were near complete.
Piers from the Anchor Flour Mill with nineteenth-century house footings.
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