100,000 artefacts were discovered in this corner of Melbourne.
When hanging out at the north-east corner of Melbourne CBD, you may have noticed old, Gothic Revival buildings such as Wesley Church on Lonsdale Street. This set of historical buildings, which on top of the church, includes a school house, a caretaker’s cottage and manse, are now part of Wesley Place, a commercial precinct. Wesley Place sits on years of Melbourne’s history, and they’ve created a heritage trail for you to discover. This heritage trail is free to explore and is the perfect walk to break up your day.
In 2017, archaeologists excavated Jones Lane near Little Lonsdale Street and discovered over 100,000 artefacts from different time periods in the 19th century. Over a period of eight months, archaeologists found rich evidence of Melbourne’s early life from the 1840s to 1890s. Evidence of more than 20 homes and businesses were found during the dig.
These earlier buildings were preserved beneath thick layers of yellow clay. These buildings were abandoned when Melbourne City Council raised the levels of Jones Lane and Little Lonsdale Street by up to two metres to address flooding in the area. Structural remains of the buildings include original floor surfaces and brick walls.
Working-class families lived amongst small businesses. The nearby church and its social workers provided support during this time. However, in the 1880s, Jones Lane and “Little Lon” became notorious for crimes and illicit behaviours, such as prostitution.
Among the artefacts were items like clay pipes, dress maker pins and tapes, Chinese porcelain bowls, leather boots and an Aboriginal flaked glass scraper.
Some of the artefacts have been put on display in the lobby at 130 Lonsdale Street. Visit the lobby to see it in person, or read about some of the artefacts here.
Historical buildings on the Heritage Trail
Take a stroll past some historical buildings on the Heritage Trail. Start with Wesley Church. Designed by Joseph Reed, this Gothic Revival church opened in 1858. After that, stop by the Manse. This building was part of the church complex and it was the place of residence for the local minister. In later years, it was used for programs run by Wesley Central Mission.
Other buildings of significance include the Caretaker’s Cottage. Built in 1914, it housed a caretaker until the late 1990s. There’s also the former School House, which was built in 1859. It was first used as a school and then later housed the offices of Wesley Central Mission.