Found: The Site of One of Australia’s Oldest Pubs

Nearby, archaeologists discovered the remains of a 19th-century hut once occupied by convicts

Cheers, mate! SOURCENEXT / Alamy Stock

A swanky new apartment complex in the Parramatta suburb of Sydney, Australia, is home to a number of luxurious amenities, including a cocktail bar that boasts panoramic views of the city. More than 300 feet below this “Sky Bar,” archaeologists have discovered evidence of boozy reveries dating back to the early days of Australia’s colonial history.

As Clarissa Bye and Maryanne Taouk​ report for the Daily Telegraph, during construction of the “V” apartment building, contractors unearthed remains of the pub cellar that once belonged to the Wheatsheaf Hotel. The establishment was believed to have been built in 1801, a little over a decade after Parramatta was founded as a farm colony by the name Rose Hill.

In addition to the pub, archaeologists found evidence of a bakery, a well, a repair shop for carts and wagons and a "convict hut," where as many as 14 convicts once lived. (Reporter Cathy Morris provides context about the Parramatta's legacy as a home for convicts in a 2015 piece for the local Parramatta Advertiser.)

The pub, which once stood on the corner of Marsden and Macquarie streets, was an iconic Parramatta spot, Kathleen Calderwood and Jackson Vernon of Australia’s ABC News report. Archaeologists found a trove of artifacts—including dinner plates, bottles, clay pipes and children’s toys—embedded in distinct layers of the soil during the excavation, shedding light on life in Parramatta during several periods of its occupation.

“The artifacts that go with each period can be separated out in much greater degree than you can do elsewhere,” lead archaeologist Dr. Ted Higginbotham tells Calderwood and Vernon. “[S]o you can look at the assemblage of artifacts for each period and tell details about their standard of living, literacy and things like that and whether they could afford to build and own a house rather than just be a rental.”

The ruins have been incorporated into the new Philip Ruddock Heritage Centre—named in honor of Australia’s longest-serving federal politician—and are on full view in the ground floor of the apartment complex.

“Not many sites protect its original history like this development does,” Ruddock tells Kylie Stevens of the Parramatta Sun. “It has been adorned, rather than being forgotten about.”