Stepping back in time for National Archaeology Week

23 May 2018

As part of National Archaeology Week, we’re taking a look back at some of the fascinating discoveries archaeologists have uncovered as part of light rail excavations.


Archaeologists excavated three mid-19th century buildings fronting George Street, near Alfred Street.

The sandstock brick structures were built on sandstone footings and natural bedrock, and channels had been carved into the bedrock to direct seepage and stormwater through the cellar spaces into George Street.

A large number of Chinese earthenware storage jars were retrieved from the excavation of 171 George Street, which the historical records show was leased by Chinese merchant Kay Key in the 1880s.

The buildings were demolished at the turn of the century following an outbreak of bubonic plague in 1900.


In Haymarket, excavations at the eastern end of Rawson Place uncovered remains of the 1845 Christ Church St Laurence Infants School.

The school’s walls were constructed of bricks with slate flashing incorporated to prevent rising damp from the ground below.

Evidence of previous use as a school was uncovered, including small sections of slate writing tablet and parts of slate pencils, or styluses.

The building was demolished by 1904 to make way for Rawson Place and the original Sydney tramway.

See a picture of a Slate writing tablet shard and slate stylus point recovered from the Christ Church St Laurence Infants School in our Gallery.

Surry Hills:

Archaeologists uncovered the remains of The Royal Arms Hotel, adjacent outbuildings and terraces, and the Devonshire Street Congregational Church Hall during excavations in Ward Park in 2016 and 2017.

The Royal Arms was originally built c1859 on the south-east corner of Devonshire Street and Riley Street and was also known as Steel’s Hotel after owner Alexander Steel.

The congregational hall was built in 1883/84 on the south-west corner and became a big part of community life, regularly hosting public events and ceremonies.

Between 1943 and 1949 the hotel, terraces and church were resumed by the Housing Commission and demolished.

Take a look at a photo of The Royal Arms Hotel basement, with the shadow of a ladder still visible.


Randwick has revealed a number of interesting glimpses into Sydney’s recent history, including a zig-zagged shaped section of World War II air raid trench uncovered in High Cross Park.

The 1.8m deep trench had been cut into the bedrock and leftover remains of the shoring, including loose sections of timber beams and corrugated iron, were found inside the trench.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbour in 1941, precautionary security measures were ramping up in Sydney, and in 1942 air raid shelters and zig-zagging anti-aircraft trenches like the one at High Cross Park were a common sight.

They were often lined with sandbags and sheets of iron. At the end of the war many of these trenches were backfilled to prevent from falling into them.

A photo of the air-raid trench with recreated shoring to depict what it may have looked like can be found in our Gallery.