Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Oldest House in Melbourne - Was?

A brief rescue? excavation on the site of the supposed oldest house in Melbourne. located in Williamstown, and removed rather than demolished.

A couple of small test excavations (sondages if you like the French method) found occupation debris such as discarded butchered bone, glass, ceramic and domestic effects, which are likely to be from a sealed deposit dating from about 1843 to the mid 1860s. An 1861 halfpenny (part of a 'hoard' of four pence ha'penny - net profit?) was uncovered under a 10-20cm think packed clay layer, the surface of which was smooth and pressed firm suggesting a former floor level before the timber floor went in.

Whitewash marks on the stone hearth and plinth stones under the wall plates also point to an earth floor. So was the house lived in for 20 years with a dirt floor? seemingly. Other evidence recorded by Willys Keeble as the house was dismantled also suggests that it started life as a timber framed canvas covered dwelling, and was progressively lined, first outside, then inside.

I also found my first intact decorated clay tobacco pipe stem - marked “Williams” on one side of the stem and “London” on the other, and with a raised line and dot decoration. Still haven't managed to find it in a catalogue, makers list, but hope to eventually.

A small test excavation near the front door revealed a number of other coins and small objects, beads, slate pencils, glass and pottery fragments. these may have fallen though the verandah floorboards. I imagine Mr Pope coming home in the dark and rummaging for his keys, then dropping a few coins. Or some of the several children playing on the verandah.

The house has now been dismantled and packed into crates by Yarraville resident Simon Raynor, hopefully for future re-erection and restoration.

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