Melbourne Archaeology

German Pioneer Settlement in Victoria

The suburb of Thomastown contains a  rare archaeological  site that is quite unknown to most people. Its the first and  oldest  German Pioneer Settlement  in Victoria called Westgarthtown. Remarkably even many German descendents i have spoken to don’t even know of its existence. This makes it ideal for the reporter to get a story.  Its amazingly preserved due to its bluestone construction, isolation and restoration work by the city  of Whittlesea . It is made up of the oldest Lutheran church in Australia, (1856), the  oldest Lutheran cemetery  in Victoria (1850) and Ziebel’s farmhouse made of bluestone (1851) .


Lutheran church taken by me


Tombstones int Lutheran cemetery taken by me


Ziebel’s Farmhouse


There are some other buildings part of the site but they  stretch out to nearby streets and are in private ownership. The main site is  an open site where you just walk in, no payment needed to get in. Many of the locals walk their dogs there. Ziebel’s farmhouse is often closed but free tours can be arranged by visiting . The Ziebels were an early German family who migrated to Australia  in 1850 in search of a better life.

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Their farmhouse was part of an original 102 acre farm, named The Pines.  Built between 1851 and 1856, with 61 cm thick stone walls, the house is a typical German farmhouse. It also retains  the bath house, smoke house and cart shed all in great condition. It  gives you a glimpse into  past 150 years in this area of Melbourne.

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Research suggests that no archaeological dig or survey has taken place there. I’m certain just a ground survey of the area would bring forth many other structures  that existed originally and objects that have been buried.   A plaque on the site states that there was a school building that was demolished in the 1950s.


I have often come here with my mother on Sunday outings. Its a our  quiet  little sanctuary. My mother says she feels like she is stepping onto the television set of ‘Little House on the Praire’.  I highly recommend to come here on a sunny afternoon. The sun illuminates the settlement making it beautiful.  You step back in time and for a moment forger that you’re in the bland town of Thomastown. Thanks to its location though, not being a popular spot you get a lot of privacy.

   A nice place for quiet contemplation and if you are of German descent you can appreciate your ancestor’s hard pioneering work. Last time I was here my mother and I had fish and chips in the cemetery.  It’s an interesting way to eat fish n chips. I found it relaxing amongst the old tombstones . The cemetery is still open for burial but only for descendants of the original settlers and members of the Lutheran faith.


 Westgarthtown is a legacy and testimony to those German settlers.  Its an important part  of Melbourne’s history. Its  well worth a visit and if your up to it have fish n chips in the cemetery. You might enjoy it!

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Digging up Little Lonsdale street

Little Lonsdale Street

Little Lonsdale street also known as Little Lon will forever hold a special place in my heart  for two reasons. One it was my  first archaeological dig site i ever went to. I was nineteen years of age in my second year of archaeology at university  in 2002 and i volunteered for two weeks. Remarkably i even got paid $5 per day. You definitely don’t volunteer on archaeology digs for money. Its all for love and dedication.

Image of Early 20th century remains of light industrial buildings

Dig site taken from Department of Planning and Community Development

The second is that  Little Lon created the largest archaeological  in Victoria to date.  Over 100,000 finds from the 1880s were made. Some were household objects  like jugs and plates, jewellery and  bottles.  Sadly though i lost  my diary  and photos of the dig in an accident. It was an amazing experience digging into the Melbourne CBD soil and finding all these objects. Everyday something  was found so there was never any boredom.

Medium Jug - Whiteware, Blue, Moulded Glazed, Scenic pattern,1805- (Fragment)     Plate - Whiteware, Blue flow, transfer-printed, Nankin, England, after 1835 (Fragment)   Jewellery Item     Beer/Wine Bottle


Hundreds of  students and members of the public came on board to offer a helping hand. Even a journalist whose name i have forgotten offered a helping hand. Along with reporting he wanted  to get involved. A real adventure reporter! A hotline was set up in which one could register their details. It received a lot of media coverage. I remember watching the evening bulletin on channel 10 and  seeing the dig broadcast with reporters on site.


Image of Aerial view of Little Leichardt Street, with industrial building remains exposed

Image of aerial view of dig site taken from DPCD

The exact area which was excavated was Casselden Place, which is part of the city block bounded by Lonsdale, Exhibition, Little Lonsdale  and Spring Street. This district  was mostly working class, with cottages , simple houses, small  businesses and a few larger factories. The city’s poorest residents made their home here. The area gained the reputation for being Melbourne’s ‘red light’ district.  Various brothels were built. I got to excavate a  section of a brothel.  I found  many glass fragments from  beer bottles.  Sex and drinking was common even back then.


