During October to December 1996 Casey & Lowe undertook the archaeological excavation and testing of areas within the former CSR site, in Pyrmont, NSW. This site was acquired by Lend Lease to develop into residential accommodation and is now called Jackson’s Landing.
Prior to British colonisation, the Pyrmont and Ultimo peninsula in Sydney Harbour consisted of a rocky sandstone ridge which formed a spine along the length of the peninsula with numerous freshwater streams running down off the ridge. The Pyrmont end of the ridge formed two separate headlands. The peninsula was granted quite early after white settlement (1788) and amalgamated into two main land holdings by prominent men in colonial NSW, John Macarthur and Surgeon John Harris.
The excavation area was within John Macarthur’s land grant (Pyrmont) but was immediately adjacent to those parts of Harris’s estate (mostly Ultimo) that were not developed until the 1890s. Development of the northern part of the peninsula was limited until the new the Pyrmont Bridge (1858) provided easy walking access from the nearby wharves of Darling Harbour and Sydney city.
During the second half of the 19th century, houses were built in the study area. These were used mostly for residential purposes. A dairy from the same period also was located within the area of these excavations.
By the 1920s the freehold of many of the houses within the study area had been purchased by CSR, with some being demolished soon afterwards. Other houses remained standing until the 1950s, when they too were demolished. Many workers from the CSR site lived in these houses.
The following research design shaped the excavation of the site:
- What evidence survives of the earliest housing in this part of Pyrmont?
- What evidence is there for the standard of living enjoyed by the earliest residents? Later, when occupants can be associated with middle class and white collar professions, is there artefactual evidence for different standards of living?
- Where houses are connected with the same family for extended periods are there discrete domestic assemblages which can be attributed to their occupation, which can then be used to reconstruct the family’s standard of living?
- Is there evidence for cottage crafts or other unrecorded professions or works in the area?
- Is there any evidence to suggest that this part of Pyrmont was a self-contained community or particularly isolated?
- Has evidence for mid 19th-century shipbuilding or other early industry survived along the foreshores?
- Dairying and its association with women (eg. Bridget O’Toole)
The potential archaeological remains of the whole of the CSR site were addressed in an archaeological assessment of the site written by Casey & Lowe in August 1996 Archaeological Assessment CSR Site, Pyrmont, for Howard Tanner & Associates on behalf of Civil & Civic. This report identified the potential survival of archaeological remains in a number of areas throughout the CSR site. Those sections where the remains were considered to have the greatest potential for survival and were accessible were tested. Three areas were found to have considerable remains and were excavated. Two other areas were found to have limited archaeological remains and were also excavated.
- Area A contained the remains of four houses, Houses 15 to 21 New Street, Pyrmont.
- Area B contained the remains of three houses, Houses 67 and 69 Bowman Street and 2 New Street, Pyrmont.
- Area C contained the remains of four houses, Houses 1 to 7 McCredie Street, a footpath and roadway, Pyrmont.
- Area D contained limited remains associated with a dairy, 69 John Street.
- Area E contained the remains of a single terrace house, 17 Mount Street. Other potential remains in Area E did not survive 20th-century use as a truck parking area.
Casey & Lowe undertook this excavation for Lend Lease Development.
The excavation photographs used in this report are by Tony Lowe and Mary Casey. Other photographs and plans in the attached report are from the Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW and various published sources, which are appropriately acknowledged when used.