Heritage uncovered during Surry Hills construction

26 April 2017

Crews have uncovered two sets of historical archaeological remains buried under Devonshire Street in Surry Hills during recent service investigation works for the CBD and South East Light Rail.

19th century terrace footings

The first was a set of large sandstone footings, which revealed the rear of a structure which existed on the corner of Crown and Little Devonshire Streets. The terrace, the former address of which was 548 Crown Street, is believed to date from around the 1850s.

There is some evidence that this building yard was used by butchers in the 1850s, but the large yard space of the allotment may have been used for other trades as well, including grocers, candlemakers and shoemakers.

The allotment to the east of the residence was originally a tannery (Pawley’s tannery, present from the 1840s until the 1880s) and there were a number of clearly tannery-associated trades in the wider area.

Crews also found some smaller sandstone paving stones in an irregular formation, which are a part of the remnant road surface for Little Devonshire Street prior to its demolition and merging with the eastern extension of Devonshire Street in 1916.

Road surfacing in the 20th century, especially the 1960s, have previously removed other building remains in the area.

19th century “Royal Arms Hotel” cellar footings

The second find was a set of cellar footings on the south side of Devonshire St, under a section of Ward Park. It’s believed they belonged to a pub which dated back to the 19th century.

During the 1830s, the Surry Hills area underwent significant residential subdivision, and from the 1850s to 1890s experienced significant residential occupancy growth. One of these developments was the “Royal Arms” hotel, sometimes referred to as Steel’s Hotel, after the owner Alexander Steel.

Steel, who was elected Alderman for the Cook Ward from 1860 till 1870 and then again from 1872 till 1874, held the license for the hotel from 1859 (presumably around the time it was built) until 1871.

Records indicate that the hotel was a two-storey brick building with nine rooms and a slate roof, and was often used as a local meeting place.

An 1887 Plans of Sydney indicates that the hotel fronted the south side of Devonshire Street, on the corner of Devonshire and Riley Street (south – which no longer exists).

In 1943, the hotel was resumed by the Housing Commission and was likely demolished during the 1950s.

Both finds were deemed of local significance and have been recorded by heritage experts before being removed to allow for light rail construction.

For more images of both finds, visit the Sydney Light Rail Facebook page.