An archaeologist on site told me  that the word ‘call girl’ originated in this area. He said that politicians from nearby Parliament house, would sent out a request via word or letter  (a call) from Parliament house for a working girl from one of the brothels. Once a girl had picked up the call she would then make her way to Parliament house via a network of  underground tunnels leading to Parliament house. This mode of travel was taken in order to be discrete.  As far as im aware this has not been proven by actual facts.   If  proven  then the city of Melbourne needs to claim ownership to it  just like it does with  dim sums  and pavlova.

Early picture of buildings on Little Lon taken from Museum Victoria

Another picture of Little Lon taken from Museum Victoria

Photograph of women in front of Little Lon cottage taken from museum Victoria















This dig shed shed light on a on a community which time had forgotten. Early in the 20th century, the the area became more industrial, with  small cottages being replaced by factories and warehouses. In the  1960s most of these buildings were removed and a car park was laid down as part of  office buildings. The dig was made up of a partnership  between Heritage Victoria, archaeologists from Godden Mackay Logan Pty Ltd,  La Trobe University  archaeology Department and Austral Archaeology Pty Ltd.  The Industry Superannuation Property Trust, owners of the site  were also were involved.

I remember whilst digging hundreds of office workers on their way to work would stop by  to watch the dig. A public viewing platform was constructed just off Lonsdale street  so that members of the public  could see the archeology at work and follow the progress of the site. Weekly updates and information about the dig were put on display on the viewing platform. This was the era before  Facebook and Twitter. If it had been now social media would have been flooded with updates.  I love to take a walk down this area when im in the city and reminisce about my time digging. Its a pity though that the site has been built over with high rise buildings and only one cottage is left, number 17 Casseldon place, just off Lonsdale street.

Only remaing cottage at Little Lonsdale street taken from fading Victoria

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Cemetery under Queen Victoria Market


Queen Victoria Market taken from The Australian


The Queen Victoria market makes for an unusual archaeological site.  It is built on top of a cemetery referred to in old documents as ‘Old Cemetery’. Literally just beneath the bitumen, as little as 1.5 metres below the car park and adjacent market stalls are the remains of 9,000 settlers including Aboriginal remains. Figures vary according to different historians but 9,000 is generally the most estimated and accepted figure. Hundreds of vehicles park on top of their bodies.

Picture of Cemetery at Queen Victoria Market site taken from Kristymurray

This Cemetery was established in 1837  and existed till 1922. It is generally believed that as Melbourne was expanding  it was decided that the site was no longer suitable . The Melbourne General  Cemetery was set up. Many bodies were moved here but thousands were left at the market grounds. The exact reason for not moving all the bodies is not known as there is no documentation about it.

The  only known existing map  above clearly shows the burials are in segregated areas.   These show that it was  clearly divided up into several sections like Roman Catholic, Wesleyan and Presbyterian.  Aboriginal people were seen as second class citizens so were buried outside the parameter walls.


  I often go to the market on my lunch break from my work nearby and I wonder whose remains im walking on top of. It gives a whole new meaning to the saying ‘walking on someone’s grave’. Here at the market you really do walk on someone’s grave unintentionally of course.

It’s always surprised me at how many people don’t even know about the existence of the cemetery at the market.  I’ve asked various people and they all appear surprised and somewhat shocked at this fact. Then again most people sadly don’t know about the history of this city. It’s a sad reflection i believe of the state of our history education.  Out of all the people in my circle of friends and family the only ones who knows about this cemetery were my mother’s friends Lina and Wilma who happen to be funeral directors.  Anything to do with death and burial they generally have good knowledge of.


Shoppers at Queen Victoria market taken from wikipedia

 One stall holder I spoke to a while ago on my lunch break in the fruit and vegetable section is convinced his  section of the market is haunted by a ghost of a bushranger. He told me that after dark the ghost makes itself known.  I must say that i have seen the stalls after hours from the road and they do look rather spooky.

Fruit and Vegetable section taken from waltzingaustralia

 This site is a vital part of our history. It needs to be told more. Reporters need to cover it more. I believe  we need to show our respect to all these early Melbournians just like we show respect when we visit places like Gallipoli.  The city of Melbourne is expanding at an incredibly  fast rate and new development is taking place daily that its important  that it doesn’t overshadow this  history completely.

View of high rise buildings from market taken from the age

On Thursday the 31st of October 2013 Victorian Premier Denis Napthine and Lord Mayor Robert Doyle announced  that a new parkland and underground car park will be constructed under a proposed redevelopment of the market.

It was said that the bodies will not be disturbed for the works. Proper  signage explaining the importance of this site to people should be a priority for the government. This seems to have eluded them. Next time your buying your fruit and veggies spare a thought for all those people  your walking on top of. What were their stories? , Who did they love? What were their aspirations in life ? Surely they never envisioned a market being built on top of  them.

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