Elizabeth and Blackburn Street, Sydney

In October 1831, the land at the corner of Elizabeth and Foster St was granted to a soap and candle manufacturer, Nicholas Aspinall. Aspinall had arrived in the colony only ten years previous and with the proceeds of his successful business he constructed a large brick dwelling later known as Aspinall Cottage or Maitland House. After 1836, Aspinall subdivided his land to create two allotments. The cottage and its land was occupied by several different owners during the 19th century until it was demolished in the early 1890s. The second allotment was developed by the McMahon family who built three two-storey brick terraces there during the 1850s that were known as 1-5 Blackburn Street.

        Until the late 1870s, the corner of Elizabeth and Blackburn Street was vacant but it then became John Paul’s pottery yard. In 1880, four two-storey brick terraces were built there fronting Elizabeth Street when the site was owned by a man called Dr Augustus Harold Nash. These facades of terraces stood throughout the 20th century, despite internal modifications, and one became ‘Sharpie’s Golf House.’ After 1890, this row of terraces extended southward to occupy the land where Aspinall’s Cottage once stood and these buildings became part of the character of Elizabeth Street.

Zone 1 Blackburn Lane - 1850s terraces


Test excavation in the terraces, while they were standing, found no trace of subfloor occupation deposits. Testing found that the buildings were heavily modified during the early 20th century as the rear of the buildings were completely reconstructed in dry-press brick with cement mortar and deep foundations. These newer foundations were built above the remains of two former wells. In fact, one brick foundation included a brick archway to bridge the span of one of the wells. 

AMAC Group carried out archaeological investigations in three zones: 

Zone 1 Blackburn Lane - 1850s terraces

Zone 2 Cnr Blackburn & Elizabeth - 1880s terraces

Zone 3 Cnr Foster & Elizabeth - Aspinall Cottage 

Zone 1

Zone 2

Zone 3

Zone 2 Cnr Blackburn & Elizabeth - 1880s terraces

This area was heavily truncated by the construction of the late 19th century shops and 20th century renovations. A series of redeposited yard soils were uncovered along with fragments of earlier yard features such as a privy which had been modified in the 20th century by the addition of sewer pipes.

Pic of area cut down?

Zone 3 Cnr Foster & Elizabeth - Aspinall Cottage 

The sandstone foundations of the 1830s Aspinall Cottage were discovered beneath the footings of the Elizabeth Street terraces that had replaced it in the 1890s. No subfloor occupation deposits were found associated with the footings. Beneath the sandstone foundations of the cottage were two sandstock brick lined drains which were built first to protect the cottage from the high water table in this part of Surry Hills. These remains were heavily affected by later 20th century redevelopment.

Archaeological Management and Consulting Group

Aegis Heritage Pty Ltd T/A

ACN 121 655 020


(02) 9568 6093


(02) 9639 4531


(02) 4929 7583


(03) 6243 1144