Connection site's old secrets

17:00, May 28 2013
Waterview Discoveries
RICH HISTORY: Waterview Connection project archaeologist Glen Farley with a water pitcher found in a buried well during excavations. The jug dates from the 1870s.
Waterview Discoveries
LINKS: The bowl of a smoking pipe from the 1870s. The ornate relic depicts a hand holding what appears to be a bushel of wheat, perhaps relating to the flour milling history of the area.
Waterview Discoveries
OLD BOOTS: Footwear styles have changed since the 1870s.
Waterview Discoveries
LESSONS: Old school slates were found in the buried well.

Tales of business busts and fortunes lost are being brought to light as the country's biggest infrastructure project progresses.

A happy by-product of the massive Waterview Connection job under way now has been the unearthing of artefacts that help colour in the sketchy history of the area.

Before work can progress to new phases archaeologists must assess the possible historical values of the land and look for signs of life left by previous occupants.

At the northern end of the job alongside Oakley Creek this has yielded an historically valuable bounty of buried treasure.

The project's resident archaeologist Glen Farley, from Clough and Associates, says the finds have helped fill in gaps in understanding the people and industries that operated almost 150 years ago, in what is now a busy thoroughfare.

Among the artefacts found in a well on a property where workers' housing was are old shoes, a ceramic water pitcher, slates used as school tablets, a pottery smoking pipe and old bottles.

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The items, and another few carloads' worth gathered from other sites, are thought to date from the 1870s.

"Prior to progress beginning we did background research to uncover the history of the area," Mr Farley says.

"We did a field survey and we knew there were a few sites relating to early industry along the creek."

Many of the bits and pieces found are linked with the old flour mill that used to operate next to where Great North Rd now runs.

Archaeologists have also found evidence of a dam used to provide power to the mill and an access road leading to it, both of which help to more accurately locate exactly where it was.

"It puts things into context. Figuring out how people modified their environment is quite important."

A brick factory was also a feature of the area and the remnants of the kiln used to make them has also been found.

"That's an interesting story," Mr Farley says.

"The owner of the property in 1864 won the contract to provide the bricks for Carrington Hospital, but before he could fulfil the contract he was conscripted for the Land

Wars and then he was penalised for not coming through.

"He came back after the war but died at age 35.

"We don't know much about his brickworks but we have managed to locate the base of the kiln. It's not spectacular looking, it's the base course of bricks which had a house built over it in the 1950s."

The first flour milling began operations in the area in 1860 but in 1873 the original mill burnt down and was replaced by a five-storey building.

Mr Farley says by 1876 the mill was struggling and it was sold to the Garrett brothers who were tanners and bootmakers.

"They would have used it for crushing up bark to make stain for the leather."

Mr Farley says there could yet be more finds.

"There may well be, we've just started to go onto the north side of the creek where a quarry was so we're keeping an eye on that.

"Once we started doing more analysis and got finer detail of when something was made and where and who that related to, we really started to build up the story."

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