Posted on August 24, 2011 - Filed Under Historic Sites
Tags: Susannah Place, Susannah Place Museum, Sydney Historic Sites, Sydney Museum, The Rocks, things to do in Sydney
Susannah Place is a museum comprising a small terrace of four brick houses, one of which includes a corner store, located in the historic area of Sydney known as The Rocks. Unlike other buildings in Sydney, it was continuously used as a home for working class families from the mid-1840s to the late 20th century. Having survived the inner city development projects over this time, Susannah Place provides a rare insight into the lives of the working class in Sydney during the late 19th century and beyond.
The land on which Susannah Place is situated was originally granted to James Byrne in 1836 but the buildings were not constructed until 1844 when it belonged to Edward Riley and his wife, Mary who had immigrated to Sydney from Ireland. It has been suggested that the terraces were named after Susannah Sterne, the Riley’s niece who had accompanied them from Ireland.
At this time in Sydney’s history, The Rocks was a thriving, working class suburb and Susannah Place was comparatively a very comfortable dwelling. However, in the late 19th century, the population of the area more than doubled, leading to poor living conditions and overcrowding. As a result, The Rocks experienced an outbreak of the bubonic plague in 1900, leading to the demolition of sub-standard houses in the area, improvements in sanitation and the realignment of several streets.
Thankfully, Susannah Place survived the redevelopment and continued on as a place of residency. Over the years, Susannah Place remained relatively untouched, despite all the changes happening around the area. It even survived the huge changes to the area that came with the building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and later, the construction of the Cahill Expressway.
The conservation of Susannah Place began in 1987, with the final residential tenants leaving in 1990. The homes then underwent essential repair work before being opened as a museum.
Each house was originally six rooms on three levels, including a basement kitchen and each features a fire isolation and ventilation, water supply and a sewerage system. Of course, houses with such a long history of residency also show huge changes in technology. For example, when they were built, the residents were dependent on oil, candles and wood for power but as the years went by, this changed to coal, gas and finally electricity.
The original brick privies and outbuildings can still be found behind the houses. Partly open laundries with laundry tubs and coppers as well as corrugated iron bathrooms were later added.
When it comes to the interior decorating of the times, one must look at the layers upon layers of wallpaper, decorative finishes and floor coverings throughout the houses. These layers show the gradual change of traditional furnishings of the working class over the many years that the houses were inhabited and the contributions individual occupants made.
In the end, over 100 different working class families dwelled within Susannah Place. Many were artisans, tradesmen and labourers. Others were grocers, bakers, painters, and policemen. The houses tell their stories and capture what life was like for those resided in The Rocks.
Susannah Place Museum:
The Susannah Place museum is now open to locals and tourists in order to celebrate and educate visitors about the lives of the working class people who lived in the area. Photographs, collections, wallpapers, paints and artifacts left within the houses are displayed throughout the museum to help re-create what life must have been like for those who lived here.
General admission is $8.00 Au for adults, $4.00 Au for children or $17 for a family.
Admission is free with a See Sydney Card.
Admission is by guided tour only.
Susannah Place is located at 58-64 Gloucester Street, The Rocks. Car parking in the surrounding streets is limited is metered so you may prefer to take public transport.
The museum is within walking distance of Wynyard train station (although there are some stairs when coming from Wynyard), Circular Quay train station and Circular Quay ferry wharf. Buses are also available from George Street.
Nearby attractions include The Rocks, the Sydney Observatory, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Susannah Place is open 2:00pm-6:00pm Monday to Friday, 10:00am-6:00pm on weekends and during NSW school holidays. It is closed on Good Friday and Christmas Day.
Please note: Closing is as 5pm during winter months (June, July and August).
Food services are not available on site but plenty of cafes and restaurants can be found in the surrounding area.
Souvenirs and gifts can be purchased inside the faithfully re-created corner shop.
Susannah Place is not wheelchair accessible. Captioned videos, large print guides and braille services are available for those with hearing impairments.
You can contact the Susannah Place directly on (02) 9241 1893.
Have You Visited Susannah Place?
Please share your experiences of or questions about the Susannah Place in the comments box below.
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